Saturday, December 20, 2008

Errol Flynn Revisited

From what I have observed in life, belief is not something you develop. On the contrary, if I have developed anything definite it is a dull smouldering anger at the abysmal mystery of my presence on this earth, with not the least clue to any reason for it, a mystery that probably not even death will solve for me.

Why am I alive?

In my early forties, I find myself in a state of tortured confusion where my every past action or experience, my daily movements are measured and appraised by one who does not seem to be myself. An alter ego who stands by with detached and contemptuous mien, sneering at the bumbling efforts of a human in search of a soul, a human burdened and bewildered more every day by the external questions: "Where do I come from? What am I? Where am I going?"

Swept by doubt, desperately seeking just one little sign from Heaven---the sign that those who believe do not demand, I am carried along like duckweed down a Chinese river, feeling yet always denying the existence of a benign Deity, knowing so well in my heart that I have reached the supreme goal of egoistic existence. For what?

Belief. Why does it elude me? Why can't I find peace of mind like those I envy? Those who have listened and heard and felt, and having done so, contritely let fall all other barriers and started to believe wholeheartedly in God?

Why am I even unable to begin by renouncing the material things, the transitory and ephemeral? Why, knowing---and knowing, strangely, with humility---my faults, my myriad imperfections, do I go on with outward complacency, yet with growing inward desolation? Why must my mind remain factual and materialist while within me I stifle my cry for help and will not yield an iota to the stumbling craving in my soul? Will this rebellion against God never end?

Whom the gods want to destroy, they first make mad. Perhaps this is what's happening to me. Or maybe I can seek solace in the thought that I'm only going through a sort of male menopause.

So this life is only a preparation for a hereafter? This is still an illogical premise to explain the period of human history in which I have lived. The graveyards at Anzio and ten million of the world's finest men swallowed up, sacrificed upon the most incomprehensible of all mankind's bizarre altars: humanity's inhumanity to humanity, war.

So belief is a word the meaning of which eludes me. I mean belief in the concept of a benign all-seeing God. God, in the sense of a creator, yes. God in the sense of a Supreme Being I can believe in.

But a God who believes in me, a God who is aware of my soul's existence, who after death will clear up the great mystery of my reason for life in this world, I have no belief in this God, nor can I even begin to seek it with a full heart.

Today I see a strange world, more bewildering and paradoxical than anything I have read in history, even the birth of Christianity. One half of mankind grimly devoted to stamping out the ideas of God and religion, the other half apathetic to both. Supine and hypocritical, the professed believers in a Christian God today give lip-service in the various totem-houses, listening in private to their ministers and priests dencouncing the other Chrsitian sects with hatred and malice. In the light of the Church's sordid history, its stubborn refusal to keep pace with modern thought, perhaps this apathy is understandable.

The world's need for belief is desperate, more desperate than my own, for I am only one lost individual in a tortured universe, a world that is weary, shocked, and shattered. No philosophy or fanatical political dogma can stand against a true belief in God.

Belief. I wish I had it.

Adapted from:
Errol Flynn, "Faith?"
Rome (or Naples?) 1952 (1953?)