Sunday, January 29, 2006

Just Blow 'em Up And Get It Over With...

  

I just returned home from my second emergency dental procedure in less than three weeks.  This one on the opposite side of my face than the first. Fortunately, this time I retained the troublesome tooth.  But it has been thoroughly gutted...

This is getting VERY tiresome.  I feel like someone kicked my ass down three flights of stairs.  I wish I could say that at least I'm getting good drugs, but I can't take narcotics.  They give me the terminal room-spins.  So it's just me, my amoxicillin, my yogurt, and my bottle of NSAIDs.  Are we having fun yet? 

Administration Information Police Strike Again

Is there any limit to the lengths the Bush Administration will go to control the information the American people are allowed to receive?  This is very, very disturbing...

Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him

By ANDREW C. REVKIN Published: January 29, 2006

"The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming."

(You'll need to create a log-in to The New York Times online to read the story.  Go ahead...its easy, it's free, and having access to a little information never hurts.)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Sticking Around

As anybody with eyes can see (anybody who still visits here, that is) January third has come and gone, and "Coming to Terms" has not. Gone, that is. And it is not likely to go anytime soon, either.

A couple of months of water have passed under the bridge since the Great AOL Ad Invasion. (I’ll probably come up with all sorts of "water" analogies, if the Pacific Northwest weather keeps going along as it has been…) Time for things to calm down, dust to clear, heads to cool. And I have to admit—the main thing that incensed me about the ad thing was the time it took for any given journal page to load, with all the moving gew-gaws and animated doohickeys in the ads. But since I’ve joined the twenty-first century and connected to DSL, that problem no longer exists. I don’t have to wait three hours for a page to load. AND I haven’t seen a flying scooter since before Christmas. Mr. Boss’s Boss’s Boss’s attitude still pisses me off, but this is one of those times when I can’t see cutting off my nose to spite my face. I LIKE AOL Journals. They are easy. I don’t have to be an HTML whiz to have a decent-looking, comfortable place here. When I load pictures, they look nice, and not all warbly and smudgy like the ones on my Blogspot journal. I can change the colors easily, any time I want. And, let’s face it—a lot of people whose friendship I value still live in the AOL-J community. AND…I’m one of the real old-timers, now. Practically a relic. That has to have some cosmic importance, no?

In addition—and maybe I’ve fallen for some of AOL’s ad hype here—I want the security that AOL offers me. I’m a little vague about how secure a DSL connection is, and I have, in the past, been lax about keeping up my personal virus protection on my computers. I just didn’t feel comfortable surfing around on the internet without the stuff that I at least think AOL has looking out for my welfare. So yesterday, I actually downloaded AOL 9.0 onto the new desktop we bought a couple weeks ago. Am I a sap? I don’t know…maybe. But I sure get a kick out of being able to "Instant Message" the hubs when he is online on the downstairs computer, and I am online upstairs. J

So, Coming to Terms is going to remain. The actual casualty of the AOL tsunami is going to be "Brainsurfing"—my private journal. I just can’t maintain three blogs, and I intend to keep "Better Terms," over at Blogspot. "Better Terms" is going to be what "Brainsurfing" started out being—the place to cache my serious, heart-felt writing. "Coming to Terms…" can serve as my connection to the community, where I can put things like memes and "tag" thingies and silly quiz results—the stuff that made blogging in the AOL community fun. And, of course, I will double-post all the "good" writing on both journals.

So, there you have it. My solution to the "AOL vs Not" war. Hey…whatever works, right?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Love and Respect

Two days ago, my husband and I had a serious tiff. In the tense aftermath of the initial salvo, I actually packed up my pillow and blanket and slept in the guest room. It felt…wrong. As far as I can recall (it’s been a loooong thirty years) I’ve never done that before. Never deliberately moved out of the conjugal bed in anger. But I was angry. And due to the nature of the argument (at issue was whether everything/anything I said was valid or required acknowledgement), we had not talked it out or resolved anything by bed-time. I was nowhere near ready to not let the sun set on my anger. The quasi-apologetic kiss that would seal the truce and let the transgression slide, allowing us to share a bed in peace, was not forthcoming. And turning my back in stony silence to the warm body occupying the west side of the mattress was an adolescent drama in which I was too old to partake. So the guest room, it was.

Next morning, I felt foolish, but not foolish enough. I was still angry with the old man, still not ready to bury the hatchet when he walked through the door after work. I wanted so badly to leave a note, take the car, and head for a room at the beach to clear my head. I’d have done it, too…I know it. Except that husband had driven our only trustworthy vehicle to work. And I had a dentist appointment the next day before noon. Ah, how the mundane realities of life conspire to sabotage our more dramatic aspirations! Still, I was determined not to be present when the mighty hunter returned that evening. I spent the day stewing in my own juices, nursing my grievance. And, a half-hour before he was due to arrive home, I took off for…the library.

Why not put my pouting time to good use? I could do some research pursuant to my spiritual seeking. I wasn’t sure how much decent literature I would find on the subject, in our small town’s undistinguished library. It’s important for me to note that my mind was so half-invested in this task, that I left the house without even checking to make sure I had my library card with me. I desultorily scanned the catalog for a volume that might have relevance to my quest; and once I had the book in hand, I staked my claim on a chair near a window, so, with one eye on the state of twilight outside, I could gauge when I had stayed away from home long enough to prove my point. I was not actually committing myself to doing worthwhile research. It was simply as good a way as any to fritter away the time until I could make a dramatic, silent re-entry onto the home-front battlefield.

In the back of my mind, I realized that, once again, I was insulting the Divine by not putting my heart into my quest. I fully expected no return on my stingy investment of the meager, pre-occupied hour and a half I was willing to mete out because I had nothing better to do. But the universe is full of surprises, isn’t it?

The book I chose was a collection of interviews of Native American Wise Women. I’m irritated that the circumstances under which I unearthed this gem of a read have prevented me from remembering either the title or the name of the author. The book spoke to me, though; drove several points of light into the darkness in my soul. Outside, evening turned to a blustery, rain-drenched night. I knew I had to leave for home, or risk escalating the argument with my husband to a pitch I had not intended. Sans library card, I had to abandon the book. But I took the points of light with me.

"Love," said the first interviewee in the book. We were created to have love for all things—the earth, and all people. And respect. That is why we are in trouble now. Because we have no love, and no respect. How that spoke to me! All my life, I have been an emotional chameleon. I mirror whatever feelings are directed at me. If I am loved and respected, I return love and respect. But if I am hated, or dismissed, or ignored, or disrespected, I return those things…sometimes five or ten-fold. I looked at my life and realized that, no, I don’t show love. Or respect. There’s not a person in my life right now—husband, family, or friend—whom I have not felt disrespected by at some point in the recent past. And rather than maintain love and respect in my own soul, regardless of how I believe others have treated me, I have chosen to mirror the slights and hurts. They have become my life.

And, in a greater sense, the environment we all inhabit these days is poisoned by hatred and disrespect. It is next to impossible to reflect patience, love and courtesy while being bombarded by the fretfulness, hatred and rudeness that is our American society. From which there is really no escape, if you ever open a newspaper, turn on the television, listen to the radio, or…just walk outside your front door. Even so, according to this wise Indian woman (they call themselves "Indians" in the book…), we must love and respect. All creation depends upon us doing what we were created to do.

Show love. Have respect. I tucked those four words into my heart and took them home with me. And that night, I slept where I belonged.

Addendum 1/28It occurred to me this morning that the card catalog at the library was online (duh) and I could access it from home. The book is "Wisdom’s Daughters: Conversations with Women Elders of Native America" by Steve Wall, published in 1993. I just ordered a used copy of it from Barnes & Noble.com for 5 bucks. It would cost me that much in gas to drive out to the library and back…

Monday, January 23, 2006

Revenge

Last week, I dropped over to "The Blue Voice," and felt compelled to comment upon a particular posting. Not the rah-rah, "You go!" comment I usually make—TBV is a left-leaning blog penned by folks whose views generally closely mirror my own. But I had to take issue with some statements that I felt went off in a direction that left-wingers, like, say, Hillary Clinton, seem all too prone to go these days.

