Bruce Almighty: How does spirituality and/or religion help you cope?
I suppose I could have picked an alternate topic for this one because it is sort of difficult when I am not religious or really spiritual in any strong sense of the word so hard to express any way it would affect my ability to cope. I get too philosophical on this sort of topic and most people don't like it when I get philosophical really so I will not refer to any of that overly.
Fact is I'm about as Agnostic as they come. People often think that means indecisive. Like you cannot make up your mind on what you believe. But I have many strong principles and beliefs, I'm just that sort of person that loves theories, loves thinking about theories, loves speculating about theories, loves analyzing theories and in the end even my own theories leaves room for being proven wrong or altering them when new evidence comes along. Since in the case of religion and spirituality there is a lot of belief, a lot of faith and very little fact, some theories, but the facts can be used one way or the other... I cannot choose any one system I have preference for, just sort of like certain aspects to many systems of thought to be honest, and value certain things from many of them for different reasons, but have no actual faith in any of them. I have a Masters in Philosophy and my area of study was metaphysics... in particular I had a fascination with ontology... theories of what Is. And when you are really into ontology you delve into fields of philosophy of religion and philosophy of science as well.
Point is there are philosophers who are adamant atheists and those who are extremely religious. But for me it made me very agnostic. My own cynical nature, the world as it is and dealing with chronic pain... made me very inclined to be an atheist. But philosophy and being able to see more arguments and physics and being able to see the scope of the universe, just the nature of how the design is, made me disinclined to eliminate the possibility of something divine from my own ontological system... however, no ontology I ever thought of would be Dependent on the divine. No divine causation. No divine plan. No determination. Because you cannot prove the existence of anything divine and therefore shouldn't have an ontology dependent logically on it, which some are. Because that is the way my mind works. To be otherwise requires faith, an element I do not have. Which would be why, I suppose, I'm agnostic. Philosophy of religion was one of my favorite areas of study, you get both sides of the fence but for me, definitely makes you more firmly agnostic.
In other words I allow for the possibility. But I do not allow for an entity that is anthropomorphized in any way. That has a special relationship with humanity in any way. If there is a divine in the universe to me it could be simply all the is, all that causes change... that which creates order from chaos, patterns from chaos, life from just matter... and makes no distinction between you, me, my cat, and the tree outside. And to me why would it? Isn't a dog just as amazing in its existence as a fish or a zebra or a spider or the planet itself or the galaxy? The fact that the universe exists rather than nothing at all is astonishing. The fact there is life rather than no life is amazing. To me that is enough to edge me into being agnostic. I mean the fabric of reality is so intangible it is fascinating to me. And again I like to think that if something divine exists it would be something within everything, not something beyond everything... something that connects everything because when it comes to it our reality of objects appearing distinct and separate can be the appearance when you look deeper down and everything is connected. And I think if there is something divine within the universe it isn't something I can comprehend or label.
Which is awesome to think about and in no way helps me cope with chronic pain I expect. I just love thinking about such things I think. In fact, I'd say the opposite, because I may have a very grand view of the universe, a very philosophical or spiritual view of the divine... but a very cynical view of humanity. A very cynical view on life itself in general as well. But it does mean I have an open mind about many spiritual systems and I suppose some of them I like a lot, or parts of them. I think the only one that helps when it comes to dealing with chronic pain is Buddhism really. That is more as a choice on what I believe this life is about and how to live life. But there is a lot of value to Buddhism I think that goes with coping with chronic pain that I honestly think I could explore more. And perhaps that is why when I studied it during one class I found it the most appealing to be honest. Also there is a part of me that believes there is more to being human than the purely physical existence... and there is nothing I have learned that suggests I can discount such things from an ontology because we have not learned enough in physics to do so... in other words when we think about science in an archaic materialistic way then sure there is nothing to being human than our bodies and the brain with its neural constructs. Yet we know physics has revealed a reality far deeper than that and one which reality is connected and far more intangible than we once thought. So how can we say we know all there is about being human? We can't eliminate possibilities at all I think. We don't even completely understand the brain, our own consciousness, the consciousness of other species even... to really even scratch the surface.
