“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us.” – John Lennon, musician
“Cass and her father were close.”
Cassandra (Cass for short) was a big woman, six feet in height and thirty eight years old. She was attractively dressed in a modern business style with an expensive blouse, slacks and matching jacket. She also displayed a number of masculine behaviours besides the sway in her walk when she entered my office. Her communication style was direct, abrupt and succinct. Even her sitting posture had a mannish quality with her ankle crossed on her knee and a forward leaning, intense demeanour.
Cass was a well educated entrepreneur with an advanced business degree. She ran her own fast food franchise in the community. She lived with her father, Calvin, who was retired from a successful business career of his own. Cass and her father were close. They had lived on their own together since her mother had left them many years earlier when Cass was just a toddler.
Cass and her Dad were very religious individuals who faithfully attended their church every Sunday. In fact, Cass displayed a measure of personal pride in how she made sure her father got there every week. As well, they were active, and well respected, in their community.
“…she was surprised by her own response.”
Cass told me what brought her to my door was her disappointment in herself and confusion that she still didn’t have a partner and children by this point in her life. She reported she had had several relationships. But, they never seem to last long. She added that her father had expressed his own disappointment and confusion regarding her situation. He was waiting for grandchildren…and the sooner the better.
When Cass reviewed each of her past relationships, I asked her who had ended each relationship, herself or her partner. In each of the four she cited, it was invariably she who had terminated the relationship. When I asked her why, she was surprised by her own response.
Cass said, “Looking back now, they were actually very nice guys…caring, respectful and sensitive. But, there was always something missing. It just didn’t feel right to me!”
“What was missing and how did you want it to feel being with a partner, Cass?” I asked.
She thought for a moment and then replied, “What comes to my mind is a ‘kindred spirit’…someone who let’s me be me!”
“…I need my partner to respect that about me!”
“Someone who let’s you be you in what way, Cass?” I asked to clarify further her remark.
“Well, for example, someone who accepts my Catholic religion even though it is outdated, regressive and sexist!” she said with a new angry edge in her voice.
“Why is your partner’s acceptance of your religious views so important to you, Cass?”
She paused for a second, then said, “Well, I know it’s kind of dumb to hold on to old beliefs that don’t really work anymore. But, I have a right to believe whatever I want and I need my partner to respect that about me!”
“I couldn’t agree more!” I said. And then I added, “Give me another example of what a partner would have to accept about you besides your form of spirituality?”
“Well, that’s the big problem, what if, what a partner needs to accept about me doesn’t even fit within my religion? What if, that thing makes me a hypocrite in my own faith?” she asked, fear and confusion spreading across her face.
“And, what about my relationship with my god?”
“Reminding you about the confidentiality agreement we signed at the beginning of our discussion, would you like to tell me what about you doesn’t fit within your religion?” I asked to get to the core of what was bothering her so much.
Cass looked down at her hands, looked up at the ceiling of my office, and then, looked at me with glistening eyes, saying, “Ken, it’s gonna kill my father, I’m going to lose all my friends and it’s probably going to wreck my future, but…I’m gay…I’m a lesbian!”
I offered her a gentle, soft smile while saying, “Cass, welcome to the real world! Welcome to a world where human sexuality isn’t an ‘either – or’ situation. Welcome to a world where human sexuality is a continuum. Welcome to a world where your sexuality is the result of a combination of genetics, environment, culture, values and several other factors.”
“I know about that stuff. And, Ken, I know it’s true. But, what about my father’s reaction? And, what about the kids I want in my future? And, what about the friends I want to keep in my life? And, what about my relationship with my God?” she said.
“Let’s get more focused, Cass and deal with each one of your concerns, separately. Which one is your biggest challenge today…right now?”
“Well, they’re all important to me. But, the one I most struggle with is the last one…my relationship with my God!”
“He was a wise man who originated the idea of God.” Euripides, poet
“…we developed a belief in a god to help us survive…”
“Do you understand the biological reason why humans believe in a god?” I asked her.
“Not really!” Cass replied.
“To help us survive longer!”
“I’m not sure I understand!” she replied with curiosity.
“Humans, in order to help us survive longer in our hostile environment, have developed creative thinking strategies which have proved worthwhile in extending our lifespan. Believing in a god was one of them! As was inventing the wheel!”
“Are you saying, we developed a belief in a god to help us survive?”
“Human’s made deities (gods) out of anything that was a significant challenge or support to them, such as: animals, weather systems, planets, diseases, and so on. By doing this we learned how to survive in our natural environment. For example, by making a god out of lightning, we learned to take shelter from it for our safety. In the same way, we have created many gods over our history.”
“Are you suggesting believing in a religion, Catholic in my case, helped me survive in life?” she asked with a hint of skepticism to her voice.
“… you are not the same person your were when you started in that religion.”
“You decide Cass. Hasn’t believing in your religion helped you be part of your family and part of your community? And, hasn’t it also helped you make friends and appreciate yourself, and your life, at various times in various ways?”
