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Sunday, August 31, 2014

exit INFerview

i don't want to write this post. i'm not afraid, just hesitant to evoke concern in others (and myself). i know that those most likely to worry, are also the most likely to accept me no matter who or what i [un]become. i don't want to write this post, but because i trust my readers, and because i am in need, i will write it anyway.

there is also a small concern that i will mislead others, not from lack of understanding or out of any intent to sway their opinions at all, but simply because (and i hate to admit this)... some people have at some times looked up to me somewhat, for some reason, somehow. at least that's what i perceived. and maybe a few people told me so a few times. whatever; the point is, that lends some additional gravitas to the familiar weight of responsibility which has been at my core for as long as i can remember.

like a sneeze that can only be delayed rather than vanqueeshed, the following questions must be asked, because their answers have already changed and will continue to change me. so, please welcome once again the un-lustrious, often-mocked, yet still-so-useful AA.

~     ~     ~

"isaiah, how come you aren't attending church anymore?"

i think and feel that i don't belong there anymore. i know there are many welcoming places nearby, including the home i left behind on 18.05 of this year, as well as the place where my parents worship. my last name is known by many people at many churches, as is my mostly glowing record. i know that i could fit right in, say the right things, make the correct motions... i could even work myself into a place of service and leadership (sec. "volunteer position") where i would be relied upon by people both above and below me in the inverted pyramid of Christian ministry.

but despite my capability and wide array of options, i am possessed of several ugly, principle-based disqualifiers, all of which fit more or less into this simple description: in thought and in practice, i have been replacing and will continue to replace my Christian worldview with a secular one.

"that's impossible. what do you mean?"

i mean that in many ways, i'm not exactly a Christian.

"that's nonsensical. explain yourself."

well, here's just one example: i believe prayer is meant to change the one praying, and that even if God does have His hand in real-time events (thereby circumventing or outright breaking the laws of physics which He is said to have implemented), the discerning of which events are of His effecting and which are not, is entirely subjective and devoid of any reasonable basis for analysis.

"once more, please, for those of us who like less words rather than more."

if God is doing anything today, we can't know that He is... and every time someone says "He did this thing," it is a beliefs-based choice that they make. one could just as logically conclude that He had not done that thing.

"but isjami, you've known for years that every worldview is circular."

indeed i have; but previously on the isaiah show, i chose to enter the Christian circle, allowing the centripetal force of my upbringing and my bibliocentric passions to maintain my orbit.

"..."

ugh. i believed what i believed because my heart and mind were already on that course. an object in motion tends to stay in motion; and, an isaiah in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.



the following unbalanced forces are among the many which acted upon me:
  • horrific life-sized mistakes
    my marriage, and the wrongs i have committed against friends, and the self-ignorance which perpetuated my petty mistreatment of family members and mismanagement of relationships... the pain and the guilt which followed were devastating. i remember more than once feeling such heaviness that i sank to the floor and wept violently. i wish i could have sunk lower. i wish i could have wept more violently. my body hadn't the capacity for expressing what i felt, and it took (is taking?) many, many months to recover.

    yes, i learned things, and repented (sec. "had a wake-up call and got my act together")... but i was empty and vulnerable; therefore, the rest of the unbalanced forces influenced me even more.
     
  • intelligent, friendly non-Christians
    someday i'll have to write out my theory of how logic and intelligence work, especially with regard to worldviews and their circularity. for now i'll just have to summarize: everyone gets to choose what they believe about the hows and whys of life. there are multiple choices, all of which are more or less logical.

    many Christians will balk at this, and many atheists as well; in fact, anyone who believes what they believe "because they just know" will surely take serious umbrage. but if they study epistemology and philosophy and history and the data present in their very own experiences, they will see the truth of it. there are multiple ways of answering "the big questions" of life, and several of them make perfect logical sense.

    (for funsies, and to help make my point, and to prepare myself and my readers for some future posts concerning the nature of existence, i'll give two examples of things that no worldview has yet been able to answer in a logical, comprehensive manner: 1) what caused the first thing to exist? 2) what ultimately governs human choices?)

    so: as i spread my wings and began forming more and deeper friendships with non-believers (sec. "people who aren't Christian"), i was exposed to these other worldviews. and it made me wonder, "if i have only ever spent my energies on refining my Christian worldview, then what would happen if i tried to build for myself a highly customized secular worldview?"

    the answer to that question is a large part of who i am now, and who i am becoming.

    to be extra clear: i'm not incorporating the beliefs of others into my own, willy-nilly... instead i'm using the realization that there are other logically sound worldviews, as fuel for critiquing the way i form my own.

    this inevitably results in deconstruction, and is not dissimilar to what happened at VUSC circa 2005: i discarded the simplistic, outdated, insufficient Christian beliefs with which i was raised, for more sophisticated ones which i built myself using the tools given to me by my college experience (especially my professors, especially² Rybarczyk). that last parenthetical is quite ironic, because i consider Rybarczyk to be the smartest Christian i know, with a beautifully constructed worldview that's consistent with much of my interpretation of the Bible. his intelligence and wisdom gave me hope that one could come up with a genuine, credible faith which favored neither the heart nor the mind, but invited collaboration between the two (perichoresis?).
     
