Sunday, March 07, 2010
"I just don't believe in the same things I used to," Cliff admitted. "Maybe God exists, but I have no reason to really think so anymore."
Sitting in the dark corner booth with Eric, his longtime friend and confidant, Cliff was saying things he could never tell anyone else. They drank their beers slowly, deeply contemplating the unlikely possibility of metaphysical realities outside of the human brain.
"I know what you mean," Eric affirmed. "But, sometimes I just want to believe in Heaven. I mean, it's kind of a scary thought, just going black when you die."
"It used to be scary, but now it's a comforting thought."
"It makes sense. It's not a fantasy. It's natural, and, just... how things should be."
"Yeah, but... who cares if it makes sense? Why should making sense equal comfort?"
"Well it doesn't necessarily equal comfort. But it's real. It's not a lie."
Eric looked down at the lack of froth in his beer. Holding each side of the glass with both hands, he was unintentionally warming the ale. The glass still wasn't even half empty.
"I guess I just don't want to believe that all of this is for nothing," Eric muttered.
"For nothing?" Cliff snapped, "We're here now, and this is a meaningful moment. I'm grateful for the life I have."
Eric looked up at him inquisitively. "Who are you grateful to?"
"Ha!" Cliff looked up at the dank barroom ceiling in thought. "I guess I can't say God anymore, right?"
"Well." Cliff sipped his beer. "Maybe I'm just grateful in general."
These two friends had engaged in dreadful conversations many times before. They had always read the same philosophy books together, barraging each other with questions at this same booth every Friday night. But tonight was different. Cliff was asking less questions, and asserting more conclusive opinions on the matter at hand. And this was an unsettling thing for Eric to witness.
"Obviously I don't want to say that God absolutely exists, but I think it does help people when it comes to believing in a life purpose." Eric responded.
"Sure," Cliff agreed, "There are definitely people who need God, er, to believe there is a God. They're followers by their very nature, and they have to believe in something like God to fill that void in their brain."
"Haha, they like to call it their God-shaped-hole."
"Right, a hole that could easily be filled in by reason."
Eric smirked and nodded. "But... reason ends it all at the moment of death."
"But, again, why is that a bad thing? I mean, once you die you won't even realize it. No more pain, no more contradictions, no more anything. Man, life is ridiculous. Especially human life... Look at it: Nazi Germany, racism, greed, slavery, global warming... Humanity has caused more damage than it has helped anything..."
"I don't disagree with you man."
Cliff sipped his beer again, now with a little more haste. "I'm just not afraid to say what I think anymore. I'm just not afraid."
"What were you afraid of before?"
"You know. Hell, my parents, God. But I just can't deny rationality any more."
"What, you don't believe in your parents either now?"
"Hah. I just don't believe what they raised me to believe in. I still want them to believe in all of that stuff, but I just can't."
"What's the difference between you and them?"
"Oh jeez. So much. Haha!"
"Haaa! Yeah, well, I dunno, maybe you should tell them what you think."
Cliff sighed and shook his head, "They would just be sad if I told them I'm not a Christian anymore. They would take it as a personal insult, even. Like, they sacrificed so much to make sure that I was raised according to the Bible... To see all they put into it amount to nothing... There's just no reason to hurt them like that."
"So you're gonna lie to them?"
"I don't know... Maybe... What I believe in now is happiness. Whatever makes people happy, that's all that matters. I mean, we're only here for a few years. Might as well enjoy this shit while it lasts."
"I understand." Eric finally took a swig of beer. "What about Anna though? How does she feel about your loss of faith?"
"Oh you know, she's such a supportive wife. She loves me no matter what."
Eric smiled and nodded.
"Honestly, she's the only reason I should be afraid of death. Love is still totally mysterious, and it's worth everything to me. She's my highest priority in the world... I mean, I don't want to ever die... Not while I have her."
Cliff spoke the truth, though not entirely confident in the things he said about God. Eric wasn't sure if he believed in God or not, but he wasn't going to press the issue on Cliff anymore. Cliff asked less questions now compared to his curious college days, but Eric couldn't force him back into inquiry if Cliff didn't want to go there. For Cliff, the earth formed billions of years ago, he is the descendant of apes, faith is a construct of the human imagination and death is the end of everything. His past spiritual life was nothing more than brain activity. If he had been born as any other species, he wouldn't have to worry about these existential issues. For this, he resents his humanity, but lives with it because he is scared of leaving his beloved wife. And not even for her sake, but his own. Her love brings him more comfort than he ever felt from church, and he wants to keep a hold on it for as long as he can. He knows he's mortal, but when he's with Anna he tries to forget.
While dreaming of losing a game, not sure which one specifically, Cliff was startled by breaking glass from somewhere outside his bedroom. He sat up, faintly hearing the glass scatter on his kitchen floor. He looked over at his wife, who was staring at him with frightened eyes. His first instinct was to shut the bedroom door they always kept open at night, lock it, and hide quietly with Anna in the bed. But a sudden irrational fear and simultaneous valiance struck him, and he shouted, "What the fuck!?" as an attempt to maybe intimidate the intruder. Cliff reached over into the top drawer next to his bed and nervously pulled out a knife in its sheath. He stood up and started walking towards the bedroom door which led out into the hallway towards the kitchen. "Who the fuck is that!?" He yelled out once more. He again looked over at his wife, who was huddled under the blankets now, the fear on her face urging the trembling husband to dutiful action.
Instead of intimidating the intruder, the shouts merely let him know where Cliff was at. As soon as he stepped out their door, a dark figure lunged out with his own knife, immediately slitting Cliff's throat. Cliff heard a scream, dropped to the floor while squeezing his hand around his gaping neck wound. His eyes went blurry. He could feel a warm flow of blood running down his fingers. He realized that he was dying, and thought about his mother, God, his wife, Heaven and Hell. Everything went black, and then there was even less than that.