Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Man Without A Nation

"To see through it all means to see nothing."

"I believe in God, but I have no use for organized religion."

Ideologically speaking, I exist in a border-less mesh of notions that I find interesting, but cannot, at this time, commit to.

Those quotes above, they are meaningful to me, and are rough paraphrases done from memory; as I have not the inclination to look them up and do the correct attribution for this post. This post that is a leaf in a churning infinite firestorm of crap, which we also call the Internet.

The first quote is CS Lewis, and he is saying that if you are eternally cynical because you see through it all, then you are really seeing nothing. To be able to see through it all, you must have a vantage point from which to do that. But if you see through it "all," then this vantage point doesn't exist, as it is necessarily included in the all.

I tend towards cynicism, so I must remind myself of this principle, in an effort to keep myself honest.

The second quote is probably some type of bastardization of Stephen King, but it is also just a common refrain in modernity. I used to despise it with all my heart, mind and soul (good Christian that I was)--now I find myself gravitating towards it.

I am politically, religiously and socially adrift, and have been, for quite some time now. The idea of conclusion, of picking a perspective and sticking to it, seems beyond impossible. But I was always so certain. Frequently wrong, never in doubt, as the saying goes.

My ideological biography:

--Handed American Christianity by my mother via local church congregation, circa age 5.

--Limped along, wanted to please God, but was torn because also wanted to do the things that I wanted to do, which seemed to be frequently opposed to the behavioral expectations I was given.

--Teenage years, apolitical, culturally committed Christian.

--17--had done enough things to make me feel guilty enough to wash those sins away in the baptismal waters.

--18--acquired liberal girlfriend who made me Question It All. Caused epic, 18 month or so slide into serious faux-militant leftism, which included illegally posting anti-consumerist political cartoons around my community college campus to "wake the sheep-le up," a subscription to AdBusters magazine (including a straight monetary donation to their mission), and attendance of a meeting of fairly serious political anarchists, which included a very halfhearted protest march that must have petered out after three blocks, when half of the protestants, which is to say about six, dissolved into the crowd.

--But then she dumped me, which precipitated a wild swing in the opposite direction, which led to me doubling down on Christianity, and, eventually, political conservatism. I got REALLY into it. (My talk radio and my Fox News, thy strengthened me. I bought Ann Coulter books. I willingly listened to Bill O'Reilly, and even looked directly into his face on a regular basis. I made sure to find black and gay people who agreed with my political opinions. I attended a Christian straight-marriage rally with my parents. So yeah, it got dark.

--At some point in the year or two after I completed my BA, I got tired of always being contentious, people hating me at parties, etc, and cooled my political heels a bit. Theology became the thing that gunned my ideological engine, and so I plunged myself into the slightly arduous task of divining, to a certainty, the will and mind of God.

--This led to me becoming an "elder" (at the age of 25) in my church, learning well the path of the righteous . . . way of appearing and holding yourself in public, online, on your blog, at your prayer meetings, etc.

--7ish years later, a Very Messy Exit (VMS) from my lifelong church body. But my political/religious allegiances were already faltering (thank you John Updike, thank you David Dark, thank you Robert Capon, thank you, I think, Jesus?). But the VMS definitely expedited my process into the ideological wilderness.

--3ish years hence, today, the present--a man without a nation. I believe in Jesus, I hate his people. I laugh at the idea of voting (which is equal parts cynicism and basic rational math, thank you Freakonomics). I hate Republicans, I hate Democrats, I hate ideologues, I hate teams (teams being things that preclude thought, "You're on my team, I agree with you," etc). I don't have a team, I don't have a home, I don't have an easily identifiable group of people to congregate in easy, like-minded fashion. I hate that I am cynical--I look at the world and wonder how can I not be? I look at my personal religion and see how much it has changed and evolved, and I wonder, with how much it has changed, will I eventually just drop it altogether? What do I want my children to believe? What do I want to give them? What do I want them to figure out for themselves? What is the responsible thing to do? What do I owe them?

What drives away the emptiness, that empty feeling? I used to call it a God Shaped Hole, that resided in every human, that only He could fill. But after 30 some-odd years of living in the cognitive dissonance of worshiping the thing that fulfills, and not finding it ultimately satisfying, I have tentatively embraced the idea that maybe the problem is not me, my commitment, or my performance. Maybe there is something wrong with the proposition--maybe human fulfillment, by any means, is a mirage.

But that empty feeling. If there is no point, if there is nothing to fight for, then there is nothing. There is only the passage of time, which is meaningless by itself. My soul, and I insist we all have one, has been infused with a notion of transcendence. God, whatever/whoever it is, is there; that is the one metaphysical thing I am sure of. At least for now.

But what am I fighting for? Who is on my team? What am I supposed to do? Is there a hell, can we rise above our human nature, or only short-circuit it for periods of time through shame, guilt, social mores and sheer human grit?

Do we tax the rich to support the poor, thus enabling them, or do we give them tough love? Do I have the capacity to even know what the right answer is, or do I just ride the prevailing ideological winds because, in the end, there is no right answer, there is only what humans happen to be doing right now?

I'm glad I've been able to provide some closure to these questions. I would write more, but my wife says I have to get to the post office before it closes, so I have to go.

1 comment:

Thom E. G. said...

I get a lot of crap for not being patriotic. I have never voted, not because I think it would be pointless, but because I dont think the supposed "civic duty" is my right. Maybe we are supposed to try to bring about changes to our fallen society one proposed leader, law, or tax cut at a time, but for me, while thankful for the place i can live, work, and enjoy all the perks, passive participation is it. I don't feel any particular citizenship, nor belonging to any specific grouping of people. Christian is too blurred, denominations/specific churches are too focused, America is faught for and built by the more inspired toward earth-bound profit, progress, or purpose, but here I am, willing to consume a piece or portion of each without taking ownership. I recognise this is a fruitless position, but I can't help but feel it was personal growth, and I think, Jesus that brought me here, even if it is starting to feel like a form of Limbo. For now I am happy simply taking ownership in the roles I've been given in the lives of others: Husband, father, son, brother, cousin, friend, employee... But there is a point in which failing to participate in the social illusions becomes too easy of an excuse, a place of comfort that is no doubt an oasis of mere mirage by it's own right. You ever think maybe folks like us should participate in spite of the illusory nature of things? Perhaps even BECAUSE there is so much bullcrap, that is reason enough for those who find themselves outside of it to gather their mind and spirit into a ball of courage to jump back in, with grace, patience, and passion a toward wisdom once shrouded by cynicism - to endeavor to interfere in such a system, with love. Maybe out of faithfulness, we unplugged from a corrupted signal because we couldn't bear it any longer... But maybe a more brutal faithfulness would see us plug back in?

When the biggest challenge I face in life is my commute, it's probably time to venture back into the wilderness of attempted organised human cooperation toward something bigger than my day-to-day. Maybe enough moral laziness, maybe it is time to violate the prime directive.

I wrote this on a train at 5 am, forgive me.