Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dangling Modifiers

I'd sell your heart to the junkman baby
For a buck, for a buck
If you're looking for someone
To pull you out of that ditch
You're out of luck, you're out of luck

The ship is sinking
The ship is sinking
The ship is sinking
There's leak, there's leak,
In the boiler room
The poor, the lame, the blind
Who are the ones that we kept in charge?
Killers, thieves, and lawyers

God's away, God's away,
God's away on Business. Business.
God's away, God's away,
God's away on Business. Business.

- Tom Waits

When you turn around and discover there’s no god, it is the most terrifying moment in your life.

It feels as though someone is telling you that you do not, in fact, live on planet Earth. It feels as though your parents are telling you that they picked you out of a cabbage patch. It feels as though everything that you once believed to be true is now untrue.

And you’re partly right.

But you’re immensely wrong also.

But it takes a long time, to get your bearings, to realize you can still breathe, to get through the pain of all the loss - the family and friends who treat you like an alien, those you push away because you just don't know how to think straight with all their words clouding your mind. The greatest losses, if you were once an active believer and practitioner of a faith, are the community and the daily time spent focused on your faith.

Suddenly your sentences are filled with dangling modifiers.

"Having left the woman with no direction, the world was weirdly empty."

Who? Who did what? How?

Nobody.

Nobody did nothing.

The world is just as empty as it ever was.

The obvious elephant, seen only by a far removed eye, is to replace the missing elements. But that is far easier said than done. You can't just replace your community. Well, maybe you can, if you recognize that it is what's missing, know where to go, and have the clarity of mind to do it. Like I said, you can't just go do it. It takes time, and sorting and taking out a whole lot of garbage. And that time you used to spend focused on faith...you do or can sort of replace it. It just feels different and takes getting used to, and it took me years to realize that it needed to be done.

Plus, the truth is, I spent a long time fighting against anything resembling what I had been taught. It wasn't a rebellion like I had been taught to disdain and shun. I wasn't angry at a god. I wasn't fighting a god. I wasn't a backslidden Christian. I was trying to find clarity, to sort through the rubble and figure out what was actually true and what needed tossing out. There was no god to fight. I was rebelling against falsehood.

But, with all that time and space, I got to see that faith I had lost in a whole new way. And one day, as if it happened suddenly, it all just seemed so silly. And I could only see all the damage it has caused, in me, in others, in the world. And it felt like everyone I knew still believed in Santa, and it turned out that it wasn't unbelievers who were crazy, it was believers. It just seemed so absurd. I tried to write about it. But I wrote with anger and out of a place of frustration. I was sick of my voice being treated as childish and pathetic. Of course, my rantings only resulted in a lot of "that poor girl," and "she's obviously so sad." I pushed people away. Utter failure. I really did feel like I had found truth and understanding and light and life and freedom, but it was met with a sort of sadness and head-shaking. Some people did try. My cousin called. She wanted to hear me, to understand. But it was like I was speaking Martian. There was no way to close the gap.

But lately, with so many people sick and dying and the edges of existence beginning to fray, the gap seems more crossable. Some of the people I love are beginning to see things a little differently. And I am trying, to let go of my own disdain and anger and cockiness. And the truth is, I want to admit that I do feel connected to something greater than myself. I cringe from those words just like I cringe from being "spiritual." But I am, whether I want to admit it or not. As Maya said the other day as she held her hands in the air, "Mom, I am touching everyone in the whole world right now. All the atoms in matter are all connected so I am touching everyone."

My nonreligious friend was telling me yesterday about all these "kismet" experiences of "the universe" bringing things to her attention and making her wake up and take notice and pay attention to what is happening to her and how she is receiving. I admitted that it made me uncomfortable to hear and that I usually approach all of such experiences as explainable and having no meaning. You know, "sound and fury signifying nothing."

But I tried to stay open. And I admitted that I think that I am missing all of my moments like that because I am so quick to eradicate any feeling of connection. I have been so afraid that absorbing those moments would mean I was falling back into the snare of religion and the opiate of belief. But then, I am missing it, whatever it is that causes those absurd coincidences and unlikely events. I am missing out on the chance to feel that, whether or not it is personal or just an unfeeling universe, I am connected to something greater just because I am HERE. And I am pushing the gap wider between me and those who believe in something specific and motivated.

But life is too fucking short for that.

I think it's time I "suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" and put down my arms against the sea of troubles. Because I cannot end them. As Maya said, "There is no such thing as tomorrow." There is only now. There is only connecting. There is only loving each other. And there is no time to waste in doing so.

God may be away on business, but all the things that I loved about a god, the love and grace and peace and forgiveness, the community and contemplative time, they're not gone. And I am here. And so are you. And that's outrageously amazing. With my arms raised, I am hugging you right now. We are connected. And I see that it is good. And now I am going to rest.

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