Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Way We Are

I spoke with a friend of mine the other day about some of the situations in his life. I know that he reads this blog from time to time so if he happens to come across this post, just know that this is directly inspired because of you. I promise I will share nothing about your life but I will share some of the thoughts that came to my mind that night that we talked and since then.

My friend is strong in spirit and body. He's not a wimp though I have no doubt there have been times in his life and will be more times in the future when all he wants to do is lie down and give up. But his life is a testament to the strength he possesses in that he has not given up.

I know that I cannot begin to imagine the true depth of suffering and pain as I live in a society that alleviates much of the possible pain I could be feeling. But it is still curious that pain is not entirely gone. Pain is, after all, a natural part of reality. It is something that we experience in our day to day lives. And one day pain may be the vehicle that takes us beyond this world. However, I'm not sure pain is meant to be something we seek to escape from. I know that Eastern philosophies have reflected on such quandaries as pain and suffering and I confess to a woeful depth of ignorance on their centuries of theories and developments of beliefs. But I cannot help but wonder if the idea of escaping pain that is professed as an important tenant of Buddhism is a wise idea.

Consider for a moment the wide variety of cultures and civilizations that have occupied much of Earth's continents. Civilizations from the Greeks and Aztecs to the Chinese and Japanese to the British and Italians to the Egyptians and Russians. Each of these societies has, in some form or another, sought to alleviate pain. In Mormonism, such ideas take the form of "sin." I still remember reading certain teachings espoused in the missionary manual "Preach My Gospel" that emphasized the universal nature of "sin." While Mormonism (and Christianity) defined sin as estrangement from God that comes about by breaking His commandments, I cannot help but wonder if we were to alter the concept to actual mean yet another manifestation of the human concern for and about pain that we would find a similar story of pain that has been told in all other societies. The bravado of masculinity celebrated in Roman culture and their myths was perhaps a way to hide the fear of vulnerability. The mythical journeys to the world of the dead and in search of immortality all speak of a fear of the fragility of life as well as pain.

When you see a friend struggling and suffering from heartache or the loss of a loved one or seeing the day when dreams are brought shattering to the floor, don't you want to bring relief to them? Don't you want to soothe their pain? I know that I do. I know that I want to sit down beside them and listen to what ails and inflicts them. If they ask for advice, I'd do my best to consider something that may be of benefit to them. But I'm not sure that there is much more that I could say that life could not teach better through experience. I'm not always sure that offering ways to escape pain or confront it are necessary or good. Pain is a part of life. It's a part of us. It is the flip side to joy. In fact, it makes joy joy. After all, what is joy? Joy is that serene sense of peace and happiness combined with love. Without pain, though, I think joy becomes shallow and stripped of meaning. Pain defines joy just as much as joy defines pain. They are linked. Love, hate, and sorrow are all linked too. I think the case could be made that all emotions are linked. That they define, enhance, and enrich each other. If you try to run away from one emotion, you risk the chance of cheapening and weakening those other emotions that we feel.

We are emotional creatures in my opinion. Pain is an important part of that. It is the aspect that gives us an understanding that we are, in fact, alive. Why? Because it hurts so damn much! Logic and reason assist us to make sense of the world. But emotion powers our mental faculties and helps us truly live in this life.

So, I want to share a sentiment that I have taken with me in life after leaving my childhood faith. It comes from the Book of Mormon and is part of the covenant that people undertook in a story. "Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort..." I share this thought because of a concept in there that nicely summarizes how I think we should engage in pain that others may be feeling. We should not seek to stem the flow of pain another feels. Staunching such a thing, however nice, does no good in the end and merely delays the healing process that our minds have developed. Rather we should simply express empathy with them. When I bow my head in sorrow, when tears flow from my eyes, when my throat is choking back sobs, I don't want to be told to avoid pain. I want the person that has come to my aide to pull me close and to cry with me until I can no longer cry. I want them to listen to my sad whimpers and my gasping, choking voice full of pain and loss. 

