The Business of My Day Off

Today was beautiful. For the most part. I woke up at 11:30am and lazed around. Then, around noon-thirty, the exterminator knocks on my door to spray the apartment. Fine, I let him in after I put on some pants. He walked around and sprayed his “non-toxic” stuff around the baseboards and under the cabinets and next to the air intakes of my computers. The bastard. After seeing my CD collection while spraying and letting fly with comments like, “what, you a music lover?” he left. I bummed around some more until hunger and eye irritation (from the bug spray) overtook my resolve to vegetate and I got dressed to leave.

On the way to the car, I stopped at my housemate’s truck to start it and recharge the battery after being parked for the week and a half he’s been gone out of state. The battery was dead, naturally, so I pulled my car around and jumpstarted his truck. Task number one complete.

After going for some lunch I bought some new shoes. Wearing them now (oh, the discomfort of breaking in new shoes). Tasks two and three complete.

Went back to the house and noticed that the place was stuffy (compared to the air outside) and it still smelled of bug spray. So, with the most excellent weather and nice breeze outside, I opened the windows. I had been thinking about cleaning the house, but I also had laundry to do; a quandary. I didn’t want to go to the laundromat and deal with that crowd, so I examined the laundromat at the apartment complex and found it was ok to use (usually it’s trashed and stinks of piss and bleach), which gave me a win-win situation. So I ran my loads of laundry while I attacked the apartment. White tornado action.

Vacuumed my room and the common areas the right way: by moving the furniture. Cleaned my bathroom. Used a sponge to spot-clean all the handprints, spots, and nicotine condensation from the walls. Cleaned the brown smudge marks from the front door knob. Dug around and pulled the stacks of accumulated newspapers for tossing. Reorganized the videotapes and DVDs. Windexed the coffee table. Broke down and discarded unneeded cardboard boxes. Dusted everywhere. Straightened all the couches and the cushions on them. Pushed everything around so it was square, straight, and neat. Watered the plants. Then *ding* the laundry was done. Tasks four, five, six, seven, eight, twenty, and nine-thousand complete.

And now, it is with pleasure that I announce that my apartment is clean and completely rocks.

I’m currently at Spiderhouse having some coffee. I like coffee, but only when it’s hot; given this weather, and the occasions I sit outside drinking coffee when it’s cold, my coffee cools off too fast. So I had to do something about it, y’know? Bought a briefcase thermos last night; holds about 16 ounces of coffee, which suits me fine. Smart Solutions for Dumb Problems.

I recognize absolutely nobody up here. I’m not sure if I like that or not. Essentially the only reason I come to Spiderhouse on the weekends is for some socialization with the few familiar faces that come here. With the cooling weather, those faces are fewer. So, I reckon I’d post a journal, get *something* done towards that end. So, with nobody really around as I had hoped, I’m getting kind of bummed out. Feeling my day of successes is crossing a threshhold; it’s becoming less of a good day. Y’know? Hope somebody shows up.

Ok, for those of you in Texarkana, please be alerted that I’ll be making a four-day visit this week for the christmas holiday season. My printshop is closed on xmas eve, so I’m taking vacation time on the day before (the 23rd). I will be leaving here on wednesday night and heading back here on sunday afternoon. I’ll do my best to stop by and wish everyone a happy festivus.

Festivus For the Rest of Us.

Returned, Relieved, and Repetitive

As hoped, I made my return to Austin before midnight sunday night; it was 11pm exact when I cruised into my apartment’s lot. I made decent time on the drive: 6 hours, 24 minutes. In the past, that would have normally been six hours flat; now that I had a speeding ticket, I’m paying a little more attention to my speedometer. Ah well. My goal was to leave Texarkana before 5pm, and given the early start in the morning, I was well on my way towards that.

I woke up around 9:30-ish thanks to the kids (which was fine). I spent some time with them and my sister, then gathered my things, put on some clothes (the shower could wait), and hugged everyone goodbye.

On my way to my mother’s apartment I pulled into a nearby parking lot to pull out the laptop, plug in the wireless card, and do some wardriving. No sooner did I set up the system, I got a strong hit from one of the businesses near that lot, so I pulled up to the building and did my business: checked the weather for the road, posted a journal update, and checked my bank balance. I then disconnected, put the car in gear, and drove away towards a nearby ATM to pull some gift money.

