The assumption is that I was put on earth for a reason, and so the goal has been to discover what that reason is, and then achieve the happiest life possible by spending the rest of my life focused on carrying out that particular mission. The assumption has been that all human beings can be loved, and that I can reach some kind of common ground in order to talk to and even befriend any human being on the face of the planet. The only exception might be someone who is utterly mentally handicapped or completely evil beyond redemption. The assumption has been that I have as much potential to tap into supergenius resources in my brain as any great mathematician. I only have to figure out the right combination of effort and chemicals to make it happen. The assumption has been that I will die having done something great, that will be known among many human beings, or even most of the human beings who speak my language and live in the West. The assumption has been that there is a God, and God is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving. Any evidence of the contrary is due to my own limitations here in a realm of three spatial dimensions and one linear temporal one.
These are poor assumptions that have been made based on what I was told as a child, and lots of hope that I filled myself up with during years away from people. So far, none of these assumptions have been proven to be very accurate. If they are still true, I am not going about life correctly in order to experience the truth of them. If I am more or less living the life you would expect someone like me in my time and place to live, with all of my faults and shortcomings, then the assumptions are all or mostly incorrect.
What if there is no purpose for me on this earth, or the purpose of my being ultimately becomes whatever I leave behind? If I wake up tomorrow and decide to leave seminary and invest the rest of my savings in an art studio, and I produce a bunch of mediocre paintings and then die, then my purpose ultimately was to make those paintings. All of my writing could be seen as my purpose in life, but it wasn’t necessarily by design–I don’t feel like most of the time I am participating in a larger scheme of a greater being. My son might be my purpose in this life–this seems more likely–that I am simply another beast passing on my DNA to perpetuate my particular DNA.
I’ve tried so hard to love the world and love others when they don’t love me back, but I inevitably find myself just not really liking some people. Can we all just get along? I see so much phoniness coming from those who carry around this attitude, and maybe I am projecting my own sense of falseness, but it doesn’t seem to me like we can genuinely all get along. I haven’t really gotten along with everyone in my life, ever. I’ve fought with siblings, parents, classmates, coworkers my entire life and when I didn’t fight with them, I was secretly resenting them for being who they were. I like the idea of the lion lying down with the lamb, but I would argue that a much more powerful being would have to come down to earth and zap away a lot of what makes us animal and makes us human in order for us all to get along. At that point, we become like robots and we aren’t really getting along as God’s creatures.
I am pretty certain at my present age of 40, that my brain has continued to lose whatever mental acuity it once had during my teenage years and twenties, when I squandered such opportunity. If there is some higher, non-local Mind or Self that I could tap into, that is almost godlike, I haven’t discovered it. Most days, I feel more inclined to completely throw in the towel and go accept some basic office schmuck job where I live the way so many of my peers have chosen to live–enjoy all of the creature comforts that come with being a middle-class American and not worry too much about the fact that they probably won’t be there for our children tomorrow. Get an RV, save up for international travel, buy large televisions and jet-skis, go to sporting events as much as possible. Eat junk food and barbecue and drink beer in abundance. Be happy and stop worrying about the morrow.
Why do I even insist or bother on attempting to do more with my life than what is average and mediocre? Is it mere pride, or am I actually being pressed onward to find my true purpose for being alive on this earth? Surely I don’t care what others in the present or future have to say about what I did or didn’t do. The amount of slots for the would-be immortal, the one who isn’t forgotten by endless generations following his own–those slots are few and even the greats of our generation don’t get to fill most of them. Who in three generations will remember Donald Trump as being more than a mere sideshow to the general onward push of history?
The general thing to do, it would seem, is to stop assuming that much of anything really is the way I think it is. Maybe God isn’t so all-loving after all. Maybe God as I have tried to know God doesn’t even exist. Perhaps someone did make this universe, and other higher powers do occasionally step in and try to save us from ourselves, but maybe the overall need to redeem us while eventually destroying everything is just a need that was felt by the oppressed and marginalized prophets of old. It could be that any higher powers capable of utterly annihilating this universe simply don’t care enough about it to bother doing such a thing. I am not feeling so much like an atheist today that I would completely stop believing in God altogether, but I am feeling a lot like simply not worrying about my salvation and the salvation or damnation of others. Let things happen as they will, and hope for the best. The religions of others still continues to fascinate me, but I am merely a student of such things–I will never be some hardcore, true believer. Or, if I were to become such a thing, I think that I would do it with an attitude of “well, this religion is as good as any, might as well believe in something instead of nothing, and I might as well go all out in my belief if I’m going to bother believing at all.”
The thing is, I’ve been overly worried and concerned about my future, especially aspects of the future that I have no control over. Things that I do have control over, I have tended to neglect for want of taking responsibility for them. I have persisted in being this immature man who would rather pretend that he’s in control of stuff like who gets to be President, when he really knows that he has no control over it, so that he can worry and bitch and moan about things that he can’t control. It is much easier to complain to God for not stepping in and helping you out then it is to get up off your ass and get done the things that you can get done. This kind of attitude is no good reason to have faith in the first place. Having faith in a deity just so that you can blame things on the deity and whine and complain to the deity and evade your own personal responsibility is not really any kind of faith at all. It’s certainly not the faith by grace that the reformed church always talks about. It’s more of a willful ignorance and insistence on refusing to become a complete grown-up.
I don’t know if everyone has, to some degree, areas in their life where they really have yet to become complete grown-ups, but I know that I do. If I were to really sit down and think about what I needed to get done to become a complete grown-up, I would get rid of most of my books, clean up the house from top to bottom, hang the rest of the pictures, break down the baby’s crib because he’s really outgrown it, and consolidate all of my retirement accounts, and come up with a new schedule for next semester as well as begin putting down everything I need to accomplish over the next few years in order to become a pastor and be constantly trying to get done as much of it as I possibly could during my waking hours. When my books for next classes arrive, I would be reading as much of them as I could, taking notes and coming up with questions ahead of time so that I could have the most productive learning experiences possible. I would cease reading any other books except the Bible until I graduated.
Am I going to do all of that? Of course not. Well, eventually I will do all of it because it has to get done at some point, but I’m not going to do it right now. I am getting tired just thinking about doing it. There are probably a million more things I should be doing as well, like getting next year’s taxes ready and drawing up a budget for how we will survive the next few years, etc. I am not a grown-up by any stretch of the imagination. I think that I may very well have sought out the Army or a monastery if I had come clean about who I really am in my younger years. I am someone who can work really hard if I am forced to, and I prefer to have an institution taking care of most of my needs in return for the work I do. I would rather have someone telling me what to do all the time, and I think that it’s mostly my false self that resents being told what to do by others.