Looking into the ether

September 13, 2011 at 2:22 am (Uncategorized)

Up all night, got demons to fi–wait, no, just kidding. No demons. Just going to be hanging out.

In all seriousness though you may be up in the middle of the night, working on something, and thinking to yourself “I really need to get this done, but I can’t focus in my current surroundings. If only there were a change of scenery featuring a caring face, who was lonely in the middle of the night who could provide some companionship and perhaps conversation or essay editing if necessary.”

Well if that’s you, I have just what you need! Come to the Idaho Inn (located conveniently across line st. from the rec center, it used to be grad housing!) between the hours of 11pm-7am most nights during the week (usually not tues/wed, sometimes wed/thurs). This week it’s Wednesday and Thursday! We have wifi!

Ok that’s my shameless plug to help alleviate a bit of my boredom, but it does get kind of lonely here. Anyone and everyone welcome.

On to actual thoughts now…

Jesus Christ!

It’s something I say on a fairly regular basis, as an expression of surprise, or shock, or frustration, or awe. It’s incredibly versatile and just a little bit blasphemous…excellent, right?

For a long time I was somewhat anti-religion, generally anti-christianity. I was always curious, always interested, but something about the way that some of the people I met, their intolerance, made me think that something that produced such bigoted people couldn’t be a positive. That glosses over all the wonderful devout people I have met in my life, and dismisses the large number of people who were not religious but also had no self awareness either.

Thus far in my life, I can count 3 people who have had the biggest religious influence on me. This isn’t to say there haven’t been others who informed my belief systems, and I would hate for it to look as though my parents didn’t do anything to dictate my religious compass–they did. Between my father’s devout atheism and my mother’s trending towards lutheranism catholic-ness, I would say I got a surprisingly consistent view of morality. That’s not to say morality and religion are always tied up together. Often, though, they are…just not so much in this case.

A brief religious history of myself:

  • Born Catholic, baptized, and then subsequently did nothing with the faith for another 20 years.
  • Ages 1-13 not much in the way of religion. Didn’t go to church, but prayed before dinner. Sort of the vague “oh yeah I’m christian” I think many people identify with. We celebrated Christmas and Easter and Lent and all that but it wasn’t ever particularly formal.
  • Age 13-18, a sort of fuzzy awareness takes hold that there are lots of religions out there, mostly the ones that were important were the monotheistic ones, I had a couple very religious girlfriends, I developed a sort of hard line agnosticism that was critical of most (if not all) of organized religion.
  • 18-21, I started looking more at what I believed, and what I should believe, what other people believed…slowly becoming less critical of religion and finding my own practice in Buddhism.

So that’s an incredibly brief timeline, undoubtedly skipping many important things that I may or may not remember to touch on in the duration of this post. You get the gist, though. Back to the three people who influenced my religious views the most (not to be confused with the people who influenced me the most in general which would look similar but not quite the same. That list would probably be something like mom/dad/austin/katie/chelsey/paige/alton/jon stewart).

I digress. A lot. Anyway.

1. Katie!

When Katie and I first met, it was 5th grade, and I didn’t think or care much about her religious preferences. She was forever the cute girl that I had a crush on, and then we started dating. Then we stopped. Then we dated again! In any case, the Katie I knew then was very Catholic. Church every Sunday, devoted, all that jazz. The one thing that stuck out to me as a freshman in high school was her general unquestioning attitude towards everything. This was sort of my intense agnostic period, and I posited (without much tact, I’m afraid) that it wasn’t as though God couldn’t exist but that he probably didn’t and even if he did there’s really no way to know for certain. But I think I grew from being around someone with convictions, and I think she realized that things aren’t all black and white. It was the first time I sort of saw outside of myself, and that’s why it was relevant.

2. Chelsey!

Chelsey and I had an interesting start to our relationship. I thought she was gorgeous and brilliant, but I was pretty sure she hated me for a long time. We even were in the same discussion group in our lit class, and I called her a robot. I eventually realized that she in fact did not hate me, and we ended up dating for a year. Chelsey is very mormon, and I was finally starting to understand by the time I dated her that people can have different views than you and not be wrong. Which was good, because we disagreed about a lot of things. That was part of the fun, though, having someone who would challenge your beliefs. I know I came away a better person for our exchange, and I can only hope that she feels something similar. I went to church a few times with her, sang in a mormon christmas choir (it was awesome), and in an unrelated event even went to Salt Lake City and visited most of the major mormon sites there. I have a love/hate relationship with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and I think it may be because they have a love/hate relationship with the world. They are wonderful, devoted, hardworking, kind people. No doubt about that. I have liked nearly every mormon I have ever met. However, it has always been difficult for me to reconcile all the love and familial goodness I have seen from every Mormon I’ve ever met with the overall dismissal of homosexuality, all the prop 8 madness, and the occasional bigotry on a large scale. Individually I’ve seen nothing but excellent human beings, so I get confused by that.

A brief aside before I head to number 3 and honorable mention: Devoted christians voting for Republicans. I don’t get it. Maybe it’s because liberals tend to favor some other activities not espoused by evangelicals and conservative christians, but Jesus was ALL about helping the poor and promoting equality for everyone. The last shall be first, the meek shall inherit the earth, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle before a rich man goes to heaven…that’s just off the top of my head, I know there are many many more. So, that confuses me. If there are any conservatives out there who can answer this perceived dichotomy for me, I would be eternally grateful.

Moving on…

3. Jay!

Jay Feldman is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Idaho and I took two classes from him: Reason and Rhetoric (PHIL102), which for our purposes is mainly irrelevant other than it inspiring me to really want to take another class from him, and Buddhism (PHIL/RELS303). Buddhism was the class that inspired me to get onto the particular religious track I am currently pursuing, and was important in that it was the first time I really took an in depth look at an eastern religion. I took a class my freshman year that was a survey of the major world religions (it was excellent) but we didn’t have much time to go into much detail on any one religion. In any case, Buddhism seemed to be a culmination of all the things I had believed before but never exactly had the words to describe them. It was like going back and listening to a song that I had known, but I hadn’t really ever heard the words to, or understood the rhythm or harmonies. Jay had a great way of articulating large points, and having us read enough detail that we would understand some of the finer bits of Buddhism without losing sight of the overall goals and making it relatively simple to understand. That can be difficult, because nirvana isn’t as easy to articulate as salvation. There isn’t just one life to experience either, and while most of the major monotheistic religions have a large chunk in common, Buddhism to me was much more subtle, and doesn’t have as much in common with western world views. If I had grown up with Hinduism or Taoism it might have been a different story I guess.

Honorable Mention: Kristin!

I haven’t really been around Kristin enough yet to have picked her brain a ton, but religiously she challenges me all the time. We don’t necessarily agree on some things (or most things) but she’s open to my constant questioning of “why?” I’m like a little kid sometimes. I’ve been going to church with her for the last 3 months, and that has been eye opening in it’s own way. Taking the Bible as Lit was the best thing I could do in terms of understanding Christianity (actually reading the book…who knew?), but now I can apply my interpretation to the interpretation of (in this case) the Catholic church, and hopefully come away with some deeper understanding of the world and my own views and place in it.

I don’t want to dismiss any religion because I think they all have excellent points. I think that in many cases ignorant and closed minded people can take pieces of religion and use them for their own purposes, ignoring the overall message. I’m still in a state of spiritual growth; I think I always will be. I will continue to look inward at myself, but there are so many things all of you can teach me…it would be remiss not to gain some understanding from whoever I can.


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