I continued to mother’s apartment to take her out for a meal and some face time. I had plenty of time to kill, so I asked her to bring out her Florida photos and I brought my ACLFest photos. It’s good to hang out with my mother, but she keeps thanking me for coming to pay a visit; I’m just stymied that she does that. She gets so few visitors, I think that’s why she does it. But we spent some time catching up; she told me all about her Red Cross volunteer trip down to Florida to help out after hurricane Ivan, and we talked about her current illness. She can’t work right now, hasn’t been able to work for 3 weeks, and I worry about her. My own mother can’t work, and I’m out buying laptop bags and car stereos; is it right or wrong that I’m feeling guilt? But I left her with a gift of the only way that I can help: cash. I can’t bring her food or drive her to the store; money is the only way I can help.

I hugged her goodbye around 4:00 and went to a nearby quickmart to fill up the tank, get some road snacks, and went next door to pick up some motor oil. I reached the edge of town around 4:30pm. The trip home was smooth sailing.

Today, I got up and was late to work as usual. I took a shower this morning, but by noon I felt like the shower was completely wasted and negated. I think it might be best to take a shower after work. I spent most of today at the saddle-stitch end of the collator, away from everyone, so I had my laptop out and in jukebox mode; played mostly a random playlist. Got both of the book jobs done in good time. Had enough time afterwards to go sit at the table and do a sitdown job, so I checked print. Didn’t get to chat much today to catch up on Things, but that’s fine. There’s tomorrow.

At day’s end I left and got some food. With my belly full, I felt fat and bloated (it doesn’t take much these days), so I went home where I fell into the trap of doing absolutely nothing at all but play solitaire and listen to depressing ambient music. Finally got my ass moving at 10:30pm, and now I’m drinking coffee late at night and filling the intarweb with more drivel.

I keep having ideas about my programming projects, and about my music, and about my other creative outlets. But I can’t do them. My projects have become a serious hassle to me, a burden. They’re all in a “started” or “underway” state, and not one of them is finished. The desire to finish them, the need to finish them, is great and heavy, but it’s in that crush that I just can’t finish. The whole programming thing, I’m completely fried out, and this burnout is coming much too often. I go away for half a week, and nothing has changed. The Fire is just not there. My muses have let me down.

So. I’m home, I’m here, and I’m back to more of the same. Welcome home.

Riding Solo In Texarkana

Our Traveller writes from the road:

Thursday, 11/25/04 Thanksgiving Day
So, in a nutshell, I’ve been in Texarkana for a day. I arrived around 6pm wednesday after driving for 6 1/2 hours. Traffic was fair, but the wind was rough; my car was being thrown around until I was almost to Henderson, TX, which is my 2/3 mark for the drive. I spent some of the evening with my sister and her kids, which was a loud, chaotic treat. Then around 9 I went to visit my mother at her place; we chatted and watched some TV, y’know, the warm family stuff. Heh. I left around 11 to get some food to settle my road-weary stomach. The Denny’s here, where I had spent several years of my life, has apparently gone downhill quite quickly. So sad. I left around midnight and got back to my sister’s house to settle my stomach and get some much needed up-since-7-am shuteye.

This morning, I had some fitful sleep as the kids were up and at ’em. Woke up a few times from noise, some times from having a cold head or soreness from sleeping on a child’s bed. Finally got up rested around 10am. Chatted with the kids for a while; seems they’re incredibly happy to have Uncle Shawn around for a visit, and they’re eager to get my attention. Heh. Around noon I had the opportunity to get away and take a shower, get myself ready for the world. We all left the apartment at 1:30pm to go to have Thanksgiving feast with my brother-in-law’s family. Spent quite some time there tonight; ate my fill (of course), snoozed, and watched some TV, y’know, the whole “football and muscle cars” thing. I left around 9:30 to go visit with some of my Texarkana friends, but I decided that it was a little late in the evening to be “dropping in to say Hi”. It’d be kind of rude of me, so I just drove around town. Tried the new highway loop that was finished this year; now I can drive completely around town without leaving a controlled-access thoroughfare. Kinda neat, I guess. But, as a testament of how small this town is, it took me, driving completely at speed limit, only 21 minutes to do the loop.

