My ability to believe faded years ago; when I left Christianity behind, I left all spiritual beliefs with it. I came to a point where I felt that all unfounded belief systems suffered from the same problem: they depended on a choice to jump past the probabilities, and none of them seemed more probable than another.
But I've never been totally on board with bad-mouthing believers. Even in my most shameful, misguided moment—when I carelessly heckled a Jehovah's Witness student for refusing to partake in a Valentine's activity for religious reasons—I've never wanted to convert people to non-belief. Some atheist-folks have suggested that I should more aggressively haggle with believers in order to have them abandon their faith, but I have no interest in that sort of behaviour.
Why, though? I've never been able to provide a real answer. Why do I have so little interest in evangelizing my new understanding of the world? This sort of question has bothered me for a few years now and I haven't been able to put it into words.
Last Saturday evening, I attended a taping of The Imposter at UFV in Chilliwack.
The musical guests were Mourning Coup, a group led by Chandra Melting Tallow. During Aliya Pabani's on-stage interview with Melting Tallow, my mind started to wander a bit. It seemed like Tallow chafed each time Pabani mentioned a critic or reviewer of Tallow's work. It was interesting to see this dynamic at play: Pabani's casual attempts to make the conversation work, using data and history, and Tallow's tugging of the conversation back to the here and now, back to the authentic present.
My mind started to wander a bit and a pithy statement hit me: authenticity is spirituality. So I bounced it around in my head for a bit. And, for the moment, I like it.
I've been listening to a lot of those self-improvement sorts of podcasts and reading a lot of self-help-type-of-books over the last couple years. I've also visited multiple counsellors and a psychologist, trying to find my way through this rather discouraging part of my life. Most of these resources, including those educational leadership resources that I battled through for my Master's degree, tend to focus on the need for humans to be themselves, to have an uncompromising vision that seamlessly jives with your central being. In other words, I've been hearing a lot of messaging that tells me that authentic living in all facets of your life is essential.
So I admit that I'm primed to think about authenticity. But the message seems to keep coming up. Whether I'm listening to The One and Only, or perhaps The Art of Charm, or if I'm reading something by Brené Brown or Marshall Rosenberg, authenticity seems to come up as a theme over and over again. It seems to often appear alongside the need for human spirituality. Perhaps there's a connection there.
I couldn't keep being a Christian for authenticity's sake; I couldn't keep justifying many decisions I made during my marriage for authenticity's sake; I struggle at work when I can't seem to make it happen for authenticity's sake.
So, perhaps authenticity is the thing that's supposed to fill in that gap. Maybe that's the thing I'm missing from my life, that was missing from my marriage, that's missing on those days when I scramble through work and can't seem to get into the right headspace. Perhaps authenticity is the spiritual goal that I need to seek out and live by, no matter what Andrew Potter claims.
Because I'm simply not cynical enough to go full negative. I love people. I want people to get along. I want people to find common ground as much as they can. And when I can't even keep this sort of practice going, I break down. I can't fully dismiss people; I can't fully act cruelly when compassion or empathy might work better. Hence why I can't attack people for believing things I don't, particularly if they appear to be genuinely doing no harm.
I think I can flesh this one out more, but that will come in some sort of later post.
For now, "Authenticity as Spirituality" is about all I can do.
I've grown to really respect Warren Zevon's overall aesthetic over the years. He's got a pretty big catalogue, so I tend to learn his songs rather slowly.
"Studebaker" has really stood out to me as of late. It's an excellent story song with loads of well-placed narrative gaps, and the "made a sound that cracked my heart in half" line is one heckuva setup for a punchline.
It appears that he never really made a proper recording of it, but here it is:
Zevon's son, Jordan Zevon, gave it the studio treatment and did a damn fine job at it:
Loads of people have covered it on YouTube, which I think is quite the testament to the song's narrative structure and overall craftsmanship. Here's the favorite cover that I've found so far:
The Internet Archive
YouTube: ephemeral ideas