”Sex is the one thing, more than any others, that makes you feel human.”
”Remember, your children can’t praise the Lord if they’ve got genitals in their mouths.”
-Nudist Colony of the Dead
I remember walking into my first college class, looking at my classmates, and thinking, “I’m probably the only virgin in this room.”
That was over 10 years ago and every time I walk into a new room filled with people, I still think the same thing.
Living in a small, religious town, I learned early on that the true “F” word was fornication. Sex before marriage was about the worst thing that could happen to you, besides being gay. That sentiment echoed through the church pews and school halls. But as I grew up, my friends realized other people’s genitals was about the best thing that could happen to you. Even the most devout got dicked eventually and their stringent sexual views began to relax.
Except for the gay thing. That was non-negotiable.
But it’s easy to change your mind with a hand down your pants. I never got that opportunity so I was able to hang onto my shame over sex for much longer than my peers. And the interesting part was I actually didn’t mind it that much. Although preachers and parents warned of the religious ramifications of sex, they also lauded the beauty of intercourse between two married people. And that was the message I chose to hold close.
I actually wanted to wait until marriage. I’ve always thought of myself as a romantic and the notion of me and my future wife saving ourselves for each other sounded pretty special. We’d be the first to have that intimate connection, to reach that milestone in pulsating unison. And so not having sex was not a big deal because, at the time, marriage was not on my mind, therefore sex was not either. But just because I’d made a no-copulation commitment to a stranger didn’t mean I wasn’t affected by sex.
I used to be a great listener and great friend. My classmates came to me for counseling. I heard all about their relationships and through their confessions, I learned that sex not only changed relationships but changed people. And it didn’t necessarily change anyone for better or worse. But it did feel like there was more at stake. Emotions were either heightened or deadened at the point of penetration. Some people could turn off their heads and hearts while others’ only grew heavier.
And just by growing up and living and being interested in people, I learned more about sex without actually ever experiencing it. It came pieced together from conversations, observations, and, thanks to the power of the Internet, research.
I dream almost every night. Most people do. Most people can’t remember them. I can remember that I dreamed, just not what I dreamed about. And it’s frustrating because my dreams are often either pretty boring or pretty nice and I want to be able to recall a good feeling. ‘Cause I sure don’t have them in waking life.
And I always wonder why I remember some dreams vividly and others not at all.
A few weeks ago, I dreamed that I was in a building that looked a lot like a Blockbuster. I had an uneasy feeling, like I was out too late and should be at home or had a weird feeling about being at that location (maybe because most Blockbusters are closed and why the heck would I be in one?) but I shrugged it off.
Moments later, a guy came in carrying a gun. I was alarmed, of course, but tried not to freak out. Maybe he was just carrying it to make himself feel better or in case anyone tried to jack his membership card. I reasoned with myself that I would be okay. People only get shot on television and in movies. It doesn’t happen where I live.
But he turned to me, stepped up to me, and shot me in the ear.
The first thing I thought was, “I knew I shouldn’t have been here.”
I didn’t hear a gunshot or even feel anything but my vision turned into diamonds shining against a white light. I fell to the floor and once I hit the ground, I knew I only had a fraction of a second to live.
So I prayed to God to forgive me.
And then I felt this relief come over me. I don’t know if it was because God had answered my prayer or that I felt better that I’d had a final chance to get right with God or that I was just finally dead and didn’t have to be sad anymore.
And then (and this hasn’t happened before) I realized I was dreaming. But by that time, I knew my mind was being pulled back into consciousness. I felt myself being shot through that slippery tunnel that connects reality and dreams. And as that happened, I tried to get up from the bloody floor and fly away. I wanted to take over the dream but it ended before I could lift off the ground.
Most dreams of mine feel random but I could determine a link between this one and my waking moments of contemplation. I had recently listened to a podcast in which a guy said he woke himself up from his dreams by killing himself in his dreams. I guess he had the lucid dream experience down pretty well.
