I’m an idealist. I’ve always been an idealist.
I think a lot of that comes from having grown up with such a firm belief in God. I knew that things were supposed to be a certain way, and even if they temporarily went awry, God was so amazing and powerful and all-knowing that He would somehow make it all align with his plan in the end, amazing and delighting us that the things that we saw going wrong and how could He ever let that happen? were actually key contributing elements for the full and complete realization of His plan. You know, the all things working together for good sort of nonsense.
A lot of my idealism also comes from having been an avid reader all my life. In the majority of fiction—and, perhaps surprisingly, non-fiction as well, because we are, after all, only human, and we do like our stories—all sorts of debilitating setbacks occur, scary events happen, dangerous threats loom, but somehow, often in spite of great adversity and against all odds, the protagonist ends up saving the day. The challenges are only there to provide a delay between wanting a thing and getting it, to increase the tension in the plot, and to make you doubt, but by the time the story is over, the main character has achieved his goals.
I’m older now and smart enough to know that life doesn’t follow the supernatural myths of religion or the artificial plots of our favorite books. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. My problem is, I don’t know how to stop being an idealist. I don’t know how to let go of my dreams. I don’t know how to accept—fully, finally, and absolutely—that something that I desperately want, something that seems so right that it must be inevitable, is never going to materialize in my life.
It’s a little bit baffling for a guy. Well, maybe I speak too soon. There is a certain amount of logic in the idea of it. You have certain things you need throughout the day, and so you carry them around with you in a little satchel. That makes sense. But the term “little satchel” can in no way be applied to the monstrosities that many women carry around and call purses, nor is what ends up in them limited to the barest of necessities for the day. Have you ever seen a purse upended? Have you ever picked through the spilled contents and wondered for what possible purpose was this receipt, or this piece of gum, or this thank you note carried around every day for well over a year?
I know what you’re thinking: “Ha ha! Aren’t you a great sexist? You can make fun of women.” The things is, I don’t enter this topic to poke fun at women, but because I’ve realized that we all carry our purses. Thankfully, our culture doesn’t demand that men carry an actual purse. If we did, we’d no doubt lug a 200 lb bag filled with screwdrivers, wrenches, duct tape, and super glue, along with our own assortment of ancient receipts, mushed up sticks of gum, and fourteen pencil stubs. But that’s what we do emotionally. We carry around our emotional man-purses. And mine has recently been upended.
Tithing was always a heavy medal. The weight caused the material it was pinned against to sag, and the constant flopping around with every movement soon began to be annoying, and the fastener constantly irritated the skin. But by God, as a devout Mormon it was a medal worth wearing.
After all, tithing wasn’t just a sign of devotion, of commitment to the one true God. It was also a commandment with a promise. The very windows of heaven were opened to one who paid a faithful tithe, and the blessings were pouring down in such quantity that there was hardly any room left to receive any more of them.
I had an interesting discussion with Girlfriend fairly recently. We were talking about how rare it seems to be for two people to really connect, to get past the superficiality of acquaintanceship and move to the type of bonding that allows for close friendship. Perhaps it isn’t as rare for everybody else as it seems to be for me and her, but we commented that we had a very limited number of people we each would consider to be true friends.
We spent a large part of the conversation trying to identify what quality, attribute, or event enables the transition from acquaintance to friend. In doing so, we talked about why she and I felt that we were friends with each other. The conclusion we came to was that we felt that we could be open with each other. We trusted each other enough to disclose our deeper thoughts and feelings, and instead of judgment or shock from the other person, we received in return understanding and acceptance. She made the observation: “To love is to be vulnerable; and being vulnerable is the start of being loved”
A lot can happen in a year. Some years seem to pass without much changing. Other years, you’d never guess at the beginning of it that your life would be completely different 365 days later. For me, this past year has been of the latter variety.
Today is the 365th day I’ve been keeping this blog. I started it because I felt like I needed a safe place to work out my thoughts and my confusion. I was just coming to the realization that the church I had believed in my entire life was not true. I was beginning to question almost everything that I thought I once knew. In the past 365 days, I’ve figured out quite a few things, changed my life in several fundamental ways, and confronted new questions that I’m still struggling to figure out. I thought I’d take a moment today to highlight a few of those things.
