Human beings are funny. When things unfold a certain way, there’s a programmatic response we all seem to have that most of the time cannot be overridden.
Out of all of our synthetic reactions, we default to a singular jolt or emotional grasp. It’s wiring no surgeon can reach, no bullet can sear through — some phantasmagoric circuit quietly exiting within us. One of the most interesting responses we contain is our innate turning towards God.
I had the flu last week — all the bells and whistles of your stereotypical bedridden illness — but the symptom that really caused me to break down was the nausea.
It was the kind of nausea that seems to purposefully set itself on the brink of relief, and throwing up seems only a uvular jiggle or two away. But it never comes, no matter how hard you try, and it transformed me into a roiling insomniac. It was as I was lying in bed, getting up every so often to stand in front of the trash can in the hallway, that I turned to God. It wasn’t some spiritual clarion call or hyper-sophisticated kowtow. It was just a sort of automatic yearning towards something higher in hopes of a helping hand. Simple; a “Please, God. Help me.”
While that colloquialism is most of the time inane when said aloud, I intentionally, if somewhat subliminally, imbued it with mental direction. I formed in it, meaning, and sent it along a hopeful vector. It was essentially an act of desperation, pain as avenue for cosmic plea.
The fact that I did this is interesting to me, because I am not at all a religious person. I was raised Catholic, went through all my steps of catechism, even went to Catholic school, but was never enamored or even slightly piqued by my religious milieu. This is not to say I do not believe in God. I just don’t particularly believe one religion can tell me definitively what the other world will be like. But that gets at another conversation. What gestated some feeling in me is how instinctual it is for us to want help, not only from our fellow humans, but from some omnipresent, omnipotent whisp we believe can not only help us, but is always attuned to our every thought. And as someone who never engaged with God on any level, it is odd that I would appeal to that very someone.
It says something about our nature, how primal our cry for help turns out to be. We want explanations for things; etymological, mythological minutia that allay our own internal entropy.
Marx, among others, has discussed religion, calling it “the opiate of the masses.” Religion as an institution may itself be a drug, a near-intravenous apparatus designed to bombastically assuage and persuade, but the yearning towards something higher isn’t so much a drug as an inchoate desire. When our aircraft starts wobbling, we look laterally, earthward, but when it’s time for the captain to land in the Hudson, we scramble, we shed, and in our earliest husk we look up, down, and through. We request something transcendent, we pivot skyward. In that one moment, leaning over the trash can, head bent, it was like I was consciously fighting to deny my plea, because I knew I was about to reach towards something I wasn’t even sure I believed in, something foolish. But I did it anyway.