I was reminded of the—shall we call it a point of disagreement?—when I stopped by Tina’s post on Ride Along With Me, where she linked back to a study pointed out by her husband. It seems the men in the study took measurable pleasure in seeing "bad people" receive painful physical stimuli-—revenge? As opposed to the women partipants, who evidently reacted sympathetically to witnessing anyone--good or bad--receive the electric shocks administered in the study.

This whole scenario hearkened back to an exchange I had with Neil last week at The Blue Voice. He posted an entry lauding the reported killings of some high-ranking Al Queda members in a bombing raid somewhere in Pakistan. He went on, in the comment string, to insist that Osama Bin Laden’s death was absolutely vital in retribution for 9/11. Admitted in so many words that his desire was for revenge, and that revenge was good and proper. Adding that once we attained that revenge, it would of course serve as a deterrent to other terrorists bent on attacking the US. Just goes to show how even men whose political sympathies don’t necessarily follow the right-wing, war-hawk, get-them-before-they-can-get-us model that kept the Texas Cartel in power in Washington, can rationalize their basest instinctive bloodlust enough to claim it has practical and political merit. Who on earth could credibly conclude that murdering those who have no respect for any human life, not even their own—evidenced by the weapon of choice: young people willing to blow themselves to bits for theglory of taking a few of the godless invaders along with them—would serve as a deterrent? Certainly any thinking person would realize that the execution of those who believe that dying in jihad at the hands of infidels earns them a pass straight toparadise—only calls up longer and longer queues of zealots eager to do the same? In such a case, revenge becomes an emotional luxury in which we are foolhardy to engage.

But, it’s not revenge. It’s justice. It’s "an eye for an eye." It’s courage. It’s patriotism. It’s proof of our lofty principles and our willingness to defend them. Our males have employed this semantic sleight of hand since we crawled far enough beyond the mouths of our caves to realize that, in order to keep ourselves from wiping out our own species, we needed social codes to curb our violent behavior. And the females…since time immemorial, we are the ones left behind to testify that all this exchange of blood has changed nothing. We who have been brushed aside, trapped beneath the combat boots of the men who would ensure our complicity, we shake our heads and endlessly wonder why our men cannot comprehend the futility of their actions. We’re left behind to tend the graves of our fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons who acted upon their "noble instincts" at any cost. Or we are ourselves buried, as collateral damage of our mates’ unreasoning lust for blood.

I know. Not every man harbors a violence-obsessed alter ego. Only the ones, it seems, who do the most damage. And not every woman recoils from the blood that stains the hands of her mate. Only the ones whose mournful wails have composed the score of all man’s bloodiest battles throughout time.

What, in all history, was ever washed clean in a bucket of blood? When will we ever learn? Thousands of years of human-upon-human violence have not yet given us cause to employ these massive brains, encased in these great skulls, perched upon these peculiarly upright spines, to contrive a way to keep us from destroying one another. From destroying ourselves. We will be the death of us, yet.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Mathematics

I found this in my inbox this morning. It confirms what I’ve always suspected about the workings of the corporate culture. It’s why I finally gave up and turned my back on that whole thing…

What Makes 100%? What does it mean to give MORE than 100%? Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give over 100%. How about achieving 103%? What makes up 100% in life?

Here's a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions:

If:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z is represented as:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.

Then:


H-A-R-D-W-O-R-K
8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%

and

K-N-O-W-L-E-D-G-E
11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%

But,

A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E
1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%

And,


B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T

2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103%

AND, look how far ass kissing will take you.