  • unanswered questions
    these have been my constant companion, firmly but gently challenging me in every chapter. the differences now: 1) my mentors cannot satisfactorily answer them, and 2) i'm old enough and experienced enough to answer them myself, with confidence. this gives me a terrible freedom: i no longer depend on others to tell me why and what and how. it is good because i am independent; i can move forward without delay. i can choose my destinations and arrive there without having to risk anything via blind trust in another. it is also terrible, because it is taking me down a road which has no other travelers.

    this has never been true before, and it exacerbates the problem in the next bullet point:
     
  • being alone
    this was becoming true as early as 2012, when for many reasons i started disconnecting from almost everyone who mattered most to me. in some cases i was disconnected; in others i myself disconnected. that distinction matters less than the event itself. being alone in my beliefs and being unable to relate on deep levels with others left me drifting, and of course, a drifting vessel is susceptible to whatever gale or current it encounters.
     
  • the realization that most of the Christian life, is lived based on feelings
    the question is not whether a life is based on feelings, but rather, on which feelings is it based? every Christian i know will argue me on this point, but i believe my reasoning sound.

    - Christians are taught to believe what they are taught, even when they feel it isn't true. succeeding at this eventually gives them good feelings.

    - Christians are taught to feel bad about doing wrong and good about doing right. even when they don't feel those things, they are still rewarded by their community, provided they aren't being exceptionally disruptive or intentionally malicious. those rewards feel good. it feels good to be supported, encouraged, forgiven, etc... and sometimes it even feels good to be rebuked (sec. "slapped upside the head by someone who cares about you enough to do so")! and of course, it feels exceedingly good to go through periods of unbelief (which are really just periods of emotional disconnection from their faith), only to have those good feelings (which Christians are taught to attribute to God) eventually return.

    and look! a great segue to the next one:

    - Christians are taught to attribute certain good feelings (about churchy things, for example) to God. this means that when they 'worship' (sec. "sing songs and participate in other traditions that evoke emotions"), they will interpret good feelings as spiritual experiences, a mental act which of course elevates those feelings to the valued level, and makes them immune to the "don't base your beliefs on feelings" rule.

    the truth is that every Christian has a limit to the amount of time and energy they can spend investing in their faith without receiving an emotional payoff... and when Christian Joe reaches that point, he will lose his faith (sec. "realize that Christianity just isn't for him"). the emotional payoff doesn't even have to be a pleasant experience! speaking of which:

    i believe it accidentally brilliant that even the much-lamented dark night of the soul (sec. "emotional funk"), which has stricken many a Christian many a time (enough that whole books have been written about it), is itself an intense emotional experience which the Christian is taught to value as a significant spiritual event.

    in fact, this rule is an integral part of the Christian life, across the board! Christians are taught to mistake feelings as faith. this can potentially include a great range of emotions, both pleasant and painful. if a Christian feels good while singing to God, this must be a result of God's particular presence that day. if a Christian feels bad while singing to God, this must be a result of God's prompting in their lives (sec. "a heavy conscience, part of the human instinct, which alerts one to the fact that something is off").

    Christians are of course open to purely logical, reasonable arguments which would lead them to act in accordance with (or stop acting out of accordance with!) the tenets of their religion... but who ever heard of a Christian who had an emotionless life-changing experience?!

    "but isaiah, the emotions came as a result of the life change!"

    the ones that came as a result of the life change did, yes. but the ones that prompted the life-change in the first place did not.

you get the picture. i hope. moving on now.

~     ~     ~

one of the things that makes Christianity so beautiful, is that almost everything in life can be explained by it, in a way that maintains internal consistency. this is what a scientist wants out of his own personal philosophy: internal consistency. if something feels right to a logically-minded person, and it cannot be disproven, he will devote himself to it for life.

thing is (and this is the ultimate irony), my realization of this is exactly what gave me the freedom to begin deconstructing my beliefs again. when i found that analyzing Christianity from the outside yielded a high degree of integrity, i said to myself, "hey... i just looked at Christianity from the outside. i didn't even realize i was capable of stepping outside of it! ...i wonder what it would look like if i tweaked a few things..."

so, i am doing some tweaking. one of the reasons that i'm no longer attending church, is that now that i'm no longer voluntarily entering that worldview's circularity, i no longer feel obligated to seek an emotional payoff. not that i was receiving much of one anyway, after 2012/2013... but now there's absolutely none.

