A couple of years ago, I was pretty close to giving up. How close? I’m not sure it really matters. I didn’t die, although I could have. I did cry, almost to the point where I couldn’t any more. I’d been told I was resistant to antidepressants. It was all pretty desperate stuff. It’s what led me to Peru and the Ayahuasca retreat, about which you can read in great detail on this site. What I didn’t know then, or at least didn’t understand, was that I was looking for something. Not the cure for depression (although that’s why I went), but something to give shape and meaning to my life. To explain my unhappiness and why I was experiencing it so acutely. And, stepping back from that, who was this ‘me’ character who was so bloody sad? Was the depression me, and me it? Or was there something else – more benign, more universal – behind my everyday interactions with the world. I really hoped so, otherwise I was fucked, basically.
Hindsight tells me that I’ve been looking for that ever since I forced down that first miserable cup of Ayahuasca. Probably for a long while before that, as I forced down increasing volumes of lager and wine. I’ve never really been comfortable in my head and am often grateful to leave it, even if I only pop to the next room with a glass of red. It’s very noisy, for a start. And full of questions for which I have no answers.
Why are you such a failure?
Why are you so pathetic?
Why are you even here?
I was just born, I guess.
But I was aware of all of this. Just occasionally, it was possible to sit back and marvel at how I could be both suicidal and an observer of someone who was suicidal. And that level of consciousness seemed to me to be beyond evolutionary necessity. I don’t doubt there are theorists who disagree. I don’t have an agenda – if they’re right, they’re right and that’s fine. But if we accept there is something unique to the human experience, that being human is special (not better, but special), then surely that thing is consciousness. If we’re able to ask, ‘Why am I here?’ then perhaps it’s incumbent on us to look for an answer.
I began to think about this a few months ago, after a second Ayahuasca retreat. It played on my mind, almost non-stop. I never really wanted the stoner answer, the Matrix answer: Why have I been placed on this planet and which shadowy galactic / supernatural force is in charge? I think what I wanted was something more personal: Why do I, as a conscious being, have awareness of a sense of there actually being an ‘I’ to ask this question? Where does that come from and what happens to it? More importantly, what does it mean for how I live my life? So since I can ask the questions, and I’m so damn miserable, perhaps it’s worth looking into it, don’t you think?
I know this isn’t new. It’s tens of thousands of years old, I expect. The question ‘why?’ signified the arrival of conscious humanity. And there’s one answer that’s come to dominate, in various forms: God. We were put on earth by God, He guides our lives, and when we die, we return to Him (I’ll use ‘Him’ because I’m referring to the God of the scriptures, which never did lean too hard into feminist thought, did they?)
But God is the easy answer. God can be who you want Him to be. The God of the gaps, the eponymous deus ex machina. The easy answer when the plot of your life isn’t wrapping up neatly. I didn’t want to find that God. That God was sitting on the shelf, one of a selection of similar but just-different-enough incarnations of the same thing. I wasn’t looking for Deity Barbie, I was looking for something else.
Except, what if I found God anyway? What if God was my childhood sledge? How would I feel if my search led to God, even though I was deliberately not looking for Him? I travel around the figurative world and end up finding God, back in the bedside cabinet, next to the obsolete chargers and emergency cigarettes, where He’d always been.
It’s a risk I’m willing to take. I could end up religious. If it feels right and answers my questions, I’ll jump on board with whatever religion happened upon the solution. What I suspect will happen is that I’ll come to discover that all religions have got some of the answers, buried beneath a load of bollocks about eating shellfish and wearing very specific outfits. But, ultimately, I think there’s something more personal to uncover.
So that’s what I’m going to do. Read about it, study it, experience it, think about it and not think about. And then write it down here, as regularly as I can. It might be fun. I’m looking for Not God.