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None But Ourselves Can Free Our Minds

The Hand Made Strong

I think in the history of my attempts at following the life that was expected of me, I was moved to come to the fellowship on a couple of occasions.  You know what I tender heart I have... how my passions run so deep and strong and are so easily touched... I imagine that was by design.  I never made a habit of this, because where I grew up in the South, Tradition is Truth, Discipline is Doctrine, and Image is Everything.  In a fine upstanding family such as ours, where the patriarch is an elder and every one of us is regarded as a pillar of the community – and so as a member of something bigger than myself, I am just a portion of the “Family Entity,” where “I gotta be me” doesn’t apply since I can never just be myself as long as I am only one unequal, incomplete portion of a greater whole – one simply does not admit to personal fault, and in so doing air the family’s dirty laundry.  There was always too much at stake, too many other people to be hurt, too many lives to be ruined.  There are no sinners in the South, and if there were, they certainly wouldn’t be found in my family, this band of brethren that you gave to me.

Of course, you already know this, naturally.

I’m a lot further from the more common system of beliefs today than I think I ever was, as I suspect you’d have also noticed.  I hope for the best that this course is the natural result of the flow my life has taken, and not, as church folk would say, the idle hand of the devil.  But I come to you looking not for something to believe in, but to feel strongly about, and certain of.  The situations this journey has brought me through have not lead me in the direction I would have expected – not into the darkness I was warned about – though, still, the path I have taken is the one I would have chosen.  Yet sometimes those things that seem to come too easy can be the most disquieting, so I find myself at a crossroads, in a place of wonderment.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe you meant for this life to have to be hard… I can see that at least quite a bit of these hard knocks I’ve experienced I brought upon myself.  Granted, circumstances factored in, in several cases, but you know I’m certain I had a hand in those too.  So I can’t blame you for my lot.  Or rather, I wouldn’t.  I’ve been entirely too much only connected to myself for a fair bit of this spin.  I’m certain that’s not what you intended, either.

I do get that it’s important to not be estranged from kindred spirits.  I know that I need to not be isolated.  I can see how connection to people, even those who may not be exactly on the same page, will encourage me to maintain an every day kind of closeness that I have at times let go.  Left to myself, I become self-absorbed.  But
I told myself to start learning to trust me better, because my internal discourse is a part of you, a soft unspoken whisper of untold truths, and I believe you taught me that.   There’s not a lack of trusting that has come from this, there’s  a desperate wanting to be sure enough to have something definitive to take away with me, something that will help to solve the riddle and solidify the solution in my mind, to sort out me from you, and you from me.  Something like knowing I was yours from that moment that divided my existence, that marked a stake in the sand around which all other things in life were different before then.

I want to reach out and touch you.  To t
hank you for love, and beauty, and kindness, and this moment.  To ask that you remember those I do not, and recall them to mind from time to time so that I can.  In all things, through all of this, I love you the same, and I admit, I do fear you, on some subconscious level, though the truth is, I don’t want to, and I’m not sure that I should ever need to.  That is to say, not in an intimidated sort of fashion, anyway.  I fear what you represent for me.  Your desire is not so easy, and sometimes, I just want to be comforted by you.  But then I’m forced to wonder if I’m not just a spoiled child pitching a hissy fit about not getting my way or throwing a temper tantrum about not having all the answers.

Will I struggle like this all my life?  I get so weary to think of it.  If I could confirm my understanding, in a way that I do not challenge, I would so happily seek out those like myself who are seeking, too, and bring them to you.  There is such a need, such a hunger, and I don’t think that ache – you know the one I’m talking about, like the one in my heart – can be met by the fellowship I have seen, or the message I have heard.

If I am to be a messenger, I must be resolved in the message.  And if I am to perform a different service, I would wish to be pointed out the way.  I would say that I am ready, but you know that I am not.  To commit in heart and body, mind and soul… I don’t believe I’ve ever been that coordinated.  I would give myself to be led, but I know I do not follow well… I am more afraid than I want to think of more hurt, and so weary of any more trouble and pain.  It's not that I can't take it.  You know that I can, and that I do so well.  But I don't want to.  Or at least, I want to be able to choose not to.  If there is a greater burden for me, I want to know there will a release from it.  If I’m only given what I can take, I don’t want to always have to be so strong.  I could use a simple touch of gentle, sometimes.

I am listening, and I am hearing, but I am not understanding. 

I tire of longing.  I want to be filled to overflowing, for that overflowing to spill out and forward, farther than even I could ever have imagined.
  It is not just truth that I seek, though, but the knowledge, too, the surety, that I have found it.  And I am ever so willing... to search for whatever I may find in whatever place I land – but I could use direction; or to remain planted and firm, as a lantern on a hilltop – but I could use a bit of light to shine along the way.  The path I take may be the road not often traveled, but I still want to get where I’m going.  And so I keep on moving, making a map as I go
that highlights the points of note between here and there, leaving a trail of memories behind

A little closer every day.

