closer I am to fine

February 24, 2005

There is a line from a song that hits me every time I hear it. Since I have worked for three years in casual restaurants that play the same cursed Adult Alternative Muzak station, I have heard this song about a billion times. (I’m serious, a billion.) It’s Indigo Girls “Closer to fine.”

I used to think the point of this song was really immoral and sacreligious, the story of spending time in church and educational institutions trying to figure out the truth and live it to the fullest. But the more I live my life the way I do now, the more I think the opposite is true. It’s important to me to be a productive person in society, family, work, relationships etc, but honestly, “the less I seek my source for some definitive, closer I am to fine.” How that is, I don’t know.

I used to be an exemplary Christian, dedicated and involved in the church, studying my Bible every day in my quiet time and seeking what God wanted for me with every step. I mean, I tried to do all those things as much as I could. I never felt that God really told me what I should be doing despite all my efforts and I grew upset and frustrated for it. I was taught that not doing all the things Christians do would lead to a lifestyle that would be unfulfilling, ultimately unhappy and discontented. I went next door and to the other side of the world thinking I could please God if I did what the church taught. Then I just let go of it all. I wouldn’t say I “fell away” as I’m sure many people would describe me, but I let go.

When I let go and started living my life in a similar but less restricted way, things changed. I don’t feel like I let God down or that I’ve lost His blessing. I feel as though I don’t fit in in the church. Without digressing into a lot of theology, I’m just not quite convinced that everything is the way they say it is. I see lots of inconsistencies in people, the Bible and the church. If God is the God of the Bible than he’s sometimes a little crazy. Modern Christians have created ways to talk our way out of so many criticisms of the Bible, of so many questions and doubts that are real. Does this mean I don’t believe in God or don’t consider myself a Christian? No, and yes and no. I know nothing else but Christianity. I’m not drawn to any other religion for many reasons. I’m also no longer part of the mainstream church. A few years ago I would have said to someone like me that sooner or later I will regret my “letting go,” that I will “need” God in a more tangible way and that I am missing the true calling of my life. But if my spirit, soul and person feels more content than ever in life than why should I go on pretending that there is some huge piece missing?

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Acquaintance

February 24, 2005

I might have to write two entries today. I am afraid that no one will read my blog ever again if I don’t update it more often and I have to send my new laptop in (again!) to be fixed so I might be offline for a while.

I had an odd social experience yesterday that happens on occasion. I live in the same city I grew up in, was educated in (until college), went to church in etc etc. I don’t live in the same part of the city but for the past three years I have worked in that same suburban area. Occasionally I see someone that I knew from school or church from the past. We usually chat a bit, which is nice. I enjoy getting to see assorted acquaintances from my past. I used to work for Chin’s Asia Fresh (http://www.chins.com) and now work for Qdoba Mexican Grill (http://www.qdoba.com) so when I see customers from Chin’s in my Qdoba I often get to chat with them now too. “Oh, you’re over here now, good change?” That’s kind of nice too.

There is a part of my past however that I haven’t quite figured out what to do with. There are many people who know me almost entirely through the church, as an upstanding moral Christian who’s been on a lot of mission trips. I’m not ashamed or regretful about any of my life but I’m really different now. Of course my friends and close family members know the changes that I have gone through in the last few years in my worldview and outlook on life, but how do I react to someone who walks up to me in Qdoba and introduces me as though I’m some missionary on furlough to a real missionary on furlough?

“Hey Laura, this is my friend John, he’s a missionary in Pakistan. Laura has spent a lot of time in China, she’s so and so’s friend or daughter.” I smile and It’s not as though I owe this random acquaintance an explanation, but I sometimes feel like I should stop the conversation and just catch them up on the inner workings of my mind. It makes me wonder what people who come out as gay or convert to a different religion or change careers midlife do with all their acquaintances from their “before” life. It makes me wonder how I classify people. If I treat them as a part of a certain group or as an individual with many facets and a complex personality. I wonder…


society, culture and behavior – some thoughts on social manipulation

February 22, 2005

Well, it’s been over a month, I doubt anyone looks at this site anymore, but I didn’t have a computer for a long time. I’ll try to woo my dwindling readership with something good. I don’t know. =)

I have been at a few traditional and a few non-traditional weddings in my 20-something life. I have never been too bound by feelings of tradition in my way of doing things. I believe strongly in many traditional institutions like the church, marriage, the justice system, etc, but I don’t buy into the idea that those things should be handled and executed the same way generation after generation if people’s ideas, values and customs change.

I get a wierd look from some people when I tell them I got married in a courthouse on an otherwise regular day in May and had a reception 10 months later. I spent the rest of my “wedding day” in Chicago enjoying a nice dinner and shopping trip with my husband. We didn’t feel that different than most other days leading up until that day. I didn’t really tell anyone I was getting married until after the fact, although most were aware that I was goinng to get married.

Anyway, I may sound a little impulsive, a little odd, but this is what I wanted. What is amazing – and I am not excluding myself from the coming criticism – is why as people we are not only influenced by tradition and norms, but that we are so bound by it. How as a race, species, whatever, did we get so conservative? I don’t mean politically. What I mean is that it seems everywhere I look in society I see people fearing change, disdaining the different and scoffing at individuality.

A lot of times this is very subtle. I see it even in myself. When someone tells me something unusual they do/did/will do I sometimes comment with a sound sort of like “oh.” But, this kind of “oh” is really a not-so-smooth cover for a varying degree of disapproval. It’s sort of got a high start and falling tone, that gently lets the other know that deep down I think it’s wierd. I consider myself an open-minded, accepting and generally liberal person, so when I make comments like that I generally follow it up with, “not that I think there’s anything wrong with that,” or, “that’s cool,” but at times I am just trying to compensate for my disapproving half. I don’t know why I do that. In fact, I’m amazed at the number of people who don’t even try to cover their distaste for the lifestyles and choices of others.

I write this because I have recently pondered how much we feel we have the right to interfere in other people’s lives. I am not trying to knock relationships or downplay the importance of advice and mutual support, but there is something so degrading about being condescended or judged, yet so many of us seem to do it every day. We try and talk people out of their passions, convictions or ideas so that they will be a little more like us. Perhaps we just want to be accepted for who we are and therefore try and shape others to be like ourselves. But didn’t we all learn in kindergarten and Sunday school that everyone is different and this makes the world interesting? A mystery of life. Thoughts?