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Where not all roads less traveled are roads...

Header Photo: Table Mountain, Golden, Colorado, with views of downtown Denver.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

On Obstacles: The Building Blocks Of Character, and "Losing My Religion"



On the heels of a precipitous, quad burning pilgrimage to lay hands on the alter of the East Temple, yesterday found the Gang slogging up and down a seemingly endless series of deep sand knolls—sand so fine that the next step in its evolutionary destiny is to become dust—a sand as fine as the air we breath, so fine that it filled our shoes and penetrated tightly woven socks. It's one discouraging matter to find it necessary to stop and pour sand from one's shoes, a more disheartening matter entirely to pour sand from one's socks. Searching for inspiration to endure, Suzanne and I invoked scripture. Finding legs no less on fire, I made the leap from Jesus to Zig Ziglar, "What you get by achieving your goal is not as important as what you become by achieving your goal." Sometimes Mother Nature requires us to labor and toil in order to indulge her best kept secrets. What did you think, She was just going to serve them all up at a roadside turnout? Look what happened the the Grand Canyon. Is that what you want Grasshopper?  


And labor and toil we did, on a vertiginous climb up to East Temple. I think toiling is easier when one can keep sight of the goal. On that day we did, an overwhelming, rusted red White House Monument that seemingly pierced Utah's cobalt dome. It lay above us like Heaven's Gate, no doubt Peter was getting a good laugh at our geezerhood assault.

East Temple is so immense...has its own field of gravity. Not so much a force that lightens one's load, unfortunately. No, it's more of a spiritual force, the kind that tugs at one's mind, heart…soul. Maybe because of the name, "Temple," or perhaps the angle of its repose against the blueness of eternity, but from the first time I laid eyes on East Temple I knew I had to touch it—to lay hands on it—to stand at its altar base.  

Some will not connect with nor understand the above sentiment. I don't know how to explain it, really, other than I'm still working on peeling away all the layers of Pentecostal Religiosity that were so tightly wrapped around my childhood. Somewhere down deep inside, I've always known that my Mom and Dad's "religion" was not for me; it was far too fervent and rule oriented. But what, then, does a growing man child fill that center of the Universe void with? How does a little one fill the vacuum of a great Black Hole? Very slowly, that's how. It takes time and patience and trust…which sounds a whole lot like love, doesn't it?  

I followed my heart out of the "four walls" and it led me to places with walls I better understood, places like Zion. Nature. In wilderness I feel the rejuvenation that I suspect my parents found within their choice of religions. Why they needed such a showy sleeve-worn religion I'll never know. But I am comfortable with my heart's leading...where I'm ending up. No one could ever talk me out of where I've landed; it feels right; it feels good. In Nature, I don't get hung up in the details of religiosity…who's right, who's wrong, who's going to Heaven, who's going to hell. That "stuff" will work itself out eventually and what I believe one way or another won't affect the outcome one iota. It lifts a burden, and makes it a pleasure to go to "church." 

It's not lost on me that, while I have forsaken my parent's religious teachings, I haven't forsaken their example of being "good people."  I've been fortunate to somehow separate those basic, positive human attributes, and accept them—wear them—without taking on what I consider the off-putting "pomp and circumstance." When I reflect back upon Mom and Dad's "fervent" years (they eased up toward the end) I can't help but wonder if they might not have been more effective at winning "souls" with a little less rigidity... fire and brimstone. I guess I'll never know. What I do know is that, in their hearts, Mom and Dad were truly well intentioned human beings. They gave and gave and gave of themselves to others, took people into our home, loved them, gave them food and shelter and, of course, Someone to turn to in time of need. Some of their converts went on to become nationally known evangelists…typical "preacher's son," I was not one of them.   