and check this out: even if i stepped in again and experienced strong emotions, i would know that i myself was responsible for them. this makes those feelings manufactured, by my standards. the Christian church experience is designed (under the hood, and probably not intentionally) to encourage the seeking of emotional payoff, and to reward those who seek such.

that feels contrived to me.

when i attend, i feel like i'm watching an episode of Supernatural. the show generally takes the perspective of Sam & Dean, whose theology is... not super in-line with conventional interpretations of the Bible. this perspective shows itself clearly even in scenes where Sam & Dean are not present. if the episode begins with the camera panning across a church service, the viewer gets the impression that he/she is in some kind of cultural museum, or else perhaps watching some newly discovered people-group during one of their mysterious rituals. and yet, there's also the feeling that the participants (and their traditions) are parochial. provincial. backward.

the reason Christianity is often viewed in this light, is because Christians are taught to believe, before they are taught to think. the result is that many end up believing without thinking. this goes unnoticed by most. for those who continue believing without thinking: no one sees anything wrong with this, because all they care about is the belief itself. for those who eventually give up believing because they learn how to think... well, they can either push the questions until they reach the point where their mentors can no longer answer, or else they can give up questioning and resort to 'just believing.'

if they do continue pushing, then they eventually must make decisions and answer questions on their own. or, perhaps, find non-Christian mentors, and begin learning something entirely new. either way, the continued asking of questions will eventually reveal both the circularity and the degree of internal consistency of a worldview.



at that point of revelation, decisions must be made. i am making mine.
  • if tomorrow i became responsible for a child of my own, i would teach it these things in this chronological order: 1) what to do and not do. 2) why to do and not do those things. 3) how to decide what to believe.

    notice the lack of "what to believe."
  • i will carefully, responsibly choose how to believe, rather than (as i have in the past) simply choosing whether and why to do so.
  • i will continue to uphold those principles espoused by Christianity which, when followed, have yielded positive results. though my standard for determining the positivity or negativity of a result is changing, i suspect it doesn't have far to go before settling again.
  • i will encourage others to believe intelligently as well.


i usually put disclaimers at the beginnings of posts. this one belongs at the end: much of the emotional fuel for this post came from painful, disappointing experiences. although i believe this fact in and of itself is not sufficient reason to second-guess the post's content, i should point it out to those of my readers who are devoted to Christ, in case they desire a convenient way to mitigate the acidic queasiness that can result from reading about the transformation of a friend's faith from clearly Christian to... something else.

this morning, i attended church for purely selfish reasons. i knew it would make my parents happy to see me there, since they've been inviting me for weeks, but the real reason i went was because i'm lonely. it felt good to be welcomed (as first-time visitors almost always are, at a church). i also went because i miss the music, and the singing, and the feelings that come to me when i harmonize with others. it's clear to me that i will have to accelerate my plans for learning guitar. this will give me new opportunities to connect with people emotionally. Fresno might be a craphole, but there are good musicians here whose musical commitments are not to any religious organization. maybe i should go find them.

i hope for the sake of the few active friendships i now retain, that i will succeed in finding a new community in which i feel like i fit... because, even as feelings of freedom from my old faith flood through me, i sense other chains slithering close, and i would not want anyone whose life brushes against mine to feel that chill, or taste the rust in the air.

i still care about others. i just don't see that that makes much difference... not that that's going to stop me, but it certainly makes my life goals different from what they were a few years ago. i wish i could say that loving people made some kind of significant difference in their life. but i don't see it. i'll keep doing it, but not with the same passion and purpose i had before. i'll still enjoy it, but not because i feel i'm serving a higher power, and not with the delusion that my work matters long-term.

my most immediate new goal is to be healthy... so, as i've said before, i cannot remain here much longer if at all, philosophically or religiously or geographically or socially. i just won't.

good.

huh... i came to Starbucks feeling like blogging, but having no idea what i'd write. and now 2,856 words later, i still haven't even had a sip of coffee. #imweird

Sunday, August 24, 2014

window light

today i felt a familiar light on my skin, as i watched it shade and illuminate yours. certain movements and features seemed as if an artist had spent decades shaping th--- oh. i guess that's actually the case.

i was both disappointed and pleasantly surprised to experience gentle waves of reminiscence lapping at my ankles, instead of a tsunami. this tells me again (though i don't yet fully believe it) that time, while it doesn't necessarily heal all wounds, is very capable of covering them in callouses. i'm sure that these could be scraped away with the right tools, and that re-exposing myself to you would have effects similar to those i experienced when things were different. but this is my choice, and i'll stick with it for now.

the phrase about letting something go if you love it, isn't just about testing to see whether it returns. it's also about letting it be healthy. letting go is healthy... especially if there is something else of which to take hold.

there isn't, currently. but perhaps in the future.

i desperately hope that at the end of this journey, during which i have left most of me far behind, i will be me again. the me who didn't need anyone except himself. i hate needing people; i hate needing anything inaccessible. there are new things about me that work very well for me; but, i hate the core of me. i hate that these changes are such a mixed bag, and i hate that i will never know how things would have been different if not for you.



also: your hair looked really nice. new conditioner?

