I had read about how background reading aloud is good for a child’s developing brain in the opposite way that background TV is bad for him, so I picked a wordy book off the shelf to read to Henry today while he played on the floor with Daddy: Catherine Marshall’s Story Bible.
I had this book as a kid, and a lot of my Bible knowledge stems from it. Of course, it’s way simplified and not all the stories are there, but it has a good synopsis of the main points, and illustrations by kids.
My religious stance is that I made up my own religion, Katethysianism, which is my own plate from the ideological buffet. I like to describe the tenets of Kathethysianism as, “Whatever I feel like believing in at the time.” It’s a mix of this story bible, new-age spirituality, and other things I’ve picked up from books like Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael and the like.
I think the Bible is just fine and dandy, but it needs to be interpreted – run through the translator – and not taken literally. I’m not so into organized religion because I like that I have my own pick-and-choose interpretation that doesn’t quite fit in with the package deal, but sometimes I do like to go to church for the familiar and holy-feeling routine of it, and as a place to remember about your spirituality. The same way sometimes I like to go for a hike, or to sit in a tree. I want to pass that on to Henry; that beliefs don’t have to be a package deal, and that he can opt to compile his own plate from the buffet.
So anyway, I’m reading this story and right in the first few pages there it is: The meaning of life.
Wowza! It ain’t some big secret, folks. I’ll tell you what it is.
The Story Bible says: “Now another kind of creature was needed to enjoy all this beauty and to take care of it.” A little later it also says, “God was making Man so wondrously that he would be able to understand Who had made the animals and the amazing world around him. Understanding that, Man could then know and enjoy his God… Thus God would never again be lonely.”
That’s our job, simple as that. The meaning of life. (Of our lives as people, that is.) To enjoy the world, to take care of it, and to appreciate the mysterious ways it came into existence, and be glad it did happen.
After reading that, a sad thought occurred to me: We are NOT doing our job.
We are not taking care of nature and the world’s animals. We are destroying their natural habitats, mass murdering the world’s amazing creatures for food, clothing and other unnecessary reasons, dumping our trash all over the place, torturing via animal testing and on and on.
And we don’t appreciate it, either.
We whine, complain, are generally mopey and sad. It’s rare that we just look at a sunset or a tiger or the inside of a starfruit and muse on how incredible and unlikely it is that any of it exists, much less how incredible and unlikely it is that we would actually be aware of the incredibility and unlikeliness of it all.
Climate change is our own self-imposed apocalypse.
We screw up and we wipe ourselves out, except for a few who catch on early and escape it. Call it God’s wrath or call it a bed we made and need to lie in, it’s headed this way and it’s dang scary.
I can’t figure out the translation of the rainbow, though, because in the Bible, God says he’ll never do that to us again. And the whole Jesus thing was supposed to be about forgiveness. I suppose we will get there later, though – right now I’m just up to Noah.
Anyway, I do think there are lessons to be learned from reading the Bible. Not literal lessons about avoiding women on their periods and hating on gays, but lessons about being nice to each other and caring for animals and the environment.
Part of me wants to toss the book aside and get back to Facebooking on my iPhone, watching videos of cats doing cute things and buying mozzarella sticks to eat during the super bowl… and part of me wants to sell the house, donate the money to charity and live in the African outback in a hut, away from plastics and factory farms, living a vegan lifestyle and preaching my own interpretation of the end times and how we should all just get along.
I guess I’ll have to find an acceptable compromise.
But I want to do my job, and to help others — especially Henry — to do theirs.
I think we’d all be happier.