‘Religion’ is very big in Nigeria where I currently am. I’m not part of any religion myself, I signed out of that when I was 15 years old and I dont regret it. When people ask me ‘what do you believe?’, I like to say that I believe in people. I believe it is more useful to believe in people. And I believe in the power of people to bring about their own ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’ on this planet in this lifetime as they so chose… Then, if they are christian, they usually respond by saying something like ‘but you must surrender your life to Jesus, he died for our sins you know, etc..’. Then when I say I dont know Jesus they stand there flabbergasted.
But I do thank ‘God’ for keeping me a somewhat reasonable person through all those years.
And things happened. First, my best friend dropped me a random link to some Alan Watts animations (Zen Buddhism), and for the next 7 years Alan Watts would be all I listened to whenever I was biking around town or doing anything where I could put on my headphones. It comforted me a lot, it gave me another perspective on life that made sense to me in my somewhat melancholic existence… Then I came to Nigeria and found my ‘overly’ religious family, and as any father/mother/uncle/aunt anywhere, they want the best for their children, for me, so they asked me to start reading the bible and a guidebook. And I didnt have anything else to do, so I agreed. And why not? It’s a book, and I like books and I have been wanting to read a lot of different religious books but never came around to do it before… And they told me to pray every morning, not specifying what to pray about, I would have to find that out myself… I am thankful that I keep my promises.
So I started praying. Now I come from a pretty strong background in positive psychology and with my interest in language use I’m somewhat aware of what the words we use mean for our lives – vocalizing our dreams and fears is a big part of being able to get the life we want.
I’m still not too keen on using the term ‘God/Lord/Father/etc’, but whenever I see or hear it, I usually substitute the meaning for ‘that-which-I-dont-understand-but-which-still-affects-me’, ‘the-universe’, or ‘my-own-true-self-of-infinite-complexity-and-compassion’.
This is my general prayer, and I like it. It is simple but encapsulates my values well:
I pray for honesty. That I will always be honest to others, and to myself.
I pray for humility. That I will be humble in face of the universe I’m a part of, as well as the universe that is inside of me. Both of which I will never be able to understand.
I pray for wisdom, strength and patience. That I will have the wisdom to distinguish good things from bad, the strength to do good things, and the patience to see it.
I pray for gratitude. That I will always be thankful for whatever happens. Never sorry or regret.