Today was an especially beautiful day. Bright sun, a few lazy clouds, not too warm. A perfect day for what else - golf. So my brother, Henry, his girlfriend, Jen, and I decided to inflict a little humiliation on ourselves and play a round of that game we so love to hate - and hate to love.
After Jen remarked on just how gorgeous the weather was, I replied, "Yes. Isn't it heavenly?" Being aware of my aversion to God and religion, Jen said to me, "Heavenly? I thought you were an atheist." She was no doubt just ribbing me, and in all honesty, I did appreciate the humor. Nevertheless, I did feel the need to offer some explanation for invoking what is sometimes considered to be a religious term, and disabuse her of the notion that I might be, deep down inside, a religious person - just in case she wasn't kidding. (When you think about it, saying, "Isn't it a heavenly day," is no more an expression of religiosity than uttering "God damnit!" as a profanity is.)
"Well, you got me there, Jen. It just goes to show how deeply ingrained all of this religious stuff is. It's too bad my brain doesn't have a delete button." We shared a laugh and promptly returned to the business of bad golf.
Then I got to thinking. Wouldn't it be great if our brains really did have a delete button - like computers. Better yet, one of those high-security, data-sanitizing programs that actually obliterates all traces of selective information. If there were a brain-based equivalent to one of these programs, I could permanently remove all those seared-into-my-memory incantations of, "Our Father, who art in heaven ...," "Hail Mary, full of grace ...," or "Oh My God, I am heartily sorry ..." Heck, why stop there? I could remove the memory of every painful experience I ever had.
Reality, however, tells us that we are today where the sum of all yesterdays has taken us, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and unless I contract an incredibly selective case of amnesia, I am stuck with the troubling images and memories of my religious upbringing.
I don't consider certain aspects of my younger life an obscenity merely because religion was such a big part of it. Rather it was the way in which it was all presented to me that was so offensive. I was made to feel loathsomely inferior if I dared to challenge any aspect of the dogma being served up. Worse, I was made to feel immoral over the most insignificant - and normal - of childhood mistakes. This was mind molding in the extreme, the kind that frustrated every attempt of the inner self to instinctively surface. Individuality was anathema to the kind of guardianship I was subjected to.
Yes, a virtual delete button would have come in handy at times, but knowing such a device wasn't likely to be forthcoming has lead me to rely instead upon colouring the worst of my memories with some honest introspection and a little self love. Slowly but surely, it's making a difference.
2 years ago