And I’ve been pondering the idea of reconnecting with God. I never turned full atheist but I just gave up on trying to get God to ease the ache in my heart. All the church and prayer and scripture never seemed to make a difference. I was, as I still am, beyond reach. Yet God is always in the back of my mind. I don’t know if it’s Christ convicting me or just that old time Christian guilt at work. All I know is the Holy Ghost is haunting me and it kind of sucks.
While the dream obviously incorporated the different things I’d heard, experienced, and thought about in the weeks leading up to it, it might not be anything significant. It probably stood out to me because it was the first dream I’ve ever had in which I could feel myself dying. I usually wake up before the last breath. But not this time. And instead of it being scary, it was strangely satisfying.
”My mommy always said there were no monsters, no real ones, but there are.”
”Yes, there are, aren’t there?”
”Why do they tell little kids that?
”Most of the time it’s true.”
I’m a horror movie fan 365 days of the year. But Halloween is extra special to me because of the larger availability of horror movies. I watch serial killer films to relax. Monster movies get me in the mood. And if I can get a little hipster for a moment, I was way into zombies before The Walking Dead consumed all of America’s brains.
So, while I watch horror movies regularly, I made an effort to squeeze in an extra evisceration or two back in October, Netflixing and Youtubing Z-grade films with ketchup blood and cardboard brains, catching mid-afternoon scary flicks on television and Halloween-themed episodes of my favorite shows. And as I watched nude girls getting nailed to a wall or jocks jogging to their death in a haunted gym, I started to realize how easy it seems to summon evil spirits. Naturally, ouija boards are a clear violation of soul safety. But other harbingers of evil might seem more innocuous at first, like puzzle boxes, a child’s doll, or a suspiciously inexpensive house for a new family.
No one seems to be able to invoke good spirits with such effortlessness. Why is it that most houses seem to inhabit horrible things? Why is it that spirit boards almost always summon the sinister? Why can’t we call upon God and good energy with the same simplicity that dials up the devil? Why is it that when the Holy Ghost possesses someone, he eventually pulls up stakes in their soul while demons wanna settle? And why are exorcisms so exhausting? Why can’t we just extract black spirits with the sam ease we extract blackheads?
If tales of supernatural serial killers are all fake, I suppose watching teens being pummeled by pissed off poltergeists is more entertaining than being visited by the ghost of great Aunt Sue with good news of true love. But when it’s real, having a real demon on your ass is really scary. It’s no longer about the yuck yuck but the yikes. It’s not entertaining. It’s devastating. And a lot of people would say it is real.
I’m not sure how I feel about it. I can’t say what’s real and what’s not. I can only speak for my own experiences and throughout my life, I do feel I’ve had more than my fair share of bad luck. There have been many times I’ve actually thought I was cursed or that something bad had latched itself onto me. It’s never been anything huge, mostly just circumstances that converge into a crippling disappointment again and again. But those little heartbreaks weigh heavy over time.
And I’ve called on God to remove the dulling residue of past demons. But instead of feeling cleansed, I’ve only ever felt crushed. What’s it gonna take to tackle the terrifying and bandage to the bad juju?
I wonder if there’s anything that can be done at all. What if God doesn’t have anything to do with lethargy, larceny, or lunacy? What if, by design or negligence, we are all just hurdling toward implosion? What if our lives are all examples of entropy playing out in real time?
It’s so hard to be nice. We have to constantly bite our tongues, keep our fists at our sides, and step away from the line of fire. We have to talk ourselves up every day and concentrate on keeping the good vibes going. And as soon as we let up on the affirmations, we atrophy all over again. We gotta keep flipping those light switches on less we be surrounded by darkness again.
I don’t know why possessions are prevalent while good spirits are scarce. The only thing I know for sure is nothing is ever going to change. It’s never going to be easy. And when it all comes down to it, who’s to say our lives aren’t someone else’s entertainment? This is why we have reality shows and horror movies based on true events. And there just might be a higher power that gets a kick out of watching us overcome our curses. Maybe things that are really scary can also be really educating.
