This blog is not about religion, It’s about life – my life. about my attempt to live it well and to give it some meaning and about all the things that make that so hard. About two years ago I started to feel like my life was on rails, that I was sleepwalking through it and achieving nothing. I commuted 3 hours a day to a job that I hated, whilst back home were the wife and kids I never saw, living in the giant mortgage-shaped black hole that was our house. Grumpy and resentful, each grindingly pointless day was making me numb – until one day I just couldn’t take it any more and realised: I needed to change my life…
Only how do you do that? Basically what I just described is the normal life of a lot of men and women my age. I’m not young and carefree, I can’t just go off backpacking for a year and ‘find myself’, I can’t throw in my job and start a world inspiring internet company in my garage or join the peace corps or become an actor/astronaut/fighter pilot/superhero/tennis champion. I’m a 32 year old guy with bills to pay and a job that… well basically it’s about the only thing I know how to do. So assuming the external bits of my life just stay the same, what can i change? How do you find meaning in an ordinary life?
Religion seems the popular answer for most people so that was the first thing I thought of#. I ruled out some immediately – I don’t think multiple wives will help, voodoo isn’t really practical in the suburbs of London, and anything involving aliens, sacrifice of animals, the occult or general weirdness is pretty much a no go. So that leaves me with the major ‘normal’ religions. The only problem is, I am by nature pretty lazy and not that up for a challenge. What I need is something that will give me some purpose without really asking too much from me…
In this day and age we are lucky that there’s such a choice. I grew up with Christian parents and went to a church of England school but I have a pretty broad selection of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist friends for reference (i don’t know any scientologists but, having watched battlefield earth one night on cable by accident… Maybe I’m ok with that). Plus I have Wikipedia, which basically means nothing is beyond my curiosity. So i fired up the computer, and off I went.
Christianity I ruled out quite early in the running – it has some good messages in it and i have spent the past 25 years going on-and-off to church… Then again who am i kidding? Im far too lazy to get up on a Sunday, and lets be honest the ten commandments are going to give me a pretty hard time if I’m taking this seriously. Judaism seems ok – I like the sense of community my Jewish friends seem to have, and doing nothing on the sabbath should be easy given – as said above – I’m inherently lazy, and don’t want to do anything on any day. This one seems encouraging until I hear a friend describe the circumcision of his baby son – something like a scene from. ‘Saw’. I sleep with the lights on for about a week and then move on. Islam seems to engender a nice decency of character in the people I know, but I’m not going to lie to you – I just don’t want to give up drinking (those reading who have children will understand this immediately). Hinduism and Buddhism confuse me and not because there’s anything wrong with them – there’s just a LOT of reading and I’m not sure I can get my head around them without some serious effort. To be honest this is a shame as they both seem pretty cool: one has gods like particularly awesome superheroes, and the other has the dalai lama. who’s pretty cool isn’t he? unless you’re the Chinese government that is.
Just as I am starting to lose hope inspiration hits me. I am watching Kung fu panda with my 5 year old daughter and I think to myself “you know something…? He seems pretty chilled about life. And not only that but he can do Kung fu, despite having a similar physique to my own.” in an instant I am hooked. I Wikipedia ‘Kung fu’ and from there an intensive research session is spawned ?(cue musical montage of me riffling through papers and … ok maybe I just googled for a few minutes). I discover the concept of Taoism and it seems like my prayers are answered. Only from now on I won’t even HAVE to pray. Or read books. Just… You know, be chilled, and think about the nature of the universe, and do Kung fu and stuff. Right?
On second thoughts I maybe need to do more research after all. Just a little bit.
I head over to amazon, and within minutes a copy of Lao Tzu’s ‘Tao Te Ching’ is winging its way to my house. I sit back and watch Kungfu panda fight someone with a set of chopsticks. The journey has begun.
# actually maybe correct that – the first answer for people probably isnt religion but the giant ‘self help’ and ‘spirituality’ section in every bookshop these days. I would have started here. But a quick perusal put me off: not only were the meaningless, ridiculous titles hard to choose between (20 ways to eat your cheese! Unleash! Secrets of successful success!) but most of the people pictured on the covers looked like unbearably smug @rseholes – the kind of person that I not only don’t want to be but would actively cross the street to avoid.