A-S-S-K-I-S-S-I-N-G
1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118%

So, one can conclude with mathematical certainty that While
Hard work and Knowledge will get you close, and Attitude will get you there, it's the BULLSHIT and Ass kissing that will put you over the top.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Matter of Choices

Ever notice how, when your head is grappling with something, you are bombarded with reminders of it, even when you’ve shoved it as far to the back of your mind as you possibly can? Is it a case of heightened awareness? Karma? The movement of the Spirit? I have no idea. Evidently, all I had to do was sidle up to the idea of seeking some answers about things of the soul, to visit upon myself all manner of spiritual references from every corner of my sheltered little life.

The past few mornings, I’ve taken to drowning out the noise in my head by watching television. Four hours of "ER" and "Judging Amy" every morning on TNT. And, wouldn’t you know, in one of this morning’s "Amy" episodes, our heroine was trying to deal with some of the exact same issues as I am. I won’t go into a complete synopsis of the show. But, near the end, Amy asks a friend why he "buys all this stuff" (the friend is a Catholic) and he answers:

"I have a choice between three things: a.) That there is no God; b.) That there is a callous God who doesn’t care when bad things happen; or c.) That there’s a benevolent God who I have to give the benefit of the doubt when he looks bad." "What made you chose ‘C’?" she asks. "The look on my little boy’s face when I tuck him in at night," he replies.

I don’t honestly know which of these alternatives I have chosen. I’m pretty sure I can eliminate "a." I truly believe there is some thing, some source of all things. The universe is composed of too much intricate wonder to be a cosmic accident. And there are times that it seems obvious that mankind itself has some special connection to that inscrutable power. But whether we honor It or insult It by calling it "God," I can’t say.

So, though for many years of my life, I was most definitely a "c" believer, that belief has been tried, tarnished, and sullied by…age? Life? World-weariness? I lean heavily toward "b" these days. Maybe because I haven’t seen anything the like of a "look on my little boy’s face when I tuck him in at night" for what seems like a very long time.

It would be interesting to stand on a street corner with a clipboard and pose this question to strangers: Which do you choose—a, b, or c—and why?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Seeking IV

Announcements, a song, and a prayer later, I headed gratefully toward the back of the church. Not quickly enough of course… The forest of hand-shakers had already sprouted up between me and the door. I plastered a smile over the disappointment that I’m sure must have been plain as a measles rash on my face, stuck out my hand, and made nice words come out of my mouth. I followed my husband through the little crowd, trusting him to read my distress and lead me out to the car as quickly as politely possible. To my utter torment, mere feet from freedom, he turned right instead of left, up the stairs toward the dreaded coffee and donuts. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I begged off to find a restroom, composed myself in the porcelain solitude, and strode back to the vestibule with renewed resolve. I shooed my husband toward the door, making lame excuses to the assembled donut-pushers to the effect that we had to go out and search for a more Weight-Watchers-friendly meal. Finally, we were out on the sidewalk. Safely in the car with the big gray building receding behind us, I let my eyes fill with the tears that were overflowing from my heart.

Tears? Why wasn’t I laughing? It really was funny. This experiment had been a disaster from start to finish. I couldn’t have—wouldn’t have—scripted a more cliché small-town religious experience if I’d been paid to do it. Still, the tears welled. My disappointment pummeled my sense of humor into submission. I felt…gypped. In the back of my mind were all those exhortations, recalled from the Pentecostal years, that God honored an honest seeker. I definitely did not feel honored. So, maybe I had received the answer I had been looking for about God…that I had been right, after all. That the omnipotent Architect of the Universe had no need or desire for an intimate relationship with me. That perhaps the world’s religions really are merely elaborate codes created by mankind in an effort to provide answers to the answerless questions, and to protect and defend some of man’s most basic tendencies…not all of which are positive. It would be so easy for me to climb up on my high horse, slightly wounded but resolute, and ride off into the sunset, secure in the knowledge that "God the Father" is a fantasy, and faith is a joke.

But, of course, it’s not that easy. I could not really claim that God hadn’t honored my honest seeking. How honest was I, after all? How seriously had I considered this "search?" How much thought and effort had I put into finding a place, a group, a person that would be able to answer my grave spiritual questions? If there is a God, he knows my history. He knows that my answers will not be found in a brief, stand-offish visit to a stagnant small-town ritual.

