I’ve not got anything good to say

Of late my thoughts have been focused too much on current events and politics. I do not want to write about those things because I think even thinking too much about them can be corrupting to the soul. It would be worth the thought and the corruption if I had any say in the way events unfold, but I don’t and it’s probably for the best because I am not qualified to pontificate and even less to act. But this is why I’ve not written much, the things I’ve been thinking are not good to write.

I am a bad person when it comes to politics, I become far too engrossed by the competing factions and the games they play to take each other down. I find the whole drama fascinating and I get a great deal of intellectual satisfaction from trying to figure out what is going on underneath the surface theatre, from considering who is sincere, who is not, who is outright lying – and in all cases why and how it relates to everyone else. I know the futility of my caring, yet I continue to care. I know that I am not smart enough or knowledgable enough to really judge a lot of things, but if anything that just makes the challenge more interesting. For me it’s a fun intellectual exercise, while for other people it is their lives or their livelihoods. For me the drama is thrilling but for people that are directly effected by it, it must be terrifying. When I was a child I was always so excited by talk of war on television, I sat at the edge of my seat, hoping for escalation, looking forward to the exciting new stories that would come tomorrow. Thrilled and mesmerised while people died, while people were tortured, while homes and businesses and whole economies were destroyed.

I still feel that way. Even though I know it is a terrible way to think and feel. People might say it is because I am spoiled, because I have never really suffered, because I don’t know what war and death and suffering really mean – and they are probably right. Sometimes I wish I could find out, because I don’t want to be evil. I don’t want to feel bloodlust or take pleasure in other peoples suffering – nothing makes me so ashamed about myself as this. It is wrong.

Maybe one day I will find out and regret, maybe I will have to really suffer to find repentance.

But maybe I will never repent – in my heart as opposed to my head – that is what terrifies me. What if I never conquer this part of myself?

On Becoming Christian

I was not baptised as a baby, and I did not grow up in a Christian home. When I sought to become a Christian, I first sought to get baptised. I didn’t really think about what would come after that. I mean I did, but I had no idea how to picture it (I pictured it with me being a lot less doubtful and sinful than I really am) and I was driven forward by the desire to become something I knew I wasn’t.

Having been baptised and chrismated, am I now a Christian? I am going to say – n0… sort of.

Well, one thing I didn’t really think about is that to be a Christian is not just to believe in this or that (to affirm that Christ rose from the dead). Ceirtainly without that there is a sort of emptiness to it, but that is not it. To be a Christian is to live in a particular manner – to pray, to live in the sacramental life of the Church, to give to the poor, to support the weak, to resist evil, trust in God – and do all that in a very mundane, everyday way. In a sense to live as a Christian requires fully “re-enchanting” the mundane universe in which the atheist me was brought up in. It means the discovery of the meaning of the word “sacred” and the sacralisation of life itself.

Which is great and all, certainly sounds great – but… well, how do you live like that? Everyone brought up in a Christian home, even from very dubious denominations, has a pattern of life which to a greater or lesser extent models that form of life. For sure some more than others, but I have no such pattern of life. I have no model to base it on – except things looked on from afar, or romantic idealisms promoted for various purposes, or the images in old films perhaps. If I happen on one day to wake up with the grace of gratitude to God for the joy of life and the morning, I have no way, no pattern on which to express such a feeling – and trying to create my own patterns feels in this weak, uncertain stage of my Christian life – feels dangerous and distancing, like a 2 year old trying to create its own language instead of speaking the language of it’s parents.

I have no parents, well I have biological parents, and I also have godparents – but they are each on other sides of the country from me, and they would not serve the role I need them for. Because parents live with their children, they in the beginning guide their children every moment of the day, until their children are used to days and used to nights and so need less guidance.

In order to become a Christian I need someone to tell me what to do. I can’t deal with suggestions, I can’t deal with simply seeing things from afar. Suggest something and I will find every cowardly excuse not to do it, I don’t want people to get the idea I am a “try hard” – even if I’d very much like to be. Let no-one mistake me for one of those dreadful people who attempts to be pious! Let me be gruff and rude and weak, it’s much more comfortable and it doesn’t offend people half so much. As for things seen from afar – I don’t even know if I am allowed to do those. Might they not be reserved for people who are better than me, or from some other culture, or whose parents made them do it when they were children? Those things cannot be for the likes of me…

I am not used to days or nights as a Christian, left to my own devices I will simply revert to days and nights as a nihilist – because I know how to do those very well indeed. This is a difficult dilemma in our culture because most movement goes in the other direction… from Christianity to nihilism (usually via some variant of humanism). I wonder if people going in that direction find it as awkward as this one. But they have the whole country to model themselves on…

Prude

Sex. Even the word disturbs you slightly. You don’t know why, you can rationalise backwards, devise neat little psychological theories about your childhood. But there is something that cuts through those stories and tells another.

Because you are as prudish about God as you are about sex. You feel as uncomfortable attempting to pray as you do thinking about uniting with your lover. Prudishness is the same, one and other. It is the same as Adam and Eve in the garden, you realise you are naked.

Standing vulnerable before God, standing vulnerable before your lover – how different are they really? But how much more vulnerable do you find yourself before God than before your beloved? How much more hushed the tones as you strain to speak.

Oh for a crowd to hide in, or to run like a child behind the legs of your mother, holding tightly to her hand and peeking through the gaps of her fingers, as if no-one could see you there.

Even for all that, you don’t really want to be alone… why else would you be peeking?

Fictional therapy

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

You find the litany against fear surprisingly effective, though not enough. Should you feel ashamed to rely on a spiritual device from a non-existent world? Once you would have felt ashamed, but now you wonder if it makes any difference at all. Real or unreal? – as if the distinction was so simple and straightforward.

Gluttony and Sloth: hammer and chisel

You eat too much and lead a sedentary lifestyle. You are fat and weak. These things bring you shame, there on your body, displayed for all the world to see, are the choices you made.

You chose to indulge, to enjoy, to sprawl out in comfort and relax. You gave in time and time again. You revel in the feelings of naughtiness that succumbing to your passions brings – when you give in, you are proud of your defiance against “ought” and “should”.

But when time comes to display the fruits of your choices, then you regret, then you are full of shame for the visceral joys that you so gleefully selected.
Time, and time, again.