When religion became important to me . . .

Discussion in 'Comparative Studies' started by Jane-Q, Apr 18, 2014.

  1. Jane-Q

    Jane-Q ...pain...

    May 14, 2013
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    Summer 1987. I am 22 years old.
    This is between my second and third year in law school. And I have a crisis of conscience.

    My roommate Ann is planning to intern at her parents' Spokane law firm for the summer. (Spokane is an eight hour drive from the Willamette Valley university where we both go to law school.) Best summer job I can find is waiting tables in a local diner. However Ann lands an internship offer with a prestigious Seattle law firm. Ann's parents offer me the Spokane job, in her place. It is too good of an opportunity to turn down.

    I have been taking a 400-level "Police Procedure" class as an elective. A local police detective frequently visits the class, giving presentations and answering questions. During this period, this detective and his partner catch a series of troubling felonies. And our professor volunteers the whole Police Procedure class to help, by doing background research. It does help, by narrowing the investigation down to a single job-listing board for temporary labor. Usually one-day, two to three hour jobs. The detective and his partner would like somebody on the inside. Not exactly doing "undercover" work, just someone to gather information about everyone who hires from that job-board. There are 45 people in the class who the detective and his partner interview. I'm the first person they ask.

    It means staying in town over the summer, and catching day-jobs via the job-board. It could get dangerous, but probably not if you restrain yourself and just keep your eyes and ears open. Dangerous only if you "snoop." The detective likes me, thinks I have the "right temperament" for this. Helping out might solve a series of nasty felonies, maybe even save somebody's life. I think about it for 24 hours. But I ultimately turn the detective and his partner down. If I do well in Spokane this summer, I am virtually guaranteed a good job after law school, once I pass the BAR. I'm thinking of my future, of what fits my "career track." It was the most "reasonable" thing to do.

    Yet every couple days, that summer, I walk over to the downtown Spokane Public Library overlooking the falls. I scour the Oregonian and other Willamette Valley newspapers looking for mention of developments in the case, hoping to hear that the police have caught a break but fearing the worse, more havoc. Nothing, all summer. Spokane is good to me, do well, learn a bunch. And Ann's folks do offer me a job after I pass the BAR. But I am strangely not happy about that. First thing I do, once I return to school in the autumn, is sign up at that job-board.

    That summer had proven a serious crisis in conscience for me. Not growing up in a religious environment, this was something I didn't know how to handle, at the time.

    Mom and Dad are serious-minded secularists, professional people. And that is how I was raised. My grandparents, on one side, were both serious-minded Protestant Christians. On my other side, serious-minded Buddhists - Granddad was Mahayana Buddhist, Grandmom was Chan Buddhist but with wide taste in her reading. None lived close enough nearby to be much influence upon my moral development as a kid. Except Grandmom after Granddad died (she lived with us awhile). "Read this, read this," she'd always say. Dutifully, I would. But my moral development into my teen years was more conditioned by Star Trek reruns than by Zhuangzi or Han Feizi. I liked the rational Mister Spock best.

    Signing up for the job-board is not a rational decision, on my part. The detective tells me I should remove my name. He and his partner, having put another person "on the inside," did not have adequate personnel to cover both of us. I tell him no. I am staying on the job-board whether or not I am given adequate backup. He personally puts in a load of unpaid overtime just to make sure I am safe. In December I encounter something during one job. It provides the piece of the puzzle that cracks the case, and makes the Willamette Valley a little bit safer place for awhile.

    What I have done, I have done rashly and perhaps unwisely. But, at this particular juncture in time at this point in my life, I simply feel compelled to do it, morally. And the doing of the job, and doing it well, becomes almost a spiritual exercise. It changes the whole trajectory of my life. Upon graduation, in June, I do not study for the BAR exam. I catch an airplane to DC.

    And I begin to realize that life really cannot exist . . . outside of religion. Some religion, any religion. Facing up to moral decisions - and spiritually in-focusing - are what give life deep and specific meaning, over and above rational secular freedoms and irrational corporeal passions, as important as these also are to leading a well-rounded life. And that summer of 1987 is where my "serious-minded" study of religion properly begins.


  2. Tadashi

    Tadashi New Member

    Jan 6, 2014
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    Jane... I loved your posts, both this one and the one you replied to me in the other thread. I do want to share my thoughts and story with you, but my leisure time is limited right now (I don't want to write hastily), but when I have time, hopefully in a couple of weeks, I'd like to share what's in my heart.

    There's one thing you said that absolutely resonates with the way I feel...

    "I begin to realize that life really cannot exist . . . outside of religion."

    Except, I replace the word 'religion' with 'God'. I know many people who consider themselves 'non-religious' but are connected to God in their hearts.

  3. stranger

    stranger lost in the night

    Jun 16, 2013
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    Jane, I agree with Tadashi, fascinating posts. Thanks for sharing here what seems to have been a "point of departure" from what would have been the reasonable and logical course of your life. I had one of those points at a similar age (21), and now at age 58 I find myself pressing inexorably toward another. The intervening 30 years or so have been spent in a kind of wandering I suppose you could say, spiritually speaking. Nothing really spectacular there, but there is much that I'm not proud of. Experiences both good and bad. I learned some things in spite of myself on that long, winding path. Often I have been (and continue to be) my own worst enemy.

    I like the Spock analogy, being an old fan of the series myself (and of sci-fi/fantasy in general). Spock, being half-human, is an often conflicted character, especially when faced with situations that can't be resolved by logic alone. The vulcan, the human: sort of a head vs. heart thing. But sometimes the heart just speaks too loudly to be ignored.
  4. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai Staff Member

    Feb 24, 2014
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    I guess for me, I've just always been a believer. Not in the man-made concept of Religion mind you, but in God. I've just had a divine faith for as long as I can remember.

    My mother was not a church goer, but she read her Bible and passed along what she knew to us kids. She was never overbearing on the subject though. She just taught us the basics and gave us the freedom to make up our own minds.

    One of my earliest recollections took place when I was about 3. One afternoon my Mom and I were strolling along when I spotted a large tree. Growing up in the city, such a site was something of a rarity. I asked my Mom, "Who made that?" "God" she replied.

    Now, the most creative person I knew at the time was my big brother. He could do almost anything, but I can remember thinking to myself, "Even my brother couldn't make anything that grand. This God character must really be something!"

    I was sold on God from that point. Still, I always wondered exactly how he did it. I never asked anyone though. I just held that thought in my head. It wasn't until many years latter that I would get my answer and yelled at all at the same time.

    I was in the 2nd grade I believe when we began studying plants. The teacher had brought in some small flower pots, soil and a few seeds. As luck would have it, the seeds we were given were apple seeds. My teacher explained that if we put the seeds into the soil and watered them daily, before long a tree would grow. A light bulb went off over my head and I shouted, "That's how he did it!" Raising your voice in class was frowned upon however and I was chastised accordingly. No matter though, I was too happy with my new found knowledge and eager to get home and tell Mom the news.

    Nearly every encounter I've had since has brought me closer to God. I personally find the most comfort in Christian and Hindu teachings, but I've studied many different belief structures and have found at least some validity in all.

    For me, just waking up in the morning, seeing the sun and hearing the birds chirp affirms my faith. Even when it's teaming with rain I find solace, because I know that God's work is being done and something is going to grow.
  5. Irene

    Irene New Member

    Jun 3, 2014
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    Hi Namaste Jesus ...

    Thank you for navigating me to this thread. Your story and Jane's ... both a heartfelt testimony ... I enjoyed them very much. I think it's wonderful that God has so many different ways to bring people to Faith ...

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