And although we have to fight to be friendly, it’s worth the effort. Instead of adding to the agony, we can help patch up other people. Even if it’s just for a bit, even if it’s just a temporary bandage, isn’t that enough to make a difference? In a world laid to waste, it still matters that we hold out our hands rather than hold up a gun, use our tongues to prepare praises instead of slinging insults, and make moves to slowly kill the hate that’s been jammed into our hearts. Maybe that’s how we can make our souls uninhabitable for the inhospitable demons and they’ll be forced to dig themselves out.
And that shouldn’t be too hard at all.
Several months ago, one of my high school acquaintances went through a spiritual crisis. She revealed to me that she had started questioning her faith and whether or not God even existed. This was a big deal for her because up until then, she was a staunch Christian. She grew up in church and pushed it on me many times. She even quoted scripture in everyday conversations. Of course, I was surprised by her admission. I wasn’t sure what led to the breakdown of her beliefs but I liked it.
Then some of my own Christian guilt bubbled up. I felt bad that I felt satisfied by her questioning. But I also felt relieved. I wasn’t alone. Or at least this was the first time someone publicly acknowledged their struggle with their faith. Usually that kind of thing is kept to one’s self.
As she spoke to me about her questions and conflicting feelings, I listened and mentally checked off every inconsistency she mentioned, comparing my own list to hers. I realized we shared many of the same reservations regarding our religion. I could relate to her struggle. And I felt, for the first time, someone could relate to mine.
My town is divided up into 3 groups: devout believers, devout non-believers, and those who don’t care either way (the smallest group). But I felt like the single soul who actually fit into all 3 categories yet still didn’t belong to any of them.
There was a time when I believed. And then there was a time when I rebelled against my religion. And then there was a time when I think my religion rebelled against me.
“They’re fooling themselves. They think all this bullshit about hard work and achieving means something but it doesn’t. Universe is completely random. Particles colliding at random. Blind chance. So you didn’t make it. No big deal. It’s not your fault. Shit’s random.”
I’m not an atheist, just apprehensive.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve stopped praying or relying on God in any kind of way. I used to feel guilty about it but now I don’t feel bad at all. Nothing in my life has changed. I’m no better or worse for it, which makes me wonder if God was ever in my life at all, or if God is anything at all.
I don’t know. I’m not sure I care. I do hate that I’ve slid so far down but what can I do? I’ve tried it all with the prayer and meditation and Bible reading and patience. Nothing helped. Nothing ever does.
Faith is a lot like a slot machine. You pray and pull the lever and you hope for good results but you never know if you’ll hit it big or end up empty. It’s really all random chance. You can never be sure if the constant prayer ever pays off or if things in your life just finally line up. You want something long enough and if you work for it, you might just get it. It doesn’t mean God had anything to do with it. Just to be fair, it also doesn’t mean he didn’t. You just can’t know so why get caught up in it?
It pisses me off when people think I have given up on my faith in God just because I am not where I want to be in life. Do people think that’s how I think it works? I’m not new to this game. I’m not asking for a perfect life. It’s not about circumstances but sensations. I have never felt that comforting presence. I have never had a good feeling when it comes to God. I’ve only ever felt separation, emptiness, nothingness. I am not reassured when I pray. When I scream for God to give me a sign, I get nothing. I am not comforted and therefore I don’t think there’s anything out there to comfort me. How hard is it just to say hello? If God cares/exists, why has he not shown me?
And where’s the stable relationship with anyone in my life, cosmic or concrete, with flesh or faith? My parents are distant, my coworkers are crass and former friends are too busy. I can congregate and communicate but I’m no one’s number one.
I wish I could believe again. I wish I could be the good little Christian boy in my Christian bubble like so many people around here. They are small-minded and naive and annoying. And sometimes I think it would be easier if I could just be that way, too. What if God gave a shit? What if he finally had mercy on my menial life?
It’s not like he’s bullying me or anything. It just feels like it. But that’s conceited on my part because, really, who am I? He has a whole big world to ignore so why would he single me out to slice and dice? No, he’s saving that dirty work for the devil.