Only then will we heal. Only then will we feel a sense of humanity and connection. But, more importantly, only then will we find that we as individuals, as carriers of pain, can at last move on with our lives and witness the beauty that waits for us. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Literalism and Spiritualism

In my previous post I discussed what I thought were two different traditions within Mormonism in their interactions with the Divine. Now, I want to share a story.

There was a panel at BYU a couple of weeks ago where panelists discussed how their homosexuality has been influenced by their religious views. A question was posed by someone asking whether the panelists believed that they would still be married to their someday same-sex partner in the afterlife or would God separate them.accept their marriage? Several of the panelists answered that they believed God would accept their future marriages.

I have had a hard time understanding this viewpoint. I have gotten into debates with different people trying to understand how anyone could think as they do. I mean, after all, the scriptures, church leaders, and modern revelation not only go against such sentiment but even against the very heart of what those individuals are proposing. God has called it an abomination in the passed, put every possible sin on it during Paul's journeys, and sentenced gay people to a nearly two thousand years of humiliation, degradation, and horror. In modern days with the "only true church," God was willing to sacrifice families to hide and obscure gays from the public eye.

But then I realized something. I realized that I followed in the literalist tradition. I don't find it something to be ashamed of. I was raised and had reinforced throughout my life the view that spiritual information should be viewed and assimilated through texts and stories and interpreted in a literal way in most cases. Such thinking has allowed me to comprehend and understand just how much of the Church thinks. It has allowed me to understand how revelation and visions occur in the modern Mormon Church.

The Mormon Church is not the same church that inspired visions of the eternities, of Christ and the ancient apostles. It is not the church that sporadically met and gave rise to such organizations as the Relief Society. It is not the same. No. Today's church is encumbered with doctrines, dogmas, and systems of understanding and rule following. It is a religion not of liberal ideas but of musty, stuffy conservative ideas. This attitude has led to the rise of literalism and the rise of mindless obedience and blind faith.

In so understanding this, I feel I can take a step closer towards understanding Mormonism as it really is and not as it would like to be seen or as how many would like to see it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Faith Traditions in Mormonism

A friend of mine is the source of inspiration for this and the next blog post. A History of God by Karen Armstrong and God Is Not One by Stephen Prothero helped me come to realize and gave words to a lot of what I've thought and experienced in Mormonism. I want to talk about literalism and spiritualism within the Mormon faith. I need to define some times and most of this post will be about defining terms. Literalism in this case just means those within the Mormon faith that see their faith defined by decrees from the leadership of the Church, by a literal reading of the scriptures or by authoritative reading, doctrines and dogmas by the Church, and by official revelations by the Church. In other words, such attitudes like "When the Prophet speaks, the thinking has been done" and similar phrases would come from this mindset. Spiritualism would be those that rely on individual revelation even when it contradicts official doctrine and official revelations, private interpretation of the scriptures, maintaining ideas that run contrary to the Mormon faith as far as controversial topics go (feminism, same-sex marriage, priesthood authority, and the nature of deity). Spiritualism would be the less rigid tradition within Mormonism, I would suggest, while literalism would be the more rigid tradition. Certainly it can be said that literalism has a wider appeal to members of the Mormon Church throughout most of the United States and perhaps other areas of the world that were previously influenced by primarily Protestant Christianity. 

Mormonism is not entirely unique in its approach to things. Its doctrines of the corporeal body of God, the Godhead versus the Trinity, and other doctrines that run counter to mainstream Christianity are simply differences of views within the mindset that has shaped Christianity and Mormonism in Western civilization. Let's be honest and admit this much: Mormonism as it is today, is partially the result of repeated interaction with the culture of the United States. That culture is the product of the Enlightenment and the more logical form of faith that Western Christianity has.