I was talking with a Mormon I had met only that day. This was late December of last year, and my mother had asked me to meet with him because he was fairly knowledgeable about some of the problems with early Mormon church history and she was hoping that he’d be able to address some of my concerns about the veracity of the truth claims of the church. After all, she reasoned, if he knew some of the same facts that I did, but he still believed in the church, maybe I could find a way to return to faith as well.
We talked for quite some time; about three hours if I recall correctly. At one point I stated that I had started the wrong way round: I had tried first to determine if Mormonism was true when it would have been an easier process if I had instead asked if there was even a god. I explained that I had considered myself agnostic, but was beginning to identify more and more with the atheist label. When he heard that, he responded, “Wow. You have more faith than I do.” His point was, I think, that it would be just as difficult for me to disprove god’s existence as it would be for him to prove it, and that when anyone settled on the question of god’s existence, they were adopting a position where they take their desire for the result as the premise from which they begin their arguments. I remembered that in the preceding months I had also been frustrated with this idea of the fruitlessness of trying to prove or disprove god. Until I realized that it didn’t matter to me that it couldn’t be proved either way; at some point I finally understood that I simply couldn’t be bothered with the question.
I’ve often wondered what my life would have been like if I hadn’t been raised by religious parents.
I love words. I’m an avid reader, and I appreciate works from authors who understand the power of words. I enjoy writing, and I know that sometimes the difference between a bland sentence and a powerful sentence can be a simple matter of finding just the right word. I don’t claim, however, to know a lot of words or even the nuances of the ones I do know, and thus I am always seeking to expand my vocabulary and my understanding of word meanings. I carry a dictionary app on my phone, and I refer to it often, probably to the consternation of those people in whose presence I practice this arguably antisocial habit.
So yes. I love words. I love to learn them. I love to use them correctly. It isn’t often, however, that learning a new word completely changes your life. Yet that is what happened to me. It was October of last year. I stumbled upon a word I had never seen before. And my life hasn’t been the same since. The word? Polyamory.
There is a certain sense of safety, security, and comfort that those who believe in a loving God retain in their lives even amid great change and uncertainty. Just knowing that God is there, that He is aware of you, that He loves you, and that He knows the trials and tribulations you are currently facing will ultimately prove to have been for your good … how can that not help you face whatever comes with anything but hope and optimism and added strength? And conversely, how can you face even small difficulties in life if you lack the conviction that it all means something, that it will all work out in the end, that somehow God will even the score, even if it has to wait until the next life? That’s one of the more difficult questions that I’m asked, and because of everything that I’ve lost when I lost my belief in God, this has left the biggest hole and I still find myself mourning it from time to time.
Yet I have found a place I’m comfortable with. Perhaps it’s not quite Abraham’s bosom. Perhaps it’s not even the location of my final destination in my relationship with deity. But it’s a place that I’m comfortable with today, from which I can face each new day that comes with a sense of optimism and hope. At least for now, it’s my view of Life, the Universe, and Everything. If you’ve got a few minutes, I’d love to share it with you.
In most parts of the world, insects constitute just another category of the many dietary options available to people. In some cultures, in fact, insects are considered delicacies, and rather than being quickly swallowed with a pinched nose when other food sources are not available, they are sought after, prized, and savored.
There’s a word for it, of course. Entomophagy. The dictionary definition of the word is, unsurprisingly: the savage practice of eating what no civilized person would ever consider food. Yes, the thought of it grosses me out. Yes, on a very cerebral level, I understand that it shouldn’t bother me at all. But when it comes to images of, for example, furry little spiders with too-tickly legs briefly deep-fried to get a crispy exterior and a sensuously juicy taste explosion after that first crunch, I can’t quite seem to envision myself making the transition from squeamishly eyeing the little critter on a plate to actually picking it up, tilting my head back, and dropping it down the hatch.