Over the course of Thursday evening, and into Friday evening, Timothy spent at least a bit of his time online, trying to see what he could do to eke out his understanding and knowledge about Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism, and Taoism—this last he had trouble spelling, but Google was quite helpful with such things, so he was able to correct his misunderstanding quickly. He wondered with somewhat disgusted confusion why people had ever spelled Taoism with a “T” when they pronounced it with a “D”. It wasn’t an English word originally, after all—it was a transliteration from what must have been a Chinese character or characters. They could have just used a spelling that reproduced the original sound in English in as straightforward a way as possible. Were they trying to be cryptic, or to sound impressive, or to convey the fact that it was a foreign word by not simply writing the name of the original book as “Dow Day Ching”? All the reasons he could imagine left him feeling minor contempt.
At least the spelling of Hinduism, Buddhism, and atheism made a bit more sense.
The various religions and philosophies did not necessarily strike Timothy that way. Of course, atheism, in its simplest form, was fairly straightforward, so Timothy didn’t waste a lot of time with it. It was simply a lack of belief in God. Or gods, he supposed. Anyway, it was, at its most basic level, just a decision that no religious ideas had very good evidence, and that the default position was not to believe in any of them, though there were people who took it quite a bit further. Timothy found them less convincing, but he certainly didn’t have any good reason to suspect any benign deity in the world, though he didn’t consider himself an atheist.
His experience with what Dr. Putnam had said was sleep paralysis made him far from sanguine about whether or not there were malevolent gods out there in the universe. Though he knew that there was a supposed neurological explanation for what he had experienced the night after stopping Paxil, he couldn’t fathom how such a thing could have come from within his own brain. He had never so much as conceived of a being as horrifying or inexplicable as the thing he had awakened to find lying across him. Aspects of it had seemed to defy his intuitions about space and movement itself.
Of course, despite searching his room cursorily in the immediate aftermath and much more thoroughly the following days, Timothy had not found any physical traces of the monstrosity. And he had—thankfully—not experienced any repeated episodes. He had washed his sheets and blankets the next day though, telling his mother that he’d spilled something on them.
His superficial investigations of Taoism and Buddhism seemed at least somewhat intelligible, though the latter in particular seemed to come in so many different flavors that Timothy didn’t know what to make of it. Much of the information seemed very commercialized and rather goofy, at least on some websites, marred by various distracting pop-up ads and so forth for services and products that made already peculiar subject matter seem stranger, and were occasionally laughable. Of course, Timothy recognized that information from various commercial and personal websites was probably not a fair representation of a major world religion, but the Wikipedia article he read was so involved that it didn’t help him all that much. It seemed only too obvious to him, in this case, that it had been written and edited by many different people.
Also, he had trouble with the origin story of Buddhism, if that was what one called it. The fact that the young prince had become disillusioned with his home life and had simply abandoned his wife and family made him feel frank anger toward the man, despite the fact that he might never even have actually existed. How could such a person be looked to as the originator of some peaceful religion? The man was contemptible. He was spoiled and self-indulgent, a pampered prince in the fact that he felt fine with running away as much as he had been in his palace.
Of course, Timothy recognized that the idea was that the Buddha had, through years of searching, meditation, exploration, trials, and suffering, finally reached his enlightenment, making the tale all the more inspiring because even from such a base person could come a source of wisdom and insight, but it wasn’t as though the stories told of him then going back and teaching his abandoned family his insights. They were never discussed again.
One could say many things about Timothy’s late father, but though he had been divorced by his wife and then shot to death in bar fight, he had never abandoned his family willfully, let alone indulgently. He may not have reached any kind of mystical insight at any point in his life, but even after the divorce, he had been loyal to his family until the day he died; Timothy’s mother had always made that very clear. It had been her decision to leave him, not the other way around.
Oh, well, Timothy didn’t worry too much about the legends surrounding the origins of Buddhism, because he had no intention of trying to explore it as a religion. He was just wondering about it because it apparently informed the thinking of the person who was going to be teaching him. But its notion of learning to detach oneself from the world through such meditation, in order to break the cycle of reincarnation and escape from immortality—which seemed so much the opposite of the religions with which Timothy was familiar—was hard to grasp. Still, the idea of detachment at least had its interest. If he could learn to stop taking things so personally, as so viscerally offensive, then maybe he would be able to help his problem.
He didn’t try to explore much about the process of meditation, in his explorations, cursory though they were. He thought it best to go into his Saturday introductory meeting with as clear a head as possible. He knew—from reading and hearing about it—that people often diagnosed themselves via internet searches before going to their actual doctors, and that this could get in the way of correct treatment. He didn’t want that to happen in his own case.
In any case, he was too distracted by Hinduism.
If Buddhism and Taoism had seemed conceptually a bit difficult to grasp at a superficial viewing, Hinduism seemed as hard to parse as a problem in advanced mathematics. Timothy didn’t even internalize the notions of the caste system enough to have a moral or emotional reaction to it and to the plight of those consigned to lower castes. He recognized that Hinduism must be related to Buddhism, because it dealt with notions of karma and reincarnation and whatnot but seemed much more convoluted and peculiar in its implications and interpretations than anything else. It reminded Timothy of videos of fractals he’d seen on the internet, where no matter how deep you went, there was still more complexity lying in wait.
But some of the notions—and the imagery associated with them—of this great and ancient religion seemed both resonant and frightening to Timothy. The notions of Brahma and Vishnu were intriguing, but more resonant was the idea, and the representation, of Shiva (it sometimes was written Siva, but in this Timothy was as irritated as he was by the spelling of Taoism), god of creation and destruction, as well as other, lesser gods, like Kali and Ganesh and Hanuman.
Some of the images associated with the deities reminded Timothy just a bit too much of the thing that had lain across him when he’d awakened to visible blackness in the middle of the night so recently. He couldn’t stand to look at some of them for too long, but also couldn’t help but feel drawn to them. They seemed—possibly—to be indicative of some actual, underlying fact of deeper reality that was troubling. He didn’t have the will to explore too much into the convoluted and complicated mythology and religion they embodied, and he dropped his explorations, finally.
He supposed he would just have to wait and see what the upcoming meeting would bring.
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