Monday, July 27, 2009

My Midyear Evaluation

A while back I had a conversation with my mom about some of the things I talk about in this blog. She noted that the tone of some of my essays were angry and cynical and was concerned that I was still holding on to all that garbage and hurt from my past. Well, granted, I am holding a lot of old baggage but, for the most part, I'm not always conscious of it. My topics mostly reflect those parts that have surfaced and I've long sense put past me. However it's true that I'll rant and ramble a bit about things I haven't figured out yet to help me get my point across. That's why I'm writing. Dumping my brain. There is a lot of shit in there and I won't know what I haven't let go of until it finds its way to the surface. That's what writing does; it helps me discover, process and release. Catharsis.

As with any sort of self-discovery that gives me new insight to understanding myself, there is a need for me to express what I've learned, what happened along the way, and what it meant to me in the end. Then to share it with the world for people who might be looking for similar models of thought to which they might find affirmation, inspiration or comfort. It's my way of giving back to the people out there on the interweb tubes. After all, it was they who took the time to share their experiences that gave me the affirmation, inspiration and comfort that I so desperately needed.

As for my tone, well, it is what it is. I like to inject levity but sometimes the topic can still carry some residual resentment that hasn't fully worked its way out. I really try to avoid writing publicly until I've gotten past it or at least gotten to a point of self realization. I reserve most of my current, incoherent, rambling angst for my private journals. There is no sense writing publicly about things that would not stand a chance of being understood.

So, for the most part, I've been content over the past several months despite where I live and what I do for a living. I've had some major paradigm shifts in my thinking in the last 6 months since starting this blog that have put a lot of my residual angst at ease. And, amazingly, many other things have basically started taking care of themselves too, such as: I'm less bothered by my job and more appreciative that I have one, I'm much less obsessed with my loneliness and isolation because of where I live, I feel like I have more freedom despite the fact that nothing has really changed all that much, I'm losing weight very quickly now and have managed to lose 30 lbs since late April while not feeling burdened by hunger or the need to drown my sorrows in a pound of peanut butter M&Ms every day.

But, despite all of the good things, I still manage to find ways to kill my spirits by being a pompous asshole. I usually get my over-confident ass handed back to me on a platter, with garnish. That usually makes me feel even more like shit than before, for a while. But now I recover in a day or two rather than the months it used to take.

NOTE: I'm really not a pompous asshole on purpose. Just chalk it up to my lack of social skills.

Also, things have gotten really busy lately. After all, it's summer time and there are lots of activities vying for my attention. I've been putting longer hours in at work to get some things done and I've been spending lots of time reading, walking and writing letters to friends around the country and traveling for visits. And in all of this time I've wondered what my next blog essay was going to be about. And right now I don't really know. I guess for now it will just be this little bit of mental doodling as I take stock of my current situation.

Here's why:

The things that have been pressing on my mind as of late delve into the specific realm of BDSM and my spiritual growth within that practice. But the problem I have is that BDSM is a highly misunderstood and heavily stigmatized lifestyle. In all fairness there are other cultures, religions and lifestyles in this world that are treated with even worse disdain. I'm not innocent as I've got a personal dislike for a few in particular and have said so.

So, despite this possible opportunity to help people understand, I'm not going to take it at this time mostly because I'm not ready to be an expert on it. Besides, there is a great deal of material written on the subject both good and bad and if someone truly feels inclined to understand it they will make the effort to learn about it. I only have my personal perspective to add and it's not going to mean anything unless there is a dialog about it with some basic common understanding.

So, why in the hell did I even bring it up?

Ultimately, it was just the idea of bringing it up on this blog that was pressing on my mind the most. I had been worrying about what people would do if I, just out of the blue, decided to dive in things that could -- I don't know -- disgust, frighten, disturb? I'm not sure, it's all a matter of perspective and I never know when someone is going to freak out.

I had originally expected that this blog might be the perfect place that I could on occasion share such philosophy, but as things started to roll along, I sort of got distracted and sidelined by other issues that were more pressing on my mind at the time. Then, add to that, some of my friends, family members and coworkers ventured here. Sure, they all know about me and my aptitude for BDSM, but they also didn't really want to know about it either. So here I am, pandering to what people might think and worrying about possibly offending the world view of other people. It's just the thing to keep me from living my life authentically, or am I just learning common decency? Once again, I don't know. I don't believe my life is indecent; that's just what other people believe it to be.

I really don't want to start another blog just for this subject so I'm going to wrestle with my self-censorship on the matter. Not out of shame, not because it's a secret or sacred philosophy, but because it runs deeply personal and I'm just not ready to give it over to just any audience. For those who are BDSM practitioners, you may know what I'm saying. The rest of you I'm going leave you to wonder what the hell I'm going on about.

Am I being ridiculous?

Here I am bringing it up just to say that I'm not going to talk about it. Unwilling to dive into some deeply personal subject matter, and yet, I'm egotistical enough to take the effort to mention something that I'm not going to talk about and make sure everyone knows that I want to talk about something that I'm not going to talk about.

I am being ridiculous.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Apostasy is for Everybody

I used to think that apostasy was a bad thing. In the Mormon faith, the word gets thrown around as if it's equivalent to committing murder. I think few Mormons have ever considered that the word exists outside of a religious context. For instance, to no longer believe in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Clause is an apostasy. To change a political party is also an apostasy. As we mature socially and spiritually, apostasy of any old idea or belief that no longer works is required in order to progress.

Ironically, the Mormon church asks, if not requires, people of other religions and cultures to apostatize from them in order to join the ranks of the Mormons. Of course they don't see that as apostasy because they believe apostates are only people who reject the "one true gospel". So they are quick to belabor the idea that apostasy from the Mormon church is the only true apostasy and thus, A Very Bad Thing.