LJ Idol | Season 8 • Week 26 - Topic: SATED
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( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 8th, 2012 01:57 am (UTC)
I have long believed as I do with out question. While it does not fit mainstream ideology I find truth in it. In the end there is truth in everything it is just a matter of knowing the truth within. Be in peace.
May. 8th, 2012 07:45 am (UTC)
*hugs* times infinity.
May. 8th, 2012 06:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks. And thanks for reading.
May. 8th, 2012 12:56 pm (UTC)
I wanted to chime in on this, but all I can think of when faced with this soul-searching entry is a pair of quotes. One is from Henry Rollins, from his piece "I Know You": "Life is a strange trip, terrifying and wonderful." The other is from Bruce Cockburn's song "Pacing the Cage": "Sometimes the best map will not guide you / You can't see what's round the bend / Sometimes the road leads through dark places / Sometimes the darkness is your friend".

The search for purpose, for truth, is what drives the truly great among us. I think you're one of those. I think that even if you were to attain your heart's desire, you would still be wondering what else you could learn, how else you could grow and change. That's what makes you impressive.

May. 8th, 2012 08:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks. It's not so much that I don't believe I've found truth, it's being so certain in that truth that I never question it that is the challenge.

I see so many people with a faith so certain it's blind, and I can't relate to that, though I sometimes do yearn for it. I guess I think that faith without question is merely another form of dependence. I don't believe we're really meant to follow blindly without question. Though that certainly would make things a lot more simplified. I just sometimes experience moments like this when I'm feeling a bit more beat down than others.

But you're right... I think Bono summed it up fairly well with an adlib to one of his songs, to the line "I still haven't found what I'm looking for...", he's been known to shout out to a live audience, "...and I hope I never do!"

I do believe we never stop running until the race is done, and I'm sure as soon as we believe we've arrived, we've lost.
May. 8th, 2012 06:46 pm (UTC)
A lovely sharing of yourself.
May. 8th, 2012 06:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I don't very often get this vlunerable out here, but I've been battling a nasty bit of head cold with chest cough for a few days now, and I was running out of time, energy, and mental clarity to be more clever, so I figured I would just get real. Thanks for reading.
May. 9th, 2012 12:30 am (UTC)
A touching entry. Beautifully written.
May. 9th, 2012 12:46 am (UTC)
Thank you. I'm glad to know it reaches out and touches someone. And thanks for reading.
May. 9th, 2012 01:13 am (UTC)
"If I am to be a messenger, I must be resolved in the message."

It feels like one of the most difficult things to do is resolve ourselves in the message, whether it's being people who live our faith, or 'unbelievers' with a different mission - I'm at a stage right now where I'm re-thinking my mission and want to re-dedicate myself to what I'm doing, and a lot of your ruminations here rang true for me, too!
May. 9th, 2012 01:28 am (UTC)
I suspect the respective places you and I both find ourselves in are not so dissimilar from each other. I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a person of faith... or at least, not by the traditional definition, though my creed is stronger than many I know who can rightly claim that title by acceptable social standards.

But, I do believe in something greater than this existence, and am more resolved in that with each passing year. Yet I'm always reexamining my path... I'm of the belief that to do so is imperative to true growth. I'm certain that life is not a straight and narrow pathway. It's full of twists and turns and adjusted courses, and navigating it requires a great deal of soul searching and self correction, whatever course any of us are on.

That is, if we intend to arrive at any destination worthwhile. And I'm not convinced that there's only one way, or only one decent place to land.

I know that many would call me an unbeliever, too. But, what I believe I believe strongly, and it didn't come from a book, or from a pulpit, or from a teacher. It's all just a part of the journey, and the things you pick up along the way.

I know you're introspective, and analytical, and I'm sure your travels give you pause even more than you show. I imagine you know where I am better than most.

Thanks for reading.
May. 9th, 2012 03:08 pm (UTC)
Very heartfelt.

I've "been" a Baptist, Episcopalian and generic Christian.

I took a class called "Basic Texts of the Non-Western Tradition" and it provided impetus for me to read these different holy texts that I had never even looked at.

What I believe now is so different from what I believed as a child.

I remember going to a pre-teen Sunday School class themed "The Wages of Sin are Death!". It was meant to frighten you into becoming a "better" Baptist. It appalled me to the point I remember it some 30 years down the road and still use it as an example of what I DON'T believe.