Karen Armstrong's book does a fantastic job detailing the evolution of human thought on who, what, and why God is and does. She explains that Western Christianity never fully developed a spiritual or mystical view of God like Judaism and Islam went on to do. Western Christianity fell in love with the logical proofs for the existence of God and transforming God into a more literal or definable Being. Mormonism, I would suggest, takes this one step further and transforms the whole of their faith (with such exceptions as the Endowment ceremony) into a more literal, logical interpretation of the spiritual world. Couched in this mindset, Mormonism is influenced by Western Christianity's obsession and fascination with the logical and legal aspects of God within the Bible and Mormonism develops a similar tradition. 

In Mormonism this can be seen through the many Laws and Covenants that we make. God is a god of laws. Children that reach the age of eight and converts to the Mormon Church make a covenant (a two way promise) between themselves and God. They agree to do certain things that makes God promise to do things in return. The LDS scriptures are full of the word "law."

"There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated - and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." (Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21)

"I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10)

"Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment? Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man...And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin." (Alma 42:17-18,20)

"O the greatness and the justice of our God! For he executeth all his words, and they have gone forth out of his mouth, and his law must be fulfilled." (2 Nephi 9:17)

But what of spirituality? The mystical and altogether personal experience that individuals have with the Divine. Certainly there are those within Mormonism. In my experiences at BYU and on my mission, I would meet individuals that would interact with the Divine from this perspective that were Mormon. They are certainly not common. Such individuals, I have noticed, do not rely on the scriptures to support their arguments by on feelings that they receive due to the influence of the Holy Spirit or from private revelations from God. They rely on fellow human being's thinking to understand anything that is scriptural or religious, the physical and real manifestations of the Divine in this world so to speak. 

Hmm...perhaps to explain it simpler, the literalist would use the Book of Mormon or any other set of scriptures to explain why they believe this sort of thing. They would cite the words of one of the leaders of their church to defend their views. The matter would be closed once they had cited such authority. The spiritualist would not find the matter closed as they would have found their own private revelations and interactions with the Divine to contradict this. They would be more likely to cite contradictions among the authorities and draw an area of confusion with which they can work and live in that exists between different prophetic statements that disagree with each other and live according to "What God has told me." 

I hope this post adequately defines the terms "literalist" and "spiritualist." In the next post I want to describe the conflict that exists between these two traditions and why, ultimately, the "spiritualist" path lost the ability to gain equal footing later on within the Mormon Church. I want to use this to share a story and why I think as I do towards it. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Time may ease pain. Time may ease sorrow. It may soften and bright the idea of happiness. It may diminish the darkness of events in the past. It may do many things. It may cure nearly all ills. It may do many things yet it is not the salve to our wounds. 

Pain cannot go away. It does not simply cease. Pain is the acknowledgement of something missing in our life. Something gone, perhaps forever, that we yearn to have in our lives. Sometimes we know that pain by name, that loss by its whispered word, that hoped for yearning by its perfect fantasy. Sometimes we know that pain through opposites. 

There is pain in dehumanization, loss, despair, and so many other things. At times we may feel like a cog in the universe's machine. That should we die we would be easily replaced. We have nothing unique to offer. Our words are empty and meaningless. Our actions are fruitless and empty. There is pain in saying goodbye to those we have loved, sought for, or even have hated. For we are complex creatures and therefore our interactions with each other are complex. 

Pain. Being told you are nothing. Told you are subhuman to all those around you. Told to say not what you are. Who you are. Why you are. Silence forever lest the very fires of the Devil consume you body and soul. Silence. Speak not for we dare not seek after your nameless evil. The profanity of knowing you would castrate our righteousness. Our perfection would became tainted by you. You, pathetic thing, are beyond redemption. You, we have declared, cannot accept God's mercy. For it is you He hates most. You, by the mark of your skin, by the mark of your sexuality, by the mark of your false gender, by the mark of your true gender roles, by the mark of your position in society, by the mark of everything or anything that is not "us" has made you beyond the great and infinite power of our Creator. 

