Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

The coming blue funk

Ok, so I am almost done with my Health Care V post.  It’s a honking 2k words and I need to edit the crap out of it.  I’ve actually found some false conclusions and mis-facts that I hadn’t caught the first time, but I will probably leave those in because the concepts are right, and the type of polishing I need to do will probably be part of larger project where I rewrite the whole US system. It probably doesn’t have a chance of getting published but I would like to do the kind of editing that published work gets, so you all get the 2nd draft instead, in a couple more days.

Being a full time student has changed the way I view the passage of time. My life is broken down into 8 week blocks, and I can keep alot better track of when I feel good and when I feel like crap.  I am nearing the end of pretty pleasant 3 weeks.  This Monday I just couldn’t get excited about going to work.  The day drags on, I seem to get head aches easier, and I am tired all day, but then can’t sleep when I get to bed.  The petty irritations of social interaction with strangers weighs on me.

Times like this…

are when porn seems like a great idea. Porn is a substitute but not a very good one.  The way I feel after hitting up porn because I am sad is the same I way I feel when I haven’t eaten all day and late in the night eat a bag of Dorittos.   Satiated, but still empty.

are when I wish I could go home.  I’m not sure why, but I checked out when I was around 15.  My parents did their best to make a home, but from about 15 all I could think about was leaving.  I’ve been on the run from myself every since.  It’s only been very recently I decided that when my enlistment is up I am going back to Iowa and I am going to build a real life there.

are when I wish I could still pour my soul into a six string the way I used to.

are when I wish I could be as broken on the outside as I feel on the inside and be taken home by a well meaning woman to sleep pathetically beside her. Me feeling blessed by her presence, and her by my tears.  It’s a primal feeling that I can never entirely shake.  It’s not about sex, just acceptance.  (The strength of that feeling is why I don’t get drunk, and why I don’t frequent bars, btw.)

are when I wish I could still go the community art class I took in highschool, and turn out delightful abstract nonsense on the potters wheel.

are when I wish the claims of religion had evidence, so I could believe them.

Some of these things have consequences I will not risk.  Once upon a time, these feelings made it hard for me to hold down a job, but I’ve learned to live with them.  It is rare, this early in my blue swing that I will wake up tomorrow and feel better.  Once this starts it takes about two weeks to work out.  But, it will get better.  There will be moments of dark clarity, moments of where melancholy poetry is possible, moments where, because of frailness a single kind word will carry me up to the sky.

It’s not bad to be me.  Sometimes it’s just harder than others.  I will not say there is something wrong with me because this happens to me.  I’m not damaged, just different.   Sometimes I look at sunrise and I see the glory of a new day.  Sometimes I look at sunrise and I try and find those happy hopeful thoughts, but all I can feel is the pressing blackness of another day of struggle.   Regardless of whether I see darkness or light, I’d rather be the me I am then try to be someone else.

Maybe that someone else, that perfect Christian self who didn’t feel those ways was the person I was running away from for all those years, and “home” was wherever I didn’t think I had to keep up the masquerade.

September 1, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Slice of life, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Triumph of Existentialism and Atheism

Every kid wants to be a hero. We all ran around the house with a bath towel cape at one point, thwarting our imaginary nemesis, enlisting an annoying little sibling or long suffering family dog for our trusty sidekick. At some point, we lose the towel and the spider-man underoos but for at least few the dream never dies. Some us do grow up to be everyday heroes: firemen, cops, EMTs, etc., but most of us don’t.  We go to college or get a good union job in the local factory and with time we stop thinking that we sold out. We change our definition of success until the daily grind meets it.

For me the desire to do something great and noble that I could truly be proud of never left me. I believed in a great story, written by the unerring hand of God and that God had a role for me in his unfolding drama.  God was the decider of human affairs. If I was to amount to anything in this world, it would be by the hand of God. I’ve been a very relational person my entire life, always aware of my emotions and the emotions of others. I could be carried up to the heavens with a single compliment or beaten down with a single harsh word. However, I had deep sensitivity to reality, an almost hyper-awareness of how feeling that something is true does not make it true. I poured myself into Christianity because it was the only context I had for greatness.

Adolescence didn’t cure me of these thoughts, but it did change me in two ways that weren’t compatible with Christianity. First, I became sexually aware. I thought about sex constantly and frequently while masturbating. Also, I began to struggle with occasionally despondency. God’s commands about sex and sexual fantasy are clearly withing marriage, and a Christian should be full of peace and joy, even in the midst of anguish, echoing Job’s “The Lord gives and takes away. Blessed be his name.” Relational as I way, this deeply concerned me. Love is shown in actions, sin “nails Christ to the cross again” so every time I was lusting I was hurting my friend and savior. I wanted a girlfriend and friends, and had none and few respectively. Christianity teaches that ones relationship with God is the fount from which all relationships flow, so when I was hurt, and lonely, and blue my pain was magnified by my additional failure to be totally content with God.

When high school was over, I was a full blown neurotic. The only thing I knew that I wanted to do with my life was to be great.  I had heard college was full of sex, drugs, and rock’n roll. To me, my inability to shut off my sexual desire showed my lack of self control. I knew the guilt that I would feel if I partied and slept with strangers, and out of fear of suicide in response, I went to Bible college instead.

