Tuesdays with Abhorrent Fiends vol. 49: My kingdom for a chair!

And evolving from the sea
Would not be too much time for me
To walk beside you in the sun

~the Pixies

Please, I ask indulgence of all my readers, you in particular--who will in due course be identified. Kind of.

I was going to post a long, involved, reasonable-sounding follow-up to my last post, but fuck it. Those sorts of things never, ever, ever have their intended effect, and besides, about two-thirds of the way through I realized I didn't even know what my intended effect was.

From time to time lately I have been depressed. Mostly, this is because I have been unable to find gainful employment that gets me out of the apartment and makes me feel useful. There are also other reasons, some involving my being unable to magically fix Dave's depression or magically bring my father back from the dead. One of the reasons I have lately been depressed, however, I intend to address right now. And see what happens.

People (or, at least, this particular person whom I allegedly am at the moment) write complicated, long-winded analyses of religious viewpoints for at least one of three reasons:

1. To convince themselves of the correctness of their current viewpoint, of which they are then unsure,
2. To convince people of the opposing viewpoint of the correctness of theirs, or
3. To inform third parties, not otherwise involved in the discussion, of their (the author's) understanding of the terms of the dispute between the two viewpoints.

#2 does not happen. It never works. Ever, ever, ever. People change their beliefs only when they, themselves, confront a situation in their lives for which their current belief set is incapable of providing them with the appropriate transformations to effectively confront. If an argument presented in such a way ever did sway somebody, it was because they already experienced a crisis for which their current belief set was insufficient and was looking to add in new parts anyway. So I am not going to become a Christian because of logical debates, nor is a certain particular loved one of mine going to become a non-Christian of any stripe because of logical debates. We'd just sit there, either at our respective keyboards or on our respective couches, flapping our fingers and/or gums until we became blue in the hands and/or face, without accomplishing anything other than carpal tunnel and/or anoxia. As long as our respective belief sets are getting the job done for us, we are not going to commit any of our precious, precious mana to any others, and all the appendage-flapping in the world isn't going to change that one jot or tittle. I am totally fine with that, and differences of opinion even on matters of such great importance should not be an impediment to loving relationships between people who have gone through hell and high water together.

And Christianity itself isn't especially the problem. Belief sets, in and of themselves, never are. One of the things I believe is that virtually any belief set can be employed to produce virtually any mental/emotional state, depending on the goals, opinions, and available personality energies employed by the individual believer. So it is neither my goal to deconvert, nor to be deconverted.

"What, then," I ask myself, "o mighty analyzer of many motives, is your motivation? What exactly is it that you are trying to accomplish?"

I want to understand. I want to understand what happened that caused you (yes, you!) to believe as you believe, hoping somehow that offering a step-by-step account of how I came to believe as I believe might make it a fair trade. I want a step-by-step breakdown of the process that led, either from inactive disbelief through inactive belief to active belief, or from some other point A to some other point B. Because I Do Not Get It. I was blind or stupid or not paying attention or all wrapped up in selfish concerns and somehow, somewhere along the line I missed something very important that was happening inside you.

Was there anything I could have done, at any point, to make your search for a more effective belief set easier or more pleasant? Did you attempt to consult me and have me blow you off because I was selfish and stupid? Or did you consciously decide not to consult me, either because it was a matter too private to get a sororial second opinion on, or for some other reason that seemed sensible to you at the time? Did it sneak up on you overnight, as un-analyzed emotions boiled up out of the back of your brain and made a de facto decision for you? Or did it happen slowly, under the light of day, as you took out certain key experiences and emotional states one by one and riffled through possible belief sets to see which one provided the transformations which would make all of them bearable?

I realize this is not, possibly, the best place for this sort of discussion. Especially considering the fact that whatever your thoughts and feelings on the subject have been, you have not shared them with me yet for one reason or another. Maybe it's all too raw and bloody in there and you still don't want to think about it consciously. Or maybe my judgment is compromised, I'm an unreliable confidant, and so you didn't think it was worth explaining to me because of how I would react. Perhaps there is some completely different reason. Such as the fact that I have not, until now, come out and asked in a plain and simple manner. If you would rather respond by email than by comment, which hangs out here on the internet where as many as a half-dozen people might possibly take the time to read it, that's cool.