The co-worker who played the race card all the time also called me out the other day. I said something about how he and the other co-worker who moonlights as a preacher had all the luck with customers. They always ran into receptive individuals who treated them warmly while I got stuck with the disgruntled, disheveled, and diarrhea prone.
He smiled and said, “Come on, man. You play the victim.”
His words struck me like a slap to the face because that’s what my counselor said to me when I was in college. At the time, I thought my counselor was full of crap and didn’t understand what I was going through. And here was this guy, having only known me for a couple of weeks, giving me the same diagnosis. He already had me pegged. Am I that transparent?
Maybe I am. Maybe I do play the victim and it’s something I’ve subconsciously done and I never realized it and yet it’s plain to everyone else.
It’s painful to see myself like that but it’s also necessary if I want to correct it. In some ways, I feel I’ve made peace with my pain. We are all hurting. We didn’t choose to be born but yet we were thrust into this cruel world. We are all victims but some are just more vocal about it. No one’s pain is more important or unjustified than anyone else’s but we continually negate other people’s negative feelings. Sure, I agree some people do have it worse than others. I’ve said multiple times that I don’t even have it that bad. But does that mean I should strap on a smile and act like everything is fine?
I think there’s a fine line between being grateful and being gross about it. At the end of the day, if we and our families are safe and can feed and clothe and house ourselves, we really have nothing to complain about. And yet, we all complain. And then we get annoyed when other people complain. How many of us really examine our situations and realize we have it better than probably 90% of the planet and then and immediately put an end to our own rants? I’d venture to guess not many, including those who complain about others who complain. It’s all relative, really.
I complain to vent. Sometimes, it’s how I get through the day. It doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for what I have. It doesn’t mean I think I have the worst life ever. But sometimes I get pissed off about things and I need to express that. I express myself. I complain. I piss and moan. It’s what I do. It’s what feels good. And I’m darn good at it. But it’s not all I’m about. If I had something good to express, I’d express that, too. It just so happens I haven’t had much good to express lately.
And just because someone seems like they have it all together, don’t make the mistake of thinking they actually do. My outside world might seem fine, but on the inside, it’s on fire. It’s not so much a physical suffering but an emotional/spiritual one that not a lot of people outside of my blog have access to. It’s that silent and unseen slicing that gets a lot of people. It’s the hurt hidden in plain view. It’s the fear of the consequences of complaining. We are taught to get up and get over it. Quit yer cryin’! Stop yer complainin’! There’s starving children in Africa, for God’s sake! We should be grateful we can breathe, they say, even if we’re inhaling hell.
Ultimately, I think a lot of us can be less whiny, including me. And a lot of us can be more compassionate as well.
I’ve tried to be more accepting of the nature of my being. Some people are just more unfortunate than others but with bad luck. Some are unfortunate but the odds are in their favor. Some people are naturally happy and some are born bleeding. Yep, I’m the hemophiliac. I’ve made a conscious effort to stop blaming God for my troubles. It’s conceited to think he’d single me out and send a mack truck full of crap barreling into me. At best, he loves me. At worst, he doesn’t care. Either way, it’s not helping my condition. What is love without action? If I don’t know about it, does it really count? Not in my opinion.
I’m just trying to learn to take the blows and keep it moving. And I complain to get some of the pain off my chest. It helps and I don’t care. I don’t have to justify myself to anyone ’cause no one knows the extent of my imbalanced brain. But I try to justify myself anyway. And I vent to people because I want them to know I’m not a victim and bad stuff really does happen to me. I point out specific examples, sometimes as they happen, to show them I’m not making it up or playing a role.
But am I trying to convince them or myself?
“Free from the torment of sin
all this I’m giving up…”
–The Used, Light with a Sharpened Edge
I feel like I’ve been shedding a lot of old notions about God and humanity over the past several months. I’ve heard before that sometimes our emptiness is God carving us out so he can fill us up again. I can only hope that’s what’s going on with me.
