Friday, April 04, 2014

Why Am I Happy?

One of my friends wrote this status on her FB page:
below, please list one, two, three, four, or five words to explain how in the world you are surviving.
I usually enjoy the challenge of working a whole thought down to a single phrase, but this was stumping me. Then it occurred to me that the reason I couldn't come up with anything was that I am not just surviving. I am really, really happy.

Over the past few days, I have been reflecting on WHY I am happy and I found that all of my analogies kept spinning back to Fight Club.

In one scene of the movie, the Narrator and Tyler Durden pull a convenience store clerk into a back alley and threaten to kill him.  Tyler asks the clerk some questions about his life goals and finds the man had given up on his goal of becoming a veterinarian because it was too difficult. Tyler tells him that if he is not on the road to being a vet again within the next six weeks, he is going to come back and kill him. The Narrator can't understand Tyler's point until Tyler responds:
Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel's life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted.
Death has a startling ability to focus you in the present moment.

Leaving religion gave me a death sentence; something I had never had before. Rather than living forever, I only have another 40 years or so at best. Religion often encourages people to disdain this life and pine for the next. Suddenly, this was the only one I would get.

Most religious people tend to find the notion of no after-life depressing. I had thought that way. However, when I truly came to grips with the fact that I probably have less years in front of me than behind, something shifted. My days became more beautiful.

My breakfast tasted better.

I also realize I have been living by another piece of Tyler wisdom:
The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.
Religion has a way of heaping a myriad of dogmas, pressures, and tasks into one's life under the guise that these things matter. I did not leave religion to get away from these things, honestly I did not realize how much these things held me back until I was out. Nevertheless, leaving brought a beauty and freedom I had not anticipated. An endless list of things that seemed so pivotal were now able to slide. I was like Dorthy, stepping from a world of Black and White to one saturated with vivid color.

Is my life perfect? No. There are areas that I hope to change. There are other areas I cannot change. And here is where I use my last bit of Tyler wisdom:
I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.
My religious notions of perfection always left me feeling like I did not measure up. No matter how hard I pushed or how fast I ran, it was never enough.  I never realized until I was out that it was just one big hamster wheel.  It never let you progress and never intended to.  It simply makes you exhausted.

Everything in my life does not have to be complete or perfect for me to enjoy myself - to do things that are important and to do things that are fun.

My life is a brief opportunity to enjoy relationships, experience beauty, breathe deeply, and leave this world a little nicer for those who will come after me.

I don't need eternity.

This is enough.

3 comments:

Wesley Ellis said...

Andrew,
I'm enjoying your blog... and I usually resist the temptation to remind you that you don't have to reject religion in general to come to similar conclusions (or at least nuanced versions thereof). But this time, I can't help it. I'm not Lutheran, but you sound a lot like Dietrich Bonhoeffer in this post (minus the categorical rejection of eternity). He'd agree with you, I think, on all 3 points... though, again, in very nuanced ways. This is just a friendly reminder that the religion you're pissed off about is particular, not general. I am unapologetically religious, but I'm pissed at much of the same crap that you are, and much of the freedom you've found in rejecting religion, I too have found in embracing it... particularly in embracing the cross of Christ. I don't want to downplay our differences. They're real. We have important disagreements. I'm not accusing you of secretly being a Christian or anything like that. But I guess I'm just saying that while I understand venting through a good rant, now and again, maybe try not to throw the baby out with the bath water... even if the baby's not yours.

Andrew said...

I appreciate your response Wes, as well as your writings and your life worldview. I know within religion there are people who are committed to a humanistic world view - by that I mean that they will choose people over their religion when their religion is harming people - Jesus seemed to do that more often than not.

I know that one can hold good views while being religious, but it seems to me that religion is still more an anchor than a baby. For all of your choices to lean in to scriptures that bring life, there are an equal amount there that bring death. Westboro, Piper, Driscoll and their like are not imagining that their religious texts say these things that allow them to hold their views... all of those texts exist and can be used correctly in context to create a society as oppressive as any Taliban.

I may be wrong on my numbers, but I don't think I am... for every Wes, or Rachel Evans, or Brian McLaren... there are a thousand Mark Driscolls. For every St. Francis, there are a thousand Ratzingers. For every Muslim who wants to liberate women, there are a thousand wanting them in burkas. Here in my home state, for every Mormon wanting homosexuals to have rights, there are a thousand drowning out their voice.

If those numbers were not so, we would be living in a very different world. Because, after all, most of the world is religious.

I do not think those numbers are simply a reflection of humanity in its natural state. I think those numbers skew toward oppression due to religion.

As such, I feel a need to point out the harm of religion in general, even if a remnant of folks are able to navigate a loving path within it.

Wesley Ellis said...

Andrew,
I respect your perspective. Lemme just ask, on a more personal level... even if you disagree with us, don't help the Driscolls and Pipers "drown out" the voices (as you say) of the Evans's and McLarens by painting them with the same brush.

Like I said, I'm still enjoying your blog. I'll go back to doing it quietly.

Thanks.

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