Specialising in the human experience of Living with prostate cancer – warts and all

Greg’s Greatest Journey – 28 June 2008

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The meaning of life

– and all that jazz …

NOTE: This is the real heavy stuff. You’re gonna need a cup of coffee or something stronger if you are to get to the end of this massive post. It is an attempt to explain my interpretation of life, spirituality and God.

They say the most formative years of your life occur before the age of five. And, no doubt, it was the family and religious grounding I received then that saw me through the Cheryl drama. But just a few months prior to that, my older brother, Neville, aged twenty four had died in a water skiing accident.

Having had just two months to come to terms with the loss of my brother, I grasped the opportunity to share Cheryl’s last months, discard teenage bravado and live the reality of my feelings. I had just lost the opportunity to be as close to my brother as I could have been and it was not about to happen again.

What followed was every bit as formative for my adult life as the first five years had been for my youth.

In the aftermath of that duel tragedy, I spent a lonely year trying to cope with it all. You cannot understand why this should be, your religious faith is challenged, you query the concept of God and you wonder why we are here in the first place. I remember little or nothing of that period but I came out of it with an obsession to find some answers to these age old questions.

I could not accept that all that Neville and Cheryl had been could simply dissipate. Their souls – their essence – their spirit had to be somewhere. I know that it dwells in me and, no doubt, in their immediate families at the very least. But, when we have gone, their spirits will leave as those who follow will never have been touched by them … there has to be more than that! The question remained, where does the spirit/soul go then?

The first question, ‘Does God exist’ was self evident to a logical mind. Either there is a God or there is not. If there is not, nothing else matters and we will never find out. The need to ask the question is in itself the answer that there must be a God. The emotional journey of losing loved ones is the key to wanting to know. Until we take that journey, I don’t think we can appreciate the concept of being. Having taken that journey, I do not know how to deny the existence of God. Therefore the spirit of those before us must return to the source of life.

But what about Heaven and Hell? My religious faith was certainly in question. Having been Christened and raised in the Catholic religion and educated by the Christian Brothers under the reign of Pope Pius XII, I found myself in conflict with the Church on many issues from the downright absurd to the ultimate hypocrisy. For example, the church insists that God gave me free will but the church itself lays down the rules that I must obey. Archbishop Mannix directed, through the pulpit, who Catholics should vote for and it turns out the church decree on sex being for the sole purpose of procreation was not heard by those that taught us.

I never did come to terms with the concept of organised religion. How can so may faiths claim to be the only path to God? Having said that, my children were Christened and educated in the Catholic system to give them the Christian standards that successfully carried me to adulthood. To answer this question, I needed more information and would have to dig a lot deeper.

So, I embarked on the quest to find ‘the purpose of life’. If there is such a purpose, it must be equally applicable to every last person – the rich and the poor, the oppressed and the oppressor, to people of all faiths and non-believers too – and to me as well. It may have taken me forty years but I did find such a common denominator and that opened the door to identifying my God.

We are born into this world with a clean slate and we learn from our upbringing. The wisdom of the ages has concluded we need to be taught the rule of law, ethics and religion. These things are not inherent in our makeup. Without them, we are destined to a life of evil and basic instincts.

We learn our parents concepts of law, ethics and religion and as we grow up, we question their beliefs and form our own set of standards which we then pass on to our children.

There is an old saying, “The apple never falls far from the tree” and it is used to highlight the similarities between the actions of family members of different generations, particularly when things go badly for them. The bible also refers to the sins of the father affecting subsequent generations. The connection between generations is the key.

How often have you said or done something that reminded you of your parents. Well, as you get older, it gets worse until, one day, you look in the mirror and say ‘Hello dad / mum’. You ultimately realise that you are an extension of their being and your role of your soul is to stretch their envelope and experience your own existence.

The full force of this idea hit home some years ago when my son, then in his mid thirties, and I were having a deep and meaningful conversation. He remarked, “You know dad, the older you get, the more you think like me”. That startled me!

I suggested to David that maybe the way he thinks might be influenced by to the ideas and the family culture that had nurtured him. Whilst he may be taking those concepts far beyond where we had been prepared to go, the truth is that the older my son becomes, the more he is able to extend the barriers of his lineage to create his own existence.

That is the only common denominator I have ever found that is “… equally applicable to every last person – the rich and the poor, the oppressed and the oppressor, to people of all faiths and non-believers too – and to me as well.”

