So, in previous posts I have briefly discussed the fact that I am a federal bureaucrat. I have also noted that I strive to keep this world and that separate, which I still intend to do. However there is a subject that is relevant in recent considerations which I will mention…briefly. There is this structure, a five stage program in fact, called “Fundamentals” which all employees, full-time permanent ones in particular, are encouraged to take part in. As I understand it there are two, one week long site visits interspersed with online “training modules”. It is jokingly referred to as “drinking the kool-aid” by people I have talked to that have participated. It is, as I understand it, a sort of initiation into “the Service”… sounds kind of like brainwashing, but perhaps it is not so nefarious as all that.
Anyways, like the Stranger from the Big Lebowski, I would rather drink sarsaparilla.
Back in high school, I made the decision at some point to not participate in traditions such as reciting the pledge of allegiance or singing the national anthem. I no longer did the hand over heart thing and would not even stand up for said carryings on. I just did not get it, did not feel that I needed to be a part of it. My friends would give me grief about it until they got used to it. Or maybe they just gave up. Remember that business when Rosanne Barr got a WHOLE LOT of grief over her rendition of the national anthem? Man some people got worked up over that. I thought it was funny…she is a comedian after all.
Likewise, and even more-so, I never had –nor understood- “school spirit”. I mean really, what the hell is THAT all about? Quasi-nationalism. I had gotten enough of that business in scouting… which as I have mentioned before was all about the big guys beating up on the little guys. Stupid. Team sports = same thing. Go us. Rah Rah Rah. Thhhppbbffttthh!
I just wanted to ride my bike…and read comics and listen to music on my Walkman and play Dungeons and Dragons when the opportunity arose. I liked getting out in the world and experiencing it on my own terms, but I also liked checking out and immersing myself in imagined realities. Ultimately I have never really been much of a “joiner”. So, where is all this going you ask? Well, I have some intention of making this a part two to my previous post. For good or ill. In the wake of making that thing public I got a series of responses, all of which I greatly appreciate as they have all given me more to ponder…as if I needed more. Seriously though, as I said previously such a topic is not to be taken lightly and I do not intend to. On the other hand, neither is it wise to take one’s self too seriously.
“Confucius is like the Torah, rules to follow. And Lao-Tzu is even more conservative, saying that if you do nothing you won’t break any rules. You have to let tradition fall sometime, you have to take action, you have to eat bacon.”
― Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
There was a time where I thought God was out to get me. Not in any sort of underhanded, wicked, domineering way, but more in that I kept finding myself in situations that gave me the idea that I was being strongly invited to “join the flock”. First there was a couple in Death Valley. They decided that I needed looking after and tried very hard to take me under their born-again wings. Not wanting to be rude and unappreciative I would spend time with them; I worked with her and would go to their place for dinner on occasion, or go golfing with him (once…silly game). They would preach at me and I would smile and nod. A friend of mine asked me at one point why I kept up the charade and I responded something like “Well, I have nothing against them. I just think they are weird.” He agreed, but still did not understand my actions. Maybe I was curious, but something about them and their behavior seemed forced. I think theirs was more the charade than mine.
Then I found Siddhartha, an event which I have described previously. Not long after I parted with most of my worldly possessions and moved back to Alaska. I stayed my first winter with another family. These folks were not born again, they were the real deal as far as I could tell…but they did not go to church. They said they were “Baptists” in the sense that Jesus was baptized and they followed the teachings of that tradition. They were really into the bible and studied it to its esoteric roots…as far as I understood it. They were gentler in their means, but I still got the sense that I was being sought after… or something. Either way it made me jumpy…especially that both scenarios came to pass in such close proximity to one another.
Somewhere along the line I started mucking about in Eastern traditions. Buddhism, Taoism, etc. On the one hand I liked a lot of what I found and I delved deeper in the wake of the previous years’ events… maybe in an effort to divert, or attempt to control whatever influence seemed to be swirling about in the ether around me. I think that I had decided if I was to fall into some sort of faith I would do it on my own terms and not be coerced. So I read and I wrote and took long walks in the wilderness trying to connect with some sort of spirituality. No dice. Not really.
