As I said in my last post, I choose not to believe in any particular religious dogma or theism. I also don't want to classify myself as an Athiest or a Humanist either because I don't like the idea that, after we die, there is just....... nothing. I really need to figure out something comfortable to believe in. You might think that this demeans the power of faith however, in the absence of the possibility of proof, a comfortable belief is as valid as any. To be honest, if I weren't dying, I probably wouldn't worry about it at all. But I am.
I am a good person, I have lived a good life, and that should be enough of a religion for living. But I am concerned whether how I live my life effects what will happen when I die. So I have to ask, "What the heck am I doing here and what the heck am I supposed to be doing while I am here?" Sometimes I wonder, If we're just here for a short time and there's nothing afterward, then why bother doing anything at all? In a hundred years, nobody will remember me anyway. But what if there is a heaven? Now there's something to think about! Maybe it is important to have a sense of why we are here and how our lives effect our afterlife. The "formal" religions use their religious beliefs and dogma to answer those questions for us but I think this often borders on the disingenuous. They claim to know with certainty why they are here and where they are going when they die. And they should be very happy to die, I would think.
As I've said, I personally don't believe in the Christian view of God, nor do I believe that there is a master plan of any kind. If there is some kind of master plan, it certainly doesn't include a predetermined list of who wins the lottery, which sports team wins a particular game, which people live well while others starve, which contestant wins a challenge on a reality show, etc. You would think that people who pray to God for his intervention in these types of things and thank him when they win, must be pretty shocked to find that He actually plans for them to die...... sometimes horribly! It just goes with the territory.
This is something I can believe in - that how we live our lives and how we prepare for our deaths is completely up to us. If we are here for any purpose at all, it is simply to live - to be born, to live as long as we can (loving and procreating along the way), and to eventually die. That's it. There's no more guidance than that. But in that belief, there are many decisions and choices to be made.
Ernest Becker, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "The Denial of Death" suggests that it is the fear of death (or our inability to deal with it) that drives us to determine a "role" in life and that role often becomes our "purpose" for all intents. I'm comfortable with that. But in that, there is much to choose. For example we can, and do, chose who we are. I believe that the "role" we define for ourselves - the characterization of who we are and what we do - depends on the relative balance we choose amongst key dimensions such as family, friends, spirituality, work, etc. This also determines, to a large degree, the other choices we make along the road from awakening to death. Are we family-oriented or are we destined to lead from a political platform? Are we focused almost exclusively on ourselves and the pursuit of wealth, or do we devote our lives to helping the poor? Are we workaholics or alcoholics? Or both? And, ultimately, are we happy or sad, full of regrets when we finally lay on our deathbed?
I believe this much - that we alone determine who we are and how we behave throughout our lives and that this effects our state of mind as we face the end. We can choose to believe in the ideals of a specific religion and to live a "religious" life, or we can ignore religion all together and just live a good life. If we live well, does that mean we die well? If we live a good life, do we go to a "nice" place? What really happens when we - schoolteacher, streetsweeper, minister, politician, businessman, housekeeper, billionaire or vagrant - die and leave our earthly works behind?
That is the next question to explore.
I have been particularly ill for the last couple of days and, now that I think about it (and as my dear Dianne reminds me), I haven't been well for several weeks. Looking back, I felt pretty good at the beginning of the summer, not bad at the end of the summer, somewhat worse during the fall and I am much worse now than I was at the beginning of December. I sleep so much now and when I'm awake, I'm exhausted. I am out of breath doing anything. When I do wake up, most of the time I feel ill and just want to stay in bed. But I force myself to get up so I can get things done (read my post on Wrestling with Time).
Based on how I feel, what I know of this disease, and discussions with health care professionals, I realize that I am now visibly starting to die. The cancer is wearing away at my body which is tiring from fighting it. I have no interest in eating and it is only due to the constant oversight of Dianne that I am not losing weight yet. I now don't think that I will make it to the end of this year and it has been suggested to me that I may not be well enough to attend my daughter's wedding in August. My daughter is now talking about moving up the date but, as much as I want to be there, I don't want her to disrupt the complex planning that has already taken place for her to have the wedding of her dreams. This isn't easy for any of us and we'll have to see how it will play out. I feel so guilty. I know I shouldn't, but I still feel that way. I want to cry and I do. This sucks.