I've come to accept and live with the remaining "layers" of religiosity Mom and Dad so tightly wrapped around my childhood. I think the secret lies in the ability to convert religiosity into spirituality. Semantics? Maybe so, but I just can't bear "stamping" all of my parent's goodness, dedication, and life's work with "NULL and VOID." I respect that they held to their faith, and can honestly say that it was their faith that got them through one of the biggest blows life can deal any parent, the loss of a daughter.

Thus, my religious roots surface in the BCB now and then as "spirituality." I have no problem with that, and somehow, if it's possible that Mom and Dad's spirits live on in some form of awareness, I don't think they would have a problem with my "landing." Judgement just wasn't their style, at least toward their senior years.


 "You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery, and always challenge yourself to try new things." I think the "Gang" would agree. Getting older doesn't have to mean sitting around in the Lazy Daze in a Lazy Boy. It's important that we continue to stretch ourselves in physical, mental, and spiritual ways. And if you want to combine all three into one activity, may we recommend a pilgrimage to the East Temple.

In life and love—when something is lost—it leaves a vacuum. If we are patient, something else will take its place. But it's difficult…complicated...because it doesn't always happen on our timetable. One of life's greatest obstacles is about finding the right people to surround ourselves with, people who reflect our love back upon us. 

Given today's post, R.E.M.'s Losing My Religion comes to mind. It's about obstacles in life, unrequited love, you know, "stuff." There is a little something in these lyrics for everyone...


Oh life, it's bigger
It's bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I've said too much
I've said enough

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no, I've said too much
I haven't said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour
I'm choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt, lost and blinded fool, fool
Oh no, I've said too much
I've said enough

Consider this
Consider this, the hint of the century
Consider this, the slip
That brought me to my knees, failed
What if all these fantasies come
Flailing around
Now I've said too much

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no, I've said too much
I haven't said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
Try, cry, why try
That was just a dream
Just a dream
Just a dream, dream

Peace Out,
Stay tuned for the sand-slog to a fab slot canyon way out in the middle of nowhere.
mark






































8 comments:

  1. Thank you again, Mark. Raised in a pentecostal home, I so get every single word of your evolution. You wrote it far more eloquently than I have ever been able to explain it. I do hope to make the trek to East Temple someday.

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  2. Beautifully stated Mark. My grandfather was a minister, yet curiously, my grandmother who was always the fire & brimstone of the two!). He was always much more energized to see others discover their own pathway to spirituality, whether that be thru an organized Christian or non-Christian religion, or something else entirely, he did not judge. Only that we each find something to feel connected to & something that was way bigger than ourselves. Also, that through that discovery, we would become better people and treat others with the respect, compassion, and humility we would wish to receive. Nature has certainly been the pathway to spirituality for me, and I do feel that attending it's various "churches" (be they mountains, quiet lakes, or slot canyons) bring me far closer to God than any church or religion ever has. I think your parents would be extremely proud of your spirituality as well. Not only do you connect with it regularly, but you've also helped many others find their pathway to spirituality as well via your blog and guided hikes! Namaste!

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  3. Was that actually some trail emanating from a trailhead, or were you folks bushwacking your way to the top...or both? A little trail, a little bushwacking.

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    1. We started out on the Overlook Trail near the tunnel, and bushwhacked the rest of the way up.

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  4. Laverne here:

    You call yourself a "geezer"....heck...you all look like a bunch of teenagers to me. Thank you for taking me along, through your blogs and postcards....makes me laugh a lot....and for your parents Mark....they did good! Thanks....

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  5. Is religion just a code of practice to live our lives in conjunction with others. The ten commandments pretty much sums up modern day laws anyway? Pantheism has been around a long time anyway.

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  6. Nature has always been my only religion...I am glad you found yours...and glad you share your thoughts here so eloquently.

    That is one steep "trail" you crazy, hardy bunch of old farts did! Bravo!

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  7. Sounds like you found your religion. And I worship in the same place as you. Never feel better (or more connected to whatever juju is in the world) than out on a trail amongst Nature's wonders.
    Nina

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