Monday, December 14, 2009

Mormons on the purpose (meaning) of life

I met two very nice Mormon missionaries on the way to the surgery (i.e., clinic) this morning. (Yes, I'm still sick. I had to pick up some registration forms today so I can hand them in at my appointment tomorrow morning. Not sure why I couldn't fill them out on site tomorrow, but I wasn't about to mess with my chances of seeing a doctor.) One was from the States and the other was from Germany. I was fascinated to learn that they were living in England for two years, doing this work for twelve hours a day (every day, I believe, but maybe they get some time to themselves on the weekends); most surprisingly of all (to me) was that they are living together, and didn't know one another before starting this missionary work. It's really quite remarkable, mostly because they seemed so genuinely happy.

They caught me a bit unawares, since, as many of you know, I've had a lot on my mind lately. Questions of faith, prayer and the purpose of life hadn't made it on my top ten list of thoughts, if you like, for some time. (Other than in the context of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which, in a case of really unfortunate timing, I'd just started a few days ago: do you know how hard it was for me to avoid blurting out a '42'-related punchline? Words fail me.)

In all seriousness, though, I have, at various stages of my life, explored a number of religions. My parents raised me in the United Church of Canada until I was old enough to decide that it wasn't for me – or, not at that time, would be a better way to put it – so I've read a fair bit of the King James version of the Christian Bible, but I've also read parts of the Qur'an, and some Buddhist teachings. So I was curious when the missionaries presented me with a copy of The Book of Mormon. (I'm a sucker for free books, by the way.)

However, as I sit here now, having read the chapter that was highlighted as being about the purpose of life (i.e., the second chapter of the Second Book of Nephi), and watched some of the relevant videos on their Web site, I realize that what I should've said in that conversation is that, while I don't yet think of myself as an atheist – agnostic was the word I settled on when discussing it with them – I am more comfortable with the overarching humanist tenet than I realized: that is, that this really is all there is, so we should really get on with doing good deeds and enjoying ourselves. Many of the (truly heartfelt, honestly) messages on the Mormon site began with the subject talking about how they just couldn't accept that this was it; that there wasn't something (to us) before our birth, and, in particular, that there isn't something after our death. As I sit here right now, I realize that, while I would never say that I've come to terms with death – not sure what that animal would look like, to be honest – I've clearly accepted, on some fundamental level, that I will die... at some point.

It's funny: living moment-to-moment, which, let's face it, I've been doing for about six months now, can sort of push these thoughts well-out of your mind.