an (atheistic) approach to belief

I carry a bible in my pocket now. It fits inside fake leather dip of hiding space. On the subway, I sneak it between my palms and underline the language that makes my blood seep through the holes in my skin. When I drip, I take note. This has become my companion these days as I gather up bits of moon and shadow, and conversational outbursts with others. Love is found in these pages. No need for beds or hand holding anymore; in this bound collection, I have found what I am most in need of: challenged thought and deeper meanings.

My volume is a bit different. There is God mentioned, but less attached to religion and more saturated by the language of poetics. I call it my bible, but it calls itself: Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. Sixteen years ago, a teacher of mine gave it to me and I have carried it from home to home in various states and mindsets. What led me to reopen this book and sew it to my body in this way is what I think might lead others to attend to their own searches. Seven years ago, I fell against pavement and received nine stitches among other medical help. One month ago, I fell in a different way and this book is my cane. For now.

I am not sure the moment I started calling myself an atheist. Several events could have led me there, but I believe it became solidified when I couldn’t find meaning to the parts of me stained and scarred by these happenings. I just stopped believing. Though as I look back, I still had/have my beliefs. I believe in magic and found it in humans and love affairs and at the tops of mountains and in cabins. I believe in poetry and the essence of its healing powers.

This is probably what led me to house this particular “bible” in my pocket.

Rilke writes, “…ask yourself…whether you have really lost God. Isn’t it much truer to say that you have never yet possessed him? Why don’t you think of him as the one who is coming, who has been approaching from all eternity, the one who will someday arrive, the ultimate fruit of a tree whose leaves we are? Don’t you see how everything that happens is again and again a beginning, and couldn’t it be His beginning, since, in itself, starting is always so beautiful.”

I replace “God” with “love”. I replace “God” with “words”. I replace “God” with “you”/”your”. 

All of this doesn’t have to be an end to something. That period at the end of the sentence could be its beginning. The loss of another could be the beginning of something so much deeper.

Yesterday, I was thinking about pronouns and how we are given a name at birth and a pronoun attached to it, but what if it doesn’t fit? So we make our own versions of what we need and what we are. This pertains to my atheism or what I thought my spiritual (non)belief was called. Perhaps I was never one. Perhaps there is something in between belief and non. Like: betweeniest. 

My mind is not set. Even at this age, it changes. Sometimes, it falls apart and I have to reshape it. This can be exhausting; however, it offers me a chance to rummage through the parts of myself I so often neglect. We do this sometimes.

So, I take off on a trip and feel the miniature words of Rilke press against me. It is erotic in how alive it makes me feel. Fear is what has kept me away from living (at times). Fear of understanding what I just don’t understand. Finally, finally….I am ready for answers found in these letters written between 1903 to 1908. Still relevant and connected to the language of the earth we all linger on.

And that’s kind of accurate….we linger. We loiter. We endure. And to fill in all the gaps and breaths of silence, we question.

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2 responses to “an (atheistic) approach to belief

  1. These are the most perfect words I could have read this morning. Words are god are supernatural are some kind of other fucking universe and when life gets ya down, ya gotta trust in word in the letters. I forget how important it is to go back to beginnings sometimes, to go back to where it all began.Thanks, poet. Your shit is biblical.

  2. Dear Rebel D, We travel this earth in search of these “beginnings” and the ghosts of these words are the hauntings that pass us into the next day. Where it began is where it continues and there is no end and there is no STOP.

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