I Believe In Belief

Blessing (1)

I believe in belief.

I was the kid who never thought Linus from “Peanuts” was an idiot for waiting for “The Great Pumpkin” to come every year. I would have missed out on all that delicious candy and sat with him in that pumpkin patch too. Not necessarily because I believed, but because he did.

I have taken a pet to the Church of the Holy Family’s “Annual Blessing of the Animals”. I have danced during Shul at B’nai Jeshurun. I have paid my respects at the Buddhist Byodo-In Temple. I have skinny dipped with Wiccans.

I am always interested in listening to people’s spiritual beliefs. Maybe it’s because I was born in the 1970s, an era when Americans were so tired of war and corruption that they really needed belief. So they Primal Screamed, harnessed Pyramid Power, and tapped into ESP. I remember these people; divorcees, unemployed manicurists, freshly transplanted immigrants. They were always searching for something. Eventually some of them actually found what they needed, whether that turned out to be Allah, Jesus or marrying a guru in a barefoot ceremony on the beach.

Having traveled a lot and lived in many places, I’ve seen belief manifest itself in many forms. So I believe in pretty Southern Baptist girls in floral Easter dresses giggling on a sunny Atlanta morning. I believe in my Muslim classmates at college in London, who prayed together and fasted at Ramadan. I believe in Harlem choirs, gorgeous voices raising the rafters of their churches. I believe in the makeshift altars set up in even the grimiest of New Orleans apartments, often on TV trays, with glass-encased candles flickering in the warm afternoon air. And I believe in the hippie Reverend who officiated a wedding I attended on St. John Island, a woman who wore butterflies instead of crosses on her vestment, and told the couple to swim together in Trunk Bay, souls uniting in the water.

Any true belief that attempts to connect people in a positive way, to focus on something greater than the polluted commute to work or posing so you look skinny in a photo is valuable. True belief requires commitment, struggle and devotion. It demands attention. Apathy is too easy. Apathy lets you off the hook. Apathy belies a lack of imagination.

In my home, I have a mezuzah on my doorframe, three Bibles, a copy of the I Ching, The Tibetan Book of The Dead, a jade Buddha, four decks of tarot cards, and a statue of Ganesh right by my computer. After all, he is the Lord of New Beginnings, Destroyer of Obstacles. As a writer who is no stranger to rejection letters, I need his blessings quite frequently.

But when people ask what this buffet of spirituality all means, I tell them I believe in belief.


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