perspective

Tonight we had the incredible privilege of joining a friend of Luau’s who is an orthodox Rabbi, his wife, Sarah, their seven children, and numerous other assorted guests for their celebration of the Sabbath.

The evening was not an easy one for Brooke. In fact, the setting was essentially a recipe for disaster – from the food to the house to the toddlers and the baby.

She struggled and she struggled hard.

But what I will remember about tonight, and I fervently hope that someday she will too, was the way in which they all so seamlessly accommodated all of us. How they spoke English throughout the meal despite the fact that it meant constantly helping each other translate from Russian and Hebrew as they fruitlessly searched for the right words. How before we sat down, Sarah invited Brooke to get up any time she needed to, even if it were during prayers. How Sarah purposefully told her that she was welcome to any room in the house and told her to find a quiet spot any time she needed one. How, as we prepared for the sacred ritual of hand washing before the challah, and Sarah saw me struggling to explain to Brooke what we were to do, she said, “She doesn’t have to, it’s okay.”

Someday I hope to tell her how we went around the table when she wasn’t there, introducing ourselves and, at Sarah’s request, sharing something from the week that touched us, moved us, or made us think. I hope to tell her that I talked about her – about her solo last night and the generosity and support of so many who lovingly gave their time and energy to help her stand on that stage. I hope to tell her that she is incredibly blessed to find these people along her path – the Mr Bs and the Ms Ks and the Ms Ds and the Ms Js … and the Sarahs.

I hope that she will remember. I know I will.

Diary’s Facebook status, Friday night.

Saturday morning …

We talk while we drive. About the paradox of finding something so achingly familiar in the heart of something so completely foreign. About history, about community, about how the former impacts the present and how we choose to define the latter affects the future. About gender roles and expectations, about unbending traditions and the integration of a staunch adherence to the letter of an ancient belief system into an ever-changing world.

It’s a lot to process.

“To the tiniest leaf falling from a tree,” Sarah had said the night before, “this is meant to be. We believe that everything, everything, is ordained from above.

Bashert, I thought. Meant to be.

She addressed a question I would not have had the audacity to ask. “You may ask,”she said, “why bad things happen if God controls all. But we have free will; we make choices.”

It is another paradox which will work its way through my thoughts in the days to come.

I was raised to believe in the power, the responsibility, of inquiry. I was taught that we learn by asking: asking each other, asking ourselves, asking God. Questions are not a lack of reverence, I was told. Rather, asking them in an attempt to truly understand is the height of respect.

It doesn’t go unnoticed as Katie and I talk that we are driving past church after church, and then one Muslim community center. “HAVE YOU HEARD THE TRUTH?” screams the billboard on our right. “JESUS SAVES!” shouts another on our left.

if-you-die-tonight

{image is a photo of a billboard reading, “If you die tonight? Heaven or Hell – 855-FOR-TRUTH}

“Mama,” Katie says, “I’ve been thinking about what really happens after we die.”

“Okay,” I say. “What have you got?”

“Well,” she says, “I think that even though there are all of these different ideas about what happens, I think there’s really only one thing – and what you believe dictates how you experience it.”

I’m not sure what to say, so I ask for clarification. “What do you mean?” I ask.

“Well,” she says, “I mean, if you believe in Heaven, and you believe that you’ve been a good person, and done everything you think you needed to do to get there, well, I think you’ll experience the afterlife as Heaven. And it will be beautiful and perfect and you’ll BE there, because you believe it’s where you are.”

JESUS SAVES, says the billboard.

Indeed.

According to Katie’s logic, those who believe will be saved by the belief itself. 

“And people who believe in Hell and expect to be there because they believe they’ve lived in a way that would send them there, well, that’s where they will be, because they will only see the bad.”

I’m fascinated now. I grip the steering wheel tighter.

“Keep going,” I say, “this is incredible.”

“Well,” she says, “people who think there’s nothing after you’re dead, well, they will see and feel and BE nothing.”

The afterlife as self-fulfilling prophecy – not new. But this. This is making me think.

“So it’s really all a matter of perspective?” I ask.

“Uh huh,” she says. “It’s all about what you choose to experience.”

“This is seriously fascinating, Katie,” I say. “In 44 years I’ve really never thought of this in this way.”

“So what about someone like me,” I say, “who doesn’t really know what they believe? Since I’m open to pretty much anything, what would it look like for me?”

