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On spirituality, faith, magic and self-deceit

2010-08-25
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i want to believe

I’d love to believe in something otherworldly and superior. It’s a comfort, and an easy way of reducing my own responsibility. However, I don’t. I can’t believe in something so ethereal without ever encountering it (or evidence of it) in person. I want to believe in gods, ghosts, afterlife, rebirth and magic, but I don’t.

I don’t believe in fate or destiny, and I don’t believe in superstition. If I want something to succeed, I’ve accepted the fact that I have to do it myself or get help from actual people, as opposed to supernatural imaginings.

I’m not one of those extremely socially adept people, but I acknowledge the fact that they probably fair better in most situations. Charisma is what makes people survive today, as opposed to the intelligence or brute strength required in man’s early days. If you’re a good friend and/or a good speaker, you’ll do well in life.

Even if it probably sounds strange, I still see myself as spiritual, in a manner of speaking. I believe the mind is an impressionable thing, and that willpower (or the placebo effect) is a strange beast indeed. My spirituality is based on this power of self-deception. I hypocritically appeal to any superior beings as a last resort when I’m really in a bind, and I knock on wood. Every now and then, I’ll toss a few I Ching coins. They might tell me I’ll be lucky today, which means I’ll maintain a more positive outlook. Anything marginally good will be counted as part of that luck, and negative events will be swiftly forgotten. I’m absolutely sure that these things mean nothing, and yet I do it. That’s odd.

It all depends on my mood though. The same mind games that can make me cheerful, sometimes don’t work at all. If I stop to think about what I’m doing, the magic is lost right away. I think the trick is not to think, which is easy for some people and really hard for others. I’m sure it’s all published in some psychology book somewhere.

I’m fairly certain that religion was founded on principles of conduct that, if followed, would let people survive a little longer as well as making the world a little kinder. I think the power involved has corrupted the major players though, and the people have followed. The major religions all use their faith as an excuse for warfare and for diminishing non-believers. I see religion of today as mostly bad. The good thing though, is that most people are free to choose if and what to believe.

However, just because I don’t put any stock in the ethereal machinations of religious leaders, that doesn’t mean I can’t fantasize. Almost every short story I write contains some degree of the divine, the magic or the supernatural. I find it fascinating. I’ve found lots of real-world lessons in religious ideals, as well as in fiction, as soon as I’ve peeled back their magical veneer a little.

I love polytheisms and their non-omnipotent deities, who are awesome at one thing and really bad at another. It feels more human. Norse mythology is one of my favorite sources of inspiration. I love magic too. I love to think about what we’d do if we could do whatever we wanted with a flick of the wrist.

In short, I want to believe. I don’t believe. I sometimes deceive myself into thinking I do. I try to be positive. I accept the fact that people are different. I live and learn. I exercise my imagination.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 2010-08-26 05:53

    Hi Johan,

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on spirituality this morning. Thanks for articulating them so clearly. It’s interesting to read of your place in the spectrum of spiritual belief and unbelief (or disbelief?).

    I come from a different place ‘spiritually’ or ‘religiously’, but I find your different perspective fascinating and how you say you often write in your own work about spiritual happenings. It also makes me smile to read of your appreciation of Norse mythology and the awesomely powerful, yet also quite flawed deities in its pantheon of gods. I studied Hinduism and Greek mythology a little and found the relationships between the gods in each of these two cultures fascinating also. As someone who is an ‘orthodox’ Christian, I wonder if a lot of these religious stories are misinterpreted by viewing them as literal, unnuanced, kind of ‘flat’, factual, descriptions of reality – I wonder if they appeal to us because whatever our beliefs (religious or unreligious) they connect us with something deeper and primeaval within us that operates at a mysterious, mythological, mystical almost magical, prerational level. I don’t know the answers, but I think the questions are illuminating. Thanks for making me think a little more about this.
    Best wishes,
    David F

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