Friday, August 15, 2014

precious

i've lost several close friends in my lifetime, most of them in the past three years, and all of them in the past eight. every loss hurt me, and it would be very difficult to compare one loss to another. (complex things like relationships are not often quantifiable.) but, i am beginning to realize which loss damaged me the most.

lately i've been thinking a lot about who i used to be. there are so many things about my old self that i desperately need right now, but which will not return home no matter how i cry out for them, no matter where i search. so, this conclusion has been forming slowly but surely: that my current self would be considered a complete and miserable failure by the old me's standards...

...except that tonight, i found something old that has proven continuous, something unbroken. it's rusty and dusty perhaps, but it never left, and i feel i should grant it some blogful recognition for that.

it is supposed to be called determination.

others have called it stubbornness, hard-headed-ness, obsession, compulsiveness, and myriad other negatively connotated terms. i call it not giving up on close friends. i call it leaving the light on, for people i have come to truly trust. i call it Boromir syndrome. i call it keeping my phone un-muted at night.

every time i consider closing Viber, which is about four or five times a week recently, a tiny voice-- no. it's not even a voice. it's like a mirror. every time i think about giving up, i look me in the eye, and there's this perfectly silent moment in my head. it lasts up to a minute. and then i decide to leave the app open.



the first couple times it rang without warning, i thought, "oh good, i'm glad i decided to keep it open." but tonight, after i hung up, i had a new thought, "i'm glad i left it open, because that's who the fuck i am." it wasn't just that my decision proved to be a useful one; it's that i continue to make the same decision, regardless of how bleak things appear to be.

i leave the light on. that's who i am. and i like being me, not only when things turn out happily for me, but when i realize that i haven't entirely changed. true, i have decided to stop putting effort into certain relationships; but that is because the other person was only making things worse. i need only a faint glimmer in order to maintain hope. discouragement and i don't mix very well, and that's saying something after all i've been through.

in some few, small ways, i like who i am, and who i have been. and who i'll continue to be, even if it ruins me, even if i breathe my last with a death grip on what few treasures remain to me.

Monday, August 04, 2014

my evergreen



pine
pīn/
verb
gerund or present participle: pining
  1. suffer a mental and physical decline, especially because of a broken heart.
    "she thinks I am pining away from love"
    • miss and long for the return of.
      "I was pining for my girlfriend"





pine

2  [pahyn] 
verb (used without object), pined, pin·ing.
1.
to yearn deeply; suffer with longing; long painfully (often followed by for): to pine for one's home and family.
2.
to fail gradually in health or vitality from grief, regret, or longing (often followed by away  ): Separated by their families, the lovers pined away.





pine

 verb
: to become thin and weak because of sadness or loss
1
:  to lose vigor, health, or flesh (as through grief)
2
:  to yearn intensely and persistently especially for something unattainable

Friday, August 01, 2014

change is constant



it occurs to me that some of my friends might be or would be worried about me, because of my recent changes. i don't know if 'aberrant' is too strong a word to describe my behavior of late, but that's the kind of semantic precision that only i need worry about. lemme get that for you.

i want to reassure everyone who cares, that i am intact... and that i will recover from this current hell, and probably all hells after that. will there be scars? yes. missing limbs? perhaps even that. but experience well-processed covers a multitude of prostheses. (you may quote me on that if you wish, both in and out of context.)

as long as i have help from friends who can listen and speak wisely, i will have opportunities to become myself. if the 28-year-old me seems 7 years removed (or more) from the 24-year-old me, well, that's real world math for you. but seriously, it's not a horrible thing that i am changing. many would say that stasis would warrant far greater alarm. i suspect you are among those many.



it's bad luck to predict what i'll blog about next, but i'm pretty set on this one (at least somewhere in the next few): i now have both the need and the resources to begin describing what it is to be in love. this may seem #meh to you, but for me it's an astounding milestone, the peak of which i never thought i would reach. but life has a way of tossing you around, like the way a tornado would, for example... and sometimes you end up in places to which you could never have gotten by any other way.

i'm certainly one of those, the type that refuses to learn until he is battered and bruised within an inch of his inward life. fortunately i do learn, and it's usually super-apurpose, so i get plenty of mileage out of these tornadoes. ha... little do they know i'm not just surviving their torture, but actually hitchhiking.

i hate that i am going through this. i hate the constant pain and struggle to focus, the hauntings and flashbacks that i cannot control, and the lack of motivation toward anything but the past. it's wreaking fucking havoc on my sanity. but i'm not quite dead yet, and not all pain is useless.