Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Anatomy of the Haunted Cemetery


Yesterday I wrote a story about two friends in peril. This was a true story, based on something that happened to me a few years ago. I wanted to tell this story in the first place because it's such a fun story to tell. But I couldn't bring myself to include the ending (perhaps tomorrow), nor could I use my own name. I didn't want this to be a story told in first person, because I think what the story reveals is something much greater than just one of my subjective past life experiences. The story was about beliefs. It was about fear, rational thinking and strength in numbers. A story about life and death, mystery and fact. And as I destroy all of my artistic and literary integrity with this post, I think further about what it means to believe in things.

For years, I've called myself a Christian. Today, I still do. But when I say this, so much baggage comes with. To call myself a Christian means, to many, a belief in Jesus Christ as God and spiritual savior. Indeed, this is what I believe. But I believe many other things as well, things that many other Christians find blasphemous and disgusting. But a belief in one little detail offers me strength in numbers, belief in Christ gets me into the Church club.

I went to a Christian college. While there, I learned that Christians stick together, support each other. So if I wanted to talk to a school counsellor about finding a job after school, all of his contacts were Christians. Christian radio stations, Christian record labels, Christian publishing companies, and so on.

My belief in Jesus opens up the doors to all sorts of gainful "Christian" employment. Hallelujah!

But there's a problem. I don't want to be in a herd. I'm a carnivore, prowling solitary. I kill by myself, eat by myself, live by myself. So if I ever find myself caught in a job in which the "Christian" standard is upheld around the workplace, all of my co-workers are afraid of me. They see me as a threat, a lone artist with aspirations outside of orthodoxy. Granted, their herd IS safe, and I could also be safe if I humbly convert over to their omnivorous lifestyle, but my nature tells me to kill them. Maybe not all of them, but at least scatter their herd about. Startle up some chaos, ask questions that will get them thinking about new ideas for the first time in their lives.

In the story yesterday, there is little character development, but we can clearly tell that Drew is confident in his beliefs while Mark is unsure. Drew HAS beliefs, and he will act according to them. Since Mark's beliefs are not so concrete, he is cautious. But by the end, we see that the greater virtue was not found in confidence and unwavering belief, but rather fear.

Throughout the entire story, Drew is trying to cover up his fear. Even though his fear is real, he masks it with conversation and reasonable thinking. He refuses fear, even though there's good reason for its existence.

How often do our beliefs blind us to what is true? When we ascribe to a dogma, what do we give up?

Sometimes, being unsure of oneself is wise. It's not always "right" to be right...

The other thing Drew does in the story is that he convinces Mark to take him back into the dangerous place. Mark is not in a state of certainty, even though he was the one who went through the horrifying experience. Mark is weak, and Drew carries him back into danger with his bullheaded (and rational) beliefs.

We've all known religious people who do not harbor strong critical thinking skills. They believe in faith-healing and the prosperity gospel. I will not bash now, but I must say that these folks' will power is pathetic. They need a herd more than anyone. Since they are weak individually and existentially, they have to find strength in numbers.

Drew and Mark had to stay together to survive. When Mark tried to throw Drew the keys, he was basically committing suicide. But Drew didn't want to die. HE was the one who made Mark continue. In his desperation, nothing seemed more comforting than a herd.

But this story wasn't about the "right" belief. Drew believed something, Mark didn't know what he believed, but both of them had to run for their lives. There comes a point when our beliefs do very little for our survival. We like to think that we might make up for things in the next life, but really, who can be sure?

Sometimes it doesn't matter what we believe. Sometimes it's a mystery, sometimes it's easily understandable, but our pursuer is no respecter of beliefs. Believe what you want, but when it's time to run, run hard and keep up with the herd.

Because I'm the carnivore, suckas.

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