Tag: faith

Bigfoot

Photo by Eric Goud

Bigfoot is real. I saw him, his pecker in his hands, last week at Big Sur.

I was eating a breakfast burrito on the coast, overlooking the mist-covered cliffs and crashing Pacific waves, when several kilometers in the distance, there he was, squatting on a rock with his back-end hanging over the ocean. The Pacific Ocean, Bigfoot’s toilet. I was far away, so it could have been a walrus, a sea lion, a humpback whale, a rogue sequoia tree, or beach trash. Or, as I prefer to believe, Bigfoot relieving himself.

When I told a friend of my sighting, she scoffed and told me what I saw was just an amalgamation of seaweed and driftwood, propped up by high tide and made look real through morning haze. She proceeded to show me a very recent UFO video from Kazakhstan. Real, undeniable proof.

Another friend told me to watch out. That the wormhole of bigfoot and UFO videos is a dangerous place for people already uncertain about reality, which is a common symptom of anxiety. She then proceeded to tell me about the peaceful tenets of Buddhism.

Begrugingly I have recently come to admit that what I saw was not, in fact, Bigfoot taking a shit. But rather, simply, my desire to see Bigfoot exposing himself to the endless wonders of the bright blue ocean. But if someone sitting next to me, looking at the same cliff at the same time, believed that they saw him, truly believed that Bigfoot was there, I would support their belief. The reasons they believed with conviction could have something to do with their eyesight, their hunger levels, the animals they saw in the forest when they were children, the movie they watched the night previous, the TinTin yeti episode they saw as kids, or previous sightings of Bigfoot himself. Their previous life events made them more likely to believe, and since Bigfoot’s existence is still truly an unknown, this does not make them any less rational.

Most people’s beliefs are based on secondhand accounts, old books, or internet video footage. Stories told by credible friends over a bonfire. A belief based on a feeling they have that they cannot explain. The same for belief in ghosts, or the resurrection, or of yoga, or in science, or in nothing.

Some create elaborate hoaxes—a tall hairy figure with massive strides saunters towards a body of fresh water to wash his/her own personal holes—but their commitment to false evidence does not disprove the existence of a bipedal woodland creature. Some, presumably most, film what they believed to be the outright truth, an accidental stumbling across the unknown. Discussions of incredulity of people’s beliefs, denouncing what some hold true, break down any level of human connectedness. But people’s absolute conviction in the existence of Bigfoot, or their utter insistence on the excessive nature of his legend—people’s certainty and what they will do in its name—will forever impress, entice, and scare me.

Their desire to be part of something, whether it is the glorious triumph when scientists find the first Bigfoot skeleton in northern B.C. or by pointing and laughing when it is proven to be an elaborate folktale, is the same unexplainable, at times unproductive desire that is a side effect of the destruction of real communities, the same desire that concretes people to a sports team, a country, a tax bracket, a t-shirt company, that is, the human desire—opposite of Bigfoot’s desire to be solitary, separate, unseen, anonymous—to be part of a greater whole.


 

I visited the Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. Wandering around, haggard and tour-worn, I noticed the disproportionate number of attractive women aged 20 to 25, the flags of their home nations pinned to their blouses, welcoming wayward, lonely travellers in dozens of languages into the many ornate buildings of Mormon history. I was drawn to the domed Tabernacle where an organ rehearsal boomed triumphantly, peacefully. There I sat, recent non-believer, truly thinking how lovely it would be to fall in love with a Mormon girl, accept the general tenets of her faith, and start a simple carefree life as a closet Mormon in some foothills town in Utah, the ‘Life Elevated’ state. Sometimes, like this time, I would be elated to hand in my anxieties, loneliness, my overthought, for the absolute certainty that some can hold, and the happiness and joy that comes with being part of the greater whole. But in order to do that, one must believe.

Losing Faith

Nenem

I recently received this in an email from a friend in India:

Do you still remember my youngest sister Nenem, you may take her to be your wife if you have any interest. But it would depend upon your choice only though I say anything. Actually young girls needs a trustworthy, abled man for husband and they should be loyal. A lot of marriages are broken causing a lot of problems consquencly.

Directly after receiving this email, I booked a flight, moved to India, and took Nenem as my first wife. She is currently cooking rice and tending to our Kama-Sutra-conceived children while I sit in a mango tree, my feet being massaged by jewelled monkeys, my scalp being pampered by one hundred barbershop gurus.

And just now, as the basement furnace powers up and blows cold air at my feet, I am transported back to my cobwebbed corner in my hole in the frozen ground—left only to the gurus of daddy-long-legs and head lice that pamper my once routinely- and professionally-kneaded head.

