Saturday, September 02, 2006
As a teenager in church we're taught that God has a wonderful plan, and that it includes all the desires of our hearts, with a large order of fries, and that He will just lead us into it, if only we will refrain from smoking and having sex.
Naturally, with the death of so many other ideas, it was only a matter of time before this one hit the chopping block, and I really did want to put it off, because it's such a nice thought. Is it wishful thinking? Is it one more tactic for managing the angst of a youth culture with a grainy future?
Sometimes I wonder if just about all religious terms actually describe scientific laws or common sense principles. They just put a spiritual twist on it, so we don't have to go through the grief of learning how it actually works. "Jesus said it so it must be true," or "It's in the bible so just do it."
Like maybe there's no such thing as "calling," just a natural convergence of temperament, talent, and interest? Sometimes it's hard for us to figure out where that convergence lies, so we want God to call us to it, or tell us where it is.
But maybe it's just a construct. In that case, what is the implication for my life? In what ways to I need to change my approach to life? The reason I always liked the divine plan idea is because I never could decide what I wanted, so I was glad that someone would decide for me. I just didn't have faith in myself to choose my own path.... I was certain that once I chose, I would want something else. And I still feel the same way? Maybe I actually have more choice in the matter than I thought I did, but the fact is that I don't want that choice. It's too hard to make.
The christians always say, "if you can do it yourself, your dream's not big enough" and sometimes I wondered if they were just setting us up for disappointment. And when you've been trained to always expect such earth-shattering greatness from your life..... I think a lot of those kids I grew up with have abandoned that ideal, but they don't talk about it, or maybe even think about. At some point, they just settled for a bungalow on 2nd street and a mediocre marriage, maybe even a couple of kids. Some people would say that raising kids is earth-shattering, and I would tend to agree, but you know that the person who had those kids was planning to.... oh, I don't know, reclaim the sahara desert and end starvation in africa, and in that person's mind, they have settled. Have they? Or did they have an epiphany, in which they realized that we were encouraged to focus on the wrong things? Either way, they have given up on the paradigm handed to them, and adopted one of their own....
I don't know. it's first thing in the morning, and I woke up wondering. Wondering about my future, if God had it all planned out, and it was just a question of following the next clue, or if it's all me.... if I just have to decide what I want and make decisions accordingly, and stop asking myself if it's part of God's plan. Part of me wants to move to africa and raise little brown babies and resolve the energy crisis, but then part of me wants to move into a bus and live a minimalist existence, writing to support my travelling habit and my two hungry dogs. Part of me wants to marry a guy with a solid job so I don't have to work, and move into a bungalow near the park, and take tai-chi and kung-fu, and feng-shui my house and build solar fountains out of copper tubing.
I can't very well do it all, now, can I? And quite frankly, things have to fall into place that I can't control, in order for any of these to be the path I pursue. Things like..... oh.... men, just for starters.
I think that the root of it all is that I don't feel qualified to choose my course, so I really want to believe that God's got it all sorted out, but now I feel doubtful. That's really the gist of it. And I'm not sure how stop doubting, or find out if my doubt is justified.
I heard somewhere that in buddhism you try not to focus on the past or the future, because that way you only get lost. you should focus on the present instead. That's kind of what I've been feeling lately, that I just want to be totally present in my life today. I don't want to sleep through my life, thinking I'll just one day wake up in God's plan. If He has one.
You see? This is why I don't normally post in the morning.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Also, it's weird to look at all the old people at a viewing service, knowing that it won't be long before they're dead too. How do they feel about that? They must go to a funeral every week, where people their own age are passing on.... do they feel the countdown? Are the walls closing in?
But then again, if you think about it, I could be dead before they are.
And death is such a strange thing to begin with. So unnatural and it smells funny too. It's the black hole from which no-one can send a message saying "this is what it's like." Sometimes people who are living have dreams or visions in which this happens, but one could argue that these come from the subconscious attempting to console itself, or something like that, and sometimes houses seem like they're haunted by dead people who are still around.
Or maybe it's like "The Others" where those who have died are living in the same places as us, but in different dimensions, and when the dimensions blur and they catch sight of us, they refer to us as ghosts, and think their homes are haunted. But strangely enough, when they wake up in these dimensions after dying in ours, they gradually realize that they aren't truly sick, or the hole in their head isn't causing them pain, or maybe they're just imagining it, and they wonder about us, and what our dimension is like, and when they occasionally run into us, they're frightened and look for all sorts of ways to ask us questions or make us go away.
Dead people in coffins always look like manequins, and it's creepy to think that you're in the same room as a corpse, especially if you see a fly buzzing around, and you realize that it's not a manequin, it's a corpse, and it's slowly rotting, and eventually it will go through all the disgusting phases a corpse goes through, and then it will be soil, and trees will grow there, and more things will die, and then more things grow.
And dead people in coffins bear a shadowy resemblance to people you once knew, but it's in looking into a coffin that it really becomes clear to me the difference between a person and the body they live in, and how separate they really are. Just like that one can leave the other, and that body was never the person you loved. It was only a vehicle, and now it's broken down on the side of the road and somebody special is out there somewhere looking for a ride.
I read about certain funerals, I think in ireland, where coffins would be propped up in a room, so the dead person would be standing up, and the humans would proceed to throw a big party, and get really drunk, and just have a grand time with loud music and stories and dancing, and it would be a celebration. This person you love abandoning that old Sprint for a Porche, one you couldn't see, but you know it must be silver, and it drives on clouds and it's fueled by wind, and it sounds like birds and trees and thunderstorms.