God, say we, will rescue the sinner. He will visit the sick and the afflicted. Behold he has healed the blind. But he cannot heal you. No, he cannot and will not heal you. For you are not us. You are not what we declare as the correct sin to commit. The sin of race. The sin of gender. The sin of sexuality. All are abhorrent before Him. Sin with lies. Sin with pride. Sin with greed. Gluttony. Idiocy. Sin with all those things and God will forgive. But nothing more.

Pain. Pain is not being what God wanted you to be. Pain is not being what society wanted you to be. It's not being what your religion or family wanted you to be. It is loss. It is emptiness. It is standing on the very edge of the abyss, of staring into the darkness and knowing that is where you must tread. Take a moment, while in pain, and look behind you. If you stay in that small circle of light, you will know comfort. You will know familiarity. But you will never know what is beyond that circle.

Pain will ease in time. It will ease and subside from heartache to heartache from loss to loss and from farewell to farewell. What you see before you now cannot remain. It shouldn't remain. Life is pain. It is the key to at last allowing peace to wash over you. It is the understanding that allows a sense of joy and hope to come over you.

But, and this I think is true, know this. Know that true joy, that sense of happiness that transcends the moment, does not come and cannot come until we acknowledge and permit the pain in our lives to seep into the core of us. Only then can we let go of the illusion that pain should be avoided and should be ignored. Only then can our lives heal from the wounds that are inflicted upon us as well as self-inflicted. 

Let tomorrow rise with the brightness of a new day. Let it cast the shadows from us and throw the darkness back. Let the light make all that weighs us down subside into the earth. But do not let it scorch the darkness within. The heaviness within. The sorrow within. Let it cast light upon it. Let us embrace all that we are. Dark and light. Sorrow and joy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The God of Hate

The soul that cries out for solace is not calling upon the Divine for succor or pity; rather it calls for another being capable of comprehension and understanding to relate and understand. I could never understand the belief in a God that stood on one side of a chasm. The God whose perfection placed him so far beyond the realm of humanity as to make him alien to us. The God who says to his creations, "you are sinful, you are gross, you are pathetic, and you are unworthy of my love but I love you still, " is one impossibly brutish thug that does not deserve worship.

I could never understand the element of attraction that some so-called Christians have of the particular evangelic or fundamentalist persuasion have for that kind of God. I can recall one summer a few years back when I stood with a crowd of hip and unhip casually dressed Christians at a Fourth of July service. Their pastor wore street clothes and a goatee as to make him edgy while still managing to package the same message of unworthiness and cruelty that so many other Christian denominations possess. He stood before this gathered crowd of misfits in the land of Mormons and shouted his message. I will never forget that day. I stood there sweating beneath the setting sun among a crowd of religious people shouting phrases like "amen" and other positive affirmation for Jesus.

The pastor spoke of the perfection of God and proceeded to cite Romans, a letter in the New Testament, to justify his idea that we had sinned before God and deserved death. Yes: death. Our sins made us deserving of death before the eyes of God. The Christian God that had created all under heaven, including heaven, and organized and made the laws of right and wrong, had declared that humans - acting as he had created them to act - deserved death for acting in their nature which he made to be against him so that they should be killed. Free agency was something made by God under Christianity but God made humans full of so many fallacies that they were bound to fail. And God, like some eager disciplinarian, was waiting with a lethal weapon to exterminate us. God did not weep over our death but delighted in watching our flesh rot long after our souls had taken flight to rest in eternal judgment in heaven or hell.

But thankfully the Christian God had allowed for himself to forgive us our sins. He did so through himself. That preacher explained that I, and those like me (nonbelievers), could be saved from our judgment by praying for Jesus to come into our hearts and purify us.

This was my first real exposure to such speech. Never before in my life had I heard someone argue that the Great Tyrant loved justice more than what he created and therefore was willing to casually destroy life. God created so he had the right to destroy. The very notion of a lack of morals left me wanting for a different kind of God. What kind of Creator saw destruction as an equally plausible option to creation? And not just the destruction of old age but the destruction born out of rage, hate, and "righteous indignation."