Sweet India. Land of many faiths, land where I lost my own.

The last time I returned from India a new man. It wasn’t I-lived-in-an-ashram changed, nor I-tried-forty-kinds-of-marijuana changed, or even I-was-almost-raped-three-times changed. I came back with a newly-filled gap in my mind. I came back with no interest in the functioning church in which I grew up, and which I partially went to support. I lost complete interest in proselytization or evangelism. I lost my faith and replaced it with a set of values. I became so fed up with the culture of organized belief, the culture of changing people’s beliefs, and the language of faith that inhibits people to speak in the realm of reality—reality, where suffering occurs but where nothing is done because of often blinding visions of a possibly non-existant afterlife utopia—that I handed it in and haven’t really looked back. My friend, Nenem’s brother, was unable to speak of anything but the Glory of Our Lord and the financial support he required to live and to preach. I didn’t write a list of for and against. It wasn’t an immediate disbelief in the resurrection that made me never return to church. It was part of a constant evolution of the mind that peaked while travelling alone, as it tends to do.

It is a mysterious thing, the loss of faith—as mysterious as faith itself. Like faith, it is ultimately not rooted in logic; it is a change in the climate of the mind.

-Orwell, A Clergyman’s Daughter, p249

Propagandhi’s Supporting Caste coincidentally came out during my last trip in India, and I somehow managed a minor miracle to download the album off of Indian iTunes. It was my only friend while travelling. One night, after calling home on my prepaid Indian cellphone, sitting on the beaches of Cochin at night, after four months of solo-travel, I finally realized that the greatest moments in life are better when shared. I have been able to enjoy things alone, but having the ability to acknowledge the greatest things with someone else, is the creation of joy. Joy isn’t a seasonal shopping opportunity at the Victoria Square Mall. Joy isn’t a faith-only feeling. I realized this again over the last few nights when watching my favourite band of all time. I enjoyed parts of the set alone, but the moments I was most elated were those when I sang aloud in the arms of good friends. Imagine the everlasting joy I would have if I actually just took part in arranged marriage to a conservative Christian girl in a village in India. Never-ending, tantric, yogic, conservative joy.

My faith was replaced with something else. Something no less powerful. It was replaced with some sort of logical desire for decency and equality in the real and tangible world, both rooted in my Christian upbringing and my love for socially-conscious punk rock. Not that values didn’t exist in my life beforehand, they just sat at the back on my brain, washed out by uncertainty and contentedness. And as much as it pains my father to hear it, my faith was partially replaced with many of the tenets of a Winnipeg punk band. Neither the band nor the church would quickly agree that (what I would identify as) their basic doctrines line up—absolute equality, that the “unifying principle of this universe is love” (Propagandhi, Duplicate Keys Icaro). I connected my early life in the church basements in which I had grown up, to the realities of poverty, inequality, and hypocrisy that I had seen while travelling, and filled that gap with a set of discernible values that I seemed to lack previously. A serious respect still exists in the utmost for people who adhere to systems of faith, as it is another means to the end I am constantly seeking, and it helped mould my values to what they are now.

The smell of glue was the answer to her prayer. She did not know this. She did not reflect, consciously, that the solution to her difficulty lay in accepting the fact that there was no solution; that if one gets on with the job that lies to hand, the ultimate purpose of the job fades into insignificance; that faith and no faith are very much the same provided that one is doing what is customary, useful, and acceptable.

-Orwell, A Clergyman’s Daughter, p295

A man of faith is the same as a man of no faith, as long as both are acting positively in regard to humanity. Both are inevitably flawed. One puts hope in the unknown, one puts hope in something else—science, humans, another form of the unknown. Perhaps I put my hope in myself, not in a self-righteous, superiority-complex kind of way, but in the way that I am the only thing that I know can make an absolute change in, and hope things can move on from there.

This is no where near the first time I’ve been proposed to, or propositioned, by someone in India, but it has been some time. Though I am flattered, though I wish I could get fifty-cent haircuts in India once a week, and though I think it could potentially work out better than a love-marriage, I will not take him up on the offer. This man, Nenem’s brother, is still a friend. And though many of his thought-processes irritate me as anti-productive or misdirected, I do not see my new vague set of values as greater than his faith. Mine will waver and transform as does anything philosophical. I merely lost my faith a while back, replaced it with something new. If he forgets his ultimate purpose, and I realize that I don’t have an ultimate purpose, and we work together to help those we know need it, then we can be mutually productive. The fact that he offered me his sister without her even knowing it, or likely even speaking English, is another issue that we’ll have to sort out after the marriage. Curry feast to follow.