Monday, March 9, 2009

the crutch and the confidence

Something that happened when I moved out of participation in the church. I lost my confidence. Of course, I was no longer getting the validation and sense of responsibility that comes from callings/teaching/etc... and for a introvert like myself who does not naturally seek out service/leadership/human contact opportunities that has noticeably reduced my sphere of influence in the world. But I noticed something else as well. I had thought I was just going explore and expand my belief system, but instead I found my belief system merely disintegrating and when that happened, I lost grace. I lost the shield that had previously softened my failings. I don't mean this in a salvation way, a "repent or your sufferings will be sore" getting-to-heaven way. I mean this in a day to day, suddenly feeling much more overwhelmed by my errors and my insignificance. By the utter inconsequence of being a human animal.

I just finished Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth. Campbell talks quite a bit about the importance of our spiritual Myths and Rituals in giving the individual a sense of place, purpose, connection to something greater. And he's pretty clear that the literalness of these myths isn't the point, it's their ability to give humans some sense of meaning in an otherwise meaningless world. A sense of confidence.
A crutch.

I've been trying to write this post now for several weeks, and I am still no closer to having some sort of nice wrap-it-up epiphany about finding meaning, having confidence, metaphorical belief systems, etc... So I though it was about time I just hit the publish button anyways and see what your thoughts on the subject are.


adam said...

A "crutch" to me usually has a negative connotation, so I don't normally use it unless whatever the crutch is is getting in the way of someone's growth.

As someone who has struggled with the issue of meaning quite a bit, I think finding meaning (well, it's not usually found but more often created) is profoundly important. It certainly does not have to be based in religion or spirituality, but meaninglessness can cause all sorts of problems.

Honestly though, sometimes when I connect to the ultimate "meaninglessness" of life (I'm an existentialist at heart), my only answer to the unanswerable "WHY?" question, is "why not?" And then I end up feeling okay because I can't answer that question either. :)

angryyoungwoman said...

I don't think I can tell you something to comfort you. When I left the church my heart was broken. I knew that if the church wasn't true, I wouldn't be able to find some other truth to replace. I wouldn't be able to find another god, another religion, another myth. I found an urgency, though, to live now because I wasn't saving my "good life" up until after I died. I think that's why I moved, switched schools, came out, and went through so many changes last year. I'd been living my life in stasis, believing that I had eternity. Once I knew eternity was off the table, it became urgent that I do all the things I'd dreamed of doing.

That's probably not much comfort, but that's how I got through it.

Alisa said...

I understand more of this post than you might think. Realizing my unique approach to my religion has left me feeling terribly alone. I have felt like there was hardlly anything to fall back on, not even my past.

And I believe there are psychological/mythical truths. But I can't find one that matches up with my journey as a woman who is not fully the nurturer/mother. Everywhere I dissect these religious myths, women are not portrayed the way I think they should be, not because our psychology won't allow it, but because of sexism played out for thousands of years. I want to be the heroine of my journey.

The Numismatist said...

Time. It. takes. time. Separating from the church is painful on so many levels, both spiritually and socially.

I liken it to being "born again", just like a baby learning how to walk or a toddler learning to tie her shoes. Each baby step gets easier and soon that child knows exactly how to wind the cord so it is tied securely.

At first I was fearful when confronted about my changing beliefs. After having to defend myself numerous time it has become second nature. The hard part is that many don't want to hear what you are saying.

Your confidence will return. Mine did, even stronger than before. It just takes time.

D'Arcy said...

Oh, G. I hear you. I feel a deep sense of loss. Of community, of importance, of significance, of purpose. A loss so deep that I almost wish that I could go back to who I was before, even though I wouldn't really want to.

Like your blog says, we're both just figuring it out.,.I was just under the impression it wouldn't be so hard or take so long.

djinn said...

From one of my favorite poets, Jack Gilbert-- "I am not at peace ...
I want to fail. I am hungry
for what I am becoming. What will you do? She asks. I will
continue north, carrying the past in my arms, flying into winter.

More Jack Gilbert, "Refusing Heaven"

The old women in black at early Mass in winter
are a problem for him. He could tell by their eyes
they have seen Christ. They make the kernel
of his being and the clarity around it
seem meager, as though he needs girders
to hold up his unusable soul. But he chooses
against the Lord. He will not abandon his life.

Me again, for what its worth, the stuff outside your window, the world, in all its ragtag glory is enough.

djinn said...

I think this post, which I should have read earlier is "the point of religion" scare quotes intentional. Yes, religion gives a reason. Full stop. Without it, you have to make up your own reason. Not so pleasant. But what can one do? I find looking out the window gives me reason to live. And my kids and my garden and the thought that I can get well, and my dear fiance, and and and and and and and......

But but but, this is only my own solution... ... ...

Beautiful post, btw. Beautiful writing, also btw.

djinn said...

Oh, I did read the post earlier--thank goodness I have an illness to blame for my fractured memory.

all my best--


Vajra said...

I've had several injuries to my left leg and ankle. I've needed crutches at times. I was grateful for the help they gave me. I became quite expert at using them. But I don't need crutches anymore. I can stand quite well - actually better - without them. I gave them away to Goodwill with other things I no longer need.