Saturday, July 25, 2009

Shit Happens

The Daily Mail is barely above The Weekly World News or World Net Daily as a beacon of journalistic integrity, but if the portrait they paint of John Travolta is true, my heart goes out to him even more. The loss of a family member is devastating to go through. To go through it in the savage eye of our celebrity culture must be almost unendurable (and yes, I get that this blog entry, unread as it probably will be, is adding to the pile-on).

When I lost my sister to lung cancer two years ago, it turned my worldview around 180ยบ. In the process of accepting my sister's passing, I had to accept reality in a way I'd never been challenged to before. This was a deeply personal and liberating experience for me, both terrible and beautiful. My sister's indomitable courage and spirit was instrumental in helping all around her make it through her swift passing.

She and I had many metaphysical discussions throughout the years, and she was more skeptical than accepting of my old "you create your own reality" worldview. Maturity and time was beginning to wear this treacle away for me, but I still clung unaware to my remaining magical beliefs. That changed one afternoon while I was visiting my sister. We'd been talking and there was a sort of long silence, then looked at me and said, "you dont' still believe all that shit about creating your own reality, do you?" "Not really I said". She paused and said, "I saw that Secret shit on Oprah last week and it's crap you know. I'll tell you the secret of the universe . . . Shit Happens, period. I didn't choose this, I didn't deserve this. I beat it once, shit happened. It came back, shit happened again." She cracked me up and we laughed til we cried (we did that a lot in those last weeks), I said "I think you hit it on the head Dr. Hawking." It was kind of a jokey, sarcastic comment, but it really changed my life in an instant. For me, everything kind of stopped . . . shit happens.

From my experience, people join Scientology, or any religion, for the same reasons I searched for meaning where there really wasn't any. To make meaning is very human. It's what we do. I think it may be the closest thing to divinity there is. For instance, when the sun sets, there is no meaning. We observe a large thermonuclear fusion reaction, some 93 million miles distant, as it slips below the horizon as the planet rotates. Not good. Not bad. Just is. Does that mean my perception of it's majesty, the crimson of the sky as it settles into the Pacific, and the feelings that accompany this natural spectacle are invalid? Certainly not.

That was what changed when my sister said "shit happens." My sister was dying. I had deep feelings about it. She had deep feelings about it. But there was nothing "wrong". Shit was happening. That was the liberation I had sought all my life through channelers and crystals and chanting. Gone was my fear of death as failure. Gone were my phobias about toxins and big Pharma. Gone was my gnawing doubt that the "truth" was "out there" and that I was wrong. We as a species were not the inevitable crown of creation. What I was left with the universe as a clean slate, with my own meanings, inviolate and utterly my own. The search for existential validation had stopped.

I recount all this because there are those who are speculating whether or not Travolta, in his deep agony, will leave the church. Some people say no, he's in too deep. Some say the cult has too much dirt on him in his Preclear files. Some say he can't admit he's been taken so badly all these years. Well, I say not so fast. I think it's now or never. If I could admit to and let go of twenty years of embarrassing New Age wingnuttery, I bet Travolta can do the same.

The man has lost his beloved son. I can only imagine what's going on in his mind and heart. Sorrow. Guilt. Regret. Anger. The gnawing sense that if only he'd done X,Y or Z it would have been different. I for one, hope he's able to find the bracing, terrible beauty of reality through this tragedy. I hope he uses it to heal his heart. I also hope he finds the courage to step-up and hit a real homer out of the park and say "stay away from this bullshit cult and its medical quackery." Impossible you say? Maybe, but shit happens . . .

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