“Life is stranger than any of us expected.”
My friend and I were sitting, at night, under what I thought of as the Bo Tree, though it was actually a big maple out on the edge of the golf course at my college.
“Who said that?”
“My dad. Line from one of his poems. It’s about how the odd intrudes into the ordinary.” I chuckled. “It’s about how this really can be the Bo Tree, if I want it to be.”
“That’s where the Buddha sat, right? Under the Bo Tree.”
“Yeah. I’ll be climbing this Bo Tree later.”
I could hear the smile in my friend’s tone. “Then me, too.”
“No. Not this time. This time’s just for me.” I stood up. “I’ll see you back at the apartment in a while. I’ve got something to do.”
“You going to be okay?”
“The moon will rise. I’ll be okay. I’ll be very okay.”
He walked away. I stripped.
Not my sneakers. I left my sneakers on. Otherwise, I would be naked. I may be nuts, but I’m not crazy. I’m not climbing this tree, barefoot, in the dark.
You see, I had this idea. I’d been considering a religion major instead, reading a lot of eastern religions. Thinking about Buddhism and Taoism, Zen, like that. I admired the Tao te Ching, had always done, not that I understood it really much.
I was thinking maybe I could make up my own religion, from scratch.
There would be many good reasons for me to do so. I’d be in control, for one. I could draw from any thoughts or experience I had had, and no one could argue against me. Similarly, I could throw out any thoughts or experiences I had had, and no one could argue that I must put them back in.
I swung myself up onto one of the lower branches. Felt good, the muscle stretch.
Then, halfway up the Bo Tree, I began to wonder if there were any negatives I should foresee. What I had thought so far was there would be no negatives, making up my own religion. It would be a smooth and easy ride, just me and my religion.
Two thirds of the way up, though, I thought of a negative.
In the course of time, once I had my religion all worked out, would it just remain static? Maybe instead I might have new thoughts or experiences that I would like to integrate into my religion.
What kind of person am I? Am I one who would WANT to integrate new ideas into my religion, or am I one who would NOT want to integrate new ideas?
If it turns out I’m a kind of person who wants NOT to integrate new ideas, then what? Might I eventually become impatient or bored with my religion? My religion is MINE, just mine, because I created it. But would that always be a comfort to me?
By then I was three quarters of the way up, and a new kerfuffle emerged in my thoughts. What about other people? Would it ever be the case that I should desire to convince another person of the rightness of my religion?
If such a time as that does come, and if that other person resists adopting my religion, how would I react to that?
Two choices. Am I the kind of person who would press HARDER because, after all, my religion is correct – it’s mine, and the other person must adopt it. Or am I the kind of person who would WITHDRAW from that confrontation?
If I am the kind who would withdraw, and I have now discovered that about myself, would I still remain faithful to my religion, which I created, and which I have chosen NOT to defend?
I was near the top now. The branches were thinner now, and they bounced if I made my way a step or three out along them. That was fun, the bouncing. There was a cooler breeze now, and the moon was now up. I kinda wished I had kept my sweatshirt on, just my sweatshirt.
Otherwise naked, OK.
These possible negatives that have come to me, climbing, are not frivolous, I thought. They might happen. It occurred to me that that’s the trouble with making up your own religion. I felt wise when I thought that last thought.
Here I am, up here naked in this tree, with nothing above me except the moon, and the making up of my own religion might produce UNHAPPINESS. What’s up with that?
I found a small branch I could sit on, some way out from the trunk, and hold lightly to the even smaller branch above. Could bounce a little. Nice.
Maybe, truth is, I should have been a guy who from age twelve wants to be a doctor. You don’t see one of THEM up here naked in this tree, wondering what they were put here on earth for, much as they complain about organic chem.
Sucks to be a guy whose dad is a poet, wondering whether he will just need to knuckle under and major in English anyway, the way his dad wants him to, for what else is there?
Turns out, I came down from the Bo Tree and that’s what I did.
© 2022 Dikkon Eberhart
Dikkon Eberhart is the author of The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I Heard the Greatest Story Ever Told, Paradise, and On the Verge. Dikkon is a Maine native transplanted recently to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. He is a retired salesman, former actor and food critic, and always a writer.