But I am going nuts over here trying to figure out what the blazes is going on with you. And I am tired of taking the oblique approach. Well, yes, this still counts as an oblique approach. Cowardly, even. Of all my vices, I've lived with the awareness of that one the longest. I'm not cowardly as often or to the extent I used to be, or even in quite the same ways all the time. But the basic broad yellow streak is still etched across my soul. And rather than have you throw a small piece of furniture in my general direction (well do I remember the discussion in which you explained that you were not actually throwing it at me, just trying to startle some kind of non-zombie-like reaction out of me!), I would rather experience any of the just rewards of my cowardice out here on the internet, where I feel more at home.

Dammit, woman, I have been a fear zombie and a guilt zombie and a shame zombie, sometimes concurrently, other times consecutively. I flatter myself I can recognize the signs. You have turned yourself into some kind of a zombie. And I do not like it. I miss you, miss watching you live life as your most excellent, feisty, sarcastic, uppity self. The you who is always in charge of her own thoughts and feelings and has an opinion on everything. An opinion which is absolutely right at all times, even if it has recently changed in response to newly available data. I do not recognize this mousy, retiring head-in-the-intoxicating-sands-of-fictional-realities person, except in the memory of my own shameful past. And I do not like it. I did not like being it and I do not like seeing it!

Even in your response to my last post, I did not get a single one of YOUR opinions, nor any idea of what led you to them. Merely the opinions of Christian orthodoxy, which of late you apparently espouse, for reasons which utterly mystify me. I myself am undoubtedly to blame for having framed the discussion in terms of generalities and hypotheticals and other such cowardly evasions. So I was not, previously, asking for your opinions. Just kind of hoping that you would be so good as to volunteer some, given a non-threatening context.

Which is why I am now throwing a piece of rhetorical furniture in your general direction! I am not obliquely referring to matters on which you may or may not possess an individudal opinion; I am asking for your freaking opinion! Because I desperately want to know it!

12 comments:

Amber E said...
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Amber E said...
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Amber E said...

Do you realize how incredible rude it is to call me a zombie, diss where I am in life and then wonder why I don't open up to you about things that you have shown zero interest in? That is rhetorical please don't answer.

My core beliefs have had very little change in my memory. My journey toward congruence is personal. I wish we were good enough friends to discuss it. I would like to do that with a sister, but I just in general feel pre-judged and rejected by you. You don't get me and I have the feeling that you suspect you wouldn't like it if you did understand.

However you are magnanimously, and because you are bored, willing to try to grok me. However I am a zombie and you take random potshots at what you think you understand about me so forgive me if I don't share. I am happy to supply you with textev when you basically post sloppy unresearched opinions. I am not going to open myself up like the game of operation for your approval. I love you and we are that close but you aren't trying. Ooo let me semi-annonomously try and provoke amber to share on the internet. Don't hide behind your keyboard. You have my fricking phone #. We see each other. Yes sometimes you call when I'm in the room with other people. I can change rooms. Or you could, when you visit spend time alone and talk if you really wanted to.

Do you really want to get me? I don't see why since from the way I'm described you no longer seem to find me cool or fun. Unless maybe zombies are your idea of a good time.

Okay here is a boring normal bunch of things for you to ponder. I recently turned 30, oh yeah, my Dad killed himself and that really sucks. Oh, I'm broke and my bankruptcy is still on my credit report and I've been digging myself out of a financial hole for years in the hope of someday having financial stability. I work for a college and I don't even want a degree. I feel stupider than the people I went to high school with because I don't have a degree. I overweight and I don't feel like exercising because I'm at work for 9 hours a day and in the car for 2 1-2 to 3 hours a day. I want to travel and I don't have the money. I haven't had a period in months and worry about ever being able to have children. I can't go anywhere because my cat needs medication everyday. I worry because Pearl and you seem as stuck in limbo with your lives as I do in mine. I deeply feel the need to have congruence between my internal beliefs and my exteral acations. I hesitate to share ANY personal emotions with you because

I suspect you will sneer at anything emotional. I don't feel like sharing logical developments in my life because I don't feel like arguing. Why should I bother explaining this to you since I such a f'ing zombie. I feel like you don't desever an explanation for being curious. So treat my like a person not a fricking science experiments you want fraking footnotes on. By the way I deleted the last post because it was too upset and wrote this nice sun shiny one instead. P.S. I still love you and isnt TSK4 an awesome book. No the dramatic shift is not due to being bipolar or fakey. I am capable of feeling everything expressed about while still enjoying sharing my favorite books with you but who cares, I'm a zombie anyway, to zombies ever read. Oh, go piss off. But please don't be depressed because it upsets me when my family is unhappy, you brat.