I knew that day that I could never embrace the notion of a Christian God. He was a total asshole. The biggest asshole I'd ever heard of. He killed infants, entire cities, individuals, and families because he simply could. Life was meaningless to this God.

So I turned my back on the God of the conservative evangelicals.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

When God Died

A friend of mine asked me this this morning: So you consider yourself an atheist. But I've read your blogpost about your initial thought of God. How did you go from believing in a neglectful God to believing in no God at all?

It's time for a story. Like all stories there is a beginning. Imagine, if you will, me (or what you think I am like) a few years back. I was still in the closet then and still struggling with who I was. My coming out story as a gay man is very much entwined with the departure of my belief in God. A few years ago I slipped into a much depression that caused me to flee my parent's home and go to BYU after being away for a couple of months. My brothers had both gotten married that summer and I had just had surgery on my nose. My sister had fled her own family due to an abusive husband. I still remember that summer. I remember the fires so thick that they darkened the sky for weeks with smoke. It was so bad that there were warnings against going outside.

I felt the heaviness of despair even though I couldn't identify why. I figured it was because I just wasn't trying hard enough in my belief in God. I had managed to conquer my gayness and set it aside, or so I thought. So I went back to BYU in hopes of fleeing the darkness that haunted my dreams and my waking thoughts. The darkness that spoke of despair, of failure, and of pathetic ugliness within. I fled to BYU and faced a frustration that I could not begin to imagine.

I was so poor that all I could afford to eat was ramen. I had no money in my bank account because I had to use it to pay for rent. I had used up the last of the gas in my car so I had to walk everywhere. I remember that September, warm and fading as the earth made its inevitable revolution around the sun and the seasons changed. I had just gotten new shoes for church that I absolutely loved but the heel of the shoe destroyed my heel, leaving it bloodied and the flesh torn. I couldn't even by band aids and would go to school in my normal shoes only to come home and find the heel of my sock soaked through with my own blood. I remember crying a lot and wondering what was wrong with me. I began to have depressive episodes that would leave me stunned and unable to socialize. I was heartbroken and in despair and I didn't even know why. I had no social life due to work and school and would find myself alone in the apartment doing homework while my roommates went off on dates and hung out with friends. I couldn't understand why I was sad. I couldn't understand why I was full of anxiety and despair. I just couldn't understand.

The months went by and depression sunk deeper. I sought a psychologist but we could figure out nothing. I remember confessing to her that I would commit suicide if I thought it would make my life better but I only saw the disappointed faces of my dead relatives that would greet me. I only saw the fact that existence continued on after death and I was trapped in a life that would never end. Death wasn't release. It was the sealing of my doom. I felt trapped in my life and that I would become trapped in death.

When January came, I felt a surge of hope that things would get better. Something would change. And something did.

I nearly tried to kill myself.

That day was a weird day. I was anxious and frustrated, full of an emptiness I could not fathom. I walked home that day with an eerie determination to come up with a plan to kill myself and to make it so that no one would care or take note that I had even passed away. That my life would hardly noticed going out and even less noticed in its absence. I wanted no one to mourn over me for I thought I was being selfish wanting that. I didn't want my family to even care. I wanted everyone to forget about me so that in my passing, my final gift to them would be a life without the burden of remembering me or acknowledging my death.

Yet I was so scared by these thoughts that I instead took a sharp knife and cut my arm several times to induce blood. I remember the feeling of peace at seeing my own life essence filling the wounds I had made. The bright, vibrant red of blood that told me it was good and I was still alive. How quick that sudden rush of peace turned to guilt, emptiness, and despair. I sank onto the couch and cried for nearly an hour. I was pathetic. I would blubber to myself, "Help. I need help." But no one came. No one knew I was dying inside at the time.

Help did come later, thankfully. And the sweet gesture of friendship of love sheltered me from my own dark thoughts. In all of this, I believed I had failed God. I wasn't really going to church and I wasn't really reading my scriptures. I was such a failure. God did not want me.

