The Wily Ways Of The Elephant God – How The Obstacles In Your Life Might Actually Be Springboards
I stopped believing in my childhood god a very long time ago. I was raised as a Catholic and I have to say that this fact has been a less than positive influence in my life. Some religions teach that you are a righteous agent of a higher power, sent to this life to make The Earth a better place in as many ways as you can. Others say that you are a spark of divinity, temporarily enrobed in human flesh but inevitably destined to return home and become part of the Divine Whole once more.
Catholicism instils in you the idea that you are wrong. Fundamentally flawed. Of no worth as an individual. That you have a stain on your soul before you even leave the womb and that this stain can only be removed by a man in a dress pouring water on your head and swearing you into Mother Church before you have developed the faculty of cogent thought. As far as confidence boosters go, it’s definitely not in the top ten.
It’s a very cleverly designed system of social control. Even if you do reject the religion, it’s very difficult to see yourself as an ex-Catholic rather than just a bad Catholic.
I remember when I finally rejected Catholicism. I was in 6th Form, attending my Catholic High School, St Mary’s. As in all such schools, nuns and priests were heavily involved in the teaching curriculum. Like many people who endured a Catholic education, I have the same sort of fear of nuns that other people very sensibly have of clowns.
Scary as the nuns were though, they were not as scary as the priest who finally made me say “I’ve had enough of this” as regards the religion which had been thrust upon me my whole life. His name was Father Kelly.
Now, Father Kelly was quite clearly gay. Not that I had a problem with that. Going into the Priesthood is just how a lot of little Catholic boys deal with their sexuality after a lifetime of being told that their sexuality is a Mortal Sin. The problem was that Father Kelly was creepy as fuck.
One morning, I was sitting in registration class and Father Kelly started a conversation with me. He asked me if I had heard of a book called “The Imitation Of Christ”. I said that I hadn’t and he started dreamily going on about how fantastic this book was and offered to lend me his copy of it then and there. And a very well-thumbed and dog eared copy it was too. “Wow,” I thought “he’s read this a lot. Must be a really good book.”
So I took the book home that night and started reading it. I was absolutely horrified by its contents. It was all about mortification of the flesh. Whips and flails and armbands with spikes on the inside. Wounding and cutting and pain and blood. Literally the imitation of Christ’s suffering in what is referred to as “The Passion” i.e. Jesus’ ritualistic murder at the hands of The Romans. It’s the most insane thing I have ever read (with the possible exception of “Angeltech”, a book no one should read if they wish to maintain their grip on reality).
“Holy shit!” I thought. “This is an S and M manual. Why is a priest giving me, a 16 year old boy, an S and M manual?” Didn’t take long for the penny to drop. Though it’s a little surprising he waited until I was sixteen to make his move, given what we all now know about Catholic Priests. Mind you, the age of consent for homosexuals was 21 back then, so I was still very much in “forbidden” territory.
“If there is a God,” I thought, “would he really allow men like this to be his representatives on Earth? Sod this! This is horseshit”.
So I returned the book to Father Kelly, told him it was “interesting” and avoided the hell out of the man for the rest of my tenure in 6th Form.
Catholicism is now in my past, apart from the lingering feelings of self-loathing and guilt that have been indelibly imprinted on my hindbrain. But we all need some sort of totem. I have had a household god for quite a long time now. His name is Larry The Gay Dragon. He’s one of these :
Never been entirely sure what his purpose is. Not sure why I decided he was gay either. Think it’s because from the front he looks like he’s holding up an imaginary handbag. I have now decided what Larry’s purpose is though. It’s to remind me how “Fantabulosa!” I am, in a way that only a gay friend can. It’s fact I am prone to forgetting far more often than is strictly necessary.
However, I don’t spend all that much time in the house and Larry is a bit big to carry around with me. So I decided that I needed a pocket god. And last year, I got one. Completely out of the blue. From my boss at the company I was working for at the time, of all places.
My boss was a man called Imtiaz. He was on a trip home to India with his wife, who is Lithuanian. He brought all his employees back a little present. The present he brought me was a keyring. This one :
I recognised the figure on that keyring. It was Lord Ganesha, the Elephant God. But I only knew the name, not anything else about him. So I asked Imtiaz what the significance of this little god was. And he turned to me and said:
“How the fuck would I know? I’m a Muslim, you silly twat!”
So I looked on the internet to see what Lord Ganesha was all about. Apparently, he is the patron of arts and creativity and the Remover of Obstacles. So I adopted him immediately. I started to carry him around everywhere, though admittedly that was initially because he is a keyring and I carry my keys around everywhere.
I have read more about Lord Ganesha recently though, and I have found out that he is also the Placer of Obstacles. If he decides that obstacles placed in your way will help you or make you a better person, then obstacles are what you get. “Great”, I thought. “Wish I’d known that when I signed up”. But then I had a look back on my life and it started to make sense.
Many years back, I had a different job. I didn’t like this job but somehow couldn’t bring myself to leave it, even though I thought of it as a massive obstacle in my life. Then one day, when I was at work, I had a cardiac arrest. At seven in the morning. Fortunately I was in a building with hundreds of people in it and an ambulance was called immediately. Had to have emergency surgery to save my life and have a pacemaker fitted to keep me going.
Even though I felt that my job was a massive burden, the stark facts are this. If I had been on day off that day, I’d be dead. If I’d been on an afternoon shift instead of a morning shift, I’d be dead. If I had freed myself from my perceived burden and found a normal 9 to 5 job, I’d be dead.
What I thought was an obstacle was actually something I needed to save my life. And it was something I needed to get through in order for me to say “Fuck this. I’m going to follow my dream.”
As a human being, it is very difficult to see the bigger picture of your life. To tell an obstacle from a springboard. Or as The Rolling Stones put it “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find. You get what you need.”
Oh, and if you’re reading this and you have suffered the misfortune of a Catholic upbringing, remember this. If you still believe in God, and he is as the Catholic Church describes, then he’s the one that will be having to do the explaining when you finally meet your maker. Because for at least the last few millennia he’s been behaving like a naughty schoolboy burning ants in the playground with a magnifying glass.
And if you no longer believe in your childhood god, don’t keep your head down and your nose clean. Live your life to its full potential. You won’t be collecting your reward in heaven because you’ve studiously denied yourself success and happiness during your earthly existence.
Carpe fucking Diem, as The Romans would have said. You know, The Romans. The people who killed God.
Copyright Michael Grimes 2016