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Published: February 10th 2020
I’ll be boogered. The notion of spirituality has bedeviled me for pretty much all of my life. As a young child one of my greatest fears was being abducted by wild Indians, and later, but briefly, by Spanish Conquistadors who made me a slave. It was the influence, on my tender sensibilities, of TV westerns, and cowboy movies like <em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">The Searchers
. One night, during my 15th
year of life, I had a very vivid dream about being a mountain man chased by the Blackfeet across the wilds of Wyoming. During the chase I was forced to abandon my pack animals, what was left of my camp supplies, and two years of peltries I had been busily harvesting through perilous efforts. Some of the Blackfeet left the chase to gather in that bounty. As the harrowing chase continued my horse finally gave out and I had to abandon it too. I took my rifle into a nearby patch of woods to make a last stand, but came upon a Crow teepee that held an ancient Crow warrior in the final stage of his long life. There was an Indian pony tethered outside the teepee for the old fellow to ride off into the sunset on. I stole that horse and made a clean getaway while the Blackfeet murdered the Crow instead. That dream stuck in my head like an arrow, and is still there, but thirty years later I was reading a book called Medicine Calf about the mountain man Jim Beckwourth, and that episode of the chase was recounted almost verbatim to my dream. It gave me a spiritual connection to Beckwourth and led me to the conviction that in a previous life I was Jim Beckwourth, escaped slave, mountain man, adopted by the Crow, made war chief, and given the name Medicine Calf. It also led me to the conviction that Indian spirituality was more correct than Christian spirituality was. My simplistic understanding of Indian spirituality is that The Great Spirit Chief is the sum total of all natural laws, and his presence is felt everywhere; the earth we inhabit, in the air we breathe, in the water we drink, in the sky above us, and in the oceans around us. To abide with God we must live in harmony with all that surrounds us.
In 1975 I found myself very much taken with a woman named Susan Sievert. I thought she was a goddess, but she was a staunch Christian girl of the First Baptist faith. I knew if I was to move forward with her I would have to join her church and worse – stop drinking. One night I prayed to Jesus about the situation and asked Him if love for a woman was a valid reason for joining the church. Jesus pulled up his rolodex and found my card in it; He then smiled, and filed it away in a Golden Box, which I took as a meaningful sign. He then instructed me to keep on going like I was and try not to hurt anyone, but to avoid any Christian church, especially the Catholics, Anglicans, Mormons, and Baptists. He said the whole Bible was just made up bullshit written by the church to maintain wealth and power and there was not a word of truth in any of it. When members of the Christian faith die they will find Heaven to be a mighty cold and dark refuge to spend eternity in. He said that when I finally died He would be glad to show me Himself what I need to know about his teaching. He then apologized for being illiterate and having to trust in others to write His gospel. The conversation ended there. It left me in the awkward position of believing in Jesus, but not in the Bible. I went on about my business, and Susie Sievert went on about hers with no interference from me. In later years I have concluded that the Jews are right. Jesus was not the Messiah, there was no resurrection, and there is no heaven or hell. At this point I doubt that my card remains in the Golden Box.
What is spirituality then? Does it even exist? Of course it does. It lives in our hearts as the fond memories of deceased loved ones. Spirituality lives in our hearts as charity, kindness, compassion, honesty, integrity, cowardice, guilt, fear, love, and hope. It does not require an act of faith. When we go up the flume our spirit resides in the hearts of those who love us, but it is not eternal. When everyone who loves us dies, the flame of our spirit flutters out. It served its purpose. It is an absurd fallacy to think that when we die our spirit leaves our body and flaps off like a comet to go live in heaven forever with Jesus and to listen to harp music of all things. He doesn’t even like us, and no thank you - He doesn’t care about Crimson Tide football or NASCAR either.
My hope is that when I die those who love me will choose to remember me as a guy who would prefer to knock back a little Old Crow and smoke a Cuban cigar beside a campfire with the likes of Jim Beckwourth before saddling up to go chase buffalo across the plains. We will be clapping our hands and dancing to Irish Folk Music.
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