All Streams Flow to Same Ocean

The spiritual tradition of my birth is Christianity but when someone tells me they are Christian I don’t feel all that informed about their faith. Christians roll many ways. As a young child I saw many high energy discussions among my own relatives about the nature of God, how to use the Bible, and the scientific improbability of Jonah and the whale. These discussions weren’t exactly good examples of tolerance but still I got the idea that a lot of good people had passionately different ideas about the path to God.

My Shaman recently named me Pathfinder. The name came to him in a dream. He talked at length about the reason that was my name. For me it felt very much like the Patriarchal Blessing I received forty some years ago through the spiritual tradition of my birth. He talked about how my hunger for more spiritual knowledge has led to my taking a good honest look at unfamiliar paths out of my comfort zone. The list includes Freemasonry, Reiki, Native American spirituality, and others that would have totally freaked out my grandmothers. But find them I did and travel them I do. He also tells me I will show the paths to others. I have come to the conclusion that in many ways and on many levels all paths lead to God and all streams flow to same ocean.

So where did it all start for me … Shriner’s Hospital of course. As an adult I eventually became a Shriner and to do that I had to become a Freemason. I’m glad I did. One of the tenants of freemasonry is religious freedom and tolerance. To be a mason you need to believe in a Supreme Being.  Beyond that the details of your faith are up to you. But masonry provided many religious tolerance lessons for me way before I became a mason during the times I spent in their hospital as a kid. Some of them were a bit confusing, but that is the nature of much of the spiritual journey.

I’d heard some discussion, scoffing actually, during church potlucks about misguided believers who wouldn’t eat pork. So one day at the hospital we were having hotdogs for lunch and I did some scoffing. The kid in the bed next to me had just finished off his hotdog. His face lost all color and he asked, “This hot dog has pork in it”? I assured him it did which didn’t help his coloring. I decided I should have told him sooner because he didn’t eat another bite and I might have scored a second hotdog. Pretty soon a nurse showed up to gather trays.

He spent the afternoon lying on his side facing the wall.  I asked him what he was doing and he said when you ate stuff you weren’t supposed to you needed to pray and fast … skipping at least one meal. Dinner trays came and he just laid there facing the wall. Unfortunately this particular meal wasn’t one of my favorites so I didn’t ask him to share.  A nurse came to gather trays and criticized him for not eating anything. He didn’t say much which was my cue to do some well rehearsed scoffing. The nurse flipped out on me. She told me she knew what denomination I belonged to and I was in no position to be criticizing anyone’s beliefs. She probably had the usual misconception that I was affiliated with a group centered in Utah but given her current mood I didn’t try to set her straight. I got to thinking about what she said. Her cheap shot had for a moment caused me to look at my faith from the outside … some of it is hard to swallow even when viewed from the inside. But what really got me thinking was my hospital brother. He was still lying on his side facing the wall. I asked him why he ate the hotdog and he said his mom always bought all beef hotdogs. We visited about church and stuff. I had just witnessed penance.

I wasn’t just exposed to Christianity. In the summer we had boy scouts on Saturday evenings. One evening after scouts I was about nine years old and asked the hospital brother in the bed next to me if he had scouts back home. He said they had something similar but didn’t elaborate. I didn’t get the hint and started asking questions. It was all good though, he swore me to secrecy because he thought the other guys would tease him and here is what I found out. He was Indian and that’s what we called it back then. He lived on a reservation. There was a guy he called uncle who would teach boys the old ways. I asked about hikes and camping like boy scouts. He said no but when you were ready, this uncle would take you into the woods and leave you alone overnight. I asked about wild animals. He said the woods had plenty of them but they weren’t a problem when this uncle left you in the woods. He said you would see an animal or a sign and that would become your name or part of it. He saw a little rabbit and that was his name. When no one was listening I’d call him his spirit name … Little Rabbit. I have an autograph book somewhere with signatures of various nurses, patients, and actor Dale Robertson, but my favorite page was signed by Little Rabbit. Through his eyes I had witnessed a Vision Quest.

My first exposure to the path of Catholicism also took place in the hospital. After one of my surgeries I was in the recovery cube next to the nurse’s station that would hold two beds. It was crowded but did hold two beds. So since I’m recovering I was sleeping or maybe passing out a lot. Once when drifted back from sleep the hospital brother in the other bed was talking nonsense and making the same hand gesture over and over. He was older which could be a problem but when he was done he looked over at me and smiled. I told him I heard him talking but didn’t understand a word he said. He explained he was Catholic and he was praying in Latin. The only hand gesture I knew would get you in trouble if a nurse saw it so I asked about the one I’d seen him using. He explained it was symbolic of the cross Jesus had died on and Catholics used it a lot when praying. I had just witnessed the sign of the cross or signum crucis

