Of the very few that can remember Selwin Budge, not one could truthfully say that he was not an ardent believer; the trait that one could, accurately fault the strange little man, was that he was insular and fearfully, indecisive. Unlike the case with most people, who acquire their culture and belief system by the happenstance of birth, Selwin’s birth parents were completely unknown; he was abandoned, as a newborn, wrapped in a soiled red blanket, and deposited, under cover of night, at the employee’s entrance, of the local “Dunkin Donuts.”
Selwin, by good fortune, was discovered and taken in by a middle-aged, alcoholic woman, who had never married nor had children. The nurturing woman thereupon discovered purpose in her previously empty life, gave up alcohol, and cared for the abandoned child until her untimely death, at the time of Selwin’s 15Th birthday. She had been able, through the influence of her second cousin, a City Councilman, and later, a Judge, sitting in the Family Court, to obtain a Birth Certificate, for the abandoned infant, giving him, her late father’s, name, “Selwin Budge.” Her father, who had been a Protestant Minister, of some obscure denomination, in Peoria, Illinois, had died in his early 50’s, of cirrhosis of the liver. Hannah his estranged, only child, was not a follower of any religion but did keep, as mementos, his old Bible and some religious songbooks, bequeathed to her.
The abandoned child, was, thereafter, properly cared for by her, and attended primary school. Regrettably, his unusual appearance, (spectacled, cross-eyed, tiny and heavily freckled) apparently, was an impediment to any close friendships and caused him to be isolated, and from time to time, the victim of cruel pranks. His unhappy experience at school, led to his understandable, disinterest in socializing, and by default, to a curiosity and an interest, in the religious books, inherited by Hannah, his foster mother, and stored away, gathering dust, in the large clothes closet.
About the time of the early stages of Selwin’s learning to read, he began to question Hannah about the strangely worded religious books, but she was unable to answer even the simplest of his questions. However, it so happened, that a member of the Watchtower Society, was employed, as a Clerk, at the local grocery, and on a constant basis, seemed to be publically, proclaiming his religious faith. So, the eight-year old, Selwin, one day, asked him about the obscure verbiage in the religious books. The man was, initially, overjoyed to note that Selwin was interested in the subject, but, after some thought, stated, as follows, “You are too young to read the holy word, for now, just remember these words:” Believe in me (God) and ye shall be saved.”
Selwin was more puzzled than ever but was only too familiar, with the concept of “being saved,” from Hannah’s past relation to him, of his being found and saved by her, at the doorstep of a public business. In his nuanced set of preconceptions, “being saved” had personal, empirically specific and existential meaning, knowing, only too well, that he, a newborn, otherwise, would certainly, have died at the entrance to coffee shop. From that point on, and for the remainder of his life, Selwin ardently believed, that to be given the opportunity to live, one had to believe in the Deity.
As he grew older and progressed at school, the odd-looking and unpopular, Selwin, spent a great deal of his after school time at the local library. It was there, with the assistance of reference books, particularly the Encyclopedia Britannica, in researching the topics, “god” and “belief,” he discovered to his amazement and utter confusion, that there existed, in fact, many uncountable, modes of belief, each giving obeisance to a great number of differently envisioned Deities.
Lacking an authoritative foster mother or trusted and reliable social contemporaries, with whom he might share his concerns, he, thereupon embarked on a lifetime of perseveration, on the vital existential requirement to be “saved,” as he knew it, by the instructed, belief in god; but vastly, complicated by the many nuanced perceptions of the Deity and the numbers of different and exotic ways, to demonstrate that belief. Little Selwin Budge was, at all times in his lonely existence, constitutionally aware, from his own limited life experience, that to be saved is to be found, and fortuitously, given life. What was he to do? Which god, and how?
Selwin usefully remembered, the words of the past admonition of his, now deceased, foster mother, “Do the best you can.” He resolved that he would, for safety, elect to follow the practices of four great (“popular”) religions, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam, and thereby permanently preserve, the future continuance of his fortuitous status, as having been saved.
As an adult, Selwin drove a taxi for a living, which afforded him the opportunity to observe the religious prayer rituals of such selected, four faiths: Sunday services and Communion (Christian), prayer, morning, afternoon and evening, and on Saturday (Judaism), chanting on holy days, gift giving, meditation and Yoga (Buddhism) and devotional prayers five times per day (Muslim). If Selwin was completely exhausted, considering the logistics and performance of all of the foregoing religious observances, added, of course, to his job, as a New York City cab driver, he nevertheless enjoyed the assurance of security in his continued, existence, to a degree, perhaps, no other human had ever experienced.
During the past week, the happy, overworked and secure, Selwin Budge, was suddenly and instantly, killed, by a flowerpot full of red geraniums, which fell from the thirteenth floor of an old apartment house, situated, just across the street from the Dunkin Donuts, of his rescue.