It was one of those moments when the universe seemed to be sending me a wake up! call. I have them fairly frequently.
I'd probably be aware of more if I wasn't asleep so much of the time. Not literally, though napping is one of the things I'm best at; what I mean is sleepwalking through life – absorbed in something other than what is really going on.
A few days ago I was walking up our driveway to get the morning newspapers. We live in rural Oregon countryside, so when I talk to myself on a cold dry December day I don't expect that anyone will be around to hear me.
On this particular newspaper-getting mission I was thinking about my Galobet acronym. Though basically faithless now, I still like to keep my salvation options open.
So I was running through my GALOBET divinities, saying hello to some entities who might, just might, have something to do with the fact that I was alive, in beautiful Oregon, on a winter day when it wasn't raining (will miracles never cease?).
"Hi," I said aloud. "God, Allah, Lord, One, Brahman, Emptiness, Tao – thanks for doing whatever you do, assuming any of you exist and are listening to me. I'm happy to be something rather than nothing."
That was a nice sentiment, I suppose. And I was enjoying hearing me talk to myself.
But then I glanced up and came eye to eye with a genuine being. A deer. Which was standing in a field next to the driveway, looking right at me.
I'd almost missed it. I was so focused on hearing my thoughts spoken aloud, I wasn't paying much attention to the world outside of my head.
A world of deer, grass, wintry air, a barely risen sun, men talking to themselves as they walk to get the newspaper.
In short, the real world.
I'd been talking, in my faithless fashion, to religious/spiritual entities that I either don't believe in at all (God, Allah, Lord – the Western pantheon) or don't envision listening to me (One, Brahman, Emptiness, Tao – the more philosophically plausible Greek and Eastern pantheon).
Even so, I'd distracted myself from perceiving what was right in front of me. Of course, I could just as well have been musing to myself about what would be on the front pages of the newspapers we get.
Or anything else.
But the genre of religious conceptions is a particularly powerful obscurer of really real life. That's because dogmatic beliefs are clung to with a power that my half-hearted interest in Galobet or the front page news pales in comparison to.
I know, because I've been there and done that: tried to keep my mind full of religious thoughts during as much of my waking hours as possible.
I've heard that Christians do the same thing. Except it's an invisible Jesus instead of an invisible guru who stands by your side – your best friend, leaving aside the minor detail (for many) that friends should be real.
There could be life after death. Or life before birth, as was suggested on one of the first Church of the Churchless Message Board posts.
But who knows for sure? Only someone who has died. And they can't tell the rest of us.
Who are here, living – very likely the only life we'll ever experience. A life that is so unbelievably precious, it begs to be lived as fully and eyes-wide-open as possible – not veiled behind beliefs about what may be.
What is: that's always right before us. Looking back wide-eyed. Like a deer standing in an Oregon field on a winter day.