Hello Again. Hello.
"May you live in interesting times"
--An apocryphal curse
Hi. How are you?
Crazy year right? Ha ha.
Or has it been a year and a half now? Or five years? Longer?
We’re in a rough spot as a nation, right now. It seems the whole world is in perilous times.
And sure, I know that’s both a relative statement and a long-standing one. I’ve been reading Seneca lately and he, the lovable curmudgeon that he is, complains about how the world is falling to pieces and that was 2,000 years ago.
So yes, the world is perpetually falling apart. Or rather is always in a constant state of flux. Time is an ever-flowing, ever-changing river.
Change is the only constant.
Ideas and empires and whole cultures and gods and ways of beings are created and sustained, sometimes for centuries, but all eventually decay and vanish like everything else under the sun.
That’s how the cookie crumbles, history wise.
But things do seem to be really falling apart right now, don’t they?
I don’t know about you, but it feels unsettling. Can you feel it? Can you see it happening? It’s like America and really the world and all of the institutions and traditions that have held them up are fracturing and breaking down. Maybe that’s just my perspective, being a bit of a lovable curmudgeon myself, but it seems to be a sentiment shared by many of my generation and the generations that have followed me. Which does make me feel a bit less like a madhouse prophet or a chicken little (though I am sure I am both to a degree).
That we are experiencing a schism and turbulent times is easily demonstrated by our inability to actually debate and discuss ideas.
Heck, we can’t even agree on the same reality most of the time. “Who is the president” used to be one of the questions you would ask someone after they had a head injury, right along with what day is it and what’s your name. But now we can’t agree on even that.
Which to me, does not bode well at all for our ability to face and solve the very real and pressing issues coming our way with speed.
And again, I can’t speak for you, but I feel pretty small and powerless in the face of all of this.
Even on an individual to individual basis, I have attempted and failed the herculean feat that is persuading someone to change their mind.
Even as an individual who should know better and has a strong desire to build bridges and create conversation in these tense places of disagreement, I have lost myself far more than I like to admit.
It is so easy to become angry and defensive and maybe even a little bit cruel. Even to family. Even to people you love. How many of us have cut off communication with relatives and friends over these last few years?
I am not saying that such anger isn’t justified.
I am definitely not saying that civil discourse should take priority over justice. Sometimes the only way to love someone is to limit how much they are in your life.
And these aren’t trivial issues we are fighting over. They are very much life and death for a lot of people. I get all of that. I do. It is crucial that we have these conversations as boldly and honestly as we are able.
But I am also seeing that we aren’t getting anywhere. We are a car stuck in the mud. Spinning wheels, digging in deeper. There are some among us calling for civil war.
I’ll tell you, this is a problem that has left me dumbfounded and silent. It’s a real dilly of a pickle we’re in. A whole barrel of monkeys, am I right?
How can we reach common ground, how can we come to agreement on anything, if the information presented from the other side is automatically laughed off as obviously false? If we don’t know who to trust about something as simple as a face mask, how can we trust that we are being told the truth about anything?
And complicating that discussion is the shame and blame games we play on social media. Where everything is reduced to straw man arguments and pithy slogans. Where the dumbest and angriest are given the spotlight. Where everything is right or wrong and simple and absolute. And if you’re not in, you’re out. And if you’re out there is no reason to listen to you.
It is easy and understandable to assume the worst of people, at least in online spaces. It’s by design. Those platforms thrive on conflict. Conflict is their business model.
This is all inflamed by a media culture that is above all a for profit enterprise that makes more money the more they can get us to disagree. A good section of which is now just nakedly open propaganda. Many of those that have studied totalitarian regimes have noted that a key ingredient to their rise in power is not simply misinformation, but mass information. If there are enough conflicting reports about any one thing, people will not know what to believe.
It is in confusion and chaos that liberty is lost. The way the internet is structured and how we presently consume our news is a propagandist’s heaven.
How does one fight against that?
How can I convince you that I am not your enemy when billions of dollars are spent on convincing you that I am?
What lies have I been led to believe about you?
We don’t talk because we don’t trust. We don’t trust because we don’t talk.
This isn’t even addressing what I consider to be the big and real issues that we face.
The impact that all of this is having on our psyches. The epidemic of loneliness and huge surges in mental illness and suicide. Our disconnection to our bodies and our communities. Our stress, our fatigue, all the worries and fears that we keep private. All of the ways in which we feel alone and unable.
This is because in addition to all the other emergencies that imperil us, we are also deep into a spiritual crisis.
I started writing the blog several years ago. I have deleted and recreated and gone on these several month or year long pauses more times than I count. It started as just a way for me to work out my faith and big questions about God. It has also always been directed towards my former Christian self and any and all Christians charitable enough to read along. I have aspired to honest dialogue about morality and meaning, though I confess it has, more often than not, come across a little more like an attack than an inquiry.
But I think that’s understandable. People can get angry when there is a lot of pain involved. And frustrated when they feel they aren’t heard or getting their point across.
I ask your forgiveness if I have hurt you.
I was trying to just hate the belief not the believer, but I know that still ends up feeling like hate to the person involved.
Though I hate to be like Batman, constantly retelling my origin story, allow me a paragraph or two.
For the first twenty-something years of my life, the only world I knew was one painted for me through the lens of fundamentalist pentecostal doctrine. But for reasons still not entirely known to me, that world began to crumble and shake. And suddenly I found myself doubting everything I had known and deeply lost as to where to go from here. I was cast out of Eden as it were, away from certainty and a deep feeling of purpose and rock solid beliefs as to the right and wrong of everything, into the wilderness.
I have been lost and battered and broken out here a time or two as I have tried to figure things out. I started writing this blog as a sort of bread crumb trail for anyone else who is out here too. Who might be wondering the same questions. But at times that feels dangerous to me because I don’t know where I’m going either. And so I get real quiet for a while.
I have no answers to sell you.
I don’t know what is going to happen or what should be happening instead.
I am no guru. I am no teacher. I have discovered no secret method.
What I do know is that we are all in this time and place together. All of us were born for such a time as this. And we are all kind of all that each other has.
I know we each have value and are automatically worthy of love just because of the sheer mystery of existence.
I know that it is because all of us suffer that we each deserve kindness and compassion.
I know that times of destruction are also times of rebuilding.
I know that change is opportunity.
Is in itself hope.
What joy in the idea that we can grow and become new and discard our old ways.
It is painful, yes.
But with work there can be results. Globally. Nationally. Spiritually. Personally.
We just must be willing to, as David Bazan sang, “let go of what you know to honor what exists.”
We must see our own fallibility and recognize that we now see as in a mirror darkly; we now only know partly.
We might even be wrong about a thing or two.
Dare we be brave enough to admit it?
What I want is not to defend the truth, but to discover it.
If I am wrong, I want to know I’m wrong.
If I have caused damage, I want to repair it.
If I want to stand for justice, I must know what justice is.
To do that I must explore with clear eyes. Even when it hurts. Even when it requires change.
More than that, I want transcendence and joy and connection and liberation and flourishing for me and anyone and everyone (and yes, I know I sound like a hippy. But so did Jesus sometimes. Deal with it).
I want true spirituality.
No empty dogma, no formal rules.
I want that which will cut away my illusions.
That will draw me closer and closer to ultimate reality. Whatever that is.
I want that which is beyond language. Beyond space and time. Beyond the rising and falling of empires.
I want to do that with you.
We need each other if we are ever going to figure this stuff out.
It’s your choice, of course. No pressure.
I will be right here.
A voice in the wilderness
Adrift at the end of the world.