When I was about fourteen, maybe fifteen I had probably the most important revelation of my entire life. I realised one sunny afternoon as I sat in my bedroom, probably writing in my treasured hand-made journal, that if I could conceive of an idea within the bounds of my imagination, then its actuality must also be possible. It made clear and beautiful sense to me. Why else would we have the ability to imagine in the way that we did, I found myself wondering at that tender age?
As far as I was concerned, if an idea fell within the remit of my human experience, then to all intents and purposes it was a valid experience, and one worth exploring and learning from. Much of my life from then on became dedicated to the pursuit of understanding that very concept, and proving to myself that I was right.
I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the pursuit of mathematics and science in the way that my brother was, neither had I been convinced by any notions of fostering a religion. I found the whole Christian ethos to be illogical, and fundamentally non-sensical. Besides churches and obviously religious Christian-types when I was a kid gave me the creeps.
Although we were a catholic family with the exception of my dad, we weren’t practising Catholics. Being catholic to my mum was like being a football supporter belonging to a particular team. You didn’t necessarily have to go and watch your team play in order to support it. So my brother and I were spared the rigours of having to go to church, or go through communion as she and the rest of her family had. It’s what you do if you’re Spanish. Even though she had wanted my brother to be confirmed.
However, as far as my dad was concerned, owing to the fact that we no longer lived in Spain at that time, therefore – what was the point? – and as he wasn’t particularly religious, then there really was no point. I believe my mother saw it more of as a family tradition, that in the breaking might unleash a great shame and deep disapproval from the family across the sea that she had already abandoned and betrayed by marrying an Englishman. In truth, I’m not sure anybody cared.
The whole communion thing seemed to both me and my brother to be an excuse to dress your children up in unnecessary frills and black velvet, then have a huge photograph taken of your little darling looking camera stricken and uncomfortable so that you could then humiliate the poor kid with the immortality of that moment for the rest of his or her life. Pride of place being taken above the T.V. in the living room, replete with golden frame.
To say my mother was religious was a far cry from the truth. She observed cultural religious tradition, because that’s what she was used to. My mother was and is in fact incredibly superstitious.
She avoided churches at all costs unless free food and drink was involved under the auspices of a wedding, or some such occasion, even then she wasn’t comfortable in staying too long. Religious buildings clearly unnerved her, being far too close to the dead for her liking. Lucky for my brother who was thus spared the rigours of being orally sodomised by a priest baring religious body parts!
I on the other hand was mortified, as insisting on observing tradition in one way or another, she decided to put a huge photo portrait of herself above the T.V. instead. The face of a dictator under whose regime I was bound to serve until I was old enough and clever enough to find a way out and defect.
My mother’s mistrust of absolutely everything taught me objectivity, insomuch as you can be objective at all (it’s a bit of a misnomer, when life clearly is highly subjective). She taught me to question everything, despite having left deep scars on my soul. Though being slightly more rational than she, I also questioned my own emotional responses.
Being highly emotionally sensitive myself I was acutely aware of changes in energy as I entered a space or met someone new. I knew I could sense what people thought of me. So it was a natural progression for me to pursue other avenues of thought, in terms of having already discounted any possible existence of God as a process of elimination, i.e. I couldn’t see him or feel him so therefore he didn’t exist. Not much has changed there.
I remember my brother got a magic set for his seventh birthday, and in that set were a set of cards with symbols on them. The kind that you are meant to test your ESP with. He became fascinated with the concept of not only deceptive magic, but real mind-over-matter magic and the paranormal. For years we experimented with telepathy; guessing the suits of facedown playing cards; Oui-Ja boards; even levitation. My brother would spend hours focussing on an object intent on making it move – not sure he was ever successful however. It makes me laugh thinking back on it, the look on his face as he set his concentration to the task was priceless, a camera phone would have been brilliant back then just to snap the moment.
I on the other hand was fascinated by the idea that you could read someone’s thoughts, or that you could send mental messages to people far away. Or better still, that you could predict the future.
I always knew what my brother was thinking. It was a mutual appreciation I believe. At the time I just put this down to the fact that despite our differences, we were actually quite close and thus alike in our observations. We always seemed to know what the other one was thinking, to the extent that we’d suddenly fall about laughing without having said a word to each other. He would often start with the phrase “Do you know…” and I would instantly reply “yes” and finish his sentence.
Things made sense to me in ways that I couldn’t really explain. However, because no-body really paid me any attention being that I was a girl child, and the youngest in the family, much of what I experienced and understood I did so on my own terms.
Science made as much sense to me as religion. It seemed so long-winded, and far too involved with numerical naval-gazing to hold my fleeting attention, particularly when what I was discovering through performing these experiments of the mind, that thought travelled a lot quicker than the speed of light, or any dry old theory that could only take a wild stab in the dark in a particular direction, hoping to reach a logical and plausible conclusion on an indefinite time-scale. The art of putting two and two together and coming up with a random number that could then be proven by extensive algebraic formulas, phbrrr… how tedious!
It’s not that I didn’t understand it, no that wasn’t the cause of my heart-sinking consternation at all. I remember I spent an hour with my brother in the back of the car on a trip somewhere one day, and he taught me algebra during that time. I had it nailed by the time we arrived wherever it was we were going, easy I thought. But to me at that point utterly pointless. It seemed to be a fascination of the inane for sheer hell of it. Although I recognise now that it has its uses, but in the life of a young teenager at the time, with more urgent queries needing answers, the sciences held no magic for me.
So armed with my revelation about the possibilities inherent within the imagination I explored everything, and I haven’t stopped since. What have religion and science ever done for me?
They taught me one very simple equation: Theism-Atheism= Not-Theism, or the state of being neither. And how good it feels to be so open-minded. 😉