I tend to avoid conventional religion like the plague, part of it’s because I hate to follow the crowd and partly because I like to question everything and I’ve never got satisfactory answers to some big questions from mainstream religions. We had religion rammed down our throats as kids, we had to go to church and Sunday school and if you excuse the pun, it was as boring as hell. And of course, in Northern Ireland people were being killed because of their religion.
You see, I like my religion to be fun, not dry and boring, after all it was God who invented the sense of humour and it would be umm a sin to waste it. Which is where Raymond Blair comes in.
When I started secondary school we had a chemistry teacher called Mr Blair – or as we called him Yogi Bear, he was an old hippie and practised meditation, so we thought Yogi was particularly apt. He was involved in some flaky guru organisation called Divine Light Mission but I remember him telling me this one joke very early on;
Buddha walks up to a hotdog seller in Central Park and says “Make me one with everything” and Raymond thought this was very witty and apt.
A few years later someone told this joke again but added another bit in;
The hotdog makes Buddha one with everything and Buddha says “how much is that?”
The hotdog seller says “five bucks” and Buddha hands over a tenner.
The hotdog seller starts to serve another customer and Buddha says “Hey! Where’s my change?”
And the hotdog seller says “Don’t you know? Change comes from within…”
I thought that was very clever and I asked him if I could email it to some of my friends, he said it was OK as long as I don’t have any attachments…. (groan!). I was of course sold on the Divine Light Mission after that exchange; if they could make jokes about their deity then I wanted to know more but after a brief fling with them I realised it was all about money money money – not unlike the poster above – and I stopped attending satsang – plus me butt was getting sore sitting on the hard floor all the time. Yes yes, I know, not very dedicated but being uncomfortable distracts terribly from whatever the speaker is spouting on about.
However, that was Zen; this is Tao, Yogi Bear has long since moved on and I’ve had to find my own little philosophy and after many false starts and dead ends I found Richard Bach. He wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a story about a seagull that flew for the love of flying rather than to catch food, an obvious metaphor about us not just struggling to survive but actually living and being who we are meant to be. The very short book sold more than one million copies in 1972 alone and broke all records since Gone With The Wind was released.
Then in 1977 he wrote Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, about ummm a reluctant Messiah. I loved it, it just seemed to capture what I was feeling about the whole meaning of life stuff. In life there are some things that just need to be sorted out once and for all, I have a friend who met a man and fell in love, got married and she said to me “well, that’s that sorted out, I don’t have to search any more, my love life is sorted now and I’m happy, I’m content, I can tick off that particular item on the check list and get on with other things”. I know how she feels, at least when it comes to a life philosophy, I read Illusions and knew deep down somewhere that that was my life philosophy sorted and I can stop searching and enquiring and following false trails. The bit that spoke to me most clearly was the following excerpt right at the start of the book, it appealed to my northern Irish rebel nature immediately and can be blamed for a lot of things in my life and for me making a lot of the big changes in my life.
Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river. Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current was what each had learned from birth. But one creature said at last “I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.”
The other creatures laughed and said, “Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!”
But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks. Yet, in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.
And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, “see a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!” And the one carried in the current said, “I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare to let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.”
Those that know me will nod wisely and say that explains a lot, you see, it’s quite important we live, and we live without regrets..