We both drifted off thinking revert thoughts. The next time we were both conscience he wanted to talk more about religion. We were both nauseated and he had trouble talking and I had trouble listening especially since the next religious topic involved eating and drinking. In my church we call it communion and eat bread and drink what we say is wine but is actually red or purple juice of some kind. He said their bread was some kind of wafer. We managed to get past the wafer eating part without either of us throwing up. We then moved on to discussing the wine. He said they used real wine which I’d never had. I asked if they all got drunk and he explained that it wasn’t enough for that. So while it was a close call a couple times I was feeling pretty good about having gotten through the final wine portion of comparing communion notes without any dry heaves. But I was wrong … we weren’t finished. There was an additional wrinkle to the whole communion thing he felt obligated to share with me. They call it communion also but his explanation sounded like there was an extra belief where the bread and wine weren’t just symbolic representations but were the actual flesh and blood of Jesus. Nothing came up but all this talk about cannibalism brought on violent retching and the dreaded the dry heaves. I was able to keep the noise down so the nurse didn’t make an appearance.  That was my first exposure to the concept of the Eucharist.

When I drifted back into reality I didn’t remember drifting off but was kinda glad I had. I didn’t open my eyes but I could hear my hospital brother. It didn’t sound like words this time, Latin or otherwise. I wasn’t up for any more religious sharing and didn’t want him to know I was awake. Still I risked taking a look to see what was going on this time. I need not have worried as he was totally oblivious to my presence. His facial expression was a little like I’d seen when someone giving a mighty prayer in church really gets into it. There was also some twitching going on. I had heard about Shakers but didn’t think that had anything to do with Catholics. I decided to follow up on it later because I wasn’t up for it at the moment. I forced myself to drift off again. I didn’t put it all together right away but … I had just witnessed masturbation.

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8 Responses to “All Streams Flow to Same Ocean”

  1. Kathy Sisson Says:

    Absolutely priceless! Thank you for sharing your experiences of childhood and religion. Both subjects can be difficult to share but the memories you share are worth more than you know! Keep em coming!

  2. Carol Fender Says:

    Well, sweet cousin, I still say you have a true gift with the written word. I bow to your experience, wisdom, tolerance, acceptance and irreverance. $>}

  3. Judy Johnstone Says:

    Well here’s a faith that you haven’t mentioned investigating that believes in just what you are saying about religion. The Baha’i Faith.
    One God, one mankind and all the religions are true. No ritual, no way for people to invent things to add to it. It’s the second most widespread religion in the world now because it honors all cultures and beliefs in a spirit of oneness.
    It teaches that religions are like grades in school. The social laws change from age to age, but the Holy Spirit runs thoughout all of them.
    Example, we no longer believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth from the old testement. Jesus taught love one another as I have loved you.
    Bahaullah teaches the unification of the people on the planet, no prejudice, equality of men and women,a universal Tribunal, education for all, Science and religion must go together or you have a religious superstition or a sudo science.
    There is only one God, so therefore, only one religion.
    Individual investation for truth. Don’t just fall in to a belief because you were born in to it.

    Baha’i.org

    I attended the medicine wheel for over a year with Roy Wilson.
    It somewhat teaches the oneness, but as Roy mentioned in the Medicine Wheel group,
    The Bahai’s have over 100 years that they have lived these teachings, not just studied them.

    Nov 24, Hope Grange- 155 Antrim Rd Winlock Washington 98596 Unity Works gathering.
    Agenda- 9-10am registration, coffee hour, view arts ondisplay for sale. Bring arts to sell.
    10am opening circle-songs, drumming, talk given by Janelle Holman telling stories of her trip to Thailand and Cambodia
    Discussion on the uniting principals that I listed above
    Potluck lunch
    after lunch Cedar carvings project

    Much social and great people!
    Let your thoughts be world embracing!

  4. RONNIE HAACK Says:

    IN THOSE DAYS I WAS MAD AT GOD,I FELT THAT I HAD BEEN ABADONED FOR NO REASON ,PICKED ON

  5. Michele Torrey Says:

    Thank you for sharing, Harry. Your spiritual journey helps to lighten the way for everyone. Peace, brother!

  6. Bob Griffith Says:

    Thanks for your insights Harry, now that I have read it a second time my questions have been cleared up, thanks for sharing. Bob

  7. Wayne Smith Says:

    Hi Harry
    This is gladstonegander form Disabilities R’ Us. My father’s name was Harry Smith, and i think he was Worshipful Master for 1966,for the province of British Columbia, it was a Lodge in Vancouver B.C. my mother was a member of the Eastern Star, also in Vancouver…her name was Gloria smith

  8. Wayne Smith Says:

    Hi Harry
    my e-mail is waynedsmith@outlook.com

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