It was the summer of 1995, and I, nearly nine at the time, became mesmerized by Joan Osborne’s song “One of Us.” The song left immense controversy in its wake, but to me it made complete sense: why couldn’t God be a stranger on the bus, just walking among us?
That delightful tune was only the beginning of greater questioning and colliding of worlds for me, like a burning desire to put the pieces of the puzzle of life together in my own unique way. As a teen, I spent much of my time reading, thinking, contemplating our existence on this planet. Finally, one day, the pieces started to connect, leaving me contemplating this odd possibility:
What if this life as we know it on Earth is actually our time of cleansing in purgatory? What if our path to “holiness” or “enlightenment” involves multiple walks in this world in different bodies while maintaining the same soul?
This theory naturally goes against the grain of many teachings within both western and eastern religions, but somehow, to me, it feels right. Many Christian denominations focus solely on the teachings of the Bible, especially the New Testament, and attempting to live “Christ-like.” There’s a huge focus on prayer, “giving it to God,” and trying to save the souls of others…but how do we grow through that? How do we become better people by never facing our own challenges? Also, how do we explain those feelings of deja vu that we all have at various points in our life? How do we explain the deep connections we sometimes feel to people who are complete strangers?
Maybe, instead of spending hours talking to thin air, we should spend our time of prayer or contemplation actually working towards something. Perhaps the goal isn’t to spout the words of old, dead guys in attempts to “save” each other but to actually connect with those around us, to give without hesitation, to use our actions to save the world. Our path towards Heaven would look very different for many of us with this simple change in perspective.
Something in my heart has always told me that I am called to help others. I don’t do it for the praise, to make myself look impressive, or to use it in my favor down the road. Although I’ve been shown more than my fair share of wickedness and harm in my short life, I simply can’t help but care about people and connect with them. When someone in my life is sad, my chest literally aches; when a friend shares exciting news, I literally feel compelled to jump for joy on their behalf. I never say no to donating, to volunteering, to showing my daughters how to give to others. I literally live to give, to share, to connect.
John Lennon once said, “I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.” This resonates with me at a deep level and, in some ways, I strongly believe all religions are just another trail someone blazed when the main path became too crowded or corrupt. I think that, at the end of the day, none of us have the answers but we are all desperately attempting to put the pieces together, to finish the puzzle so we can take pride in our work. When it’s all said and done, we are all on the same mission, just like those words of Joan Osborne that will always be in my head, “trying to make [his] way home.”