Examining my real incentive for this renewed interest in "church," I have to say that spiritual renewal is only half the motivation. Or maybe less than half. What I really crave is community. Friendship. Connection. A life outside my own head. Someone, something that can pull the energy outside of myself before I implode. I had found all these things in a congregation in the past, some twenty-odd years ago, in the bosom of our tiny Pentecostal church. I suppose I reasoned that if I unearthed a church that provided me with the community I craved, any quenching of my spiritual hunger would be a fortunate side-benefit. Unfortunately, I learned something about myself. I was physically unable to "go through the motions" of the rituals in order to gain the prize of connection with the community. Presented with the words in black and white, and asked to recite them, I could not treat them as some kind of incantation through which I could qualify myself for fellowship with these people…no matter how badly I needed that fellowship. In short, no matter what they may tell you in the self-help books, a church is no place to go looking for friends. Not for me, anyway.

I realize, now, that I have two separate issues to grapple with: my spiritual confusion, and my social isolation. It is possible that the resolution of one might lead to the resolution of the other… I could find all my answers in the right church community. But I need to choose one issue to solve at a time. Which means two things: I need to decide which of these things I more desperately need resolved. And I must determine which of them I have the greatest chance of dealing with successfully. Given my natural tendency toward introspection and solitude, I'm thinking the spiritual quest will get the nod. I'm much more likely to find at least the trailhead to that path in the place where I spend the most time--inside myself. And it is to be hoped that The Creator, unlike human beings, will accept me with all my warts, quirks, personality disorders, and fears, once I make up my mind which path to The Almighty works for me.

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Seeking III

How did I go about selecting a church to be square one of my odyssey? Did I go to the library and research the founders, philosophies, and activities of different denominations? Did I make appointments with local pastors to sit and discuss my spiritual status? Did I ask people I knew to recommend a good church? Those sound like intelligent, solid courses of action, don’t they? So, of course, I didn’t do any of those things. I did what any self-respecting twenty-first century American does when she discerns a need for something: I recalled a catchy television ad campaign. The United Methodists. Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors. Shots of attractive people of all ages, colors, ethnic backgrounds, and possibly even sexual orientations, streaming into their church, looking happy, accepted and fulfilled. I suppose I figured that, given the tenor of the times, any sect that advertised nationally about having "open minds" was worth looking into.

The extent of my research was to locate the closest United Methodist Church. I found it up the highway about ten miles, in the next town. A largish, slightly ramshackle gray frame building with yellowed stained-glass windows. I drove by it and peered at it curiously, cautiously, as if the building itself might whisper something to me. Insidiously, it planted itself in the back of my mind, like a seed from a years-old, forgotten packet. Months, maybe even a year or more, went by, and that germ of faint attraction lay there, unresponsive, until I finally took it for granted that nothing was going to come of it. Until the flood of my post-holiday gloom washed over it and coaxed it to sprout. When I decided I needed a church, there it was, in all its faded glory. It seemed as good a place to start as any.

I don’t know what I expected to find when I walked through the doors last Sunday morning. Perhaps if I had given my expectations a little more reflection I might have been better prepared…might have even decided to look a little deeper into the thing before making the plunge. But I think I didn’t want to think about it. The story of my life has been to cogitate myself right out of doing things, making changes, going forward. I am the queen of coming up with reasons not to do things. My heart was sore enough that I didn’t think it was a good time to put my knee-jerk excessive caution into gear. I needed something and I had to start somewhere.

