Monday, April 21, 2014

"Sight" Revisited

Here in London Easter is a national holiday and most businesses give you the Friday before and the Monday after off. This mean I had a four day weekend. Needless to say I had a lot of free time. During this time I often found myself looking back on my life and reminiscing. I listened to songs I used to love, reread various sections of books I enjoy and I went through my computer looking at some old writing I had done. While doing this I stumbled over a piece I wrote in 2004 the day after Easter. I first found it interesting because I was reading it almost exactly ten years after I had written it. What I wrote then was not a message or idea related specifically to Easter but I did find it interesting because it documented a time when I was first beginning to move away from my faith. Now if one reads what I wrote I don’t think that will necessarily come across. Rather what comes across is that I am afraid. I am afraid that for the first time in quite a while I am feeling alone or unable to see Christ in my life.

The description of fear was noteworthy because only the day before I had written on Facebook that my move away from faith was not caused by a feeling of abandonment by god. I was responding to a friend who commented on one of my threads. I wrote, I felt god's (the Christian one) love as well most of my life. In fact I never felt that love disappear nor did I feel abandoned by god or any of those feelings that many people assume I must have had to lead me to reject my faith. Rather I spent my life studying my faith out of my love for god and desire to know him better. I studied the theologians, scholars, monks, priests and mystics of Christianity's history and what I found or should I say failed to find was one single worldview or version of Christianity that actually worked and remained consist with itself. Every version of god I found worth worshiping was one that couldn't account for the existence of this world or a majority of the tenants of Christianity and every god I found that could create this world and uphold a majority of Christianity's main belief was a god not worthy of devotion, praise or belief. Most of Christianity's short comings became clearest to me when I viewed them through the eyes of a person outside of the faith where I discovered a god who failed to love them as he had chosen to love me. (Click here to see full thread) So here I said that I did not feel abandoned by god whereas in 2004 I wrote that I was afraid that my sight of (connection to) Christ was being taken from me. Obviously these are not the exact same things, fear you are losing something is not the same as feeling abandoned but still I found it interesting that I was reading this only a day after making that comment on Facebook. Sometimes I think I forget just how difficult and scary the journey from believer to non-believer was for me. When I talk about my de-conversion now I think I often fail to give the emotional aspect of it its proper due. The truth is that while I believe my decision to no longer be a Christian was one that was triggered and ultimately cemented by intellectual factors my emotions did play their part. I know there were times I was angry, lonely and just depressed and those times are part of my story as well.

For fun I thought I would include the piece I found. I wrote it on the 12th of April 2004. And while that isn't ten years ago to the day it was the day after Easter just like today is. Now it would still be five years before I decided I could no longer be a Christian yet I can’t help but read this piece and see not only the person I was but the beginnings of the person I would become, a person I never could have guessed I would be and a person I wouldn't have wanted to be back then.

Please note that I have not changed anything I wrote from then so there are a few typos as well as some other grammar mistakes but I felt I should leave it the way it was. And yes I am scared/embarrassed to share this because of how odd most of it sounds to me now.
So here’s what I wrote. I titled it “Sight”

I find myself up at 1 in the morning, which is not that abnormal in and of itself but for the first time in a long time I am haunted by my thoughts to the point I cannot ignore them. My life has been one of sleepless nights; nights filled with tossing and turning, to awake just happy to get out of bed and away from the work of sleeping. The past semester has been one little different except in one important area; fear. I find myself truly afraid to turn off the TV and have to listen to my own mind. Most nights I stay up far too long watching Sports Center two or three times in a row until I simply pass out only to awake to the professional Table Tennis or the 1994 Cheerleading Championships being held somewhere in Texas. I then pull myself to bed where I instantly press play on my computer jukebox program that provides music to drown out any last thoughts that may have survived the numbing journey thus far. Like I said, tonight was no different except that I am sitting at the computer typing the thoughts that would not be silenced.
I began simply uttering, “I am afraid Christ” for that is all I had. There was no bright flash of light or instant feeling of peace and tranquility but my eyes popped open. It was not that I wasn't tired but my eyes just opened and I saw. I saw the pillow lying right in front of me and I saw the shadows of the dark room surrounding me. I saw in the dark, in the fear, I saw. And then it hit me, I've always seen.
Sight has been the one gift that has most defined and dominated my life. It is a gift that was granted to me early in my life and has always, in some way, been who I am. The day I became a Christian, in fifth grade, it was due to sight, a sight that has followed me every since. Every spiritual pursuit of my life has been spearheaded by sight. My actions, my thoughts were no more than my sights. From foresight in the big picture of the world to minor perceptions about the person who was sitting across the table from me sharing a meal. What I see is what I know. My father has on many occasions thanked God that I received my mother’s brains, though I often lack his good sense, but truly all my academic success has been one of sight. I pursued art for years and excelled in drawing, still lives and figure drawing were my favorites, because I could see. I drew what I saw and that is why I could draw it. I have since chased after history fascinated by people and what drives or motivates them. The science of history is amazing simply because it isn't a science despite what many well-to-do historians of the 50’s and 60’s want to think. And to put it quite simply, and by this point predictably, I see history. One scholar fights with another over the validity of one text over another text, in which the one text contradicts the other while negating a third text, and though it all I see history. I see the disputes of history played out before me in the disputes of modern scholars. I see the stories, the bias, the contradictions, the beliefs, the people, and the divine. Then, of course, there is the series of events that change everything about who I am that began the day I met Cynthia. A series of events that truly were, despite my spiritual lackings, a time of unequaled clarity of thought, of will, and of desire. Lastly, I am obsessed with humor and comedy for me, more often than not, is simply about seeing. Seeing the simple, everyday situation in a way others don’t. That in fact is perhaps what I am really trying to say in all of this, my whole life I have seen in a way that others do not but only recently have I felt like that original sight, my sight of Christ, has been taken from me. So each night I approach my bed afraid, afraid I will never see it again and be left with staring at the shadows surrounding me. Did it have to be taken away from me for me to see it more clearly or is my sight to be forever exiled to the realms of simple observations and historical inquiry?

So there it is, Zach from 2004. When I read this yesterday I winced a little at its overdramatic nature as well as the slightly haughty tone it seems to have, I still do.  Still each time I read this I can’t help but smile and remember my past fondly. There are often times I wish I could go back and experience much of it again but there are rarely times I wish I could go back and be that same person again. I’m glad I've changed and I’m glad I've “lost” that sight that I had. If nothing else I've found over these past ten years that not only do I not see was well as I thought I did but that it’s okay not to “see” everything.  

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