Last night I walked down the tiny road that winds its way through our village towards the sound of music pumping away through the bamboo lined walkways.
I was headed to a house opposite the local community centre. A lady had passed away in the village and a live band had been ordered to celebrate her life. Two pigs sat in the drive to the house looking a little concerned, with good reason. They were on the menu for tomorrow’s festivities.
There were about forty guests sitting under a large temporary canvas (it’s the rainy season) listening to a young Tagalog woman and a Visayan man singing various old rock numbers from the sixties. Their voices harmonized well and I pulled up a chair, waving to a few of the locals I knew amongst the crowd.
Whilst the band took a short break, the Visayan stepped up to do a few solo numbers. His renditions of two Guns n Roses numbers would have made Axel proud and when I heard his version of Journey’s Faithfully I am not ashamed to say I teared up slightly. So much talent here, it is humbling to witness.
The reason for this post though is not to promote the many and varied musical talents of the Filipino’s. It’s about birth and death and what we choose to do between these two pivotal moments in our lives. How we choose to live our lives and what we do with the time we are blessed with.
The unfortunate lady of honour for last night’s festivities had passed away at 67, young by Western standards but not a bad run for a local lass. As I left the party I stopped to read the banner put up to commemorate her life.
A photo of her, her name, her age and date of birth and a phrase from the Bible. She had been liberated from this world and now faced the joy of everlasting life, If the message was to be believed. How she had lived her life and what she had achieved I would never know.
I like to think of myself as tolerant. An each to his own and whatever makes you happy, as long as you don’t go blind, type of guy. However, as I age I am becoming more and more attached to life, to the joys it brings and the vast spectrum of experiences it offers us if we are open to them and grateful enough to embrace them.
This change in my views on life has caused me to seriously question religion and the role it plays in people’s lives. I am not religious, let’s get that out there straight away. I was raised Methodist but outgrew it in my teens. None of it made sense to me and I had questions for which no one could provide satisfactory answers.
I believe when we close our eyes for the final time, that’s us pretty much done. End of the innings, closing time. I don’t believe in some fairytale afterlife existence where we all go happily prancing about in the company of Cleopatra and dead relatives.
Our lives are brief, you blink and you’re twenty, blink again and you’re married with children, Blink again and grandchildren are sitting on your lap. I decided at the age of fifty that it was time to stop blinking.
I am no longer satisfied to live my life as an observer, sitting on the sidelines watching the events of my life unfold before me. I have changed my perspective and it has changed my life. I am now an active participant in my life and the world at large. I have stopped watching and I am now truly living, for the first time. Live in the moment and the past and future evaporate, robbing time of it’s hold on us.
This is the crux of the religious issue. It does exactly the opposite. A promise of an unproven, afterlife encourages followers to live within the strict confines of whatever codes the particular religion may espouse. It prevents us from participating fully in life and places a filter on our experiences. It is the ultimate party killer.
I look at the lady on the poster and wonder to myself how much she participated. Did her religion force her to sit on the sidelines, a spectator to her own life? Many feel that we choose to follow a particular religion, but for how many is the choice forced upon them from birth.
We do what we think is best for our children and that includes indoctrinating them into a faith without truly considering the consequences. Ask yourself this question. Are you truly living and experiencing the one life you have been given, or are you marking time, observing from the sidelines whilst you wait for your promised Nirvana?
If anyone asks what text I would like on my banner, it’s short and to the point.
He lived, he loved and he laughed. All the moments between were filled with wonder and gratitude.
Have you given any thought to what you would like on your banner?