I had pictured walking through those doors into the congregation in the commercial—a diverse crowd of happy, progressive Christians of all ages. What actually greeted me—effusively, at the door, standing between me and a safe, anonymous seat in the back of the church—was an assembly of about fifty souls, easily eighty percent of whom were over seventy. They were sweet…they really were. But the red flag began to climb up the mast as soon as I started making my way through the gamut of outstretched, welcoming, wrinkled hands. I wish I could say it got better after I finally achieved safe haven in a pew. But then, of course, after the candle-lighting and the processioning, the minister exhorted us to "extend the peace of Christ" to each other, and we were hand-shaking and hugging all over again. This was no surprise, however, so I put myself on auto-pilot and participated in this ritual to the best of my stand-offish ability.

Song service consisted of a bunch of well-known Christmas songs played with a flourish by a lively organist, in a key impossibly high (or low) for me to sing in. Still, I sang along as well as I could, breaking into alto harmony when I couldn’t reach the high notes. Then the eleven-voice, mostly septuagenarian choir came forward and completely botched a performance of a sweet little German Christmas lullaby. For someone like me, who considers the existence of beautiful sacred music one of the transcendent proofs of the existence of God… Well, I wasn’t expecting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but perhaps a tuneful rendition of some selection, appropriately chosen to fit the talents of the well-meaning little choir, would have gone much further toward thawing my heart than all the handshakes and hugs they could muster. As it was, I struggled politely not to cringe, shake my head, or put my fingers in my ears as they massacred that poor little song. Yes, it was as bad as all that. I was embarrassed for them.

 

Still, I told myself that my unrealistically high expectations were to blame for spoiling the experience for me thus far. Surely the sermon would provide at least a taste of what I was craving. I realized I had been hungering for an inspiring, topical spiritual message, the like of which I haven’t heard since I backed painfully away from Pentecostalism years ago. Ah, but those men could preach! Those forty-minute homilies that took a moral message, attached it to a skeleton of biblical references, and then fleshed it out with anecdotes and exhortations, turning it into a spiritual feast big enough to gnaw upon for days. Sadly, the good-hearted Methodist minister’s rambling, stuttered message, which he read almost verbatim from his inadequate notes, proved yet another disappointment.

And then came the spiritual meat of the morning: The New Years Rededication Communion Service. Which turned out to be a chanted exchange between the leader and the congregation, read from the little pamphlet that had been tucked into my hand as I entered. It reminded me for all the world of the "dead" Catholic service I had rejected back in my teens. The rote recitation of the same words every Sunday, without feeling them in your heart or suffering the inconvenience of meaning them, was one of the things that had driven me away from the stiflingly traditional Catholic mass. I felt that if I couldn’t say the words from my heart, and mean them, they shouldn’t come out of my mouth at all. Standing in the little Methodist church, thirty-five years and twenty-five hundred miles removed from that fervent little 70’s hippie, that same conviction gripped my heart and closed my mouth. As the congregation, including my husband, read the words of the Methodist profession of faith out loud from the little pamphlet, I remained conspicuously silent. And felt miserably out of place. I did not belong here. I did not believe what these people were saying. I didn’t know what I believed. I certainly wasn’t ready to profess anything.

As the Communicants streamed toward the altar, I seriously considered turning tail and sneaking out the back door. But I could not find it in my heart to insult the little assembly, or embarrass myself, so blatantly. I gripped the back of the pew in front of me and resolved to complete my half of the bargain as best I could. I would carry this through to the end…or at least to the point of making a graceful exit.

To be continued…

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Seeking II

For a whole rainbow of reasons, I’ve never been comfortable with the concept of "shopping" for a religion. For one thing, I was born into the "One True Church," which, as a matter of policy, frowned heavily upon any such practice. Hellfire licked at the heels of the Catholic who even considered the possibility of finding "more" or "better" at an altar without a crucifix hanging above it and flanked right and left by curtained confessionals. The lingering affect of having cut my teeth on that spiritual xenophobia is a persistent unease with the perceived disloyalty of going from church to church until you find one you can live with.