Then I fell in with a group of more like minded folks. Folks my age; artists, poets, musicians; well-meaning vagabonds. They were more fun. One of them was a sort of frustrated gnostic…in a sense. He, like myself, actively sought some sort of truth. Angry with Christianity for some reason he cast about seeking another way. I do not know what, if anything, he found. I have not spoken to him in many years… do not even know where he is. He used to tell me that I was “moody son of a bitch” and that I should probably learn to lighten up. Instead I went back into the wilderness. Over the course of the next few years these vagabond friends of mine started settling down. Not all of them mind you; some are still on the move. Eventually I tried that as well, settling down. Maybe it was not intentional, but I think I might have just been trying to squash this searching, seeking, unsettled side of me. Did not work… and I have discussed this previously as well.
Over time, not finding anything in particular that gave me any satisfaction I guess I gave up. Eventually I found school and through that found science. An interesting foray to be sure but it did not give me what I needed…what ever that may be. Science is an absolute necessity. It is the best means we have to understand and explain the world around us in a neutral, rigorous manner. I just do not believe that it is the end all be all of human understanding. I like to believe in a little bit of magic. Science is so sterile. There is likely no flying teapot…but it would be kind of cool if there was.
“Blessed are the Cheesemakers.”
― Monty Python, Life of Brian
I used to revel in the mockery of religion. In a way I still do. Politics too. John Stewart and his band of merrymakers are genius. While in Death Valley I stumbled onto Discordianism and that was good fun. Hard to take seriously though, despite the fact that I like some of their silly ideas. Later I would discover Pastafarianism and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Good stuff there, but again not really meant to take seriously… well not as any sort of actual spirituality. Both of these “belief systems” offer fantastic directions for social consciousness certainly, but neither really offer any means for genuine faith…in my opinion.
Today I found the Church of the Latter-Day Dude and the Spiritual Path of Dudeism. It is a cross between Zen, Taoism, and the way of the Dude from The Big Lebowski. I love it. Very reminiscent of the Tao of Pooh… which I liked very much as well. But I have been here before. I genuinely like many tenets of this sort of thought. Live simply, peacefully, in the moment. Listen to and learn from the River.
The Stranger said, “Take it easy, Dude–I know that you will.”
“Yeah man. Well, you know, the Dude abides.”
The Dude Abides.
― The Church of the Latter-Day Dude, The Dude De Ching
“Faith isn’t an act of intelligence, it’s an act of imagination.”
― Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
So, years of searching, a bit of running, a bit of hiding, and a fair bit of anguish. A lot of thinking and wondering and not understanding. A lot of questioning, denying, accusing. More than a little drinking.
Then yesterday I find this:
“Come to know what is in front of you and that which is hidden from you will become clear to you.”
It is from the Gospel of Thomas and I have been pondering it quite a bit of late. It is almost a koan, an imponderable position, a paradox. You cannot THINK your way around it. I THINK I am starting to come to terms with the idea that I cannot THINK my way through this stage of faith. I have beliefs about the world and the human experience. They are based on what I have done and learned in my life. What I have read and thought, seen and heard, what I have experienced. I have no intention of casting these beliefs aside…for anyone. They make me who I am. So the big question then – given what I have written here and previously – is I think, why am I considering exploring Christianity (or any organized religion for that matter) now? To be perfectly honest…I do not really know. On the one hand…it has presented itself again. I did not seek it out, nor was I really looking for anything…but there it is. In front of me, and at the same time hidden. Without analyzing it too much, I think that I am curious. The idea of Christianity is intriguing to me now for some reason. I am attracted to the structure, the tradition, and the community. To the ritual and the mystery. There are parts I do not like…period. I cannot ignore that. Yet, I think that there is only one way to find out if the parts that interest me would make it worthwhile. To what end I cannot say, but then that is why one explores. William Least Heat Moon has a perfect quote for this concept. I have it written on a small white-board on my fridge at home;
“Adventure is a putting into motion one’s ignorance.”
So perhaps I am just on the verge of an adventure. I can take what I feel and know of myself and my own experience and bring it with me as I go. Maybe I will end up taking it easy (or learn to). Learn to abide with some new beliefs. A Dudeist Christian perhaps? Who knows. Either way, there is no need to get all worked up about it.