“The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion,” asserts Albert Einstein. “It should transcend a personal god and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual and a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism. ” While other physicists and mathematicians love Lao Tzu’s Taoism, most Chinese embrace both and add Confucianism. For thousands of years, these have been the three philosophies of China.
While Judaism, Islam and Christianity also made its way to China, these religions did not bear as much fruit because of their schizophrenic nature. Unfortunately, many in the West still suffer from “split minds” due to Christian indoctrination. There are many factual stories in the news today about the Christian crisis, but fiction writers also have their own adaptations or interpretations of these stories. For instance, in the short story Sixty-five Million Years, Father Hennessey portrays the schizophrenia of Christian clergymen and Christianity in general. Father Hennessey is the main character or protagonist of the story.
He “found himself lured into a kind of salacious appetite for some of the things he was privy to; there were sins his parishioners confessed that seemed nearly attractive to him, not as temptations, but as something close to entertainment, amusement. ” He became obsessed with the sexual confessions of Mr. Graham, “the most popular teacher in the local high school, who taught math along with science. ” Graham is also “kindly, softhearted, resourceful, passionate about his work, a dedicated and devoted educator. ” But he is childless with his wife of 25 years, a woman who is “several years older” than him.
After a 15-year old girl, a remedial math student, came to see him regularly, he started to experience sleepless nights with “sexual tension. ” He keeps seeing himself “reach for her. ” She waits for him “to tell her the answer to a problem,” but he “can’t do it because” he has “to use all” his “mental resources to keep from grabbing her and trying to kiss her and begging her to let” him “have her. ” Father Hennessey finds Graham’s mental anguish “entertaining,” and Hennessey, in the beginning, always looks forward to Confessionals with Graham.
He “was guiltily aware that this was because of the strange absorption that had taken hold of him concerning the details of the story. ” There came a point that it preoccupied his mind so much that he couldn’t administer mass properly anymore. He also couldn’t listen attentively to other confessions since Graham’s story always distracted his mind. There is also a 15-year old boy who regularly confesses to Hennessey. He has “close-cut blond hair” with a “crooked nose” and “a round head. ” He also suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis, spending much time in bed, reading books, as a result of his condition.
His condition also resulted in fingers that “were knotted and curved slightly with the arthritis,” but they were “beautiful…in their strange variance from the hands one expected a fifteen-year-old boy to have. ” Hennessey finds out much later that he is the twin brother of Graham’s obsession. Their mother is mentally ill and has been confined in the hospital since their father left them. The twin siblings have been living by themselves at home without any supervision. The young boy’s mentally-ill mother keeps asking the boy numerous doubting questions about God, so he goes to Father Hennessey for the answers. But he fails to answer them.
“Father,” the boy asks during a confessional with Hennessey, “the dinosaurs lived here for millions of years. We’ve only been here for a little fraction of a second in terms of evolution. What was God thinking? ” The boy explains that the Bible is ignorant of dinosaurs. “Saint Peter didn’t know about the dinosaurs, Father,” he says. But Hennessey doesn’t take him too seriously. He feels that “the boy might be less than sincere, and that this was all at his expense. ” But the young boy is persistent. He visits Hennessey regularly at his confession booth; Hennessey not knowing that he is the twin-brother of Graham’s obsession.
The boy even calls up Hennessey’s housekeeper to ask about the priest’s character or behavior, which the boy seriously doubts. Unfortunately, Father Hennessey fails to help Graham and the young boy. Instead of healing the mental illness or perversion of Graham, he makes it worse. Instead of answering the questions of the boy correctly, he gives a stock answer—faith. “There is no perfect answer, son,” Hennessey says, “except faith. ” He considers them as forms of entertainment like watching interactive television. Hence, he makes both of their lives worse.
Graham becomes perverted with his student, committing adultery with her multiple times, even on campus, where they are caught in the gymnasium equipment cabinet, and he is terminated from work. He also ends up in jail for contributing to juvenile delinquency and loses his career. The young boy couldn’t help his mother who is mentally ill, and in turn, the mother couldn’t help her daughter, who ends up with a sexual relationship with Graham. Father Hennessey had internal conflicts that split his mind or made him somewhat schizophrenic. Consequently, he also failed himself.