Childhood prohibitions aside, I simply lack the social "eptitude" required for the search. One of the primary functions of any church body worth its tithe is to make new-comers feel welcome. Very welcome. Extremely welcome. Way too welcome. For a person like me, whose modus operundi in any social situation is to hang back and disappear into the woodwork until I’m comfortable enough to stretch a testing toe toward the waters, all those warm handshakes, friendly hugs, and enthusiastic invitations to coffee and donuts after service are enough to send me screaming toward the exit before the first candle is lit. It is a cultural ritual for which the most enthusiasm I can muster is to simply grit my teeth and bear it.

And then, there is the problem of my left-leaning political philosophies. I challenge anyone who is not a card-carrying conservative, or at least willing to fake the credentials in the interest of peace, to wade into the arena of Faith without fear of being burned at the stake, or worse. I know I won’t be happy being a closet liberal in a right-wing world. Been there and done that, and I have no intention of doing it again.

Considering all this, I must have felt, ultimately, a deep need for things of the spirit; acute enough to give me the courage to set my qualms aside and launch a quest for a spiritual home. Loneliness and fear can be powerful motivators. The loneliness of a life lived to an ever-increasing degree inside my own head; the fear of moving ever more swiftly toward the end of that life, and having no idea what might lie beyond. And needing to believe that something does, if only to calm my fears enough for me to be able make it to the end without losing my mind. Does this constitute a deep spiritual need? I suppose not. But I guess I thought that desperation for human connection and a need for reassurance on the question of an afterlife were good enough reasons to embark upon the search. Perhaps the purity of my motivation, or lack thereof, was responsible for the outcome of the visit to the first church on my list.

Monday, January 2, 2006

Seeking

Facing the blank page of my future, I’ve been inclined to reach into the past for things to fill it. Increasingly, I have looked back at my life, at times when I was "happy" or felt "fulfilled," and tried to analyze the circumstances, identify the thing that made me happy, so that I could go after it again. I remembered being happy at my "dream job…" For many, many years, I quested after another one. To the point that job hunting was my job for nearly a decade. And I never found it. Whether my focus was too narrow, or my standards set impossibly high, the next perfect opportunity never presented itself. I gave up and finally started my own business. Which, I realize now, was the answer all along.

Still, I’m not really happy, and I’m a far cry from fulfilled. There’s a huge hole in my life, the one that used to be filled with family and friends. Again, it’s taken me nearly a decade to realize that the feeble attempts I have made to fill that hole have failed dismally. I’ve tried joining a gym, taking classes, volunteering… I’m such a solitary soul, these things don’t work for me. I go to the gym, or the class, or the job, get down to the business at hand, and go home. I don’t mean to be anti-social. I just…am. And it looks like I am not destined to encounter that kind group who will see past my social ineptitude and take me under their wing.

Recently, I’ve realized there is another emptiness in my life—a spiritual void. Shortly after my sister’s death, I walked away from faith in the traditional Christian concept of God. I wasn’t angry with God, not really. I simply realized that there were too many inconsistencies between the great benevolent parent-in-the-sky I have been led to believe in, and the things that actually happened on this earth. That I was no more interested in having a personal relationship with the unknowable, omnipotent Architect of creation than It was in having one with me. The recent ugly tide of self-righteous, xenophobic, intolerant fundamentalism has done nothing to soften my heart, or call me toward seeking a renewed relationship with the Almighty.

Lately, though, I’ve discovered that life’s earliest lessons, the ones written on the heart when the heart was still soft and clean and eager to accept them, are the hardest ones to unlearn. That God who was branded upon my soul, practically in my infancy,is still there…at least, I think He is. Finally, my ever more desperate loneliness has led me to reach for that last diminishing light from my past. All my other feeble attempts to find a community that will have me have failed. In some convoluted way, I half-believed that perhaps it was because I had turned my back on God that I had become so lonely and disconnected. How easy it was to pull that kind of logic out of the deep recesses of my soul, where I had thought it long turned to dust from disuse.

At last, I decided that perhaps there might be a church out there somewhere that could restore my faith…in God, in people, in myself. So, Sunday morning, January 1, 2006, I stepped out of my head and into the first church I had entered voluntarily, with a mind to reconciliation, in a very, very long time.

To be continued….