This world is tragic and beautiful. She can’t exist any other way; it’s in her nature to be ambiguous. Taoists believe in balance and harmony—everything has a counterpart—Yin and Yang. It is because some things are perceived to be beautiful, that ugliness can exist. Or similarly, because there is wickedness or evil in the world, goodness and heroism can be born. There's a duality to existence. It’s logical. This notion is what draws me to this particular philosophy on life.
I’ve never openly discussed my religious or spiritual views for fear of being judged and treated differently as an individual. I don’t wish to be classified as this while being placed in that demographic, and I try to avoid collectivist thinking. I’m not saying that people who belong to a particular religion are any such thing. I’m not making that claim at all. As a twenty-something woman living in Arkansas, it’s pretty atypical to have the views that I do.
My mother is from the Philippines, which is a predominantly Catholic culture. I was baptized in the Catholic church as a baby, and I have very vivid memories of attending mass during my childhood. As a child, I strongly disliked going to church. I didn’t understand why the environment had to be so somber and serious. It seemed so archaic, and I constantly found myself wondering why I should pray to this woman named Mary. My mind had trouble accepting that she was the virgin mother of the son of God. It didn’t follow the laws of nature and it was illogical to me. It didn't make sense.
When I was ten years old, my world was shaken to pieces, and quite often, I feel as if I’m still trying to regain a steady footing in the midst of aftershocks nearly two decades later. I remember it like it was just last night. My little sister and I were watching cartoons in the living room floor of this very house. Mom had left for work early (a couple of hours before the start of her night shift), claiming she would be working overtime. Just minutes after she left, Pop came into the living room stating he needed to run to the grocery store and that he’d be right back. Less than an hour later, my mother entered the house screaming and cussing, while Pop trailed after her in his rage. Dishes and glassware were shattered throughout the kitchen all the while my mother was in hysterics crying and screaming and threatening suicide. My sister and I didn’t move from the living room floor we were so petrified. When I think back to that night, my heart races and the nervous shakes and panic comes flooding back to me. I will never forget the visual of my mother sitting in the armchair rocking, pressing the knife into her thigh carving away at her jeans.
My father gave her an ultimatum. She could leave her job and her coworker boyfriend along with it and remain with us as a family, or she could walk away from us. I distinctly remember her telling my father that she didn’t know what she wanted, and painstakingly, I remember begging my father to let her keep her boyfriend and stay Mommy and wife. It was so fucked up. Pop ended up making the decision for her, and I remember him lifting her up and physically tossing her out the front door. After that night, life was an emotional blur. I began internalizing nearly everything, while my younger sister who was always my mother’s baby, started lashing out. Our family unit was disrupted and neither of us knew what our role or place was anymore. School days were spent in and out of the counselor, Ms. Pickle’s office, and before I knew it, Pop was dating a new woman and we were all moving out to San Diego.
My step-mom was Baptist. As a kid, she put me in AWANA, and I remember going to church every Sunday and attending Bible studies and summer church camp. I’d lead prayer in our small groups, and I found myself very much captivated by its stark contrast from my Catholic upbringing. Whereas Catholicism felt stern and unforgiving despite its teachings, the Baptist church appeared fun and inviting. But it also felt very commercialized—like a giant production. As my teenage years ticked forward, I found myself becoming more and more turned off, and by the time I moved away to college in Missouri, any sign of my faithful church-going self faded quickly into the background.
I did a lot of growing up in college—I made countless mistakes, and those mistakes developed me into my present state of consciousness. Some of my darkest moments and feelings happened at Westminster, and it was on that campus that I realized the extent to which my mother’s blood filled my veins. Recognizing the implications of that fact, after nearly ten years of not speaking to her, I looked up her phone number on the internet one day and called her up. We made amends, or so I thought, and the rest is just history.
But it was during senior year of college in World Religions class that our professor did a segment on Taoism. We read the Tao Te Ching, and I ended up writing a paper on it. At 21 years of age, I realized my perspective and life experiences had finally found a home in Taoist philosophy, and a year later, I found that even my political views and intellectual pursuits could be guided by its teachings. I look at Taoism as a way of life—It’s an effective means of self-reflection and meditation. It’s effortless. Peaceful. It’s not forced and it’s not materialistic in any way. It just is. Here I am less than two months from turning 28, and once again I find myself in a stressful moral dilemma spanning the spectrum of my life. Every aspect of my life. My suppressed depressive demons are resurfacing, and it’s all I can do to keep moving forward and not slip and fall down a dark tunnel again. And I do realize it’s up to me to overcome it all. It all comes down to what choice I decide to make. It’s not in God’s hands—It’s in mine. Although I’m not a religious person, I am very spiritual, and I do believe there is a God. I don’t believe God loves or hates—I don’t believe God is personally concerned with my life choices either. He just is. He breathed life into our souls—our consciousness, and he continues to create. He is supremely prolific, and forever intangible. I’ve mentioned before that the meaning of life came to me in a dream, and upon learning it, I felt simultaneously terrible and liberated. While dreaming, I told myself that I had to remember the meaning of life, but when I woke, the notion was thus removed from my mind. It was the most peculiar feeling. I guess you could say that experience in itself speaks volumes for what life is at its core. I very ardently believe that space—the Universe—is the infinite mind of God. Every soul is like a unique thought, billions of thoughts aimlessly racing around day in and day out. Space. Void. Stars. Brilliant, instantaneous synapses firing away. The universe… expansive and never-ending, where anything at all can be possible. It’s unfathomable. And for me, that’s God.
Because of my particular views on what God is and my absence of practicing a formal religion, I do find it more challenging to relate to my peers and coworkers—Anybody I come into contact with here really. Even my own family. We argue and fight, and we rarely get along. Many times I feel like a displaced puzzle piece that was thrown into the wrong box. I would say I’m closest to my father, and we get along maybe half the time. The other half he’s constantly telling me how similar I am to my mother. I’m so weary of hearing that from everyone. Absolutely tired of it. I’m from a family whose bloodline is full of negativity and complacency, and it gets depressing. They say you are who you’re with, and that puts me in the same sinking boat. I told myself when I moved back to NWA, that I would be selective of my company and do everything I could to surround myself with likeminded individuals. I was done with the shallow—the dramatic and shortsighted, and I wanted to meet creatively brilliant people who had the minds and will to build and create, who never stop learning and always relish in the wonder and ability of themselves and others. A new family. I wanted to become part of a new family, and to do something bigger than myself. I haven’t found that family yet. That family who will accept me and encourage me to evolve into something productive and better. I never imagined it would be this difficult for me to find a group of friends or peers that would be able to empower me just as much as I could empower them. It’s a huge void in my life that I’m constantly aware of. Perhaps I’m unreasonably curious and insatiable.
Daisy Buchanan was probably right. Maybe it is best to be a beautiful little fool. Ignorance is bliss, and bliss is Heaven.