Kristen said...

I just have to ask, Crystal, is your belief set getting the job done for you? It seems a lot more like entanglement and misery than the freedom that Christ brings. It is important to distinguish between religion(which is, in my opinion straight from the pit of hell) and true life in Christ. Intellect and reason so not necessarily bring you to a higher plane. Sometimes, as my husband has found, they are a curse-literally. None of the bad things taht have happened to you, or the pain you have felt are God's doing or his plan for your life. If God is real, then so is Satan. God is not the only one with a plan for your life. IF you are not submitted to God's will, then you are submitted to Satan's and he is the one who is responsible for strife, chaos, confusion, sadness, and anything else we have given him permission to bring on us through rejection of Christ. You see, He really does love you. He wants you to feel true joy, freedom, and clarity of thought more than you do. It's all a matter of submission and acceptance. He is not far away, tormenting, or delighting in our failures. He is nearer than your next breath.

jhedeen said...

"What, in practice, can a person use to motivate themselves to obey a set of moral standards once the threat of punishment for disobedience has been removed?" A good question--you're not the first to ask it.
In 1977-8,I was in the midst of a spiritual search for I didn't know what--something. It was like an itch in my soul, and I couldn't figure out where to scratch. I had always gone to church and thought I knew all about Christianity. But it didn't seem to be what I needed. I wanted something bigger than this reality. I read a lot of books on ESP and paranormal phenomenon--Jean Dixon, Edgar Cayce stuff. I started writing down my dreams and trying to see if I could "read" the future in them. (That's a separate story!) But, Becky challenged me one day to pray the "sinners" prayer. Actually she MADE me do it, when she heard about my new ouija board. She also made me promise to get rid of it. I prayed the prayer with her, and privately decided NOT to hang out with her any more--too wierd! But, some very unexpected things happened soon after that. First of all, the ouija board, which I had tossed on the top of the burning barrel, disappeared completely overnight. No charred remains or anything. I had to spend a night alone while John was away, and the whole night I could feel a battle going on in my bedroom. Evil things were there, all around, but they were no match for the presence of LOVE. This love was not just a feeling but a real presence, powerful and gentle. I saw it's effects on the evil things in my room. I then knew I would never be afraid of the dark again. Yes, there are bad things in the dark, but Jesus is stronger, and He loves me and He protects me better than I could ever protect myself. Later that week, as I was driving to work--it could only be God--showed me a panorama of my life. Mistakes, unimportant moments and all. It was all there in more detail than I could even comprehend. I remember the part about me deciding to learn to play guitar, to go back to nursing school, and other things, which I thought I had complete conrol over. They were all known to Him in advance, and part of the grand plan for my life, and others around me. Maybe even you! In answer to your question,
"What, in practice, can a person use to motivate themselves to obey a set of moral standards once the threat of punishment for disobedience has been removed?"
Love! It's why parents DON'T throw the child out who spills the milk. It's why we buy birthday presents. Not because we have to or we might get punished if we don't, but because we delight to give pleasure to those we love. Now that I have experienced God's love for me (not just read about it or heard about it) I WANT to make Him happy.

Fiat Lex said...

Amber:

You're right, it was stupid and rude of me to put this up in my blog instead of talking to you about it in person or live on the phone. And I am sorry. Truth told, I was scared to; I was scared you'd be offended and wouldn't want to talk to me about it. It is not that I was not interested. It's that I felt like if I tried to approach the subject gently or obliquely you would brush me off and give me a short answer, a non-answer. So I figured either you really didn't want to talk about how you're feeling and what was happening inside you, or else you really didn't want to talk about it with me. Like you were being nice and friendly to me in most ways but shutting me out where it mattered, and I didn't know why, didn't know what I'd done to push you away. Which for I tried to be okay with even though it hurt, but after awhile it started to make me frantic. So instead of doing something smart and reasonable and brave, I ended up offending you way worse than if I'd asked you in another way. I promise I will not do this again.

