I knew it was my view on life and would eventually learn more about it. What I did not know was that I would learn that my cultural background is Christianity and my worldview is Humanism.
When I turned nineteen, I left home and joined the Episcopal Church so I could at least say to my family that I was attending church. To my surprise, the services were peaceful and soothing with the illuminating candles, serene icons, and calming organ music. Sometimes I would experience those same feelings I felt with my pets and in nature, but it was more than that. The priests, who were both men and women, spoke of love, not guilt and fear-ridden damnation, and people were equal to each other. There, God was love and love was God, an experience I had all my life.
Then there was the wonderful Bishop John Shelby Spong who preached everything I always thought life should be. He taught we should live life fully, love wastefully, and strive to be all we can be as human beings. Here was my fourth taste of Humanism, only this was Christian Humanism. Both Bishop Spong and I experience God, not describe it. I was enamoured by this man, who taught me that God was a human concept and gave me a broader understanding of it. Later I met a few other Religious Humanists within the Episcopal Church, such as Robert Price, and fell in sync with them, as well as learned a lot from them too.
While reading one of Spong's books I noticed he said something that sounded very much like Humanism and I asked him about it. He replied, "Mriana, Humanism is not anti-Christian or anti-God. It is through the human that we experience the Holy the Other. The divine is the ultimate depth of the human." It was very encouraging to me as a Humanist and I smiled with joy because I knew exactly what he was saying. He obviously was not rejecting me either because I considered myself a Humanist and just as my atheist great uncle exuded warmth, love, and compassion, so did Bishop Spong through his correspondence to me.
Within this time, my first son was born. As I held him in my arms and we gazed into each other's eyes for the first time, I felt transcending love. His beautiful blue-tinted brown eyes were captivating as he studied my face for the first time. It was like a time-paradox as I welcomed him into the world, because we knew each other, but never met until that moment. This was untainted numinous love between mother and child.
Sadly, my grandfather was suffering from psychotic depression. He refused help because he believed people in the psychiatric field were of the devil and would steal his soul. To my astonishment, he even said the doctors were playing God and keeping him alive longer than God wanted. Then this highly intelligent man, who knew better, quit taking his heart medications and died three days later from heart failure, never to meet his great grandson. His death tore my grandmother emotionally, so much that she denied me the right to say goodbye to my grandfather. Supposedly, her excuse for denying me of being at his funeral was that she did not want "a Black boy and Black baby at her husband's funeral". Such hypocrisy of my early years was a big turn off to me. Was not this sort of emotion and behaviour they displayed a sin according to them?
This was not love and I made my mother promise me that when my grandmother dies that she would not do me as my grandmother did after my grandfather died. Thanks to Bishop Spong's advice to me in a letter, "Love them. They are acting out of the higher they have. What they need is more love," I received more than I asked when my grandmother died eighteen years later. She turned ninety-four and we finally made peace with each other. A few days afterwards, my mother called to say that my grandmother laid down for a nap never to wake up again. She died peacefully, just as her mother did years before her and my mother asked my first-born son, now a Buddhist, to be a pallbearer. I received the chance to hug and kiss my grandmother good-bye and for one brief moment, no one's differences mattered.
As tears slowly rolled from my face, I heard distant memories of her beautiful piano playing and her sweet voice repeating some of her last words to me days before her death, "You were a good granddaughter, Mriana". Through bittersweet sorrow, I felt the warm love I experienced from her as a very young child. The matriarch was gone, but she gave love to others and felt sorry when she did not, but she did not die with regrets. What was four generations were now three, yet all four generations were present the day of her funeral. The religious, Humanist, Buddhist, and non-religious in one family were all present and the funeral was as it should be... for the living.Our experiences in life shape our philosophies, beliefs, concepts, and values. The interactions we have with others, in our youth and as adults, shape our worldview in ways that may or may not be the same as our family's. As we grow older, we develop our own ideas about life through the influences of others, both directly and indirectly, while discarding those that do not fit with how we view life and we learn from others as we discover who we are both culturally and spiritually.