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:
When coping, we all project to some degree or another. When we empathize, we project a little bit upon others and assume that we can get into their shoes and see things from their perspective. We need to project a little bit because, ultimately, we're all alone. We do our best to make community, but ultimately we're very alone.
A few months ago I came across this infographic while navigating Pinterest. It really bothered me to discover it. However, I've learned to do my best to pay special attention to things that seem to irk me, so here it is:
My issue is that I really don't want to be the manipulator. But I read through those "red flags" and can't help but feel like I've taken part in a good portion of those.
But I've gotten to a point where I second-guess my intentions so much that I can't help but feel like I must be a manipulator, that I must be a desperate, terrible person to have the desires that I do, to have said the things I have. And then I spiral downwards, unable to even fully come to grips with my own sense of reality. And I wonder if I'm just some projection machine, blasting everyone around me with my own ego.
That's the thing about being in relationship with people: friends, intimate partners, spouses, children, etc.: context really does make a difference. All. The. Time. And we hope that our relationships can share a common reality.
And when they don't seem to share that common reality, our shared projection gets blurry and out of focus. And then we realize just how alone we can be.
So I'm astoundingly grateful for those relationships with whom I seem to be able to share a common projection, with whom it seems like we can look at the same screen and perceive a clear image. I cherish shared a clear images of the world, even if the image itself is a little unseemly.
The other night, while I took Rosita for a walk, Brandi Carlile's "The Story" began to play on my headphones.
"The Story" is one of my ex's songs. For years, she loved it and adored it and sang along with it whenever she could. I remember it was one of the songs she wanted me to teach her on the guitar. It's a gorgeous song fleshed with loads of common imagery and Carlile's performance meshes perfectly with the content.
But I don't think it was one of "our songs." It was her song. So of course it sent me deep into the dregs of nostalgic reverie.
We walked down the aisle, just over ten years ago, to Pierce Pettis' "You Move Me."
Our first "date," if you could call it that, was a Pierce Pettis basement show in Delta, BC, back in January or so of 2006. It was only appropriate that we'd walk down the aisle to the song.
And it was appropriate because she did move me for a long time. I'd like to think that our relationship lived up to the ideals that the song promoted. I mean, read it:
But now I'm back on the couch, taking the therapy, heart hanging out. And I guess I'll never get to listen to the song the same again.
I've tried to write about the idea of "narcissism" before. For a while there, psychological diagnoses took up a significant amount of my thinking. For the last four months or so, however, I haven't been thinking about them much at all. After all my self-directed studies, the books I read, and the podcasts I listened to, I decided to focus on what's in the heart and to try to stay away from armchair amateur psychological diagnosis. I'm not a professional in that field; I shouldn't even begin to pretend to be one.
Over the last couple days, this letter by Allen Frances found its way onto The New York Times:
And then I got to hear this articulate and pithy interview with Frances on CBC's As It Happens:
I admit it: this backs up my current prejudice to let the professionals take care of this sort of thing. I admit that it's made me very uncomfortable to hear people throw the words around because I thought it was OK to throw the words around too, despite all the warnings like the one above.
I appreciate Frances' attitude here:
And I'd say this is a good attitude to have going forward: focus on behavior, focus on democracy, and focus on what really affects people about Trump's behavior. But don't try to diagnose him; it's too contentious and speculative to be worthwhile.
The Internet Archive
YouTube: ephemeral ideas