I’m not an especially religious person. I was asked to leave my mother’s church when I was 12 or 13 because of my infuriating tendency – – in the eyes of the southern Baptists in my home town – – to question everything. After deciding at that tender age that the Baptist faith was too confining and narrow minded, I tried a lot of religions and cults, even flirted with the idea of atheism, decided I was really agnostic (read undecided) and that Buddhism was the philosophy of life most closely attuned to my personality.
I’ve never questioned the possible existence of a supreme being or some higher consciousness in the universe, I’m must not sure of its nature. When I was in Vietnam in 1968, though, I witnessed a situation that leaves a lot of unanswered questions, but also confirmed my middle of the road philosophy.
I was in an outfit that did behind the lines recon missions; a highly dangerous undertaking as the enemy knows you’re out there snooping around, and doesn’t much like it. One of our teams, while on a mission, was attacked and one of the members got separated from all the others. Poor guy wandered around the jungle for four days, occasionally encountering VC or NVA soldiers, including one incident when he and an NVA guy were on opposite banks of a stream getting water. Funny thing is, being out there all alone, wandering around like a lost sheep, he was never shot at. The guy at the stream just stared at him for a few minutes, nodded, got up and walked away.
We finally stumbled across him with a search team; or maybe he stumbled into them. Weary, hungry, and befuddled, he was otherwise unharmed. The whole thing, though, set me to thinking. I still wasn’t sure about the whole God thing, but the fact that this guy, with his dark skin, round eyes, and tightly curly hair had survived that long in enemy territory when the bad guys had a bounty on the heads of each of our recon guys, made me think that there was such a thing as miracles. Who or what generated them, I wasn’t sure, and it didn’t really matter. What it did for me was to peel away any cynicism I’d been coated in, and leave me open to the possibility of good things happening even when conventional wisdom says you’re screwed.