One night, he was very troubled, and “What disturbed him most that night was that he had gone through everything in these last few weeks only in terms of himself. ” He also “began to wonder if he were not becoming unhinged. ” These problems are actually consequences or reflections of much more serious problems in the Catholic Church. Sometimes, it isn’t Graham or the young boy who develop such problems; it is the priest himself who develops sexual relationships with parishioners. Sometimes they rape them or molest them, as the thousands of cases broadcasted in recent television news reports.
That’s why many Americans are now turning to Asian philosophies such as Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism which are in harmony with science and psychology, unlike Christianity which is in conflict with science. “For a parallel to the lesson of atomic theory,” asserts Niels Bohr, a Nobel-prize physicist acclaimed for the Bohr model of the atom and his contributions to Quantum Mechanics, “…(we should study) those kinds of epistemological problems with which already thinkers like the Buddha and Lao Tzu have been confronted, when trying to harmonize our position as spectators and actors in the great drama of existence.
” This is the answer that both the boy and Graham were seeking from Father Hennessey. The elementary questions that the boy asked can all be answered by the three philosophies of China easily. The boy wanted to reconcile science with religion. He needed answers to scientific questions that contradicted the Bible or showed its ignorance. Graham would have had a clear answer from a Buddhist too. Although he visited Hennessey to confess his sexual perversions, he was really seeking a solution to his illness or his obsessive compulsions.
He wanted to heal it or get rid of it, along with the suffering that he was experiencing. Buddha’s First Noble Truth asserts that life is dukkha—impermanent, uncomfortable, sometimes even painful and deadly, like riding a wooden cart with uneven wheels or hearing a screeching uneven potter’s wheel turn. Lao Tzu explains that the bumpy cycles of life, moving up and down, are the result of natural forces in the universe, which are now understood partly by physicists as gravity, space and time.
It creates polarities in everything—male-female, good-bad, day-night, up-down, mania-depression, life-death, white-black, desire-aversion, happiness-sadness, economic boom-busts and so forth—with infinite degrees in magnitude, along with multiple combinations in proportions. The Chinese call this Yang and Yin, respectively. The Second Noble Truth then asserts that dukkha or the impermanent cycle of suffering is caused by the physical existence of Yin and Yang, such as Graham’s aversion and desire, as stated in Rodney St.
Michael’s book Sync My World. Consequently, the Third Noble Truth then says that to manage dukkha, one must “extinguish” the polarities of Yin and Yang, or in Graham’s case, aversion and desire. Finally, the Fourth Noble Truth asserts that to “extinguish” these polarities, one must follow the Middle Way or the Eightfold Noble Path. To make a long story short, one of the eight guidelines in this path is meditation. Desire and aversion, for example, are caused by imbalanced hormones and neurotransmitters.
By practicing breath meditation daily, Graham could biologically alter his brain chemistry to neutralize the imbalance in his system. There are also many other suggestions that a Buddhist could give to Graham, such as what to think when desires start burning him. Buddhists would also explain to him the concept of karma, or the principle of cause and effect, which explains all the possible consequences of ignoring his problem.
As for the young teenager, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, explains that the “force,” acting as God or nature, creates everything in polarities such that some are monstrous dinosaurs and some are cute lambs. Some are carnivores and some are herbivores. Everything lives and dies and goes around in a cycle. People should never expect anything to last, whether it be marriage (which normally only lasts 10 years), jobs, prosperity, happiness or anything good. Incorrect expectations cause mental anguish, but managed expectations produce relative stability.
One must realize also that the darkest period of night is the time just before sunrise, so any bad situation will eventually turn good, even if death itself has to trigger it. In the end, while Hennessey failed, his experience changed him: “He stood in the shadow of the church, and looked up. It was a building; he had a moment of being frightfully aware of it as mere stone, the work of human hands, stone and brick and mortar and wood. ” He became aware or enlightened of the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is mortal.
It is not the divine house of God. He is not a divine worker. There is nothing supernatural in what he is doing. He’s just human. The doubt of the boy made him doubt himself and the Church. But now he has the chance to change everything. And slowly but surely, America is also realizing that they now have a chance to do the same. Works Cited Bausch, Richard, “Sixty-five Million Years. ” NarrativeMagazine. com. St. Michael, Rodney. (Including citations from Einstein and Bohr). Sync My World: Thief’s Honor GA SK. Raleigh: Lulu, 2009.
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