Sixty One

I’ve started listening to a podcast – The Partially Examined Life – which is basically a bunch of dudes discussing a paper written by a philosopher. The episode I listened to today was on “An Absurd Reasoning” by Albert Camus.

They were talking about life and meaning and how meaning in life was to be meaningful to someone. Does that make sense? Basically, there is meaning in life if you mean something to someone. Then one of the hosts made a comment about how that was the function that deities, or religion fulfilled. That is, religion gives meaning to people because they feel that the deity finds meaning in them.

Is that all religion is? A tool to hold human beings back from nihilism?

Oh man, I don’t know. I don’t know how to deconstruct my faith constructively. I don’t want to just pull it apart and leave it at that. I want to seek truth but I don’t know how to do that honestly and objectively. But maybe it’s not possible to do it objectively? Damn it, I keep coming back to this issue with free will. I know that I’m born into a life where I’ve inherited a lot of the decisions that other people have made for me (we all are), so my thinking and values and beliefs are already skewed from the get-go. All I can do is my best with what I know.

…But what do I know?!

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Sixty

Last Christmas one of my best friends gave me a little fern plant. Recently I re-potted it and it has since slowly died… I’m in denial, still watering the ferns that are now dry and brown, hoping that there’s a little bit of life that will press on, defy all expectations and push a little green leaf out of the soil.

Yeah, not holding my breath on that one.

Fifty Six

I’m home, alone, on a Saturday night at 10:11pm. I’ve just had a shower and washed my hair after getting home after dinner with a close friend. Before that I was sitting my exam and before that I was studying for the exam.

A few weeks ago I would have felt really sad that I was home so early in the evening on a Saturday, and the fact that all my flatmates are still out would have made me feel really shit, like I’m not doing enough with my life.

But today, tonight, right now, I feel good. I don’t feel like I’m lacking, I feel like I had a good day, had a nice catch up with a friend and now am about to settle into some good Netflix. Life feels good.

Fifty

This morning when I woke up, I lay awake for a while and started singing in my head “Your Love is Strong” by Jon Foreman. It was the song I played at my baptism and the first time in a long time that I had thought about it.

So I got up, fired up the old lappy, searched for Jon Foreman on Spotify, chucked on my good headphones and listened to that song. I really love listening to music through good headphones and doing nothing else, just concentrating on the sounds that come through into your ears.

I played that song, and then I played “The House of God Forever” which was also played at my baptism. There’s a part in it that says – Your shepherd’s staff / Comforts me – and in that moment, as the song played those lines, I felt God say to me “I know where we’re going”.

The last several months have seen some of the hardest minutes, hours, days, weeks, that I’ve ever experienced. One of the side effects of grief is being ripped away from a life that you thought was safe, that you could rely on, a life that you thought you were in control of. I’ve never felt so lost as I have this year, never felt this deep lack of purpose and meaning in my life.

Now I feel like it’s going to be okay. Because even if I have no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing with my life, that nothing I do will ever amount to anything, it’s okay. It’s okay because God knows where we’re going.

Forty Three

This one’s for the purity rhetoric.

You know, that narrative that says if you “save yourself” for marriage, the reward is a deep and meaningful relationship that is so much more worthwhile and better than those others, that you will only ever connect with the first person you have sex with so you better make sure it’s the person you agree to spend the rest of your life with because if not, you’re going to be damaged goods and no one wants that.

It’s bullshit.

I’m 27 now and I can see the fruit of the damage that that rhetoric has caused – in my friends, in me.

Imagine learning and internalising that you have this one ultimate gift, one trump card, for that one person you’re meant to spend the rest of your life with. Now imagine that you think you’ve found that person, and you give them this ultimate gift, but then life happens and you’re on your own again but who are you now, if not an empty shell because you’ve given away the one thing that you had. This is the purity rhetoric.

It is so damaging, so traumatic and so oppressive.

We are human, and we have human needs. There is no shame in acting on these needs. But this is the result of the purity rhetoric – it shames and rejects those who go against it.

Me – I’m in my late twenties and still haven’t had sex. I feel cheated of a more fulfilling life, of a life that feels more lived. I feel like I’ve bought into this rhetoric, that’s promised me so much and delivered nothing. I’m in the same position as I was 10 years ago, and only starting to explore what I like sexually when most people my age already know what works for them.

I have friends who still carry with them the shame they felt for having sex outside of a marriage context, this affects the relationships they’re in today, years later. I know of couples who aren’t able to have sex even after being married because they have so deeply internalised the forbidden nature of it that they can’t bring themselves to actually do it. I know of married couples who aren’t able to shake the feeling of shame from the act of sex.

This is not healthy. This can’t be the way that it was intended.

Who even decided that sex was taboo? That it was only intended for marriage? Marriage as an institution was established hundreds of years after Christ. Relationships, all sorts of different types of relationships have existed in all of history. So why this one thing? This is one of the contentions I have with Christianity and religion in general – some things are so arbitrary.

We Christians need to change the way that we talk about sex. Sure, there are chemical reactions in our brain that help us connect with one another more but this isn’t limited to one person. We can connect with multiple people and we are more than what we give. We need to destroy the purity rhetoric if we want to see healthier relationships and healthier people, people who aren’t damaged by the shame that this narrative generates.

Thirty Five

Picture this- you’re in a car with two of your best friends, driving down a windy road with the windows down, wind rushing in, the stereo playing songs that make you want to sing and dance, beautiful views of the sea and coves on your right. That was me today.

Days like today make me feel so alive and grateful for life.

Twenty Six

It’s Thursday and the weekend is tomorrow. Once again I feel that dread of not having plans that make me feel like I’m making the most of my twenties. I feel like I should be doing more, having more fun, experiencing more things. Where does this pressure come from? The urgency and weight of expectations that I heave on my weekends actually detracts from my ability to enjoy them. In thinking that my weekend isn’t up to standard, I create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Who even sets these standards anyway? I do stuff. Sometimes I go out, sometimes I stay in, why is one better than the other?

Maybe I’m more affected by social media than I thought. Maybe I’ve internalised what a good weekend should look like through what is shown on Instagram and Facebook. But no one ever posts about a quiet night in snuggled up on the couch, watching a movie and eating takeaways with friends. No one ever posts about just spending time with yourself, reading in bed with a cup of tea.

We are so obsessed with being seen as doing something that we forget to just be. This is so cliché (and I kind of hate that I’m saying this but also secretly love it as well) but – we are human beings, not human doings. We should celebrate what it means to just be. We can’t always be doing stuff because that is fucking exhausting. We (I) need to learn to become more comfortable in sitting in the quiet times and just being – either with other people or alone. I think there are many of us who are scared to be by ourselves. But maybe for those of us who are scared, it’s more important to practice this?

I think we all need to practice the art of being to some extent – some more than others. I definitely do. The trouble is, I don’t know what being looks like. I only know what doing looks like. Being is this vague intangible concept – what does it mean to just be?