From that I conclude that we are here on a search for a greater truth than our parents could find. We are here as students of a God that is not omnipotent but, in fact a growing being. My free will and and the will of an omnipotent God cannot co-exist unless I am part of that God. Therefore, my life’s work is to experience what I am able to and take that knowledge back to the source.

Let’s look at the last few generations of the Naylor Family..

The first we know is of a family of children being shipped to the colonies of America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia around 1850. There were no parents for any of these children. We do not know what happened to them or the lives that these children created. What we do know is that Samual begat Patrick who begat Ray who begat Greg.

We also know that Pat’s young wife was killed in suspicious circumstances and that Ray and his siblings grew up without a mother. Is it any wonder that I grew up in a family that chose to remain independent of it’s extended self. Emotion was completely repressed or suppressed and we only got to meet the extended families at weddings and funerals.

Now, whilst we have little detail of those generations it can be seen that the concepts of ‘the apple never falls far from the tree’ and that ‘the sins of the father …’ can be applied.

This does not cast any aspersions on my parents. They, like all those that have followed, have been the best parents they could be and I am grateful for the rigid standards that I was subject to and the opportunity to finish secondary education … a luxury closed off to both my mother and my father.

What I can tell you is how my generation stretched the envelope of the Naylor family in learning to break the mould. The stand out similarity of the Naylors I have known was their willingness to commitment in marriage seeking a stronger family bond than previous generations had achieved . Mum and Dad were first daters, as were Neville and Mary – Greg with Maureen,, Stephen with Joan, Lisa with Richard and Anthea with Andy. David has been the exception that contradicts the rule. But then, that is David. He has been the one being in the family to really test the limits – or maybe he is refusing to accept any limits. That is his life’s choice.

Dad had a lousy upbringing with his mother being murdered when he was about 10 years old, and with a mean spirited father who left his kids to be raised by dad’s older sister Lorna. Dad left home at 14 to live and work with a family of butchers in Fern Tree Gully. He married mum, and adopting her family’s ethics and religion created his own identity. He raised us within a rigid framework which we each challenged in our own way to create our own identities.

Neville, my elder brother married his first girlfriend at the age of 21. Mary was from a family of 12 children and Nev appreciated his acceptance into such an extended family. Neville and Mary had two sons, the second born stillborn. Neville was the most devout Catholic in the family and told me he had achieved his life’s work in saving another soul – that of his stillborn son Michael after having him baptised into the faith. Soon after, he died in a boating accident. He was twenty four years old.

Stephen, my younger brother, had it so different to Neville or I. He was about 13 when Neville died. Back in 1960, there were no such things as counselling services. He was left to his own resources. He didn’t even have access to me as I had my teenage friends and was involved in Cheryl’s life.

At St Kevins, we later found that Stephen came in contact with the deviate behavior of the Christian Brothers. It caused so much trouble that, in spite of mum being the president of the college’s ladies auxiliary, Stephen was asked to leave. He was a displaced soul. As he grew older and joined us in the butcher shop, he began seeing Joan Hollis, the daughter of one of dad’s friends.

Joan was a girl born with a hair lip and, at the time, dad thought it was pretty special that Stephen never let that get in the way. However when the relationship got serious, dad turned on Stephen and would not approve of the marriage because, “No grandchild of mine will be a spastic!”. That pitted the wills of the father and son and the outcome was doomed. Dad refused to attend Stephen’s wedding. I recall Stephen being so confused earlier on asking me whether he should get engaged or buy a sports car. I told him to buy the sports car. He didn’t hear me. The marriage broke down and the two children, Corey and Simone were raised by their mother. Stephen later married Lola who already had a daughter, Sarah, and fathered another son Adam. His life’s path was a sad one and he died of cancer aged 42.

And then there is my own experience. In 1965, I married Maureen one of six children of an Irish/Catholic family. The Morrissey family was the antithesis of the Naylor family. Where the extended family of the Naylors was remote, the Morrissey clan was in daily communication to the degree that little mattered in the world outside the family.

This turned out to be an ideal environment to raise our three children giving them access to a broader view of the wider world together with the intimacies of family that neither Maureen nor I had ever experienced and helps explain the diversity in the natures of David, Lisa and Anthea. They have created three distinct realities or directions that will expose them to experiences that I could not yet imagine.

Of my generation, I have been given the greatest opportunity to experience life, to define myself and complete my life’s work.

And, now, to the final question of life … Is there anything beyond death?

Like the question of a God, logic demands that there is either something beyond death or there is not. Similarly, if there is not, we will never find out.

It seems that there are as many concepts that it does exist as there are people to ask the question. These range from being with loved ones, through eternal bliss through to reincarnation. Is there an ever growing universe of disappointed souls or could it be that they are all correct?

Consider my proposition that I am part of my God and that you are too. This is supported by the Christian faiths who commit a person’s soul to ‘live and reign with God’ at funeral services. If we have the power to reign with God, then we have the power to create our own individual ‘heaven’. In that context, whatever is envisaged as ‘life after death’ will be for you.

Earlier I mentioned the problem I had with all organised religions and their claims. If my proposition holds true that we are a part of the God being, then followers of all those religions must also be right.

My primary focus beyond death is to share with God the progressive evolution of the source of all creation. That does not preclude that, at some point, I may chose to be with those dear to me because, ‘reigning with God’ means that I will have that option.

That is the ultimate exercising of the free will bestowed upon me by God. I am at peace with my God on these matters at this time.

However, I still need to have these concepts challenged and have decided to seek out a theologian to talk with. In the meantime, you are welcome to test your own theories by making a comment.

Written by Greg Naylor

28 June 2008 at 12:19 pm

18 Responses

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  1. I think the key words are when you said, “I am at peace with my God on these matters at this time …”. Maybe that’s all one can hope to achieve. As for me, I haven’t been able to find any answers in the Reader’s Digest “Practical Problem Solver” and I have no theories to speak of on “the big question”. I think life beyond death is one of those great enigmas and not something we can prepare for with any certainty. Therefore all we can do is to concentrate on life before death and try to live the best lives we can in the circumstances we find ourselves in – and be kind to each other.

    One of the wisest things I ever heard came (surprisingly) from one of those hyped-up American ‘motivational speakers’ at a seminar I was once forced to attend. It was in the early 1980s and he was talking about problem-solving in business & life. Someone from the audience asked him “what about the unions and their strikes & pay demands, what can we do about them?”. He replied, “Worrying about the unions is like worrying about the weather … and I never worry about the weather because it’s something I can’t control.”

    It’s not deep per se but nonetheless it’s very true, and I’ve tried to live by that philosophy ever since.


    29 June 2008 at 12:44 am

  2. It’s amazing how statements by common folk can hit home so heavily. In my case there have been three contemporary philosophers who have made a difference:

    Lisa Minelli: “It is sad when you become a bit player in the story of your life”
    Paul Hogan: “Americans think that life is a dress rehearsal”
    Teddy Kennedy: “It is not important whether someone is dead or not, what matters is how you handle it”

    On the subject of worry, I have never had to worry about it. My stupid brain confronts issues by asking, ‘what can I do about it?’, it finds the options and I choose one. If there are no available options, it is beyond my control and worrying about it can achieve nothing.

    Ray, these concepts are deep. They affect your very existence and make you who you are.

    Greg Naylor

    29 June 2008 at 7:58 am

  3. Well men are, by nature, ‘problem solvers’ Greg. I mean, you wouldn’t find a woman bothering to work out how to reinvent the wheel, they’re much smarter than us.


    29 June 2008 at 3:02 pm

  4. A long but very interesting post Greg.
    As a life time atheist I will actually be delighted if I find that there is some sort of continuation of my being after I kark it. But I am not banking on it in any way at all. It seems to me that you have lived your life well treated your fellows with honesty and integrity then you have nothing to fear in the hereafter.

    Iain Hall

    29 June 2008 at 5:08 pm

  5. Iain, can you tell me where an athiest understands s/he came from? … is there a source of being?

    Greg Naylor

    29 June 2008 at 5:30 pm

  6. Greg I work on a very simple premise on such questions , quite simply that is one of the questions that I don’t need an answer to as a prerequisite for living a good life. I don’t want that to sound like a cop-out but why does it matter to you to find an answer to a question that is in essence unanswerable?

    Iain Hall

    29 June 2008 at 6:01 pm

  7. Iain, I have asked myself why I am delving so deep. The conclusion was that I needed to know if the opinions I had formed, and then put aside, throughout my life had any veracity. In reviewing these concepts and posting them here, I am happy with my conclusions. In the end, it doesn’t really change anything except that I complete my journey without fear or trepidation.

