I heard a man talking on a Charlotte NC interview radio talk show with NPR about a religious demographic of people he calls the NONES. These are the people who have a spiritual life, see themselves on the spiritual path, who are not affiliated with a church, religion, by choice. For religion they have none. He has made a church for the people disaffected by religion. I listened to him long enough to find out what he was about. Even continued to listen after I knew he was no interest to me. It got worse until I just turned it off. By worse, I mean not allowing that an individual on one's own path can be valid. I've been told countless times by religionists in my life that I cannot go it alone, I need the support of a church. Support? Like my friend Melvin says, When I want to be judged, I'll go to church. I cannot give the opinions of an ego-maniacal man power-over my decision making. A preacher whose solution to the troubles in the world is nuke-em cannot advise me about anything. He has nothing to teach me. Faux news on the television gives him evidence he's right. A man whose racism is never spoken, because it's understood, has nothing to tell me. Even a preacher who is not racist or sexist and believes religion is the way, still has nothing to say of interest to me. I know a preacher who lives nearby with a church of beautiful loving energy bubbling among the members. I've seen his flock become truly caring, conscious people of integrity. Still, it's for people who need groups. I, personally, do not thrive in groups. In a group, I start looking right away for my own place on the periphery. Every herd has one that stays off to itself. I am that one in the herds I've been associated with. At a cocktail party I'm the lone penguin with drink in hand wandering between the groups of penguins chattering.
I forget the book, chapter and verse, but I've heard a zillion sermons on it's the narrow way, not the broad highway. The preacher meant by "narrow" the straight-and-narrow, the tightrope preachers use to control their flock with guilt, a misinterpretation of strait, a narrow passage to a harbor, which even a child could see. I mentioned the difference to two different preachers, one in childhood, one as an adult, that strait has a very different meaning from straight. No it didn't. Dismissed. A doubter. In hindsight, I am grateful I had such a twisted religious beginning. It was so obviously not what it claimed of itself, it spit me out like the human cannonball, made me a None, a contraction of no one, nobody. The preacher mentioned above starts out with Nobody his name for the people not associated with religion. He likes to have "conversation" with a None over pitchers of beer in a bar where he makes salient points to prove to the other, you're wrong, you're nobody. I think of Odysseus telling the Cyclops his name was Nobody, thinking ahead to the Cyclops screaming in pain with a beam stuck in his eye; the other Cyclopes called to him asking who was doing this to him and he answered, Nobody. They went back to sleep and Odysseus slipped away. The guy talking on the radio was slick, fast with a rebuttal to any point of view. Winning them over, convincing them he's right and they're wrong. Now he has a church of nobodies believing they're somebodies in association with him. Listening to his slick, evangelistic talk was enough in itself to put me off. I'd say he won over the ones looking for what's "right" with his I'm-right-you're-wrong explications. He talked like he was an insurance salesman, your good buddy with your interest at heart. And a little more money in the collection plate helps. The ones looking for what's real are the ones he fails to snare with his slick tongue. He'll never figure out why. The need to be right is the mother of countless atrocities.
By the time I turned the radio off, I was almost mad at him. The temperature was rising in my boiler and I assessed no need to follow this unto steam blowing out the ears. There came the time I was hearing him a smug Jerry Falwell, who, of the fallen televangelists, actually fell well. The guy on the radio wasn't saying a purple "teletubby" with a triangle on its head in a children's tv show was gay. At least the guy talking on the radio wasn't showing the stupid side of egomaniacism. He was showing the cold, calculating side with a smile of pretend caring in the reassuring voice of an undertaker, thank you very much for the free money you worked your ass off for. Nationwide is on your side. State Farm is there. He has a church of people he has convinced they're nobodies outside his herd; he knows what's right. His presumption got on my nerves to the point I almost started talking back to him, but realized I wanted no kind of conversation with him, not even in my head. For me, he was another voice calling to me to enter a herd, a Siren saying, Join, Be a Member, Belong, No more Lonely Boy, We're there for You. And my immediate response: No you're not. He brings to mind a phenomenon that when you prove somebody's belief about something to be wrong, it hardens them further in their own belief. This is what the Somebody who convinces Nobodies they're wrong did to me. He made me all the more determined in my own way. I believe he has the same right to gather Nobodies unto himself that I have not to accept the name Nobody just because he, for whom being right is important, says so. Pat Robertson is right, too. So was Joe McCarthy. All the great rogues of history were right. I cannot turn my thinking over to any form of rightness.
Life on earth, everyday life, is too complex, change the only constant, illusion the foundation, for me to nail myself to one thing or another that calls itself or himself or herself right. What's right in one context is not right in another. This way of looking at it takes into consideration something only the individual can see for self. The spiritual path is a path, not a road, not an interstate, not a passenger jet, not a cruise ship. It is individual. Walking in a line on a path gets old fast. In line, the one in front is perky with energy, going onward, charged. The ones behind are overtaken with lethargy such that it becomes a labor to walk. Some of them lag behind and run to catch up. When it is just two, the one behind gets tired first. It doesn't work. Or anyway, it doesn't work well enough to suit me. All arrive at their destination, but only one experienced the path, the way. The others were going along. I feel like Jon Voight in Runaway Train telling Eric Roberts, who wanted to go with him when he escaped from the prison, to keep up; he is not slowing down for him. Roberts had a rough time keeping up. He was following. Voight had a goal, an end, a destiny to chase, while Roberts' motivation was following. Runaway Train is a great film. Clue: Akira Kurosawa wrote the screenplay. The film is a metaphor for the spiritual path on a kundalini fast-track run from locked in a cage to standing on a train engine running full speed, his arms out like a bird, leaning into the wind. He did what he had to do. Some of it was good. Some of it was bad. It didn't matter. He had a trip to make. Let go of stragglers, work through opposition at emergency speed, and get on with it. I liked about this story's characterization of the spiritual path the absence of judgment of anything. It was all bad and it was all good. He did what he had to do, call it good or call it bad. Neither pole mattered. Thus his path. My path meanders like a stream bed with the flow I have chosen for myself, rather the flow that flows best with my temperament. I like to think I'm in the meandering delta of my life. Many, many streams in the delta. This one mine.