And babe, if I'm taking potshots at where you are in life, I have to crane my neck way upwards to do it. When I was talking about me having been a zombie myself, I wasn't just talking about the not-too-distant past. I mean recently. Even currently in a lot of ways!

You have a full-time job that saps your energy and is way below your capabilities; I don't even have a full-time job. You read lots of books and keep in touch with people and take care of your responsibilities. I apply for crappy jobs I can't get and waste lots of time playing games and watch too much TV. I am not pre-judging you to find you wanting. I am impressed by you in many ways, even intimidated, and feel left out and scared in others. I've been feeling like you went off and got your shit together without me and didn't think I was worth bringing into the loop.

So I went and got all the snark out my system, hoping against hope you still cared enough to at least get mad at me. Which, as it turns out, you do.

I am very sorry for expressing my hurt and confusion in a way that was so hurtful to you. But thank you for being honest with me. Even getting your honest anger is better than not knowing how you really feel.


Kris:

I am glad that believing in Christ has brought you freedom and joy and clarity. And I'm thankful to you for wanting to share with me the happiness that you have found. I know it comes from a place of love! My beliefs may be cobbled-together and odd, but they work for me better than any others I've had in the past. If I did believe that God and Satan, the ultimate Good and Evil, were both personified beings that took a direct interest in my life, then it would make perfect sense to submit myself to God.

But personally, I don't believe my life, anyone's life, is lived out according to a plan. Either a good plan or an evil one. I think we all face many possibilities, along a whole spectrum of good and bad. And we all are faced with the sometimes terrifying, sometimes exhilarating challenge of making up our lives as we go along, using what we have in the present as best we can to build a future that is always a surprise.

There is a freedom, too, in believing that there is no plan. Some people find that thought depressing--beliefs like mine would definitely not work for them!--but to me it is a hopeful thing.

Julie:

That is a wonderful story about a life-changing experience. I'd heard part of it from Mom a long time ago, but never the whole thing.

Yes, I had left love out of the reckoning when I was doing my intellectual meanderings earlier. Which now that you bring it up was a massive, dumb oversight on my part! The intellect is fine for taking ideas apart or putting them back together, but its usefulness really only goes that far. It is absolutely no good at making things. Creation comes only from the heart.

Love is definitely the thing that keeps us going in life--love for each other most of all, and also love for the things we see and do and participate in that are beautiful and good. And you're right, too, that loving others is the real reason we try to treat them well and bring them happiness. No matter what our beliefs are, of course, sometimes we do the wrong thing and have to live with the consequences. And again, it is love for one another that can motivate us to learn and grow and change and try to do better. That inescapable fact is the same for me as it is for you! It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, from Ursula LeGuin: "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new."

So if believing in the love of God, and being able to feel that love, brings you peace and strengthens the love you feel for life and the people in your life, then that's awesome and I respect you for it. And please know that I am trying to learn and change and grow, to do better and love better, the best I can.

jhedeen said...

And Crystal, I guess I thought you still had a job. That didn't happen? I think I would feel snarky too. And maybe watch too much TV and whatever else you said. I am sorry about that. I guess we don't gossip quite enough, do we? Want to come live with me? You can play with babies! And Greg has video games, and I have internet . . .

jhedeen said...

And food!

Amber E said...
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Amber E said...
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Amber E said...

Well Kiffle dear, that was a superficial polite f'off all around. Yes, you were very polite, only slightly snide and just a touch fakey. I have seen you do the oh I'm cute and just a touch passive aggressive. Did you drink the moral relativism Kool-Aide? Do you expect me to? Homey don't play that. Do you think I am dumb enough to accept moral relativism as a premise? You apparently don't believe it yourself. It certainly wasn't important when you were concerned about my set of beliefs, moral relativism is a paltry fig leaf you are cowering behind.

Yes, I love you as I always have since first becoming aware of your existence.

No, your belief system is NOT working for you. This is evidenced by your behavior. Desperately wondering if you are loved by someone who has always loved you and finding confirmation of that affection in the ability to provoke reaction is not just immature, it is tawdry. Despite navel gazing and pondering personality construction your interpersonal style has not really changed since adolescence.

You seem to be striving for my contempt and pity, base coin, when you already have unconditional love. You will not by escalating petty manipulations achieve the phyrric victory of driving me to no longer love you. That is not possible. My love for you is the merest shawdow of God's love for us. I didn't create you and never died for you.