That is, sad to say, rather cult-like behavior.

Having been born into the Mormon church in the stronghold of the Mormon theocratic society that is Utah, I found myself struggling almost daily to break free of the guilt as a result of my diverging belief system. The cultural pressure was intense. But the uncertainty of the outside world seemed unbearable. The perceived safety of the community was appealing and it gave me a sense of purpose and certainty in an otherwise frightening and uncertain world. Yet, I knew there was more to this world than what I was allowed to experience. The group-think patterns could give me reprieve from the perceived on-slot of the enemy's attacks on us "righteous" folks, but at the same time I felt oddly condemned for my desire to see things from the other side.

We Mormons can be a highly suspicious and judgmental people, and more often than not, only see others in terms of black or white, good or bad, friend or foe, us vs. them. There is no concept at all of moral relativity; no genuine comprehension of the diversity of personal experience. There is no true empathy. Ironically, as missionaries, we were taught empathy as a tool to persuade people into joining the church. But it was taught as a simple language mechanic in order to form the right string of words to fit a situation. These exercises only manifested in superficiality that tricked and manipulated people into believing they were being understood. True empathy never existed. The moment I had true empathy for someone, the last thing I wanted to do was teach them about the Mormon religion.

As Mormons we believe in a personal spiritual guide, "The Holy Ghost". An external spirit-person who's companionship is gifted to us by the "laying on of hands" by priesthood authority upon our acceptance of the "one true religion". This "constant companion" is our spiritual connection to the "other side of the veil", a special gift that we can call upon for direction and guidance when we face challenges and uncertainty.

All too often, as a Mormon, I couldn't trust that "spirit" to lead me where I needed to go in order to maintain my status as an upstanding Mormon. I didn't understand the promptings, they didn't make sense. They were so often in contrast to what I was being taught in church. I feared that I was not able to be in tune with the "true spirit" so, instead, I developed a dependence on what I believed to be our infallible, ecclesiastical authorities for guidance. Even so, their guidance often conflicted with what that "spirit" was telling me also. Still, I followed through, I obeyed, as they instructed; after all, they wouldn't be where there were if they didn't have the "true spirit", right?

More and more, every day, I could see that it was making my life more difficult and miserable, but I was able to maintain that acceptance in the Mormon community; up until my sanity hit its breaking point. It wasn't working for me anymore. I needed to move on. At that moment of announcing my departure, I became the enemy to be feared -- the bad, the foe, the "them". It was heartbreaking. I wanted so much to follow that "spirit" but I couldn't do it as a Mormon. I had to leave. I had to let go of the notion of a certain future for a life of pure uncertainty. It was freighting as hell but the "spirit" was telling me I had nothing to fear. Still it would be nearly a year before I wrote that letter to resign.

I was warned by my ecclesiastical authorities that my departure meant that I would lose that gift of the "spirit" and that it was never too late to repent and come back. FEAR! Yet, at the same time, that "spirit" was telling me that they were all full of shit. And it turned out to be correct. That "spirit" grew stronger instead. It seemed to be more in tune with what was behind that uncertainty than ever before. All I had to do was embrace it, trust it and listen. All the things I was always afraid of doing.

And so it goes, I've learned to listen to that "spirit", have trust in the present moment, and embrace the uncertainty. And I've discovered a wonderful joy that comes from jumping headfirst into uncertainty. It's not something to be feared. It's to be celebrated. Still, uncertainty continues to be a scary place sometimes but it's no longer a fear that dictates my life. It's really just undefined possibilities in which I have the power to take control. My personal spirituality is now motivated by the wonder of uncertainty. Too much of what motivates Mormon "spirituality" is the fear of uncertainty. From my experience, "spiritual" guidance attained through fear is just more fear.

It's quite possible I will carry that Mormon baggage with me for the rest of my life. It's not a conscious decision to retain it; it's just the way the mind works. My experiences in that world shaped my thinking in ways that I may never recognize or understand. There is no sense trying to predict what they are and if they might result in something detrimental. Some of those experiences also gave me some perspectives that I'm thankful I have. There is no use discarding all of it just because it was rooted in a fraudulent belief system. When I'm faced with situations that affront my personal experiences, I can assess their value then. In the mean time I'm quite satisfied with the uncertainty of not knowing.

Years ago when people told me of their experience of heightened spiritually upon leaving the Mormon faith, I thought they were lying, trying to deceive. FEAR! But, when I let go of that fear, I discovered a HUGE world outside the Mormon church that is vastly more spiritually inclusive and satisfying than I could have ever imagined. I can now empathize with them. I understand what they mean. I've experienced it firsthand. Now my empathy has extended outward more so than ever before on a grand scale. I now have a grasp of just how connected we are as a human race. There is no "us vs. them". That's a lie. We are all in this together, trying to figure this life out. Some think they have the answers but don't. Others have the answers and may not know it. Many may not even be looking for answers where as others spend their life in pursuit of them. In all, we are just running around, hitting and shoving and bumping in to each other like children on a playground, trying to cope with our own uncertainty of who and what we are.

As for my current Apostasy, I no longer believe that I or anyone was ever gifted with a companionship of any such external "spirit" from any "laying on of hands" by ecclesiastical authorities. I believe that such spiritual guidance already exists within us, part of our subconscious. I don't know what it is or if it matters that I know what it is. I do know that it's ours. Call it intuition, instinct, gut feeling, a hunch; no one can gift it and no one can take it away. It's for us alone to follow, interpret and understand in our moments of uncertainty. It's our personal identity and it cannot be given a name. It's our truth and it just is.

Copyright (c)2009-2013. All rights reserved.