Elliot, an old friend from high school and college, came down to visit for the weekend. As obligated by bro-law, we had one too many drinks over the weekend and had a debauchery of fun.
One of the highlights for me was Saturday night in Adams Morgan. Usually, I detest this neighborhood. The sidewalks are flooded with drunks, littered with pizza, and over run with police. Not to mention the closest metro is about a mile away. However, it is a guaranteed interesting time.
At Reef, I join Elliot to smoke a cig on the rooftop. While gazing out at the herds of people below, I overhear a guy and girl talking about God and religion. Like so many modern Americans, I hear the same apprehension, justification, and partial craving in the girl’s voice as she talks about no longer believing in God but still believing in some sort of higher power. That spiritual crisis from the early to late 20th century remains. More young people associate themselves as spiritual but not religious.
I’m intrigued. I used to love studying religions and going to different churches, mosques, and temples. This is the first time I’ve heard anyone talk about religion in a bar since I brought it up two years ago on a Halloween night.
Afterward, I strike up a conversation with the guy.
“Excuse me, I couldn’t help but hear you guys talking about religion. Mind me asking how that started?”
“Well….I just really love God. That’s who I am. I wake up every morning and read the Bible.”
His eyes are fixed in a serene gaze. He reminds me of my old mentor Dr. P, the only Christian I’ve meet that I believed had absolute faith. She embodied what the ideal Christian would be in my view. Humble, loving, and caring for others.
He asks me a few questions, and I find myself lost without words. It’s been nearly two years since I actively thought about mysticism, God, or religion. He takes my silences to mean I’m offended, when in reality, I’m just trying to work it out in my head:
“Religions are very complicated. They serve a lot of functions – social, psychological, therapeutic, economic, and of course, spiritual. I think mystics…like in the Christian tradition, you have Meister Eckhart, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross. I think the mystics got to the true root of what religion is about. Which is connecting back to God, to the divine, to reality itself. I think that’s lost many times in churches today. I know a lot of young people who became religious during college, but it was due to feeling disconnected and finding a community that understood and accepted them. Positive associations were connected between going to church and feeling good. I remember once having a vision, I’m not sure if it was real or just my own projections. I tend to think it was just my brain. But I was talking to Jesus and asking for forgiveness.”
“Why did you ask for forgiveness?”
“On one hand, I had distanced myself from the church and had been very critical of Christianity. But on the other hand, it was that I felt that I forgot just what a miracle it is to be alive. That to be a human being is a blessing. There’s so much beauty going on around us, but we forget when we get lost in our daily worries about taxes and car payments and what not.”
As I said these words, I realize I’ve forgotten what a blessing it is to be alive. As the night goes on, our new God loving friend buys drinks for us. Another interesting night out.