Every person who chooses the service of God as his life’s work has something in common. I don’t care if you’re a preacher, a priest, a nun, a rabbi or a Buddhist monk.
Many, many times during your life you will look at your reflection in a mirror and ask yourself: am I a fool?
— Jacob Fuller in From Dusk Till Dawn
I don’t know Tarantino’s relation to religion, but this quote resonates in me.
I have had the chance to see the evolution of a church over the course of almost ten years, from its creation to its dissolution (by majority vote). Because I was still young, I never had any significance in its operations, but still, I’m glad that it is all over.
There was a time when I embraced the teachings of this particular branch of Christianism. The crowd qualified easily as brainiacs: very far from the american conception of the no-questions-asked swallow-it-all Sunday believer.
No, there were logical explanations for everything. Intricate thought systems. Lenghty text studies, taking notes. A very good organization in studies. In a way, I have learned a lot more from church meetings than from regular school.
It taught me a lot of things. It taught me to be patient, to consider all aspects of a text. To recognize logical fallacies. To entertain complex arguments, and keep track of every subtelty. A lawyer’s work of sort.
It also taught me to be critical of what I heard. It was never about blindly believing a particular word. Everyone was encouraged to think for themselves and to speak up if they thought something was off.
The way back
And something was off. Terribly off.
I still can subscribe to the core values: patience, generosity, fairness, honesty, forgiveness, selflessness, and so on. The problem was: every action and line of thought still originated from the obedience to a set of rules.
It was rare to see someone truly generous. Often it was just because they felt guilty that they weren’t generous enough. But they weren’t forced to be generous, no! They also felt guilty because that generosity should have come naturally from them, they shouldn’t have had to think about it.
That was the first hint. The second thing off was uneasiness around certain subjects. Even with all the self-thinking encouragements in the world, in order to live by and promote a certain way of life, you need made-up answers.
What troubled me was what happened when made-up answers were found lacking. At some point, my favorite activity was to go up to people and ask them questions until they were dying of embarassment. Some reacted with violence, ordering me to shut up and not mention such things. Others simply tried at all costs to elude the question.
As long as the taboos were matters of theory, there was no use losing sleep over it. But then things happened. People started misbehaving. There were cases of abuse in kids summer camps. And what was the reaction? Silence. Denial.
At that age, adults were responsible to explain to us what happened, what it meant, how it normally happens, and what we should do about it for now. There should have been apologies. People should have been spoken to, with care, understanding and patience.
In place of all that, silence. Denial. I cannot find anyone to talk about it, because everyone will argue that those things never happened, or that “they do not remember”.
A different perspective
Sorry, what? You don’t remember? You mean: you were taught to ignore those things. You were taught to dig far down certain episodes, and only live the safe part of life, with the right kind of people, staying in a setting that was arranged by a chosen few.
I always felt too much. I felt there was something horribly off, and it was not until my adult and independent life that I could put my finger on it. These people lie to themselves.
Living by your own rules is certainly scary. You cannot just rely on a handbook. There are fewer people to relate to. Depending on where you come from, you will be shunned. And most of all, it falls under your responsibility to choose how to count the score.
When this happens, when you decide to stop following the herd and think for yourself, and I mean really for yourself, not just figuring out way to justify what you were initially spoonfed, you start living in a parallel universe.
It is lonely out there. Oftentimes, you will look at yourself in the mirror and ask: Am I a fool? The people around you are invaluable, but their advice is often not. There is too much to consider, too little time to share, too many people who think they are leaders when they simply forgot how to shut up.
Thinking about death is an exercise I frequently practice, as it is a good way to quickly focus on what truly matters to you. I would like to open eyes. Anyone with an opinion is a preacher in its own right, but some have premade ideas and some do not.
I don’t have a walkthrough to life. Heck, I’m only 21. What I do know, is that in order to choose what you want to do with it, you need time to think. You need to step back from the daily madness: some call it meditation, some philosophy, some looking out the window instead of listening to the teacher.
You cannot have perspective without experience. And you cannot have experience if your mind stays closed. You are defined, not by what you buy, or what you wear, or your physical appearance. You are defined by the things, thoughts, and doings that you endorse, and those from which you distance yourself.
Still thirsty? Read the epilogue to this article, ‘Be Wrong’