4 Cardinal Virtues. Intensity. Intelligence. Drive. Focus.
7 Mortal Sins. Cowardice. Insecurity. Mediocrity. Aimlessness. Laziness. Obstinancy. Excuse-making.
This is the gospel of Hard Work. Your production is your salvation. Ability is the fruit of the spirit. Whose spirit? Your spirit. The sword of your spirit? Your mind. To whom is this gospel preached? It is aimed at the mass of people who demean the life they've been given.
Consider. Your life is given to you. If you are reading this you are alive, the union of a sperm and an egg. Of the millions of sperm contained in the ejaculate that preceded you, the one which would determine your life, that one beat the odds and made it. That sperm's success then faced the challenge and ordeal of development within the womb. And that in itself is another miracle considering the multitude of factors that could have ended your life. Every human being who is alive is improbably alive. Human life could only begin with triumph.
Moving forward some years, if you are reading this you also have access to the Internet somehow. The 2 billion people in the world who live on less than $2 a day in all likelihood will not read these words. Given the patterns of poverty and injustice in this world, the odds are against them reading, let alone reading the ramblings of a troubled young man in his mid 20's writing in a city of 8 million wandering spirits. But amidst all these improbabilities, here we are sharing my thoughts and I ask you: How highly do you esteem your life understanding that there has never been one like it before and there will not be one after? The Greek philosopher knew long ago that you cannot step in the same stream twice. Our encounter right now, every moment of your life, will never be duplicated. Do you understand?
Do you understand that your life is daily falling prey to entropy, disintegrating into the past that only exists within consciousness, that your life is inexorably hurtling into a horizonless world of possibility and opportunity? If you understand these things, I would like to ask you again -- how much do you esteem your life? How much do you care about it? Do you have within yourself the strength to live it?
This is where I've come so far, this is my understanding as of this moment.
But as I wrote all that, I could not help but ask the question: "Why am I this way?"
First premise: a person cannot help but to live out their values in some proportion or another. There is no person who lives apart from their values. Now, I grant that often subordinate values triumph over deeper ones.
"Your debt encourages acquiescence, the heavy mortgage makes you polite." -- Mark Twight.
Second premise: all interactions require two people and are, by their nature, transactions. Small or large, as we live, as we meet and live as social creatures we are constantly exchanging micro-units of identity and personhood. The more time, the more that is exchanged. Is it any wonder that those who have known each other for a long time bear an uncanny resemblance towards each other?
Conclusion: we are always sharing our faith, be it faith in God, faith in ourselves, faith in others, faith in the worthlessness or inestimable value of life or anything in between really.
My passion and fire are reactionary movements. I have been a Christian for 13 years now. I did not begin to feel the way I did until about 7 years ago. The transition, while slow has been inexorable. Steadily, my rage smoldered and intensified, dissatisfaction grew hot and exploded into rebellion. I hated the values that suffocated me. I truly believe that I could never tolerate mediocrity. Were I born to be a brick-making slave in India, a wealthy baroness in Renaiisance England or a goat-herder in Eastern Africa, I would never be satisfied with what I began with, what was given to me.
The values of the Christian communities which encircled me chased one goal: a quiet life free from trouble. Perhaps that makes them model believers. Everytime I read that line of Paul's, I find myself swallowed in a blistering, ulcerous rage. Quiet? Free from hardship? As that universe of possibilites begins to expand, a quiet life, free from trouble, my anger expands with it. If that is Christian living, then Christian living is hell, then Christian living is what would put me furthest from the Holy, the transcendental goodness of struggle and overcoming. I want God to demand initiative, daring, ambition and intelligence from me. I do not want him to ask me to be meek, placid, quiet. I do not want him to give me a sword so that I can castrate myself with it.
Christian life should, in its totality, model the final point of its teleology. Call it 'heaven' if you wish, there's nothing wrong with the word, but I sneer at harps, clouds and wings. I despise the ethereal empyrean beyond that so many seem to think is the ideal. I, in no uncertain terms, believe that paradise will be physical. At any rate, Christian life should model 'heaven.' And if it does, then what if someone believes that heaven would be an eternity of suffering?
It was only after the disaster of 2008 that I could paint with words the struggle I lived. I lived values that I didn't believe in myself. The preachers in their pulpits, the teachers at their blackboards, they taught me how to lock away my desire, to restrain myself, to call 'evil' the impulse for achievement and conquest within my heart. They put on my lap values -- family values, community values, everyone-except-yourself values. And so I lived in this fashion. I convinced myself to smile though my soul wanted to snarl. I taught at Church, I served on the servants team and in my quiet moments, I'd weep tearlessly over the fact that I hate this life so much. Are dinners at Applebee's, at Jackson Hole, at Old Country Buffet, at Mr. Wasabi, restaurant week, are SuperBowl parties, backyard BBQ's, Praise Night, Revival, is this all I have to look forward to for 80 God forsaken years? 80 contemptuous years of softball and mediocrity.* Are you happy now, God? I'm living a quiet life. Is my suffering your joy? Is this my daily crucifxion, is this the image of obedience?
The only difference between a rut and a grave is the length of the hole. But I find blessing in disaster. In the anger, in the tears, I saw life as it was: unacceptable. I had to set aside my current understanding of Scripture, a feat that most believers could not bring themselves to do. More fundamental than the Bible, Christian music, Sunday meetings in a stained-glass mausoleum, remember to bring the kids so that we can immerse them in this atmosphere as well, all of these comprise Christendom. More fundamental than the Bible is our friend's, our pastoral friends, our deacon friends, our seminary professor friend's interpretation of Scripture. The life that they've lived, this long, unbroken chain of witnesses (or is it truly unbroken?), it was all these things. And to find God, the God of Joy who I must have faith to see, to find Him, I had to discard Christendom.
*I just want to make it clear that I do in fact like many of these things and do not mind many others. I have a ton of fun at softball and genuinely enjoy it. Mr. Wasabi is one of my favorite restaurants and the SuperBowl in 2007 was my first championship ever. They are good things. But what kind of life has these events as the premier highlights and features? THAT is my problem with it -- the spectatorship of life.