There's so much to like about reality. It's got real stuff in it. Way cool. This is what makes living so satisfying. And so frustrating. Yet always interesting.
We bump into real stuff that isn't us.
Maybe that bump is with an attractive sexual partner. Maybe it is with a mountain whose steep slopes challenge our climbing skills. Maybe it is with sitting still on a meditation cushion, aware of air going in and out of our nose. Maybe it is with cancer cells that have invaded our body.
There's no end to the variety of encounters with physical reality. Which to my churchless mind, we might as well simply call reality.
Perhaps you disagree, believing that concepts like "God," "soul," "spirit," "heaven," "angels," "Brahman," "Allah," or whatever refer to something real yet non-physical. I understand why you hold to that belief, having done so myself for many years.
Now I've come to the conclusion that giving up imaginary ideas is the way to go.
I've spent enough time talking to imaginary friends: a God I imagined could hear my prayers, a guru I imagined was aware of everything I did, deceased loved ones I imagined being able to listen to my one-sided conversation with them.
My imagining made me feel good, or I wouldn't have done this for so long. But not nearly as good as reality makes me feel.
Concepts that aren't grounded in the world that isn't us lack substance. We can fool ourselves for a while -- or even a lifetime -- but imagination always fails to authentically satisfy our hunger for real contact with stuff in the real world.
Yesterday I went land paddling again, a favorite activity of mine since I discovered it last summer. My senior citizen self jumps on a five foot bamboo longboard/skateboard, which I then push around using a stick on multi-use trails in a rural'ish park for about an hour, going 4.5 miles or so.
The words I most often use after a land paddling excursion are "That was real."
I've never used those words when talking to God, guru, or a dead relative inside my head. Or in connection with any other supposed "spiritual" experience that wasn't demonstrably physical.
At one point in my longboarding an approaching Oregon storm unleashed a brief frenzy of wind and rain. Boarding along a part of the trail I knew was mildly downhill, I could barely move, the wind was so strong. I had to exert a lot more strength than usual to push myself along.
I felt great. Wet, tired, and... real.
I don't deny the possibility of reality extending beyond the bounds of the physical. But if such exists, it needs to be experienced with the same sort of undeniable reality as I felt land paddling on those Minto Brown Island Park trails.
If our experience of the divine is merely us communing with ourselves, this will be as satisfying as masturbation is compared to sex with another person: pleasant, yet lacking the authentic wildness of an encounter with someone or something other than ourselves.
Our own minds are tame territory. We create the concept zoos within which our mental creatures live. Then we observe them in their enclosures, feeding them with more thoughts, more imaginings, more beliefs.
This interior realm is within our control. That's what makes it so appealing. And also so lacking.
What we really crave is to bump into what is not us. This is why sensory deprivation soon becomes torture. Circling within the claustrophobic confines of our own mind, there is no exit to a reality not of our own making.
Therein lies the sadness of religion. Though smiles may rest on the faces of believers, this is a mask hiding the emptiness of supernatural imagination. Only reality can truly satisfy.
Drinking a cup of coffee will teach you more about what is real than the loftiest thoughts about God. Guaranteed. (And I've gotten no kickbacks from Starbucks for saying that -- though I'd like to.)