What a ridiculous title. Pompous. Kinda misleading, because it might make one believe that I’m going to write about how I have a bunch of faith in God.
At least, I don’t think so. I have faith in something. I suppose some of us call it “God.” Some of us call it “The Universe” (I’ve been known to, on occasion, and will many times, during this post). Some choose “Goddess” or “Allah” or “Jehovah.”
But I don’t really have a need to put a name to it. I’m not an atheist. I do believe there is something. No idea what it is. Not really a mono-theist, though I think that there is really just one force that we all choose to call by our own preferred names. So maybe I am a mono-theist.
I hate labels.
I have a couple stories that maybe might illustrate where I’m coming from better than I’m able to via my usual babbling.
My youngest brother, Anthony, started playing football when he was eight. He was really good. I loved watching him as he grew as a player and as a person.
He always said, “I will play Big 10 ball.” We always laughed (not right in his face, we turned away before covering our mouths and chuckling uncontrollably). I mean, white kid from the suburbs? Big 10? I think not.
But he believed it. He wore this Michigan hat for years. By the end of its life (he probably still has it), it was held together by our family’s favorite fix-it tool: electrical tape. It was sweat-stained and nasty. He played both offense and defense in high school and set records and all that good-ole American-football high-school stuff.
When he was a senior, the Hinsdale Red Devils made it pretty far in the playoffs. We played Chicago Vocational down on the South Side (and I don’t mean Oak Lawn, people. I mean the South Side). We showed up and there were Chicago cops lining the sidewalks, steering the white people to one side and the black people to the other. It was fucking nuts, and a story for another day, but I made myself comfortable on the cold metal bleachers and looked out over the brightly-lit nighttime field and felt my gut sink.
We were clearly going to get our asses kicked. And we did.
So, Anthony, apparently, was just kinda sittin’ around waiting for some Big 10 team to come knocking on his door. I was busy with college and having fun and wasn’t paying too much attention, but as family lore goes, he hadn’t bothered to really apply anywhere. Was just waiting to be picked up.
Of course, we all thought he was absolutely insane (we still do, we’re still right).
Mind you, he’s the youngest of four, and the previous three kids (myself included), declined going to the University of Illinois, our parents’ alma mater. I didn’t bother to apply, as my 27 ACT and 3.8 GPA left me out of the running back in the late ’80′s (thank GOD-haha!). My other brothers went to UW-Madison and UI. I went to Kansas, and then really laid it on thick by transferring to Columbia College (Dad: “What’s the name of their sports teams?” Me: “They don’t have any.” Dad: “And how much does this place cost?” Me: “Um…”)
So, one day in the beginning of August, I was working for our family company, and I picked up the phone to hear a man say “May I speak to Ken Julian, please?”
It was my job to ensure that no annoying sales calls got through to my father, so of course, I asked, “My I ask who’s calling?”
Say whaaaa? Ron Turner? Head coach of the University of Illinois football team? I nearly pissed my pants while I stumbled into my father’s office to tell him Ron fucking Turner was on the phone.
Two seconds later (probably longer), my dad popped his head out and instructed me to go grab Anthony out of the plant.
Long story short, kid was red-shirted at U of I. Still can’t get the look on his face out of my head–a combination of “I told you so” and “I will maintain my favorite-child status for the rest of eternity, suckers.”
The real point of this story is, however, not that he believed he would play Big 10 ball and his faith rewarded him. It is that one of the first games I went to see him, he stood on the sidelines next to the kid who’d played quarterback for CVS at that playoff game a year before, and had been scholarship-ed in and Anthony was six inches shorter and six inches narrower than that kid and I just thought “Oh, he’s going to get his ass kicked.” Even though I was blown away by how big he’d gotten, he was tiny compared to a freakin’ college freshman QUARTERBACK.
And that he stayed on the team. He went to practice every day, he encouraged his fellow players, he stuck it out out of some kind of crazy love of the game and in the end was rewarded (despite only having played, for just a few minutes, if that, in a couple of games over a four and a half year period) with a last-semester scholarship, for his hard work and dedication.
The Universe, God, whomever, paid him for his faith, and he paid it back.
That there is the key.
YOU WILL NEVER RUN OUT OF MONEY
I got that “fortune” on a Bazooka Joe comic many years ago. I’ve been damn close. I do silly things like leave dollars in random drawers just in case, but the fact is that I’ve never actually run out of money.
You can go ahead and accuse me of having it easier than others, but you’d be wrong. Because you can’t get a fortune like that on a Bazooka Joe comic and just expect to sit back and wait for the money train. You have to remain connected to reality. You still have to work your fucking ass off. However, when you get a fortune that says “You will never run out of money” on a Bazooka Joe comic, you get a little bit of freedom. But only if you have faith. Only if you believe (doesn’t that sound silly? Faith in a Bazooka Joe comic fortune? I know! I know!).
You get to choose what you do (mind you, people, you don’t REALLY need a Bazooka Joe comic fortune to have this choice–you already have it–you just have to choose it). So yeah. Choose what you do. I have to remind myself about my ability to make this choice every single day. Sometimes I fail in a major way. Sometimes it’s a big win. Sometimes, it’s a long, slow-burning, angst-ridden, challenging win. Those are the best. (Hello, teachers.)
The Golden Rule
It’s the only thing I gleaned out of my Catholic upbringing (mostly comprised, at least towards the end, of sitting in a pew, feeling guilty whilst wishing that morning’s shower had successfully washed away my sins, waiting for Jesus to pop off that crucifix behind the altar and point at me and say “Sinner!”).
There’s a while Wikipedia page about the Golden Rule.
I like many of the versions from different faiths, but my own version is as follows:
Don’t be an asshole.
Well, there’s a little more to it than that.
I’m super fucking lucky in the friend department.
If you take a look at the Wikipedia page that I linked to above, a lot of it is really negative. Along the “don’t kill that fucker that killed your best friend” kind of stuff. I prefer to see it in a more positive light.
It’s more of an invitation, you know?
According to Wikipedia, the Qur’an says this: “That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind.”
I like that.
But really, Jesus, my favorite dirty hippy, went at the Golden Rule in the way that fits in best with my own beliefs, in a pro-active way.
Keep in mind that my perception of who Jesus was is fully and completely affected by Scorese’s Last Temptation of Christ, and Nikos Kazantzakis’ book. That of a man conflicted and exhausted and full of doubt and totally resistant but also, at the same time, full of faith.
It’s really about giving. Whatever I have that you need, I will give to you, whether you want it, or whether you know you need it, or whether you’re willing to accept it. And I expect nothing in return. Because the Universe, or God, or whatever it’s called, will somehow manage to provide for me whatever I want, or need or am either willing or unwilling to accept, in return.
That right there, I think, is it. I think that’s the point I’ve been trying to get at without knowing exactly what I was trying to say when I started.
I give so that I can receive. I receive, and am grateful for it, so that I can give.
That’s my religion. That’s what I have faith in. That’s what keeps me going.
Does any of this make sense? Probably not. I’d go back and read it and try to make it make sense, but that would be silly. I welcome your comments.