Posted on November 22nd, 2012 | Filed under Challenges, Featured, Interfaith, Learning, Philosophy
Tagged with Andrew Bowen, awakening, Faith, graditude, Peace, prayer, Project Conversion, Religion, Thanksgiving
Before meeting Heather, I was a solitary creature, even virtually homeless at one time. I was rarely sociable, preferring the catacombs of my own imagination, the distractions of drugs and alcohol, or the quiet expanse of a local swamp or river as company to the rush and drama of human companions. Yet interactions with others, if they are what each should be, irradiate us, spur change, and help us evolve.
My wife Heather, is my irradiating force.
For nine years, she has gradually become the still and faithful voice stirring me from a self-induced dream. Heather's patronage and support are the sole reasons my journey out of hatred toward the faithful ever came to fruition. I share this blessing with countless individuals honored throughout history for their inspiring acts, yet we do not give enough credit for those who facilitated their mark on humanity.
I wonder how far Muhammad would have gone (or if he would have even survived) without the support of his first wife, Khadijah? Mary of Magdala was likely a wealthy widow, one who supported and even became an honored disciple and patroness of Jesus. Would his ministry have thrived without her? What would have become of the Buddha had the young girl carrying rice pudding not manifested on the eve of his enlightenment?
Would I have reached my own awakening, realized my own path, had my wife not supported me with a faith and devotion that defies reason?
Once Heather became a Christian, she hoped and prayed unceasingly--not for my conversion--but for my personal healing, even as I abused her daily for her belief. She saw a man consumed with pain and the fires of vengeance aimed toward a world innocent of any crime. Heather absorbed every blow, fell to her knees in prayer every day, and became the proverbial punching bag, holding fast to her hope for a man reconciled with the world. She witnessed the monster swelling within me, and swore to defeat the beast.
Her efforts and fortitude paid off.
A year after the completion of my journey, Heather now lives with the man of her prayers. Her steady, loving voice, ushered me out of my personal nightmare before it was too late. She was the angel investor of my rehabilitation program, called Project Conversion, and I will spend the rest of my life paying back her dividend.
What does this story have to do with religion or interfaith?
It is said that love is desiring the greatest good for the beloved. If love is lauded as the foundation of all faiths and philosophies, then Heather's hope and work toward change in my life exemplifies what every person, religious or otherwise, should express toward others without an expectation of return.
It is all about compassion, gratitude, and grace, notes of the human economy of experience and solidarity that transcend faith and philosophy.
I do not believe in a personal god, nor do I follow a particular religion. When I reached the end of my journey, I discovered a path of my own which I call the Fluid Life, a path that assures that I retain the lessons gleaned during my rehabilitation. I do not preach about this way of life, nor do I seek to spread it. I simply live and share in the joy of others living their own lives.
And for this peace, for this transformation, my wife considers her prayers fulfilled.
Although I will not spend this Thanksgiving season with my wife in person (she is with my in-laws), I will celebrate her publicly here and give thanks.
My hope is that you will look back on your life and revisit the person(s) who irradiated your life, who guided you toward these precious waking hours, and helped you realize your calling as an irreplaceable member of the human race. I ask that you thank them, praise them, and celebrate them, for your life and awakening is an echo of their own, and that voice, if we are to carry on, must flow long and true.
Photo by Monica Arellano-Ongpin, via Flickr Creative Commons.
Andrew Bowen, once a fervent enemy of religion, is now a perpetual student and champion for inter-religious peace and reconciliation. In 2011, Andrew created Project Conversion, a year-long personal immersion into the culture, practices, beliefs, and rituals of 12 belief systems from around the world as a personal intervention after years of animosity toward faith.