When Religion Isn’t Enough

I’ve been thinking a lot about this today. I don’t think its uncommon for people to go through life without any major changes to their inner drivers, but for those of us that are exceptions, it leads us to ask lots of interesting questions later in life. I want to talk about those questions. I want to know what your answers are. Because mine have flipped so violently within the vortex of ignorant indecision that most people I know spew their beer when they find out about it.

Just ten or fewer years ago, I would have said that the core life questions that every human being wants answered are these:

Who am I?

Where did I come from?

Where will I go after I die?

Today? Fuck that shit. Those questions seem almost entirely irrelevant now. I am who I am and trying to define that just seems really self-absorbed and, well, useless, I don’t really give a flying fuck where I came from, and I’m not at all concerned about where I go after I die. At the moment I’m alive; why should I worry about anything else?

In case you haven’t guessed, I used to be rather religious. Okay, really religious. Okay, I was dogmatically religious. Every thought of every day was God, and heaven, and saving people. I even went on a Mormon mission, hoping it would get me just one step closer to perfection and one more step away from the debilitating guilt I felt day in and day out. It didn’t work, of course, outside of some fantastic psychological advice I got that helped me manage my overly-enthusiastic Jesus complex.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, questions. So I look at my life and I can see very clearly that the things, people, and inner motivations that drive me are almost entirely different now than they were for the first 25 years of my life (don’t do the math. Just…don’t). For one, I love questions now. They are fascinating, motivating, intriguing, and pathways to more knowledge instead of a means to an end. I don’t feel like I have to know everything anymore. In fact, I like not knowing.

My 16-year-old self would have had a fucking heart attack over that concept alone.

And I wonder: what sustains me? What gets me up in the morning and keeps me going every day? And I’m not talking about things or people or even goals – in some ways those things are still superficial and potentially temporary. If I strip away everything and everyone around me, what’s left? What is the absolute heart of everything I say, do, and feel?

This is a particularly difficult question to answer soon after you’ve had God, religion, and the afterlife completely stripped from you like an aborted baby. I never wanted to lose those things, but the time came when the rope ran out; there was no higher to climb. I had to make some choices and the choices I’d been conditioned to make just didn’t ring true anymore. I had to face reality.

And since then, I’ve had to find new sustenance. Most of us have a reason to live – family, friends, children, hobbies, moral causes, you name it – but what is your reason for living well? Why is it worth grasping life by the vagina and then rubbing until the clouds explode? What is it deep within us that makes every wonderful moment worth all the suffering and bullshit of the moment before?

I’m still trying to answer this question for myself. I believe that, for me, the answer lies in possibilities (shut up, Belinda, I know what you’re thinking). There is no limit to how things can improve, how things can get better. There are infinite number of mind-fucking stories to tell, real or imagined, and the fact that everyone has their own version of this story called “Life” is pretty fucking motivating to me. In fact, I don’t really even care who the story belongs to – a saint, a murderer, a prostitute, a starving child in Africa, a rich businessman in Dubai – wherever it comes from, it has merit. Wherever it comes from, it has pain, joy, accomplishment, and debilitating loss. It is born from that slimy, mucky, shit-infested grime that engulfs us the second we’re born and then suffocates us just long enough to hurl us out the other side a new person who has gained some feeble understanding of our own depravity, potential, and ability to be dickwads to people who aren’t like us.

And it’s good. It’s good for all of us. We need to be humanized. We need to discover what makes us shrivel and die before our ash can turn into something that burns with acidic vigor. We are good and we are bad. We are good because we are bad – if we were all perfect, we’d all be self-absorbed douchenozzles, killing each other before Jesus even had a chance to contemplate whether or not to bleed.

So I ask you: in this world where change is a promise and stability is a lie, what sustains you?

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2 thoughts on “When Religion Isn’t Enough

  1. I would say life is a pursuit of finding what sustains you. Some days, there isn’t an answer beyond surviving to reach the next day. And, since the next day inevitably comes (too damned early), we go on. The alternative is death. And while I could really use a good nap, I wouldn’t recommend it as a life path.

    Liked by 1 person

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