Sometimes I look at people crying at funerals, and I want to cry too, but only because it hurts me to see them so sad. One day someone close to me will die, and I'll feel their absence in a way that tears me apart, and then someone else will feel terrible for my loss without feeling loss themselves. We all trade places eventually. The living become the dead, and the dead the living, the happy the sad and vice versa.
I've started reading "through painted deserts" by Donald Miller. There's one paragraph that came to mind today, on the way to the viewing. Donald crushes an ant beneath his shoe and says, "all your questions are answered." I almost laughed when I thought of it.
Tomorrow I am a pallbearer at my grandfather's funeral. Weird.
Monday, August 28, 2006
an exercise in redundancy
This post has triggered me a little bit, and if you go read it, and you know me at all, you will immediately understand why.
What we have, almost constantly, is a "discussion" (sometimes referred to as arguments) between the theologically upstanding christian and someone else. In this case, it's athiests, but it might as well be..... well.... me. Person X (x for christian, aren't I clever?) says to person.... P..... "I am correct in my determination of absolute truth." Person P says, "possibly, but not necessarily." X proceeds to demonstrate from the bible all the ways in which he is right. P doesn't accept the bible as absolute truth, which means that X is spitting in the wind and P is confirming his initial impression that X is incapable of thinking outside his box. X claims that P is biased. P says that X is biased. X responds that no one can be unbiased. P says, "exactly."
What it all boils down to is that X believes something, and P believes something different, and X telling P that X knows the absolute truth so P must be wrong is.... well..... it's pointless.
I have yet to be evangelized by an atheist. None have even tried. But the moment someone walks into my life and says, "you need to believe what I'm now telling you is true" I assume that that person is exactly the sort of person I should disregard.
My god used to be that small. So small that it needed me to help it convince people of its supremacy. so small that it could only function within my paradigm. I used to live the Neverland religion, where if someone stated "I do not believe in fairies" I would frantically start clapping.
I think atheists are the bravest people. They march forward alone into a universe with only their finite (though impressive) intellect to guide the way. I know what it's like to be raised in a christian atmosphere so complete that you truly believe that a person who doesn't believe in God is incapable of believing in goodness, or truth, or having any kind of morality. That dirty pile of propaganda is clearly circulating quite well through christian circles. I believe strongly in God and the supernatural, but if I decided right now that God is dead and I have no spirit, my sense of right and wrong, morality and compassion would not instantly drain from my consciousness.
I mean.... who came up with that?
And who decided that it was a good thing to do to try to defend the bible from within itself? That is only logical to a person who believes the bible to be the inerrant word of God, which means that christians might as well just evangelize each other, which I'm sorry to say is exactly the sort of "bless me" club that many churches have become.
I have an aunt who disagrees with me on some things, and agrees with me on others. She thinks she's right about some stuff and I can't connect with it. But she doesn't tell me that I have to change. She just smiles and says that she thinks I'll be okay. That is a woman with a big God. A God so big He can get through to me, without her performing the exercise in redundancy that is throwing around bible verses where bible verses hold no authority.
I mean, odds are, if you were born into a muslim family, you would be a muslim. Same goes for Taoism, Buddhism, Scientology, Mormonism, you name it. Me, I was born into a christian family. I was taught to have christian values and to say the magical words that would make me go to heaven, and I went to a christian bible school and learned christian theology and..... that's great. Christianity's done well for me.
But what if I put all that aside for a while. What if I pretend that I'm a clean slate? What if I start with the thing that burns inside me, the belief in God and the desire to understand, and then I learn everything I can and go where the search leads me. Will it lead me to christianity? Is God big enough to lead me to truth without your guidance?
What if God leads me to truth, but it's not Christianity?
What if God leads me to Christianity, but not your version?
What if God only speaks Chinese?
What if God is silent?
Sunday, August 27, 2006
The space in between
I'm supposed to be home right now, but I'm in my stepdad's office. This is because on friday night, my grandfather died, and it makes no sense to go home right before the funeral.
My grandpa is currently the proud owner of at least a few answers to questions that have been burning in brain, and I feel a tinge of jealousy, and even a touch of annoyance. You see, we haven't been close in years. All my memories of him are from my childhood, and he's been distant the rest of the time, sick for the last while. I said my goodbye on my last visit, and quite frankly I'm surprised he lasted this long.
Grandpa was a cop, with a big round bump on his forehead, his eyebrows permanently raised, and always with coarse stubble on his cheeks. Before he got sick, he wanted to get married to the lady with the bad reputation, which all his children opposed and most of his grandchildren were indifferent to. Over the last few years, I think, he distanced himself from all of us, but he didn't need to.
I hope he knows that I love him, even though he picked an inconvenient day to die, and that everyone else also loves him, even though they told him what to do and treated him like a child, and I hope that whatever the afterlife holds is to his liking. I hope that it's just how he always hoped. I hope he doesn't take it personally that I don't feel sad, and if he returns to this life I hope he gets to come as a spoiled bichon frise, so he can be excited and affectionate and pretty.
So my holiday is over but not really, and I've moved my campsite to my parent's backyard, and every morning abu escapes and stands beside my car waiting expectantly to go home. Tomorrow I will call my workplace and face the wrath of my employers, possibly, and possibly understanding will answer the phone. It's impossible to predict.
I will, in the next couple days, attempt to articulate some of the stuff that entered my head this week, whilst returning to the bosom of the forest I love so dearly. I think I'm very close to achieving some degree of clarity, though the circumstances of late make it hard to concentrate.