So really spirituality wise there is more depth to us that I figure we know... and many belief systems aid with this I am sure. And I think coping with migraines... there is this fact that I understand pills are never going to be the solution. We have to think of ourselves mind, body and spirit when it comes to illness... as embodied beings that are all of these things combined so all therapies interact and affect all areas. Just body never seems to work it seems. We want to think that in the beginning. That doctors have the answers, but they actually never seem to really know do they? And it is left to us. Things like mediation were never said to be 'real' medicine back in the day but study after study show how they affect the body and the mind... so these sorts of things are tools we can utilize. Same with acupuncture... used to be sort of unreliable therapy wasn't it... and numerous studies have shown it to be beneficial even if they cannot agree Why. So we should believe that these things we do to manage our pain, our moods have more power than we seem to think they do because it all affects parts of the system. We give more power to the body than we do the mind... but that mind has plenty of power and don't seem to realize they are very connected. It has levels we do not understand and some therapies we use work on those levels we do not understand. And some therapies help us cope with dealing with how the brain is designed to deal with pain... two areas respond to pain, physically and a mental and emotional interpretation, and that interpretation comes with it a boatload of prejudices and preconceived notions about how we believe we must be when living with chronic pain, such that we work against ourselves with these negative beliefs and thoughts... and yeah we have to work that crap out all the time because the brain is designed to respond to pain all the time and we have to live with it All the Time. So I think we would get farther if we understood dualism and believing the mind is separate from the body just isn't accurate in reality, they are two sides of a coin that are the same coin and so connected that many of the therapies we use for one affect the other. We are not going to Think or Wish or Will ourselves out of pain by any means, or just stop the migraines either, but all these different things have different possibilities that I want to be open to and that I think have a possibility of reducing my overall suffering. Pain is not really something I have a choice about unfortunately and this I understood since I was quite young, but suffering is something we do have some flexibility on.
And I like to believe, but being agnostic, do not always believe, or just want to believe, that we do have a sort of life force flowing through us... because I just think there is something fundamentally profoundly different between me and a rock, and any living thing from any non-living thing that I cannot define. But if that is so I do not know how that would help us cope except that we need to take care of our lives and that isn't such an easy thing... but I think that is where less 'spectacular' therapies come to mind, like music therapy, and pet therapy (like my cats and petting my a cat makes me feel better... just does) and art therapy and doing things we enjoy for the sake of enjoying them not because we must do them. I know people do not like it when other say... maybe you just need a hobby. But I firmly believe we sort of need something like that... whatever it is to get outside of the pain once in a while, not just a pain distraction (that can be many things) but something we can dive into just for the pleasure of it. And rejuvenates us in some way we cannot define. Sort of why I wish people with chronic pain had access to art therapy because I think it would be a benefit to many of us. But I don't even think it needs to be a hobby... as I said music therapy is beneficial... and I don't mean therapy therapy I just mean losing ourselves in music. And sometimes losing ourselves in a goofy erratic dance because of it. Not saying I do that... okay, I do that. And taking a walk someplace that is filled with just nature, and maybe doing photography while you are out there, but just losing yourself in the walk, in the nature. Don't have much of that around here... but trips to the mountains? Just blissful. I think those sorts of things and anything others come up with... those are the things that maybe take care of the spirit. And I think in some ways these things have great power to help us get through this chronic pain life.
Anyway, that is just me... being all rambling with a wicked migraine all freaking day and unable to be coherent on this topic. Feel free to read some of the more philosophical thoughts I have written in the past...
Theorizing From Fundamental reality a paper on materialism and mysticism.
Nothing Comes From Nothing a little about the Big Bang
Philosophy of Existence Now this is a paper on ontology... all about how philosophers define existence.
Philosophy of Religion a little review of concepts with tidbits from some philosophers.
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