I’m currently at the IHOP where my mother and cousin work. Neither of them are on shift. Just sitting here having some coffee and typing this journal. Texarkana is so different than Austin water, because the coffee at both Denny’s and IHOP has a dusty rubbing alcohol taste. It’s so weird. I’ve gotten so accustomed to the water back home (whichever town I’m in, the other town is “back home”).

This town is growing, still. It’s becoming more like Round Rock and Cedar Park; highways, SUV’s, and “big box” chain stores as far as the eye can see. More churches, too. And bank locations. As folks here say, “Texarkana is just ‘building up’.” I haven’t really cruised the downtown area, or gone much down Stateline Ave, or gone to see my friends at Moderne Primitives, but something tells me that downtown is still lying in decay and falling apart, a scene so ghostly not even the homeless will set up camp.

Oh. Those of you in Austin may wish to take note: there’s a BOB FM in Texarkana as well: 101.7MHz. So our BOB FM phenomenon is NOT unique. Sorry to break the news to you. Try looking it up.

I haven’t gotten online since I arrived, which is against my normal modus operandi. There’s no land phone service at my sister’s house, so I can’t do dialup there, and I haven’t gone wardriving yet. Something tells me I should be successful in finding some good open signals out there. And it has recently dawned on me that I might find wireless at the Schlotzskey’s franchise here, but that’s iffy. I really don’t want to go back to Sacred Grounds to deal with, and give my money to, those rabid christians in return for their high-minded crappy coffee and wireless access. But if it comes down to it….

Regardless of my close interaction and high exposure to a ton of cats and dogs here, my allergies have been nice to me. Even my chest is getting some needed rest; the constriction and congestion has taken a holiday it seems. If things go south when I go back to Austin, I Will Know something is up. It has to be the mold there; I wouldn’t doubt that there’s some hidden somewhere in my apartment’s outside walls. Undergoing allergy shot treatments might be a smart option; otherwise, it’s either live on allergy drugs and keep coughing or move away from central Texas.

I’m watching my laptop batteries drain as I write and sip my dusty coffee. It’s reminding me that my batteries are getting old; I need to look into replacing them soon. It also reminds me that my laptop system itself is getting old; it’s about to turn 4 this January. My desktop, too, is about to turn 4. I’m considering upgrades; I can either maintain with what I have, and keep fixing, or upgrade to something new. This is similar to my own life. I’m in a pattern of just holding on to what I have and patching it, making do; things after a while become stretched, threadbare, patchwork. This is fine if a person is completely frugal and handy, and does not mind the frugal and handy image. I do, but to a point. After that point, the appearance is that of “barely making do” in my job and lifestyle. That doesn’t win friends. That doesn’t keep the bed warm with bodies. It’s a sad fact of life, but a component of attractiveness is the ability to spend, to purchase, and display new possessions, new clothing, new style. In the past few years I have been pretty slack in buying new clothes; most people buy clothes all the time; some buy clothing in bulk at the end of every summer. Me, I buy a t-shirt here, a pair of jeans there. My casual clothes have become my work clothes, and they too are becoming threadbare and worn through. It is time to upgrade myself.

One of my recent music purchases, and now my recent fascination, is a band named Seabound. I picked up their sophomore album, “Beyond Flatline”; it is currently in high rotation on my mp3 playlist and in my car cd player. Their sound is heavily electronic and industrial, with dark-hearted sound with a touch of introspective defeat musically and lyrically. Very similar to VNV Nation and some songs by VAST and Covenant. I’ve gained a fascination with dark bands with a singular “me to the world” vision. They answer something in me, they touch a chord, and I can’t turn it away. It’s so weird. Hard to explain. I need to start writing poetry again (relax, people, you don’t have to read it. damn). If you get a chance, look up Metropolis Records and check out Seabound. I’m happy with the happenstance purchase.