I think what I believe now is that there is Someone loving out there. Someone who isn't going to cast you out for what name you pick for him or for the mistakes you make as long as you don't make a habit of hurting He or She's other creations.

You are a good egg, Karma. If there IS some kind of cordoning off of those who do good and those who do not...you are in the former category.
May. 9th, 2012 10:59 pm (UTC)
I'm in agreement with you on the policy to just say no to fire and brimstone. Not for me, thanks. Any god who needs to demand adoration through fear just comes across as insecure. Better to earn respect. I believe the someone loving is love itself. A powerful force. Thanks for reading.
May. 9th, 2012 10:38 pm (UTC)
This was such a beautiful entry, both in language and in thought.

though, still, the path I have taken is the one I would have chosen.
That's a nice thought to have.

Yet sometimes those things that seem to come too easy can be the most disquieting, so I find myself at a crossroads, in a place of wonderment.
I can't speak to the underlying longing, since I'm agnostic. But I think there is much serendipity in where you've found yourself, and that the workings of serendipity very much match what many people hope for when they talk about having faith that things will work out.

In a sense, they have worked out. It may be that accepting the grace of how that came about is the only thing that stands between where you are now and where you wish to be. :)

May. 9th, 2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I'm not too far off from agnostic myself... I admit that I don't have all the answers, so I make no definitive statements, and neither do I pass unwavering judgments. This piece is more or less an homage to the drive to question everything. I acknolwedge that I don't understand the inner workings of the ways of the universe, and yet, while I have a strong drive to seek that knowledge, I have come to accept the need to know can never be truly satisfied within my lifetime. And there is a kind of peace in that, too. Thanks for reading.
May. 10th, 2012 12:24 am (UTC)
There's just so much emotion packed into your words here. Great job with sharing a bit of yourself with us in a way we can really feel.
May. 10th, 2012 03:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks. These are powerful, complex sentiments... it's somewhat of a complicated undertaking simply to contain them in words, much less to limit them into the format of this setting. I don't normally tend to get this vulnerable out here, but I was very sick and running out of time, so I just spilled my guts. Thanks for reading.
May. 10th, 2012 12:33 am (UTC)
"There is a kind of peace' in not knowing everything... My husband is totally agnostic; but I question, as you have in this thoughtful piece. I hate the fire and brimstone and the punishment, as cruelty has no place in my life. I believe in simple truths, people are good, there is as much kindness as there is unkindness. Life in a small town is a good leveller, with so many aspects of life lived in public gaze. We all know the faults;
The person who takes wood to the poor, works tirelessly to help charities every weekend, also has a temper. The woman who gives her time and her energy so kindly to the hospital causes and the community has a vicious tongue. Most people though balance the good and bad. As long as we never forget to be compassionate, and to love without question the world will continue to turn, and we will be satified. Great entry.

Edited at 2012-05-10 12:33 am (UTC)
May. 10th, 2012 04:15 pm (UTC)
I agree wholeheartedly. I make it a personal mission in life to seek balance, to be true to my own beliefs in every action. If I put love first as the primary motivating factor behind every decision, love will not steer me wrong. I will fail, at times, because I am human, and fallible, but love will always right my course if I am always seeking it out first to guide me. Thanks for reading.
May. 10th, 2012 07:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you for opening your heart this way- this was a beautiful examination of faith.
May. 10th, 2012 08:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I'm happy to know there was beauty to be found in it. Thanks for reading.
May. 10th, 2012 09:08 pm (UTC)
Where did you grow up? I grew up in northeastern North Carolina, which I reckon is sort of the South, but we were more open and less rigid. Which, as the events of this week show, is apparently not the experience in the rest of the state.

Thank you. It's always interesting to read these things from the perspectives of people who grew up in more restricted and repressive environments than I did. And it was beautifully written. :)
May. 10th, 2012 09:17 pm (UTC)
The region I grew up in is less important than the region of my parents. I was raised in Florida, which is less Southern than Eastern, and truth be told, by the time I was addressing quandaries of a magnitude such as this, I was already living in Minnesota. But, I was raised by an Elder of the church, one from a legacy somewhat known throughout the country within the denomination I was brought up in. And my folks were born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, which still clings to them to this day. The church itself was not even as restrictive as my parents way of rearing. Of course, none of that really factors much into the soul searching here, past setting the stage of where I came from in the first paragraph. I suppose it's interesting to note what people pick up on. Thanks for reading.
May. 10th, 2012 11:44 pm (UTC)
This reads like non-fiction to me and if it is, very nice job. Very wonderful way to share of yourself with us... it's not often we get the personal with you, to see the person behind the curtain so to speak, so it's a nice change of pace. It's also very gorgeously written. You render your feelings so clearly and articulately and really make us *feel* them. Very nice work.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )