Pantheism is my worldview, my philosophy, based on experiencing life through the senses, learning from nature and the sciences, using reason. It underlies decisions I make, positions I take. It’s a mind thing.
Pantheism is my religion, knowing the sacred is everywhere, all around me, finding something to appreciate and be awestruck by every single day if I’ll only open myself up to that possibility. It’s a heart thing.
Through pantheism, I’ve come to realize Nature as both my God and my church, my constant companion and teacher, my home. Deep down, I think I always knew it. It’s a mind and heart thing.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from Nature is letting go. To me, life seems essentially to be a series of opportunities, even demands, to let go, for isn’t that what growth really is? Maybe it’s seasons coming and going, or day into night, then dark into light again, tides coming in, then going out, baby birds leaving the nest, leaves falling, the effects of wildfires and storms, bountiful gardens dying after harvest, flowers drying up after blooming, preparing for the next season.
We humans, as part of Nature, aren’t immune from the letting-go process. It seems we all have our fair share, eventually culminating in that biggest letting go of all that none of us can avoid. I’ve let go of relationships and friendships, jobs, pets, dreams, beliefs, opportunities, homes, roles, labels, health issues, the “me” I used to be at different times in my life. Sometimes the letting go is of my own choosing, but not always, yet if we never do it, we stagnate. I’ve watched both my parents die as I sat at their bedside, as well as held numerous cats and dogs while they took their last breath. I had to let go when my oldest daughter moved away years ago, and now I’m facing another form of release that I’ve been struggling with for a couple of weeks. My younger daughter, son-in-law, and two little granddaughters will soon be moving about nine hours away for a new job opportunity. I’m coming to terms with not seeing them for stretches at a time rather than the current few times a week.
Letting go is a mixed bag sometimes. It can be sad and feel like a punch in the stomach, like you can’t breathe for a while, yet it makes room for something new to grow, hopeful stirrings, expectant, just like a forest after a fire or a newly tilled garden plot. It’s not always an absolute ending, but sometimes merely a change in form. For my daughter and her family, it’s an adventure, a chance to experience new things, to spread their own wings. I’m having to learn to look at it that way, too, not only for them, which is easy to see, but also for me, which I’ve been struggling with a little bit. Letting go forces us to move out of our familiar cocoons for a while, or sometimes even for a lifetime, and get a new perspective, finding a different kind of comfortable, bolstered by memories and mementos from the past, as well the constant presence of Nature and all its gifts and healing and the promise of new experiences to come.
Pantheism has helped me through many previous transitions and with this current one, too. Both it and nature remind me life is all about change and cycles, life and death, preparation, growth and discovery, creativity and release, that letting go is a natural part of living. It gives me hope and options and provides me with a caring community. Yes, I can choose to be depressed and lonely, just hibernating and feeling sorry for myself….
I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Sufi poet Hafiz:
“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.”
Or I can choose life and see where it takes me, too, now that the roles I’ve played for so long are changing in some ways and I’m discovering myself anew, with more opportunities opening up to pursue interests I haven’t had so much time for before….and thanks to technology and science, staying in touch with distant loved ones is easier now.
I’m not special. Each of us learns the lesson of letting go throughout our whole lives. I guess how we handle it helps determine how happy we feel. It’s a mind and heart thing. Pantheism and Nature have taught me that and reminded me what a fortunate creature I am to participate in this thing called life. Ironically, as I write this, the song playing on Pandora is “Time To Say Good-Bye.”
(originally published in Pantheist Vision)