Just because I love you doesn't mean I am going to take crap. If you feel that we are distant examine yourself and what you are dishing out. We had this discussion years ago if I feel attacked emotionally I react like some kind of mirrory star trek force field so that may be why you don't get much emotion from me generally. Again, not anything to provoke angsty curiosity I told you years ago.

For my personal faith journey, which is what I think you might have been hinting at you never seemed to care.

You know most of it and never seemed to regard it as important before. It's no secret. When I was seventeen I was teaching Sunday School, because I wanted to. I loved God and the Church and felt like not just soaking up God's blessings but also like I should do something so I taught. Then, like many sinful hormone ridden people I fell into sexual sin and moved in with my boyfriend. I felt badly about leaving church but felt that even though at that time I didn't feel it was wrong I still knew it was wrong and would not add hypocrisy to fornication. Of course the main sin was disobedience and believing that I knew better than God how to achieve happiness and plan my life. I lived with longing for God while being stubborn in sinfulness for many years. It's sort of an unsatisfied dissociative feeling. Over the years I was able to overcome my stubborn willful pride and really feel, not just know that God's way really is the 'more excellent way'. I had always known it intellectually but the struggle was really internalizing it. It's been 3 or 4 years since I've been able to repent and let me tell you what a joy that was and what a sense of renewal and peace I felt. Since Dad died I have realize how selfish and lax I was so I have been reading the Bible and praying more. I have regrets. If I had lived my faith more, listened to the Holy Spirit etc. maybe I could have been more of a blessing to him in his final years. Maybe not, it might just have annoyed him. Anyway that death reminded me that we all present our lives to God at our birth into eternity. What have you done with your life so far? Is anyone the better for your having been part of their life? You don't have to answer me but I do ask myself that.

So basically that is what has been 'going on with me' no secret. I think I have talked about these things with several people including you and I never particularly felt led to expound on this to you.

You did not seem interested or receptive. Apparently I missed it. As your sister by blood and genes as well as one who hopes to be your sister in Christ perhaps I should have pushed. I did not for two reasons. One the whole pearls/swine thing --why tell you things you have been contemptuous of and disinterested in. The other, the mote/beam thing. I felt that you might interpret me talking about this as 'forcing Christianity on you' or implicitly judging you for doing things that I have done myself. I am still an angry, proud, lazy stubborn selfish and sinful person. But I try to to better. I am a better, happier person who rejoices in God's love.

I feel God's love but I don't particularly feel yours. I love you and I know you are fond of me and attached to me. I think you might love me but you sure do not show it. You are petty, vicious and ungrateful. You metaphorically bite people who love you often. Loving you dear sister is often thankless but it not a duty or a task. I am delighted to be able to love you. You bring great joy to me my sister despite the prickles. Yes, I've just called you several different kinds of a jerk but what does that really matter? My intention is really and truly not to hurt you but to counter your request for information with my blunt opinions.

Do you remember reading the Voyage of the Dawn Treader? I remember reading thinking 'Wow, Caspian, and Edmond and Lucy are so cool that Eustace is such a jerk.' Then there is the part where Eustace gets reformed and and Edmond tells him You {Eustace} were only an ass but I [Edmond} was a traitor.

You know dear I have sinned on purpose, defiantly when I knew better and it wasn't even fun. Basically if you've ever been a jerk well I really have been bad. I regret that and I'm saying it to tell you I really truly am in no position to throw rocks at you. Ah, but I have thrown a ton earlier, well there is that dratted temper of mine again.

Look dear, I applaud your desire to be real. Here is a strategy suggestion, stop poking me with pointy metaphorical sticks while I will never stop loving you my less than perfect self has haughty contempt down to a knee jerk reaction so try not leading me into sin.

So please be real to Aunt Julie and Kris who are making nice overtures to you. Your dismissal was palpable despite your manners and they have certainly been nicer to you than I have been.

Anyway enough with the sniping one thing I have never stopped enjoying with you is books. Did you finish the 5th book in the Amish people series yet? What about TSk4, I thought it was actually a very satisfying end to the series.

Love,
Amber

P.S. we should totally have coffee sometime.

Amber E said...

Oh Kiffle,
If you do think about taking up Aunt Julie's invitation to visit I know she has an extensive collection of DVDs about Creation. Since you expressed a concern about that I just thought I would let you know I'm sure she would let you watch them.