I feel prompted to write this because of recent blog entries by Bob and Michael. It's a bit of a departure for me, because I really don't enjoy arguing, and it seems the fastest way to get the ire up of folks is to bring up religion. (Politics, too.)
But then, there is religion, and then there is spirituality, ey?
I believe in God/The Supreme Being/A Higher Power because I've sometimes felt a certain presence in my life in profound ways. Not often, but when it's happened, the reality of it has hit me between the eyes. And, while organized religions tend to leave me with more questions than answers (not necessarily a bad thing), I believe that life goes on after we leave this earthly plane.
One day in 1991, while flying offshore in California, we were trying to get a man off of an offshore oil platform who had a family emergency. The ceiling and visibility were varying from barely at instrument approach minimums to zero-zero. We'd waited for three hours for the weather to pick up enough to allow us to legally dispatch the helicopter.
We made three missed approaches, seeing no hint of the platform through the fog at our required three-quarters of a mile. But, the weather observer informed us each time that the visibility had picked back up, thus making it legal for us to try again.
I felt a presence with me that day, and I've never flown that well in my life, before or after. I felt absolutely energized in a strange and wonderful way. I didn't feel just "in the zone." No, I felt more as if I'd entered another realm.We had fuel for one last attempt when we made it into the platform. Roger, the guy I was flying with, could only say, "Damn, Johnson." (From him, that was praise bubbling over.) The man got on board, and we climbed back through the fog and headed toward Santa Barbara Airport.When we leveled out, that feeling of having a presence with me departed. I felt deflated, spent. Also, although I felt relieved that our sole passenger would soon reunite with his family, I felt sad.
The offshore weather observer called us while we were enroute. "Good job, guys. The weather is back to zero-zero. I can't even see the water from my office." We wouldn't make another offshore flight that day due to the weather.
When I got into the office, my mom called. My dad had died that morning, suddenly, of a heart attack.
It took less than an hour to drive from the flight line in Santa Barbara to my parents' place in Oxnard, but it seemed longer. I cried. I wasn't ready to lose my dad. Like too many fathers and sons, we'd waged a quiet war with each other during my teenage years, and while our relationship had evolved into one more harmonious, we hadn't fully made peace.
"We always got along best when we worked together." That was my last thought before walking into my parents' house.
I can't offer concrete evidence that life goes on after we "die." But, I don't just suspect that there is such a thing as a soul. Nor do I believe that there is a soul. Nor do I have faith that there is a soul.
No, I know that there is a soul. I know of it because of that particular morning in 1991, the last time I worked with Dad.