There’s someone here I think I recognize from when I lived here. I should probably go ask if she is who I think she is. She’s here with her husband; they both look familiar. Heh. Well wouldn’t you know it, I know these people; they are some people I knew from a few years before I left for Austin. Totally cool people. Some chatting with them, some catching up, and I learn they are now living not in Texarkana but in Conway, Arkansas, and doing much, much better. They Got Out. I could not be happier for them.

Heh. It’s nice running into old friends at random.

Friday, November 26, 2004:
Today I did a whole lot of absolutely nothing useful. I hate days like this. I stayed up a little later last night than necessary and got some not-so-good sleep this morning (I really must discuss the freezing conditions in that bedroom with my sister). I woke up around 11, groggy as hell. Had a warm breakfast compliments of my sister, then I lazed around the apartment hanging out with the kids and watching stuff on Comedy Central. They all left around 1pm to go watch the Arkansas vs LSU game, and I had some time to go shave, shit, and shower. Left the apartment around 2:30, and drove to Schlotzskeys to see if they had CoolCloud wireless — if they did, I couldn’t pick it up because my wireless card driver did nothing but completely crash my system; the dreaded NTKernel dump. Infuriated, I gave up on the quest, shoved my laptop back in my bag and drove on.

Went to visit Phil and Bob at Moderne Primitives; visited for several hours. My visits usually are intended for just a few minutes, like 15, 20 minutes, and end up being 2 hours or so. It’s good to chat, but after being there standing around for some time I was feeling really peckish and had no choice but to leave and get some food. So here I am, IHOP again. Had a big meat-and-potatos meal. Waiting on it to sink in and recharge me; it was like I was having a sugar crash or something. So weird.

My plans for today were to go visit my core group of friends while the sun was still up and see what plans were for tonight. I have also been thinking about taking the hour-long drive up to Arkadelphia for a photo safari to take pictures of the college I attended and see what’s changed in the past 6 years since my last visit. That obviously fell through. It’s still an option for tomorrow. I could also look up my old college friends Eddie and Michelle; I understand they have their own house and are working on a family; I haven’t really communicated with them in 4 years. Would be nice to see them.

What I would like to do is spend some more time with my mother and hang out, go grab something to eat. I miss being up here for when she needs help, and these days she’s needing more than usual. It’s tough to be so far away. She still has pictures of her Red Cross volunteer trip to Florida to show me.

Tonight, it’s still early enough to comfortably visit my group of friends. Not even 8:30 yet. But it’s pushing it. I’m so distant from them as well. On my last visit the thought occurred to me that it’s not always cool to drop in unannounced at any time and just crash parties. They ribbed me about it, but it was still jovial. But the idea remains; even though I’m a friend of theirs from years back, I should make moves early enough to be more than welcome for a visit. Nobody can be as agreeable as an uninvited guest. And I don’t like being that kind of agreeable.

Damn, I’m sleepy. Time to go make some visits, else I won’t hear the end of it.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

What happened today? Well, not much of that “grab life by the horns” stuff, that is for sure. Most of the daylight was spent resting, sleeping, and napping. The time I’ve spent in this household with my nieces and nephew (and the pets) has been tenuously blessed; these kids are sharp as whips, but just you try keeping them quiet and well behaved. Heh. So the rest, any rest, is welcomed. My mother came to visit today and hang out with us as my sister got her house redecorated for christmas. Helped out with fetching some supplies for dinner, which I enjoyed with my family.

I made scarce of myself around 8pm and visited my friends over at “The Block,” as I call it. The birthday party for David was underway, and most everyone, even a few people I hadn’t met, was there. Mark, who lives in Japan, was present via teleconference on the big screen in the living room. David’s brother in law was also celebrating his birthday, so he came over to exchange gifts and say hello; brought his kids who spent most of their time there running and roughhousing. Once the kids discovered the webcam and that their mugs were on TV, their energy multiplied three-fold as they hammed it up with Mark. Lots of fun, lemmetellya. After experiencing my own family’s kids for a few days, the noise of three more kids was too much and I stepped out to the porch for a while. Played with David and Angie’s dog, a basset hound which, after hearing my friends’ tales of that dog jumping or hitting them where it counts the most, I lovingly called “The Crotch Torpedo”.

The evening over there wound down early, and some of us migrated to Liz and Doug’s house for coffee and chatter. I found out some more details about various drama circles, caught up on what’s been going on with so-and-so and what’s-her-face. Chatted about gypsies and movies, and renfest, and scarborough faire, and so on. The usual stuff. Feeling the fatigue headache and the early stages of a sugar crash (thanks to the cola and pixie stick I had earlier), I left around 1:15am. Got something to eat and headed back to the apartment. And now, here I am, in my sweats, socks, and a t-shirt hoping I don’t (but knowing I will) freeze my ass off tonight in bed.

It is not in my idiom to flaunt my nose at charity. To be honest, these accomodations at my sister’s apartment have been some of the best accomodations I’ve had in Texarkana in the ages since my mother had her own house. But after the chaos and caucophany of three kids, the cold, hard, creaking bed, and my days-long exposure to the allergy-enticing pets, I will be very glad to be driving back home tomorrow. I love my family, I miss them. I wish I could take them with me to what I think is a better town, but it’s nice knowing I have my own place to go to.

I plan to spend the latter hours of my time here with my mother, to catch up, talk, go have some dinner. She still has pictures from Florida to show me. I’d like to see about helping her out a little bit financially since she’s been out of work for a few weeks; her return to work doesn’t seem eminent at all. And this worries me to no end; it bothers me that I can’t be here, in the same town, to offer help and care to my mother. It seems that job is resting on the shoulders of my sister, and that’s just not completely fair. All I can do is call more often and send money.

Optimally, I’d like to be back in Austin before midnight which means I should leave and be rolling no later than 5pm. I keep hearing rumors of a chance for rain on my drive back. That’ll add to the travel time for sure, but I’m no stranger to rain suddenly appearing for my return to Austin. The rain will fall lightly as I leave, then come down hard at sunset, usually 10 minutes after my departure, and stay with me until Henderson, TX. Seems to be the usual story. I’d like one good, clear, decent drive home. The drive up here, though it was windy, was smooth and pleasant. I’d like the drive home to be just as blessed.

My eyes are heavy from sleep, my ass is hurting from sitting on the floor with the laptop, and Chicane is playing on the Winamp. I listened to him back when I moved to Austin, and his music was my copilot on a lot of my driving back and forth from Texarkana and from Renfest back in 2000; it’s good driving music, and it only whets my mood to hit the road. So I bid you g’nite. G’nite.

Moving Along Now

Been a while since the last Phaysis site news update. Nothing out of the ordinary with that. Dropping in to mention that I’m considering a site redesign; this design is novel, it’s fun, I like it, others like it, but it’s getting old on me. It’s the shellacked, plasticene sheen on my otherwise foul temperament as of late. It’s a seasonal thing, I hope.

In one of my side projects I’m playing around with a lot of DOM-level html scripting. Cool stuff. Building tables on the fly from javascript data. Capturing mouse events on each table row. Client-side manipulation of the document interface. That kind of stuff. Super cool. Also, same project, using new perl modules to automatically handle class-to-database relationships; a true lifesaver. All that stuff is ongoing. Everything is ongoing.

Ok. So, yeah, site stuff soon. You heard it here first.

The Gentle Question of Faith

Reconnection and an Old Kinship:

A week ago, I received a particular letter from an old friend of mine with whom I have recently begun corresponding again; he is one of my friends from my years at Ouachita. Our first acquaintance was in 1991 during the beginning of my second, and his first, year there. Through our short several years of walking along the common path, this man became one of the few people whose spiritual steadfastness, flexibility, and common sense I had come to respect over those years and beyond; even though I left Ouachita as a nonbeliever, I still respected him and admired that he still, to this day, would not settle for anything less than What Is Right.

We Felt The Answers As We Walked:

In our early years at Ouachita, he and I and a several other friends would gather together ad-hoc and discuss our religion, our bible, our lives, and our faith. Sometimes during our chats we would delve into something we were studying in our bible courses or foundational theology classes or perhaps something from a lecture or sermon we attended. Sometimes we’d discuss the things that weighed heavy on our hearts, minds, and souls. Being a faith-based college, these kinds of discussions happened quite often all over the place. But even with these given surroundings, very few examinations, and fewer examiners, I feel, went as deep into faith as our particular circle of friends. Though my major, minor, and work-study kept me away in parallel but close circles, I had the great fortune to join with them on many occasions.

On a cold, damp, overcast evening some time near the early winter of 1992, we wrapped ourselves up in warm clothing, put on our hiking shoes, packed up our flashlights, some snacks, water bottles and bibles and we hiked, the five of us, to a small clearing in the woods between a large pasture north of campus and the Ouachita river to its east (an area where I had enjoyed hiking alone many times). As we talked about some heavy and important things like personal inner struggles and problems, and as we touched on some inner places where we needed help, we felt the Holy Spirit move us. So we talked, opened up, and shared. To us, true change was to begin on the inside.

In one spontaneous instant, one of us stood up, held up their hands, and started praying, opening up the conversation to our Lord. The Spirit was calling and we answered: we locked together, arms around each other, huddled close for warmth and healing, and we prayed the prayers of five humble mendicants, five believers who intensely needed strength to make it through our days. The Spirit moved us, and we kept praying, kept pouring tears; some of us knelt down, some of us lay prone, but we kept praying. When we felt our hearts were about to burst, we stopped, ended our prayer with blessing and praise, then we opened our eyes and perceived that something had changed. Upon picking up our satchels, we wiped away our tears, smiled, and quietly streamed our way out of the woods towards the nearby pasture to return to campus.

It was then, as we neared the edge of the woods, that we noticed the big white fluffy flakes of snow. If my memory serves me well, at that early in the winter season, snow was possible but improbable, and it was not on the forecast. Knowing this, we looked at each other and scratched our heads, expressing wonder about the possibility, any at all, of any relation between the two events — the prayer and the snow — and we laughed, elated, agreeing that whether it was a sign to us or not, the snow was provided to us by our Lord. Bless God! Bless God! On our trek back to campus, we were giddy, our spirits lifted, and we knew that everything was going to be alright.

Walking Into the Debate — the Reversed Roles:

Some years later, I had been walking around campus late on this one particular evening. My mood had been foul for a few days, and I was deeply troubled, hence the walk. After having lost and left my faith a few months prior, I was still wrestling with questions that I could not answer without the faith that provided those answers. As I walked, I crossed paths with my old friend by happenstance. At that time, our paths in life had diverged a bit but, given our proximity, we still ran parallel. So, with our first chance to talk in months, we stopped for a light Chat About Things and found ourselves sitting on the streetside steps of Lile Hall for the better part of 2 hours. I confessed to him my recent loss of faith. I presented my new views, and he played (for lack of better terms) Devil’s Advocate against my views; he grilled me, presented logical arguments, scripture and doctrine, allowed me some space to cast some doubt on my own doubts, and generally shook me up. I was some small measure offended or taken aback by his grilling, but only offended to the extent that he, quite necessarily, probed and questioned where others would have backed away. Chilled and sore from the concrete steps, we said our goodnights. As I walked back to my dorm, I was visibly shaken. His questions made me reconsider my own questions of faith.

Our paths diverged a little more steeply after our conversation that night. This probably had less to do with faith differences and more to do with social circles, but the agreeable schism was still there: he was still a believer, I was still an agnostic. About a year later, our circles crossed over again when my friends, mostly theatre majors, were involved in a production of “The Grapes of Wrath”. Through a twist of coincedence, this friend was also on the cast; his role was that of the Reverend Jim Casy, a preacher who had fallen from faith. Superb acting and delivery aside, I felt that the coincidence of his role to our prior discussion was quite heavy and a fair amount ironic.

In December of that year, about a week before I was due to leave Ouachita for perpetuity, I crossed paths with him again at the student center. We had some time to kill, so we had a quick chat, catching up on my leaving school and what’s been going on in the past year or so. I brought up the subject of his role in “The Grapes of Wrath”, and expressed to him that the character he played was the very definition of what I had become in my own loss of faith some time before. I believe this gave him pause to reflect. We wished each other well in our lives and parted ways. It would be a few years before I would see him again.

The Travel Alone, and a Quiet Agreement:

We have recently reopened communications after several years of lost track. In the 9 years since I left Ouachita we have both been down long roads; he has brought me up to date with the major events in his life so far: marriage, seminary, international travel, divorce, wandering, reconstruction, return to school, and so on. A lot of changes.

It was in this recent letter that he confessed to me that he, too, had lost his faith. It was during his time in seminary; with each passing year, he felt less certain about his faith until it had simply evaporated and vanished. This was similar to my own struggle, insomuch that when faced with religion day in, day out, when it’s in your face everywhere you turn, when you’re forced to address it in its big and small forms, in its feelgood and stoich means, religion itself grows threadbare and worn, and you begin to see the thinness of the threads of faith which keep it held together. His news came as a mild shock to me, but given what I had read of his writings online and from other context clues left around the net, I did have some expectation that his faith had been left behind just as it had happened to me and to many, many others in the world. But it was still a mild shock.

Genesis To Exodus — My Own Answers Destroyed:

At some point along my path at Ouachita, I poked my head up and looked around; to the left and to the right I saw instances of the extremes of religion and faith. One morning, for instance, I counted no less than 20 “Jesus shirts” on my trip from my dormroom to my first class of the morning; this was from seeing only 30 people within the distance of 150 yards. My world, on that baptist university campus, was the utter reflection of a church camp. It was in this environment that I saw too much of the ridiculous, I heard too much of the insane, and I tasted too much of the nauseating. This troubled me, and after several more observations, tests and expositions, and I had had enough. In trying to boil down my religion into the essences of pure faith, in trying to get to the golden nugget of God inside it all, I started asking questions, I started examining for myself what was said, what I had previously taken as gospel truth. It was in this examination that things fell apart for me. If I had a strong doubt about one portion of my religion, my faith in the other portions was highly suspect; the supporting evidences for those remaining portions were dubious at best. I had to have truth, validity, proof. Faith’s suspension of disbelief was no longer enough.

Historical record, alterable as it is, tells us that indeed there was a man named Jesus, born in Nazareth, and that he, at the age of 33, was led up to his crucifixion following a particularly complex betrayal snafu. But, without the shelter provided by faith, I cannot tell you, and believe it for a minute, that he was the one true Son of God in Flesh who came to die for us and to symbolically save us, His beloved, from eternal punishment and abandonment in hell fire for our sins. I cannot believe that; at one time I did, but I cannot any longer. I can no longer have life-committing faith in the unprovable. I cannot prove that we have souls, that there is a Heaven, a Hell, a Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. My hands are empty.

This is the place where faith falls short; it evaporated when I started asking questions, and disappeared when the feel-good numbness of Being Right died from my head. Doubt has been cast into the fold. Party over. Faith is belief regardless of proof; the presence of proof supports belief, the absence of proof supports faith. Given the lack of proof and my newfound loss of faith, I could no longer believe.

On To Revelation — the Question Mark At the End:

Over the years I myself have travelled around and back, holding onto a diminishing hope that there might be Something Higher, something guiding us or fueling us from and/or towards the spiritual realm. I sought something else, thinking maybe some other religion would pick up where Christianity failed. I examined other religions and schools of thought. My self-guided studies ranged from Taoism, Buddhism and Zen to Paganism, Wicca and, to a small amount, Satanic/Humanist dogma. From those studies I picked up many threads and found things that were similar or universal, things that we should all hold close to our hearts and take to task: Golden Rules, the “love your neighbor”, “do not raise your hand to murder” stuff. Those tenets do not require faith, only community. But everything else about those religions and theologies, the supernatural stuff, required faith. And it was there that I met my stumbling block; I could not get past the issue of faith. If I could not believe and maintain faith in the Christian idea, without the support of proof and evidence, I could not believe and offer faith, completely, in any other religious ideology. Whether I have failed to see something or I have succeeded in seeing something is an unanswerable question, but this has become my view and my life.

So what have we now? We have a question with no answer. I have no answer to this gentle question of faith. In the complete absence of proof, how can I believe and continue to believe?