Dos Santos. Two Saints. My brother and I often talk about the synchronicity of life. I am not a New Ager, but rather a skeptic, pragmatist and as I age (and lose my idealism) increasingly a cynic. And, yet, even I am amazed at life’s serendipity.
My parents were not religious. I think my dad would have called himself an atheist (although agnostic would probably be closer to the truth); my mom had a belief in God, but to what extent I’m not sure. And yet, I share the name of two Saints: Saint Stephen the Martyr and Saint Francis of Assisi. What’s in a name?
Saint Stephen: Accused and convicted of blasphemy; stoned to death as the Church’s first martyr. Anyone who knows me understands how close this hits to the mark. I am constantly challenging authority (blaspheming as it were), and ranting on-and-on about hypocrisy and injustice.
Saint Francis: Saint Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of animals and the environment. Once again this hits so close to the mark it scares me. That I love animals and the environment is another hallmark of my being. I interact much better with the critters than I do with fellow human beings, and I am most at peace when solitary within nature.
I am not a religious man, talk of God unsettles me. I am not an atheist. More probably a skeptical agnostic if truth be told. My spiritual path is Taoist and Buddhist in flavor, but I consider neither a religion per se though many do. To me they provide a topographic map of life, with the key GPS waypoints deeply and subtly encoded (and which I consistently miss on my journey).
So, I share the names of two Saints (Dos Santos), and yet I am the most un-Saintly person I know. I lack real compassion for my fellow humans (but have it in abundance for my animal friends), I can neither give or receive love to keep a relationship alive, I have done vile things in my past, and I am still fully capable of such actions even today, and given enough reason (or provocation) I can be a violent man. These are not saintly qualities.
I’ve hurt a lot of people in my life. Unintentionally for the most part, but hurt nonetheless. I’ve read that we mirror life, and that we attract to us what we ourselves give. Want to be loved? Then love those around you. Want compassion and understanding? Then show compassion and understanding to your fellow beings. Want to be treated kindly? Don’t use violence against others. I’ve also read to initiate actions first, and the feelings will follow. But somewhere along the way I lost that ability, I lost me.
My wife once said to me (actually hurled it at me as an accusation): “You don’t need me.” And the awful truth was I didn’t. I really don’t need anyone. I am self-contained and compartmentalized. And protected by armor-plate two feet thick. I used to think of myself as a brave man, a man who could overcome his fear and confront any obstacle placed before him. A man who could do what needed to be done. But I am, in fact, a coward. Because when it comes to the real gut-work of being a better person I fail. Worse than fail, I don’t even try. Because I am afraid.
This worldwide adventure I am on is also a quest. A quest to rediscover myself. To reclaim that which was lost. But I think I lack the courage. It is easier and more comfortable to stay isolated within myself. And a little voice deep inside of me keeps whispering: It’s too late old man. I lack the traits that make us uniquely and truly human: Love, Compassion, Trust and Intimacy. Did I ever possess those traits? I don’t remember. I think I had them once. Were they lost somewhere in childhood, or in the debacle of Vietnam? A shrink would probably say it’s PTSD clear and simple. If not Vietnam, then surely all of the other traumas life likes to throw at you.
I function well, if mechanically, on a day-to-day basis. And irrespective of this confession (we have been talking about Saints after all) I am pretty content and often feel happy. At least in the compartments labeled ‘Content’ and ‘Happy.’ But, if I’m honest with myself, I am emotionally numb. Not all emotions of course … I can still get pretty pissed off at times. But the softer emotions don’t exist in my world. I think I would be a better person if they did. But the voice whispers yet again: It’s too late old man. And I am afraid.
A few of you write to me with similar feelings about life. You’re going through difficult times. You feel lost, like maybe you’ve lost your way. The rules have changed and you’re in new unexplored territory. I wish I had an answer for you. The only advice I can offer is to be braver than me. Overcome your fear and open up to people who want to help you. Be willing to take a risk. Life can beat the crap out of you if you let it, but it can also be more rewarding than I make it sound. I am not depressed, and this is not alcohol induced, it’s just me with lots of new-found time on my hands, peering into dark corners probably best left in the shadows. Of all the crimes-of-the-heart I’ve committed, betrayal of trust, and assassination of love have been the worst.
Dos Santos. Two Saints. What Karma, synchronicity or serendipity in life brought those two names to my person? What’s in a name?