Oh god, you just know any article is going to be terrible when it starts with "Dear Internet", don't you? I mean, this is not to offend anyone at all, but any of us who have spent any amount of time here whatsoever, never mind decadal veterans such as myself, knows just how bad the Internet Crazy can be. With our computer screens for masks, we can feel free to dredge up whatever amount of crazy we like - my hilariously bad experiences on Catholic Answers Forums probably attest to my own tendency to go a little uncorked online.
That's mostly why I started using my real name for things - if I present myself on the internet, I have no choice but to act in a semi-professional manner and generally try to be a gentleman. That bitchy auditor fellow will just have to wait until he can be anonymous again before he gets the chance to play games.
At any rate, this isn't even the article I wanted to write. I wanted to talk about "Maintainence Rites" and share a few nerdy jokes at my hit-count's expense, but this is the article fatewanted me to write. I say Fate because I'm not yet fully awake and that's when my brain gets to go in directions dictated by chance or God or whatever other function you ascribe entropy to.
As it happens, today I got thinking about the papal succession again, which, once again, got me thinking about my own faith. I haven't actually been to Mass since last year's Easter celebrations. I went to a Baptist Christmas Eve service which was perfectly lovely, and that seemed to scratch the God-Itch for a few more weeks before it started to bug me again whenever I remembered that January 1 is a Holy Day of Obligation.
Now, most years I ignore both Holy Days and Holidays. Unfortunately I live far too secular a life, with far too stringent controls on what I can except as a reality, to be bothered. I'm still imbued with a sense of anti-commercial, teen-hipster cynicism so far as many of our holidays go - the ones that get pointed out like Valentines Day and Saint Patrick's Day as well as genuinely holy seasons like Easter and Christmas which are not, in retail, what they are in Church. As a result, I mark the passage of time by personal milestones that actually marked changes in my life state - the start of school, the end of it, the semester transitions, and my birthday.
That system sort of broke down this year with no school to speak of.
It's unfortunate, to say the least - I'm now adrift in a world where I have to sort of force merry-making. This year I decided as a new-year's resolution to observe more holidays, send more mail, write more cards, and generally be less of a pseudo-intellectual, cynical crank.
At any rate it ties itself pretty much directly to the idea of faith - the need to pray coming back to mind inspite of quiet voices in my head, reasonably-correct, pointing out that no positive or negative result seems to have come out of my praying except for certain easily-explained psychological changes immediately afterward. "Oh, the Serenity Prayer works because it got you thinking about why you were mad." "Oh, don't bother praying for that - a monetary donation would be more practical."
It's precisely this cynicism that dragged me out of my "witchcraft" days and into agnostic atheism for the latter half of high school and the earlier half of college.
When it all boils down though, the compulsion is still there. That humanity is arguably pre-wired to require a belief in a benevolent force bigger than itself, that doesn't change the reality of the compulsion for those who experience it.
It also doesn't change the feeling of guilt. Good ol' Catholic Guilt. I had a great-grandmother who was a master of the art of Guilt, who I fondly remember as using her powers only for good and evil. Her funeral mass was one of the last I ever attended. That doesn't change the fact that I feel a little guilty every Sunday. Can't help it. Somehow, in the last two years, I trained my brain that it was wrong to do that, even if I don't care. Even if I will myself to believe in God's Mercy regardless of denomination, activity, or availability (work really does make both the Sunday Mass and the Saturday Vigil Mass impractical), I still feel that little, other-voice inside me saying "Hey, you used to really enjoy this. You used to really get inspired by it. It used to help."
It doesn't help anymore. Somehow I got imbued with the Responsibility for Consequences of Actions bug. If there's a problem, I have to solve it. Sometimes, once solved, I might breathe a quick one-liner of thanks up to Heaven, but for the most part, I just move on to the next problem.
I'm also the worst Witness in the world - someone asks me my faith and I usually shrug and explain that it matters less what I believe and matters more what is true.
Which is true.
"The words of Buddha must be rejected if they can be shown to be false." - The Dalai Lama