Monday, August 4, 2008

What I'm Frightened Of...

Disclaimer: This is dark. It's angry. If you're having a good day, you probably don't want to read it. I'm posting it anyway.

I’ve been thinking about this on and off for a few years now, though to be honest I usually try and stamp out this train of thought when it starts up. I tend to find it useless. The thing is, it’s all boiled over lately and I need to write this down, if for no other reason than because I need it out of my head.

It’s been a while since I’ve believed in God. Not the “is there or isn’t there” kind of belief. Frankly, I don’t think about that all that much because even if there is a God, I don’t believe in him. I say that in the sense that I wouldn’t follow God into battle. I wouldn’t take an order. I wouldn’t put my trust in God any more than I would in a hungry grizzly bear.

People have a tendency to ascribe their victories to God’s preference, to bury their disappointments in God’s will. As the song says, “what I’m frightened of / is that they call it God’s love.” When I achieve something I’ve worked for, when I see a blind man skiing or a one legged man racing a triathlon or a teenager giving up summer break to build houses for flood victims, I don’t see God. I see the power and spirit of the individual. Indomitable will and altruism are human traits that developed over the eons along with consciousness and opposable thumbs and to give credit for them to anything other than the individuals wielding them is to dilute them.

At the same time, any of the thousand minor tragedies that befall us over the course of our lives don’t fare any better under the guise of the divine plan. What possible utility could the failure of a business, the dissolution of a marriage, the death of a hamster, or the outcome of a boxing match have to God’s overarching vision of Creation? I guess you could write this off as one of those crazy butterfly wing flap causes hurricane things, but that’s reaching really far. The idea that God designed these events as tests to help us better ourselves and to lead lives that better conform to his rules makes me a little sick. This is God as costumed super-villain, the master manipulator pulling strings to make sure you dance to his tune. And what good is that?

Looking around the world, I think that God, at best, is asleep at the wheel. Whether the heavens are presided over by a bearded man in a robe, or by a pantheon of incestuous sociopaths, to acknowledge the existence of either is to acknowledge just how spectacularly they fail to fill the job description. When the rapture comes, who exactly is getting picked up? The zealots who shoot abortion doctors? Or will it be the hand of Allah that purges the earth of infidels in a wave of righteous fire? And who gets the asbestos underwear, the guys recruiting suicide bombers? Frankly, if either is right, then the higher powers might as well get on with it. Pick up their jacks and go home so the rest of us can learn the new rules and start living.

Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe God does have a plan, but it can only be seen at some far removed, macro level. But then again, they say the devil is in the details. So there you go. That’s exactly the problem. The details are what affect us all. It’s the little things that get under your skin, that keep you up at night, and that help you sleep easier. It isn’t the macro stuff. That’s all too big, too far removed. You can write a check or volunteer and feel better about the big stuff, but you can only work your way through the money problems, the family dramas and the broken bones. There’s no higher power help there. It’s all time and sweat. So if the devil’s in the details, then only your hard work can get you past him.

I’ve lived through my stretches of darkness, the times when even if the light at the end of the tunnel is a train, you don’t mind, because at least it’ll be bright for a while. I’ve split my knuckles open on solid core doors and left holes in my share of walls. I’ve had the meltdown days when I can’t do anything but sit shaking on the floor of my garage with the lights off. In every case, I’ve managed to find the thread, however small, however translucent, that leads to the exit door.

The problem is, it’s only every so often that you get through that door with all your fingers and toes. And even when you’re back in the sun, there’s always another trap door there waiting to pull you under again. You can step over and around, but it’s the ones that get the people closest to you that leave you feeling powerless, like you want to dive in after them with a climbing rope on your shoulder but you’ve got nothing to tie off to. There’s nothing you can do. So is that part of the plan? Be your brother’s keeper, expect when it suits the overseer to make it impossible? I’m sorry, but if that’s what God wants, God can go to Hell.


ann marie said...

still having a good day . . . you're going to have to do better than that . . .

Ben said...

Now there's a church I can go to. Preach on, Reverend Ryan!

McNastabator said...

Maybe God (or god) is an idea. Maybe. I know I don't think there is a Santa, but I like the idea of him. I don't blame laissez-faire forces for clamity or reward them in times of success. But how lonely this world would be if we truly had no point, no destination, no unity. I am NOT religious, but I like the idea of a god....a force...a thought...a reason for all this. Maybe frustration and questioning and reaching out is the point...if not just a good idea.