How can I explain this–I am wholly uncertain of who I am supposed to be on this earth, and I am 40 years old. I fall in love with things that are manmade, and then I become guilty and want to completely seek out the divine, only the divine turns out to be mostly my own little idol of the moment.
How can I explain that when I go back and read my hastily-written notes about my last trip to NYC, I ache with a desire to be in NYC again at this very moment? It isn’t really a sexual desire, but it isn’t quite religious or spiritual or some other manifestation of the sensual appetite. It is a desire to be among culture–sophisticated culture and tourist culture and trashy, hipster culture. To be able to walk down the street and view cold, bloodless art, and then warm, classical masterpieces and totems from world cultures–and know that all these people walking around you like to at least occasionally go look at that art as well. To be among the very wealthy, though the thought of being very wealthy isn’t all that appealing.
How can I explain these moments when I realize that I’ve lived almost my entire life in places that don’t get me excited and make me happy? Austin makes me happier than Waco or Smalltown, MO, but this is relatively speaking. Most days, I don’t get excited about Austin. It’s not that Austin is bad–it’s that I don’t feel like it resonates with me. I feel like I make alterations to myself to fit its culture and attitudes, only to discover how little I care for myself when I do.
How can I explain that I will be a Christian for the rest of my life, but that I would just as soon prefer to spend my time meditating like a Buddhist on the emptiness of existence and the non-duality of my nature or reading the Hebrew Bible and knowing the God of the Old Testament better, or reading Greek mythology or Chinese literature, or what have you–than spend my time obsessing over the gospels? I confess that I know and love Jesus best when I cease to formulate my own preconceived notions about who he is and also cease to attempt to match my own expectations with the notions of others. I know and love Jesus best when I stop trying to assert that I know who he was or is, and simply love Jesus, love others, and want to live some place like NYC where there are a lot of others to love.
You might think that I dislike people because I am an introvert, but the truth is, I like people the more that I am around large numbers of very diverse ones. The more races, religions, cultures, languages, skin colors, shapes, sizes, faces that I see, the happier I am–suddenly, being human makes sense to me again. When I was in Waco, and got used to spending most of my time around white, Christian evangelicals who loved guns, football and Murica, I started to really think that I disliked the human race. It wasn’t because these people were bad, it was because they were not fully representative of the full spectrum of humans that God wants humanity to be.
You might think that I dislike myself–that isn’t true, either. What I dislike about myself is when I start to create a rigid, impermeable self that is a shadow or idol of the real me–a one or perhaps two-dimensional self that looks more like a box than a human being. I gladly embrace making such a caricature at first, because I somehow think that this makes me seem like more of an adult: I’ve ceased playing with existence and now I am ready to be serious about it. Only, such efforts to be the perfect adult like the kind of men I remembered from my childhood are futile. I am not my father and I am not other men like my deceased uncle J who had such crisp and insanely rigid expectations of how one should conduct one’s self as an adult human being. Believe me, I can’t stand people who intentionally try to be buddies with their teenage children and forcibly keep themselves immature. I can’t stand the thought of living out a life of endless codependent relationships and addictions and bad jobs and bad choices. I want to be a grown up, but I don’t want to be a puppet or a cartoon of a grown up.