    Greg Naylor

    29 June 2008 at 8:57 pm

  8. Greg, I just picked up the Border Mail. Wow, front page (and then some). I guess that you’d rather be ‘famous’ for some other reason (like taking a machete into a council meeting maybe?) but nonetheless it’s a great tribute to you … and to your family. And to think it was written by our Brad! (He’s not a bad bloke actually, despite the recent furore).

    Anyway, we’ve got to get out and meet you in the flesh soon. Meanwhile, if you don’ mind, I want to put some of Brad’s story up on my blog and comment on it. Cheers and chin up mate (sorry about Collingwood).


    2 July 2008 at 2:08 pm

  9. That brought a chuckle. 🙂 I have no problem with you putting up an article – Dave already has. I will send you an image for the post.

    Greg Naylor

    2 July 2008 at 2:23 pm

  10. Hi Greg, after reading your story in the paper it really touch me.
    I lost my husband Andrew Richards in the truck crash at Glenrowan on the 20th of December last year. It was a vey dark day and have had many of them in the last six months.

    I think it is great you are sharing your story and I do believe that there is something out there. I am not sure what it is but he is with me and I can feel that and there are little signs that have happen to make me believe.

    I want you to no even thought you don’t know me I am there supporting you, Grow strengthen from us and stive to live everyday to the fullest. And enjoy every breathe we take as we never know when it is our time. Live life don’t let life live us.

    Thinking of you

    Priscilla Richards

    2 July 2008 at 10:15 pm

  11. Priscilla, thank you for your lovely comments. I have so much empathy for you losing your husband in an instant like that. That’s what happened with my brother and I have lived the agony of having “unfinished business” ever since.

    The only comfort is that their spirit dwells within you. If you know that Andrews spirit is with you, then there is something beyond death – so choose that force as your truth.

    I willingly accept your support Priscilla. Thank you.

    Greg Naylor

    2 July 2008 at 10:31 pm

  12. The hardest part of losing Andrew was not being able to say good bye and spend he’s last breathes with him and to let him know that I was there for him. But I have to beleive that he new that.

    one thing I have learnt is to Spend every moment with your loved one’s, treat everyday like it maybe our last. Show them the love and affection like it just may well be

    Priscilla Richards

    2 July 2008 at 10:50 pm

  13. There IS only this moment even as you talk with me, I’ll bet you have Andrew’s reality beside you. I am so fortunate to have advance warning and to be astute enough to realise all that and to share my thoughts with my family and friends.

    Please stay in touch Priscilla

    Greg Naylor

    2 July 2008 at 11:07 pm

  14. I will stay in touch with you, I will be there for you thinking of you, don’t lose hope.

    Priscilla Richards

    3 July 2008 at 7:51 am

  15. Greg, thank you so much for your kind comment on
    and for the opportunity to read your blog. I am more than happy to stay in touch with you through this “dance-journey”.
    I feel a connection with Australia as an uncle, aunt and 3 cousins emigrated there from England (my home country) when I was very young. I lost touch with them years ago – but they’re out there somewhere.
    I read your last post (the long one) and get the sense of a very decent man living a multifaceted life full of spirit, emotion, dedication and curiosity. I don’t have any answers about “the big question” other than we’re all “It”. I grew up C of E (Church of England), became agnostic, then atheist until I discovered that a lot of what the Buddha taught spoke strongly to me.
    If you’re interested in some of what I do check out and its associated blog.
    All best to you. Hang in there with the treatment. Have you tried any ‘alternative’ or ‘complementary’ treatments?


    3 July 2008 at 11:49 am

  16. Peter, it seems we will be “dancing together”. The thing I need most is the opportunity to talk with someone in a similar position. Until you are forced to face your mortality, you can have sympathy but not true empathy. I look forward to further communication. I have added “Dancing with Prostate Cancer” to my Blogroll so that my readers may find you too.

    Greg Naylor

    3 July 2008 at 12:31 pm

  17. […] a comment » In June 2008, I posted an article on The Meaning of life. It explored my belief system and the existence of God or a higher source responsible for the […]

  18. Really when someone doesn’t know after that its up to other people that they will assist, so here it occurs.

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