Like so many young men away from home for the first time, the next part of my story begins with “So, I met this girl.” She was a little blond butterfly, social, friendly, and bouncy. I was so proud that she would even talk to me. At the same time, sensitive as I was, I knew she’d be hurt badly, torn apart inside. I could see it on her like a shadow.  Now in part I pursed her because she was cute, in part because she was aching. And I pursued because she was wounded in part because I wanted to help her, but in part because I hated myself. I thought I was trash, and thought when she realized what a filthy, disgusting person I was, only if she was desperate for man, only if she was broken inside, would she not leave me.

However, in the end, I broke up with her, believing her not to be a part of God’s plan for my life. I came home, and got a crappy job, followed by some random college classes. This became a pattern: work pointless jobs and fail out of college classes. I worked talentless, pointless jobs for almost nothing. I did it for two reasons. First, because I believed this was my path to greatness, from the lowly and humble to the top of the company by hard work and godly decisions making.  The other reason I believed this was because I still thought I was trash. I needed approval so badly and handled rejection so poorly that I took jobs any sane person would have turned down, because only when my peers were drug addicts, the developmentally disabled and the mentally ill did I feel I was appreciated enough in comparison.

During this time, I met the woman I am now married to. We did marry for love, but alloying that love was lot of desperation. For sex on my part and to get started having babies-for-Jesus on hers. I failed out college a last time, saying God needed me somewhere else, not that I hadn’t been proactive enough with my advisers about my needs as a student.  We were called to an inner city mission in Kansas City. The pain of previous failure would be worth it when we got to partner with God to save the city from Darkness. My daughter was born.

We went to that inner city saving church for 2 years. In many ways they were good years, but in the end, the church was a lot more interested in feeling like they were changing the world then changing it. Also the work environment I was in was filled with pornography, dirty stories, drugs, and cursing. To obey God and flee temptation, I quit my job, fully expecting God to give me a job that paid better, perhaps one SO nice, we wouldn’t have to take welfare anymore. The whole church prayed for us, but no one would help us.

Needing to hear that I had done the right thing, I called my brother, a pastor. He called me a fool and said that I was a failure as a father and husband.  I hung up the phone and sobbed like a little girl for three hours. When I could breathe again, I walked outside and sat on the porch. I looked at the clean new Cadillacs and broken beer bottles. I watched the drug dealers and the prostitutes mingle. I thought of my little girl upstairs. And the weight of it hit me. I was twenty five years old. My life was a third over and I had shat it all away.

In the words of Social Distortion “Well I’ve searched and I’ve searched/To find the perfect life/A brand new car and a brand new suit/I even got me a little wife/But wherever I have gone/I was sure to find myself there/You can run all your life/But not go anywhere.”  It was all my fault. I had done this all to myself. I was everything that Christianity said I was supposed be, possessing all the values that the Bible said I should have. I had lived in constant, slow, misery trying to find my place in God’s plan. I said out loud “American Christianity is a black hole. It’s never going to change anything. I’m going to find God on my own, and I am never trusting anyone else to take care of me or my family again. I’m never taking anyone’s word on what Truth is again, because the people that told me to obey God are sitting on their asses with good jobs and safe homes and I am sitting in fucking hole with loaded shotgun behind the door.” Three months later, the Air Force paid me for the privilege of moving all of my belongings to a prestigious a training school in Southern California.

I kept a promise to myself to truly understand scripture on my own. I read the Bible cover to cover and investigated the history of the early church.  A child could tell you it’s all just make believe. I didn’t make the cut in the 95% fail rate program, and for the first time in my life, the failure didn’t crush me because I didn’t care. I’d made my decision, I’d done my best. I took another career in the Air Force. I studied more and more about the Bible and began to study the things the Bible had argued with science. Science won.

And then I told my dear sweet wife, the one who had married me to raise sweet little Christian children with that I was atheist. It broke her heart. She would not have married me 5 years previous if I had been an atheist. I told her she could leave me, if she wanted a divorce I would give her one and she could have any portion of my income she wanted as long as I got to keep my daughter with me. She declined, and instead we began to get to know each other. And she fell in love again with the new me.  The me that didn’t think it was sin to sleep with other women, but chose her anyway.

And with time, the questions she had always had about Christianity became insurmountable to her. She progressed from Deist, to agnostic, to atheist.  For the first time in our lives, our future was what we made of it, not what our God ordained leaders said it was, not what the Bible said it should be, not what the Church said it was.  Our future was whatever we made it to be.  We worked our asses off. We got out of debt, became full time students, and began saving money. We started writing our own story.

That’s the key to atheism. I’m not a nihilist; I don’t think life has no meaning. I’m an existentialist. I think my life has the meaning I give it. For the first time in my life I am writing my own story. The things I did, the things I valued never belonged to me. Atheism has not cured me of occasionally struggling with despondency or even the rare depression I fall into. Importantly, neither did Christianity. Atheism gives me the freedom to accept occasional bouts of blue funk without feeling like a moral failure. Nor does atheism require to me to reject my emotional sensitivity and relational orientation as not manly enough. It takes away the right for others to tell me the best way to be…me.

Am I happy? Yes and no.  As I said, atheism and existentialism have not cured me of situational depression or high strungness. What is had cured is my belief that I need to be cured of my own identifying characteristics . I will make no apologies for what I am anymore, and ultimately, being content with who I am is a long way toward happiness. My whole life I wanted to do something great, something noble, something worth remembering. Now, I am. I am making something wonderful: me.

I am worth working on.  And starting from that single point, my dreams matter and are worth making real.

July 31, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Slice of life, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments