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Author Topic: Disillusions (A Landmark)
Member # 6320

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It feels odd to be writing a landmark without posting anything for days before it, but I suppose that's how the game is played. After all, I stopped posting to think about my landmark, and when someone like me stops posting he takes the risk of forgetting for a while. (I could have made yet another new ID, I guess. I'm not big on that.)

Some of you may not even know who I am--I had only recently returned after being gone for quite a while. Those of you who know me, know I do that sort of thing. I'm a wanderer, in cyberspace as well as realspace.

I wish I could say my life had wandered from where it was when last I was here. I wish I could say I was a little further down the path toward the things I'd like to have and experience. The truth is, though, I'm not. I get paid a little more for doing my grunt job; I get two weeks of paid vacation instead of one. It's not enough, and I fear it never will be.

Those of you who remember me know that I was a graduate student once, and that I had to leave school due to illness. You may also remember that I was briefly able to return, and that when I realized the classes I needed to finish weren't going to be offered in time, I left again. The time has passed--I must now start over entirely to get a Masters degree. And I'm not sure, after going through that second bout, that I even want it. Coming up with experiments that meant anything was no easier, and I got no closer to presenting a thesis. I won't pretend I now think I'm a fool, but I don't know any longer that I have the kind of intelligence one needs for research. Where do I go from here? I don't know, and I'm only getting older. (At the end of last year, I turned thirty. I guess it's better than the alternative.)

Also at the end of last year, my grandfather had a heart attack. It's no surprise that he's ill--he's 85 now--though I hadn't expected quite that sort of problem. But I suppose at some point, even parts of your body that were once healthy just aren't any more.

It made me think about where my life is going...and I realized I had no answers to give. I still don't.

They say that compromising your principles, realizing that you can't change the world, is growing up, or growing older at any rate. Even so, I wish I could think that I would be able to hold onto something. Or that the principles I held would at least continue to seem right in theory, even if I had to realize they were unworkable.

Four years ago, when the Iraq War was getting started, I was all in favor. I stayed that way for quite a while. Whatever Bush may have been doing or thinking, I honestly believed we had a duty to spread democracy, and that--from time to time--that duty logically required giving the occasional mad dictator the boot. Now our troops are mired in Iraqi sand, and I can't muster the enthusiasm to support any action in Rwanda at all. If this is where intervention leads......

Well, I guess I should have known about a path paved with good intentions by now. But what does it mean? Is it wrong to spread democracy? Is it wrong, perhaps, only to use force--in which case, when confronted with a dictator who won't let go of power, do we smile politely and let him go back to breaking his people on the wheel? Maybe, for all I know, democracy itself is wrong. Maybe might is right after all, and that's why we lose.

But I don't want this to become a political discussion--not purely, at least. Because this sort of thing confronts me wherever I turn. No matter what my intentions, it seems nothing good can come of anything I do.

For a while, after I left Hatrack for a while, I spent time on Ornery. I convinced no one of anything, of course, and if I had, so what? Who there has any power to change things? And the same is true of here, and ISCABBS, and my private conversations as well.

I don't discuss this much here, but I increasingly believe my church is dying as well. The old-line congregations--the ones I really sympathize with--seem to shrink back a little further monthly, if not faster. I suppose someone could say--not entirely unfairly--that we are intolerant pains in the nether regions, and that I should look to the more "tolerant" churches, which are growing. But--even if I agreed with them theologically, and I don't--their tolerance is seemingly aimed entirely at the fellow theocons with whom we have found some common political cause. Pardon me if I sound cynical, but when I encounter articles obliquely suggesting that we drive long-permitted theological minorities out to bring our teaching in line with evangelical doctrine, or hear my people edging toward the notion that maybe pagans and new-agers really do worship the devil and allow demons to possess them--well, I'm not sure I want any part of this "tolerance" thing, even if Max Lucado does seem like a nice guy. But what's one man to do?

There was a time, when I was younger, that I thought it would be a great test of my faith to suffer for my beliefs. It would, of course, be painful. But in the end, I would be rewarded for it. And it would strengthen the causes I stood for.

I'm discovering that not suffering for my beliefs is a greater test. If I were publicly ridiculed; if I were beaten for my faith; even if I were martyred somehow--I would matter. My existence would make a difference. The pain would be as nothing, compared to that. (In theory, at least.) Instead....irrelevance. I can chatter all I want, and the world will pass me by. In a hundred years, maybe less, no one will be able to tell I existed, and everything I cared about, every cause I sided with will--unless the trends change drastically--fade away like a puff of vapor.

The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
--Ecclesiastes 1:5-8

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Member # 124

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I'm discovering that not suffering for my beliefs is a greater test.
This is an ENORMOUSLY important thing to recognize, and I think you're wise to acknowledge it.
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Member # 4640

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Sometimes it is only the person who clung to the rock among the churning seas that survives the storm.

Keep surviving, that loneliness may be the suffering for your faith that you need.

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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Mabus:

It made me think about where my life is going...and I realized I had no answers to give. I still don't.


Mabus, I think I know what you mean. I was in a very similar place right after 9/11, where I felt disillusioned and questioned the meaning of my life, and my life has undergone some drastic changes since then.

I have more answers now. They aren't the kind of answers that the world would really understand, or that I could readily explain. I can't say my life is heading towards any kind of contribution that will garner public recognition. But I can say that choice by choice and action by action, I am growing. And that's all that really matters.

