A friend said recently that people take on commitments because of their larger meaning. Real meaning, she said, comes from sacrifice and self-discipline, and there’s no place for self-discipline if you limit yourself to doing what feels good and uplifting at the time that you’re doing it. It’s the difficult, less pleasant tasks, she said, that stretch a person and make one a better, deeper person with a meaningful life.

My friend gave great examples – exercising, for one, while you hate to lift weights and run on the treadmill, leads to a beneficial end. She said the same is true for relationships, including a relationship with God.

While I respect and love my friend very much, I don’t think I agree with her.

Certainly, if everything in life were easy, we’d fall prey to the behaviors typical of a mid-life crisis in search of MORE – more meaning, more challenge, more effort. Which might point to a need we have to do more than simply stroll through our days.

I’m tired of all this esoteric pondering. Can’t there simply be beauty in a sunrise, in the sound of the birds outside my open window, in the feeling of the cool breeze as it settles on my pillow?

While I have reverence for the beauty of tradition and inherent meaning that accompanies it – or perhaps mere connection with the past – I believe religion is simply the stories we tell ourselves to banish the fear of the unknown. Think about it. How many religions have creative, twisted stories about what happens AFTER we die? The truth is, none of us truly know – we can rely on story form to quell that sinking feeling in our stomachs about the hereafter but maybe that’s ALL IT IS.

Ok, I’m probably on the road to heresy if not already there. But really. I cannot spend my days worrying about what’s next.

Isn’t the point of all belief systems to get us through RIGHT NOW? Aren’t we trying to master being in-the-moment? Isn’t that challenge enough?

How many of us spend a good portion of each day fretting about what’s already past and worrying about what’s to come? I have a friend who has been unhappy in marriage for a long time – and so this person spends days, weeks, months – I think it’s years already – thinking about the ideal kind of relationship he might want one day IF he decides to end it all and start over.

What about right now? What about his wife in the kitchen making his favorite chicken every Friday night? Does she do that because she’s an evil bitch?

Someone told me that I did the difficult thing in getting divorced. Maybe. I think it was far harder to stay married to someone who didn’t want me and whom I didn’t want than it was to end it and start fresh. I can live with myself – it’s living with someone else who does not share my values, perspectives and chemistry that’s hard.

This religion stuff – it’ll all work itself out. One day, each of us will KNOW for certain what’s on the other side. Until then, why muddy it up with worry? Look outside the window – bright sunshine, blue sky without a trace of clouds, and the leafy overhang of the trees in the yard. Isn’t that enough reverence for this minute?

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