“That’s not true,” Katie says. “There are things you believe. Like time.”

“Time?” I ask. She’s lost me.

“Yeah,” she says. “You told me that you believe that time is different in Heaven. That when you’re there, there’s no time, so even though it can take a zillion years for your relatives to join you, you don’t experience the wait as time.”

I … I … Yeah, I said that. But did I believe it? I know I wanted to. But did I?

Wouldn’t you know it, I think I did. 

We drive for a moment and then I say what I think is obvious. “So there’s really only one Truth, one reality.”

“No,” she says emphatically. “No, no, no.”

Now I’m confused.

“They’re ALL reality,” she says. “Everyone has their own.”

I am tempted to pull over just to let all of this sink in.

“So perception IS reality,” I say. “That’s an old saying, but I don’t think anyone ever meant it quite this way.”

“Right,” she says, “because no one experience of reality is more real than another.”

That.

That, that, that. 

Who gets to decide which experience is valid, real, True?

How often do we talk about this? No one way of existing, experiencing, loving, feeling, seeing, BEING – neurotypical, autistic, gay, straight, male, female, white, black – is ever, ever, EVER more valid, more real, more true, than another.

In this life or the next. 

Holy crap.

“Keep thinking about this stuff, kiddo,” I tell her. “Because questioning to understand is truly the height of respect.”

“You can write about this if you want,” she says.

I will indeed, my love. I will indeed.

Long, rambling disclaimer:

I hope it’s clear that this post is not in any way, shape, nor form meant to be an endorsement of Katie’s assertion as Truth. Rather, it is but the latest resting spot on her journey toward whatever Her Truth may ultimately be. As for mine, Truth that is, well, that’s still to be determined too. Perhaps because I am a believer that room for doubt is necessary to foster meaningful faith. Perhaps because I was raised to question everything, but particularly dogma. Perhaps because I just don’t know.

And I guess that’s my point. If you do know, I fully respect that. If you don’t, I respect that too. If you think you might know a little but you’re just not sure, you’re in good company.

Whatever you’re belief system may be, if it is precious to you, and it doesn’t infringe on others, it is precious here too. 

12 thoughts on “perspective

  1. When did our eldest granddaughter become so astute! Ah, yes, I believe she may have been born that way. Her ability to question is phenomenal. Her respect for all people is part of her reality. I’m so proud of her, as I am of you..

    Love you,
    Mom

  2. Regarding your disclaimer: I disagree. This IS Truth, at least to Katie at this time. In fact, you may accept it as your Truth AT THIS TIME if you so choose. I’ve learned, from following DOAM, that Katie thinks deeply. Her Truth may change over time. Your Truth may change over time. At any given moment what you believe is your reality, and Katie has pointed out that it has an influence on your future.

    Our pasts are all different. There are many Truths. Our futures are the culmination of our pasts and our individual Truths. Part of my Truth is that worship can affect the future. I pray for good outcomes for everyone, including you, Katie, Brooke, and Luau, just to name a very few.

  3. This is probably as close to how I feel about the afterlife as I’ve ever read. There is no way I can believe there is only ONE right answer. That Katie is going to go very far in life. Her ability to see people and situations is admirable! Great convo and I hope it continues.

  4. Pure, unfiltered resonation… 43 years old and i’ve tried and tried to put a finger on how to explain exactly what I think. That girl of yours is destined for great, amazing things. I believe we were put on Earth for 2 distinct reasons – to teach others something and to have others teach us. Once the combination of my teaching has reached its learner and I’ve learned what I’m supposed to from my “teacher”, my time here is done… I may be halfway there. Thank you, Katie, for teaching me!!!! I continue to sit here and stare at my screen… Wow.

  5. My thought’s: Katie is wise beyond her years and was sent to be your child because you could pass her messages on with your writing.
    I have never even thought about that perspective for the afterlife but it only makes sense, right?

  6. I am not autistic, and I do not have children, but I am human, and I have feelings. I read your blog and feel less alone. Just thank you.

  7. It is not an accident that these wise, loving, clear, extraordinary children were sent to us, to teach us these PROFOUND things. I will never see my autistic daughter as anything more than a gift, a divine Soul, sent to us. And I mean that. We have grown so much!

  8. In Egyptian lore, you were judged at on your own guilt. If you felt at you did right in life you’d have that experience in death, if you felt at you were guilty and to be punished, you’d have that experience in death. Of course there was also the journey at the dead would need to take.

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