Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Emancipation 101

"We are stardust
We are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden"
(Woodstock, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young 1970)

            Life is hard. It is supposed to be. Without the trials and tribulations that each of us must endure, we would be stagnant. We would be captive to the same moment, the same day, the very same year as every other year. There would be no growth, no evolving. We would become benign and not in a good way. Any movement forward would be for naught. Instead of growing like flowers come spring, we would be quite wilted, limited and undeveloped. If things were easy for us, there would be little to strive for. Without the hurdles, there would be no contest. If you take everything else that life brings with it and hide for a day or two, the pain would still remain. There is little we can do about it. We must grin and bear it but only until we can't anymore. Life is hard. Living it is harder.
            No one ever gets their Disney movie. There are no happy endings (so to speak). There are no princesses to rescue and no prince to ride away with. Fairy tales never come true and chipmunks just can't talk. There are rarely fireworks at the end of each day and wishing upon a star won't make anything come true. We don't get the cartoon even with all the back story. Life just doesn't work that way. It can be bitter, hard and crushing in the most severe manner. It's not even gentle when we are sleeping. The best we can do is continue to move forward regardless of all the chaos. We can hope for our animated version but it never comes no matter how long we wait. Life is not a Disney movie and the rating has never, not ever, been G.
            You have to adapt if you're going to survive. Change is a necessary evil even when it's not. It pushes us down the road. Survival requires that you just keep going. It may hurt but you can't just lay down and die. It goes without saying. The one prerequisite, the only thing that your survival demands is that you continue moving forward. Life requires that we be men in motion. With motion comes change. It is not so much the catalyst that drives us but our reaction to it. We can curse it and try to toss it away. What futility. We can embrace it, allow it to shape us, and carry on our way. The only realistic way to adapt to change is to accommodate. Make room for different thinking. Expand your mind and your spirit. You must change to survive, so why not strive for better things? We get what we pay for. It is our karma, as we reap what we sow. You have the choice. You can be burdened and trapped in your chaos or you can grow, evolve. Along the way you might even figure out a way of surviving god.

"You are loved, you are golden
And the circle won't be broken
When you sail into the shadow of the storm
Every son, every daughter
When you're out on troubled water
Just hold on
Just hold on"
(Golden, Amy Grant 2013)

            I don't think anyone who knows me now would recognize the man I used to be then. He is long dead and gone. He no longer is. No pause. He was not a friendly face. He was often not worth knowing. He was corrupt and broken, his bitter ways met only by his tainted actions. He was up and down and all over the place. There were many reasons I once knew this state. Not that it was all there was to me, but any honourable traits were lost beneath my sea of turmoil. The path I travelled back then was a rough road and a burden to follow. The change was instantaneous. I didn't have to think about it and I did not have to ponder. It was a complete shift and it cut me to the core. In a moment, I lost almost everything. It was taken from me. The rush was silent but it consumed me. There I stood, at 29 years of age, trembling over his body. A night at the bottom of his doom ensured he was freshly frozen. The damage from the fall iced up to the sides of him. The bloody aura around his head looked more like pizza than remnants of blood and his brain. The shock must have hit me but I remember it all. My world had completely changed in a fraction of time, a mere moment. I had as well, even if I didn't want it to be true. I would never be the same again.
            In the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, the narrator sums up the secret to human survival. As he rides a bus to freedom, we are instructed to "get busy living, or get busy dying." I have never met words more true and profound. They have never left me since the first time I saw this movie. I took them to heart. We really have no other choice, do we? Every day we must pick, we must decide to carry on or abandon all hope. Do you fight the good fight or allow the dying of your light? Each day may bring with it enough to change your mind. You have to reapply come morning. You have to get up, continue breathing and face the day. The alternative is to hide in shadow, giving up all that ever mattered to you. It's a cold road sitting, waiting for it to end. Eventually, you will get your wish. You either evolve or you perish, it's that simple.  
            The metaphor 'Surviving God' refers to the same process. You can sit in ignorance regarding the matter or you can evolve, adapting to new ideas and recognizing there is a huge difference between religious truth and religious rhetoric. To truly survive the constant influence of, in my case, the Christian God, I had to adapt and change to comprehend it on any level. It ends up that we often have to leave our traditional religious upbringing in order to survive that god's influence. Needless to say, fighting your conditioning does not stop because you've walked away. The God you have known your entire life does not always fade, even with a fresh spiritual beginning. To survive god, we must abandon god, but then we must learn how to come to terms with the remnants. We must evolve. The Abrahamic god can be one nasty muther. Whether we call it I AM, or Yahweh, or Jesus, or even Allah, there is one thing you cannot ignore. This deity did not make itself known to bring peace, but rather the sword (Matthew 10:34). People just make God up as they go along. They don't educate themselves, often until it's too late. They do not stop to recognize the character and actions of the being that they worship. In the quest for inner peace, they end up at the feet of something more murderous, more human than we ever could have imagined in our previous state of mind. When the God we worship is more enemy than friend, it's time to flee.

"In the game of life, less diversity means fewer options for change. Wild or domesticated, panda or pea, adaptation is the requirement for survival."
(Cary Fowler, American agriculturalist)

            It has been over twenty years since my resurrection. Sometimes I stop, looking in the mirror for the person that I used to be. I can never find him. I cannot be sure he is even there. I'm not convinced that this is a bad thing.  I wouldn't want to go back, even if I could. For two decades, I have waged a war on myself. I refused not to evolve. I strove for change, constantly reaching and struggling to be better and to think better. I was initially propelled by grief and guilt but I am still moving in the same forward motion, without all the drama. I am still growing, still trying to be that better man. I had to adapt in order to survive. I still have to adjust my thinking to new ideas and new revelations. Change is a constant, even if you cannot see. Without it we would be marshmallows, unable to deal, unable to cope. A useless glob at the end of a hanger. Life is hard and it builds us to withstand. We are made strong by the scars we bear.  
            I try to have no expectations of God. No expectations, no disappointments. Where my mind was once haunted by dogma and superstition, I have found peace in the unknown. I had to discover for myself a place where, rather than surviving god, I could find Him. If I had not embraced change and allowed myself to be shaped by experience, I would never have known the things in my life that freed me. I would be trapped in the past, holding to the guilt, holding to the memory of all that entails. In my attempt to understand the Holy, I found nothing but myself. To survive god, I had to see there was nothing to survive. It took some time for that idea to evolve in my mind. There is no enemy to punish me. There is no gatekeeper to restrict my entry. To survive god, you must abandon god. As a theist, I just went and found another.

"Bad things happen. And the human brain is especially adept at making sure that we keep track of these events. This is an adaptive mechanism important for survival."
(David Perlmutter, American physician)