OK, so that was vague but I guess I'm saying don't give up on being the best person you can be even if you are undergoing a bit of a paradigm shift and it's hard to get your bearings right now. The times that we feel "lost" can be the best proving grounds of who we really are.

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What Tom said. That's a huge insight. Huge.
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Congratulations on the landmark, Mabus.

It seems to me like, as much as anything else, what you are looking for is neatness. You believe the war in Iraq is the right thing to do, but you want it to be neat, and it's not. And this seems to mirror the malaise you describe in religion, work, and posting. Everything seems ineffectual, because nothing is like turning a switch. Of course, that's how things work in fiction, but in real life, things just don't seem to work that way. (Actually, it occurs to me that things often work that way in science as well, and so maybe you're trying too hard to fit your life into a scientific mold, instead of a fictional one. Interesting.) And so, just because something is the right thing to do doesn't mean it will be easy, or even effective. Most of life simply isn't neat; it's messy. And it's hard to ever be certain of anything, be it religious or political, or even what you should be doing career-wise.

I don't know where that leaves me--no neat answers even here. But it's the way it is, so I better find a way to work that into my outlook. I have different religious questions than you, but religion is still a central element of my seeking for understanding. (I know that sounds awkward, but "search" or "quest" just sounded too overblown. And sounding awkward is consistent with my point; it's messy. [Smile] ) And maybe I won't find all my answers, so I need to believe there is value in the time spent looking. There's a lot of other stuff in my life that is messier than I would prefer. I just finished a very stressful week at work, so right now that's on my mind. In my personal life, my children have struggles and issues that cause me to question my effectiveness as a parent. I'm overweight and under-rested and spread too thin, and so I can't seem to successfully live life the way that I want to. I don't write as much as I want to, and yet I want to see that as a central part of who I am. So what do I do? Well, first of all, I don't think that "They say that compromising your principles, realizing that you can't change the world, is growing up, or growing older at any rate," is an accurate representation of what "they" say. I think it's more like this: I will keep trying to do everything I want, making choices as I go to balance all the unbalanceables. Perhaps in the end, I will succeed at some of my goals, and fail at others. How do I evaluate my life? If I can't be, simultaneously, a great father, husband, friend, teacher, writer, actor, in good shape, organized, etc etc etc, am I a failure? Or is there some nobility in trying to do it all, and being adequate at some, reasonably good at others, and maybe a valiant failure at still others? I don't think maturity is compromising your principles and giving up on changing the world. I think it's being able to keep your principles, keep trying to change the world, and still being able to value yourself if you are unable to achieve it all.

Sometimes you hear about people who are successful in some public way who are deeply flawed human beings, who need their success too desperately, because they don't value themselves intrinsically. They only value themselves through this or that particular accomplishment. And when you really think about it, they only value themselves through the opinions of others. Is that success? I don't think every famously successful person is like this, but, for those who are, I think the price may just be too high. I don't think it's success at all: I think it's ammassing evidence of success to convince yourself, because you just don't buy it. [generic "you"]


I don't engage in debates to convince people. I engage in them to test my ideas. If anybody wanted my advice, I would say not to focus on whether one "wins" debates. I think too many people on Hatrack and other forums become disillusioned because "nobody ever changes their minds." First of all, this is not true. I have changed my mind about things due to Hatrack. It may not be terribly public when people change an opinion--sometimes it's just a slight change--but it still happens. But I don't change my opinion because someone else's rhetorical skills are so powerful that mine are overwhelmed. That sounds awfully weak-minded to me. I change my opinion when I find I cannot defend it agains the questions asked and the arguments raised by others. And so I argue, not for your sake, to give you Truth, but for my sake, to find it for myself. And I try not to argue from a position of certainty, of always knowing the answers better than everyone else. I think people who are trying to change other people's minds get frustrated and flame out, but, you know what? I don't feel all that sorry for them. Because they are a touch arrogant in their presumption that it's their natural right to change things about other people.

Anyway, sorry for the too-long reply. [Embarrassed] Thank you for the thought-provoking landmark. [Smile] I hope you continue to return to us when the spirit moves you.

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"Max Lucado does seem like a nice guy." He is.
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*hug* It's good to see you around, Mabus.

I can empathize with a lot of what you said. It's hard to feel disillusioned with your faith. You have hit on something huge - it is not necessarily having your beliefs tested that is difficult - it is keeping them without the strength you can find when they are directly challenged. It's strange to feel like nothing is happening, yet time is flying faster than you can conceive of. It's troubling to feel like your life is in limbo and you're coasting but you don't know where you're headed.

I hope you can find the direction and meaning in your life that you are searching for. [Smile]

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Good landmark...
When my faith shifted, I didn't lose it, I just lost the too-tight skin of the religion I was born in.
It felt good to look at other options and to come up with my own belief and own way of looking at things that is too difficult to put into words...

Don't feel hopeless. I still believe ti is possible to change things and to shape things and that growing up doesn't mean losing site of that....
But I am weird though...
Don't give up hope...

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Hi, Ludosti, Synesthesia. I haven't forgotten about you. (And I have GAIM working now!) Unfortunately, I figured out what was wrong with my sleep habits--my whole cycle has shifted. I need to be awake in the morning and sleep in the evening until almost time for work (which drives me batty--what if I fail to get up?!). I know you're not on in the morning, Ludosti, and I don't know when you're around, Syn. So I don't know when I'll get a chance to talk again.
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I'm always around...
I'm trying to figure out how to NOT be nocturnal when I am wired that way.
I am living on Japan time.

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