“Yes it has, Ken! So, why do I feel so restricted and limited by it, now?”
“Probably because you are not the same person your were when you started in that religion. Because of your life experiences, you are an evolved person. Did you think your spirituality would not need to evolve as well?” I asked her.
“Are you saying my spirituality keeps evolving with my person?” Cass asked.
“Let me use a silly, but accurate, example of the process of human learning. When you were a kid did you believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy or similar mythical entities?”
“Sure, most kids do, don’t they?”
“It’s the only tattooed belief we seem to come with at birth.”
“Yes they do because it makes sense of their life experiences. But as they grow older, they give up these beliefs for new ones. This is the same process all humans use to develop their spirituality. Each person believes, what they need to believe, to make sense of their personal history. This is not good or bad, it is just how we learn to survive as a species.”
“But aren’t some beliefs constant in us, they never change?” she asked.
“Yes! But, there is only really one I’ve noticed. It is our belief in our ability to learn and evolve. We are born believing we can be anything, do anything and have anything we need for our survival…for our future. It’s the only tattooed belief we seem to come with at birth. The rest of our beliefs are learned from our experiences.”
“So, are you suggesting my belief in a traditional Catholic god is a learned belief that resulted from my upbringing? And, I may need to evolve my belief to keep it in line with my latest life experiences, Ken?” she asked summarizing the core of the idea succinctly.
“That’s it exactly, Cass!”
“And, are you also saying, if I evolve my version of my god, it will allow me to be whoever, and whatever, I want to be?” she asked next.
“That’s it exactly, again!” I replied.
“But Ken, how do I do that and keep my faith, my family and my friendships?”
“Coincidence is god’s way of remaining anonymous.” – Albert Einstein, physicist
“…an adult who started to believe in Santa Claus again?”
“Let me offer you a thought. What if the word, g.o.d. could mean the Grandly Organized Design of the universe? What if it includes: Jesus, Mohammed, Krishna, Yahweh, The Great Spirit, The Sun God, The Moon God, The Thunder God, The Lightning God, and so on and so on?”
“That’s an appealing approach to spirituality, for me. But, I wonder about the costs of taking that approach. I wonder if I can stand the implications of just being me. Can you assure me it will work?”
‘Cass, are you saying, if you are really you, you would like a guarantee of more pleasure than pain?”
“Yes, I guess so.” she said hesitantly
“Cass, that would take you backward, like trying to believe in Santa Claus, again. The only guarantees in life are the laws of our natural world, like the laws of energy conservation, the laws of light, the laws of sound, the laws of motion, the laws of friction, the laws of symmetry and so on. These are your only guarantees in life because they have been operating for over 400 billion years.”
“Are you saying we can’t go backward in our beliefs?” Cass asked.
“Can you think of an exception which you have noticed…an adult who started to believe in Santa Claus again?” I asked with a teasing smile.
“No, not really! Does that mean if I start being me I should not expect to be happier?”
“… advantages to your father that you are a lesbian…”
“Exactly Cass! But, you can experience more appreciation for yourself and those around you. You can experience more gratitude for your life as it is. Would that interest you?”
“That sure sounds better than where I am right now, Ken!”
“OK. But, remember you still have to pay for that gratitude with challenges of some kind. There is no free lunch in life. Everything is in a symmetrical balance and so to receive pleasure you must pay with an equal measure of pain.” I said.
“Now, I guess you’re talking about dealing with my faith, my family, and my friends, eh?”
“In a way, yes! But, what I’m also telling you is to be who you are, to do what you need to do to be you, and to have what you need to have to be you, will always require you to meet challenges, adversity and pain. This is nature’s way to ensure you learn to appreciate yourself and your life.”
“Well, if that’s the case, then I need to get started. And, I think I need to start with my father…and my relationship with him. Because once I tell him I’m a lesbian I just don’t know what he will do. I don’t know how he will handle that information, Ken.”
“Then, let’s get started. I don’t suppose you have ever made a list of the benefits or advantages to your father that you are a lesbian, eh?” I said.
“I never noticed before how many ways there are to be a parent.”
From here Cass moved forward learning to honour who she was, her sexual identity, and her future. When she eventually told her father, she found out he had suspected for many years she was gay and was pleased she had told him. And, as Cass came out to her friends, she found out who her real friends were.
The last time I heard from her, Cass was exploring becoming a foster parent which really excited her father. One of the things she said in that conversation was, “I never noticed before how many ways there are to be a parent.”
“Nature displays god to us in every protein, every person and every planet, we need only to look carefully.”
– King Ayles, author
Until Next time…
Now you know, believing in god has been an important survival tool for humans. But, now we have to redefine god in light of our knowledge of nature. This means finding god in everything and everyone around us. This means seeing the grand organized design of the universe in each aspect of our world. This is a journey we all must make to appreciate ourselves and our life.
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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