Friday, April 10, 2009

No Truths, Just Trail Markers

Religion, medicine, it's all the same: purporting to spout "The Truth" on either would be a sham. Such are the conversations that, if you're lucky, get struck up at little league practice, with like-minded strangers.

Today, at a practice I arrived at late with my kiddies on a chilly day in Prospect Park, I placed a gold star on another parent, a lovely English woman, who felt as strongly as I did that so much of medicine is really mind over matter, prescription pads often as much a placebo for the soul as anything else. Doctors are dogged at the end of the day. Much like the Wizard of Oz, they know that they can sometimes do little but that expectations, especially for an answer in simple pill form, are ridiculously high. Religious leaders are in the same boat, proffering ceremonies and sermons of salvation even while they know how hard it is just to save themselves, that their own faith is tested on every single day.

Healing in every sense, like life, is a process, and no one knows which way it will go. All we can do is try. I've been offering congratulations and gracious thanks to doctors I meet lately, and religious leaders should get them too. As long as they're conscious ones. It is a hard time in their careers, this great time of cancers and concern.

The baseball mom offered that people see her cynicism about single truths as dour, but we both shook our heads in disagreement. Believing that there is no one answer is the highest form of hopefulness. If a doctor can't tell you exactly what something is or how long it will last, it could be nothing serious and go away quickly, especially if you will it to be so. Believing a doctor who tells you anything for sure is foolhardy. Like listening to the weather and saying "it's going to rain..." Even experts can just make their best guess, anybody who tells you differently is deluded. I love it when pregnant women dying to be done quote their doctors, saying "I'm definitely going today..." I love it more, evil told-you-soer that I am, when I see them weeks later, baby still inside rather than out.

Likewise with religion. If you believe there isn't one "right" answer in religion, the search can simply end, and with it wars that rage over such questions. With nothing more than a spiritual core, maybe based on traditions we grew up with or others that speak to us, we can just live, knowing that if we stay conscious, we are careening around the universe correctly. There are always signs, little synchronicities that appear like color-coded marks on trees in the woods to show you're on the path you chose. There are no truths, really, just trail markers.

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