My memories of childhood aren't a neat collection of events, a stream of the past flowing behind me. It's a highlight reel, and most of it the lingering shadows of bright events like silhouettes in Hiroshima. Good, bad, in between, I try to view life in shades of grey - nothing is ever just black, just white - all open to interpretation. What I do remember, with startling and vivid clarity, is church. When I was a kid church was huge, with great bright colorful windows with sad eyed saints on them, the smell of incense and cloying old woman's perfume. The hard old pews and the sit, stand, kneel, sit, stand, kneel. Not just the sights and sounds, like the priest's voice; it wasn't loud but it filled the whole church and carried in it a feeling that I couldn't understand but that vibrated through me. When the congregation sang together, when the prayed together, I sang and I prayed with them. I didn't quite understand that either, it just felt like what I was supposed to do.
When everyone was kneeling with their heads down, eyes closed and quietly praying over clasped hands I would look around. My mother, a rock of faith, next to me she knew that God was there and that that building was full of his presence. I didn't, but I wanted to, very badly I wanted to. Everyone there had that faith, and all I had were questions. I think I thought that it was bad for me to have those questions, because so much of it I just did not understand. As I grew older the questions grew bigger and broader, and I think I convinced myself that I just didn't believe in anything. How could I? I didn't feel anything, didn't think I could feel anything. I looked to all the world's beliefs and religions, for a time I prided myself on being a condescending, contrary know-it-all that was beyond the 'flock' mentality of church goers. It was a phase. Over the years I read everything, it became a passion, then it became something of an obsession. I poured over all the world's spirituality in every form I could find it looking for knowledge, for truth, for something. Something that would inspire faith. Something that I could believe in. I learned a lot, read a lot of really good stories, took a lot of good lessons to heart. Millions of people throughout history wouldn't have devoted their lives and beliefs to them if there wasn't some kernel of truth, something to cling onto in a world that never offers answers freely.
One thing I learned, that I've taken to heart, is that no matter what it is people have to have faith. In something. Anything. It really doesn't matter, people have to believe in something. Even Atheists do, contrary to popular belief. See what I did there? Sometimes at night when my family's asleep, and the house is dark and quiet, and it's just me left alone with my mind I think back to that great big church and I wonder. I wonder how much of that place is still in me, how much of it I took with me through life. I don't consider myself a Christian, I don't think I ever have but I know that sometimes I wish I had something of that faith that I've seen in others like my mom, it just seems like it would be easier. To have something like that to believe in, but I have that foundation. I don't believe in Heaven, and I don't believe in Hell. Or reincarnation. I don't believe in God, or the Devil - or Thor, Lugh, Nuada, Hermes, ad nauseum - but I do believe in the lessons all those stories teach. I also don't consider myself an Atheist, and I think calling myself an Agnostic isn't right either. Don't get me started on that whole "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual" nonsense either. I suppose I don't know what to call myself, or what to believe in. But even that's not entirely true. I believe in myself, and that in a world of greys I'll make the right choices because I believe in my family and that they're the world to me. I'll do anything for them, to make sure they're happy and that they have the lives they deserve. That's enough for me. So I guess I do have faith, of a kind. I don't know how much sense any of this makes, it just had to get out there. You have to have faith, in something. Without it everything's hollow, and the greys will darken to empty black, or lighten to blinding white and you're lost.