When people ask me how I am, I usual say, “I’m alright,” or simply, “ok,” and some people respond with concern or condescension: “/just/ alright?” As if being manically exultant is not living a full life. I hate that response: “just ok?” To me, just ok is heaven. For me, just ok is hard earned fulfillment.
I’m writing this the day before Thanksgiving. I’m weighed down with exhaustion – I manage a grocery store, and the holidays always hit us like a tidal wave. But I’m also weighed down with sorrow, with grief. As the holidays approach, I’ve felt an inexplicable dread come over me, and a deep grief. The sort of grief that exists deeper than conscious thought, and lives in the body itself.
Several months ago, I went to a family gathering. I’d worked all week, and I was exhausted. The event was miserable, and I felt incapable – truly, utterly incapable – of talking to anyone. I felt like I’d been drugged, the paralysis of exhaustion and family and socializing was so great. On the drive home, all I could think about was suicide. Fantasies of death filled my being.
In his brilliant introduction to artificial intelligence, Max Tegmark describes our existence as the universe waking up from a zombie slumber. As I’ve struggled to understand what I believe about God and the universe around me, I’ve found myself finding wonder and hope in the material universe itself.
We live in frightening, polarizing times. Put more bluntly, we live in a horribly incurious time: we are incurious about the experience of others, the contents of their skulls, and what motivates them. This incuriosity is stoked from a thousand directions, from social media to bloggers to news outlets, all preying on our baser, animal instincts.
Growing up gay in the conservative church, I believed I was barred from ever having a gay relationship and that, unless something truly miraculous happened which allowed me to marry a woman, I would spend the rest of my life celibate. This wasn’t because my Christian community overtly hated gay people – though many did. It wasn’t even because of the “clobber passages” – the handful of passages that allegedly directly mention homosexuality.
No. I and my Christian community believed I was barred from a gay relationship, first and foremost, because of gender complementarianism: the belief that the union of male and female within the covenant of marriage creates a morally exclusive spiritual state, and that such a state is the only valid and virtuous “container” for sexual activity.
Last week, as I was talking to another fellow deconstruction survivor, I had a realization. I suddenly understood that what made my falling apart of faith so painful, so overwhelming, was not just the trauma of an unprecedented paradigm shift, but a breaking of myself.
I recently had a fun, engaging, meeting-of-the-minds conversation with former Scientologist Chris Shelton for his Sensibly Speaking show. In our conversation we discussed struggling with atheism, deconstruction of faith, inner truth vs. outer truth, speaking in tongues, yoga, and much more. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation, and I hope you enjoy listening to it.
It is early morning as I write this, and I have just completed praying the Episcopalian Office. As always, it’s left me feeling full, centered, and comforted. I pray the Office every morning and night, and it’s become one a pillar that brings me deep pleasure.
In his excellent book Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost Faith and Found it Again Through Science, Mike McHargue, AKA Science Mike, recounts his traumatizing crisis of faith.