I’ve stopped praying entirely. I’ve been angry with God. I’ve been rebelling, pushing my self-inflicted boundaries, joking about going to hell and rolling my eyes to all the religious symbolism embedded in my town. Days go by and I don’t even think about it. God is not in my life and I don’t cry or fret. I just float.
I’ve never been so far away from God before and I feel like I’ve entered this new state of being. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. I’m slowly breaking away from all of it and there’s a part of me that feels tremendously guilty and there’s another part of me that feels nothing at all, the same kind of nothing I felt when I was more religious. When I have God in my life and when I don’t, I still feel jaded. That muted feeling has been my only constant since the mess of my life started.
Despite my anger, I still find myself wanting to defend God against the non-believers, to those who portray God as a fag-hating proponent of ‘Merica. That is not God. God is love. God wants nothing more than to love and cherish all us and have us be happy. It’s that simple. But am I right about that? How do I know who God really is? It certainly isn’t from first-hand experience. I was taught God was one of love but what if he really does discriminate and decimate?
One problem with people’s views on God is that a lot of people pick and choose what they want to believe. That’s why we have denominations. One person didn’t like one aspect of Christianity so they started their own. The other problem is everyone thinks their way is the right way, which seems pretty egotistical to me. I thought the only right way was God’s way. And we can’t choose which parts we want to follow and which parts we want to disobey. At least, not if we want to be good Christians.
Of course, I’d like to believe that God is one that loves and accepts everyone. That doesn’t mean it is true but I hope it is. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of people who believe God is about death and vengeance and punishment. That doesn’t mean it is true but they hope it is.
I admit I don’t know much about God but I feel I have a better grasp on him than the majority of the Christians that live here. They know a textbook God through a pastor chosen to recite the words from the Bible and interpret them based on his opinions. And people come and sit and follow his interpretations, not because it’s what God teaches, but because they agree with the pastor’s opinions. If they can get behind what he says, they treat it as gospel. If not, they simply move to a different church that lines up with their own pre-existing values and morals.
But their version of God doesn’t hold up when applied to a real-world setting. They think it’s about following rules. They believe if they go to church and pray before bed and vote Republican, they’ll get into heaven. Stay away from the gays and lesbians because they’ll turn ya! Don’t mingle with people of other faiths because they could cause you to question your own and we can’t have independent thought! Stay pure until marriage because sex, out of all the sins you can commit, even though they are all supposed to be equal, is the worst! Well, besides being gay.
“On the East Coast, football is a cultural experience. In the Midwest, it’s a form of cannibalism. On the West Coast, it’s a tourist attraction. And in the South, football is a religion.”
Football is in full swing around my way. At work, we are allowed to wear football regalia on the weekends. I see co-workers and customers alike wearing their favorite team colors, washes of red and white or blue and orange. It’s how they show their loyalty. They also express their team pride vocally by switching the usual salutations with team mottos “War Eagle” and “Roll Tide” as they pass each other in the store. I just stand there and shrug. I don’t understand their passion for the pigskin at all.
I’m not a sports guy. I don’t like playing sports and I don’t like watching sports. Of course, I try to be neutral and understand that I won’t always share the same interests as these people and so I try not to hold it against anyone. However, my tolerance for the consistent in-your-face fanaticism is low. I don’t go around pushing my passion for zombies onto others and I wish they’d keep their football frenzy to themselves. I’m constantly asked what team I root for and I always respond by saying I don’t care about football. I get weird looks in return, expressions that ask how I could live here and not be in love with the sport.
One day, a lady bought a toddler-sized Alabama team jersey. As I bagged it up, I wondered what the jersey meant to the lady and what it meant to the toddler. He doesn’t realize the gravity of the garment he’s going to wear. He doesn’t understand what it represents or how much it means to those who put it on him. What if he grows up to root for the other team? What if he grows up to dislike football all together?
It’s kind of the same with religion.
We raise our children in the church and in the football stands and teach them to yell out “Amen”/”Hallelujah” and “Roll Tide”/”War Eagle” but do these children ever know what it all means outside of their parents’ and pastors’ influence? Can they separate what they’ve been told from what they want to learn? And how do you introduce God and football into a child’s life without making it seem like it’s only way to live?
Many Christians would argue that God and Jesus is the only way to live. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing. But there are people out there who do disagree and what if your child is one of those people? Don’t they have the right to believe or not believe what they want? And the more you push God onto someone, the harder they will push back, even to the point where they might give up on God entirely.
I’ve seen it happen with me and with others.
But how do you really learn about God? Someone has to teach you, right? But what if the one who teaches you has it wrong? And what if the one who taught them had it wrong? It further complicates matters when we are taught not to question God and his mysterious ways. But I think it’s vital to question. We don’t want to be handed salvation. We don’t want to be told we are wrong or evil and given vague instructions on how to fix it. We want to know for ourselves, to feel in our hearts that we are moving toward something divine and not delegated.
Through questioning, we see why things are the way they are. We can develop a deeper appreciation for them and can explain ourselves when faced with questions and opposing viewpoints. It’s good to not only be enlightened, but educated about it as well.
But that’s hard when all you have to rely on is a collection of books written by man (who put their own spin on the word of God, surely) and a slew of individuals who consider themselves fit to decipher damnation. No one knows for sure who or what God is, although we’ve tried. We’ve conceived this image with these rules and systems of rewards and punishments. But God is not what man conceives. Where is God buried in the B.S.? How do we dig our way through a Christianity perverted by man and get to the heart of Jesus? Who do we turn to to guide us in the right direction and when is it possible to come up with our own conclusions? And when we do, how do we know we got it right? Will we pass down our erroneous prayers the way they were passed down to us?
We sit on the bleachers and in the pews and see the wave approaching, the clusters of undulating bodies standing and throwing their hands up in praise and sitting down in unison and soon we find ourselves swept up in the sea of bodies, standing and sitting because we think we’re supposed to. It’s what we were taught. We go along with it because it’s all a part of the game. It’s how we show we believe. We reach up and touch the excitement, the thrill, the electricity and we feel united. But you begin to wonder if it helps the players at all. With the bright lights beaming down and the ever looming threat of being tackled, does the quarterback even notice us in the stands?
Do we do it for his benefit or our own?
I stopped praying, stopped talking to God. I gave him the silent treatment (hey, he started it). I came to a point where I was just tired of trying to feel something and tired of talking about it and so I just stopped. Not entirely gave up. But took a break from calling on Christ and the resulting disappointment.
And then the signs came.
Several days ago, I drove to work and noticed a truck with several bumper stickers attached to the exterior like badly placed tattoos on bare arms.
|For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Rom. 10:13|
Orly? I’ve called upon the Lord many times. Did that mean I was saved? Was that my confirmation? It sure didn’t feel like it. Just another random sign that anyone could have ran into or an actual extension of God? He must have sensed my hesitation because the signs kept coming.
“Just let your faith die…”
I hear people say that unanswered prayers are still answered. I keep thinking of that stupid footprints story. Maybe you’ve seen me through all the pain and I never realized it or maybe I just made it on my own. How will I ever know because you’ll never tell me! How can I keep the faith when there’s no sign, no feeling, no subtle recognition to keep me going, to let me know I’m doing the right thing? Am I just wasting my time?
I kept praying, turned away from my sins, tried to think positive thoughts, focused on you and nothing ever changed. I was empty on the inside and disappointed with the nothing in the sky. Why couldn’t I get a sign or a feeling of reassurance? Why was there such a disconnect between me and you? Was I still doing something so wrong as to keep you so far away?
I looked for you and only saw sadness. I saw confusion over the course my life had taken. I saw this little boy who sat alone, teary-eyed, wondering where the love and comfort was that was promised to him in a big book with big words and big promises if only he would believe in it all.
I believed in you. But you didn’t believe in me.
I put everything into college and it was the biggest financial and emotional mistake of my life, one that I will likely pay for until I die, which will probably be sooner than later. Not only did college not work out but I barely scraped through graduation with all of my limbs. My mind was destroyed as well as my spirit.