But then that weekend I poured my heart and soul out to a friend of mine while online. I told him of the loneliness and the emptiness I felt at being gay and at BYU. I told him how desperately I wished I knew other gays at school. And what he did next forever altered the course of my life. It was an alteration I have been forever grateful for. He helped me come out by getting other gays to meet me. Helping me find other people like me so I wouldn't feel so isolated. He set me down the path that I am on currently today.

And I am forever grateful for the kindness that he showed me.

About that time of letting go of the heaviness in my heart, I asked a friend for books to read on atheism. I had a character for a story and I wanted to better understand how someone that didn't believe in God or a god thought. He offered me books and I accepted one. I read it with mild curiosity until deciding some pages in to give the book a real chance and see if the author's claim was true. I was so busy that semester that I didn't have time to read the book but I did manage to read it all over the weekend after school got out. The idea that there was no God and it made perfect sense was riveting. It was as though my very mind was allowed to be free! I felt as thought I could stand up fully without having to crouch low or stoop. I felt the sweet sense of peace and serenity like I never had before.

God had passed away in my mind. Where God had been was now opportunity. It was the opportunity to truly know and understand the world around me. I remember that summer with such happiness that I still seek to imitate it to some degree every summer. It became a season of friends, of reading books that filled my need to understand, and it became a summer of discovery. So horrified was I that I no longer believed in God that I sought to read my scriptures and try to believe. But as I did so, I felt a great calm come over me. I understand what I was reading far better but I felt no compulsion to believe. I felt no need to believe. I could look around at the mountains, the desert, the people, and the society around me and at last understand how they all interacted on some level. I could recall memories without the shade of guilt that normally came for small, insignificant details of imperfections.

By the end of summer I fully embraced what I had been telling people: I was an atheist.

There was no God that haunted my dreams and whispered of knowing my many imperfections in the daytime. No Spirit granted me crushing humiliation over my attraction to other men. No Jesus died on the cross for my pathetic sins because I was pathetic and disgusting before me. I was freed from the trap of belief. Free to believe and accept what I thought was right and true. And I was free to discover what was truly real and actually right.

What began as a delusion of belief now has ended in the gentle sands of rational thought and rational accepting of the world around me. God did not die in epic throws of disease, fighting, or anger. God died quietly, slipping through my fingers like a ghost. God was ethereal and nothing now. God was nothing more than the invention of the minds of people seeking something that was not there. And I was grateful to no longer hold to the tyrant of my childhood.

It has been nearly three years since my belief in God died and I have never been happier. Tell me, friend, does that answer your question?

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Culture of Crisis

Scan the newspaper headlines, take a casual walk down the Current Affairs part of any bookstore, listen to the news, or even listen to your local religious leader and you're more than likely to hear about the most recent downfall of Western Civilization. The American economy is collapsing, American debt is going to kill us, the American family is on the verge of collapse, morality is seeping out of the very fiber of this country, the planet is going to be destroyed through Global Warming, gays are going to destroy marriage, racism will rip this country apart, liberals will destroy America, conservatives will destroy America, Americans/North Koreans/Chinese/Iranians/Russians/Venezuelans/terrorists will plunge this world into war, violent video games are leading to horrific acts of violence by teenagers, drugs will destroy America, atheism is destroying America, and so on. Etc. etc. etc.

Growing up, I could never understand why people didn't take a crisis seriously. In the movies, people seemed to eventually understand when a crisis was upon them and then they heroically solved the problem and restored good and righteousness to its place before evil overthrew everything. Even as a child I accepted this was an overly simplistic view of the world but I couldn't understand why the real world was so chaotic. Being the aware college student that I was/am I again wondered how people could be so calloused and indifferent to the starving children of Africa/Asia/South America/Central America/Eastern Europe/inside America's own borders.

I feel I finally understand a little more why we function as we do. We are always in crisis. Humanity functions on crisis. It rarely functions on pragmatism outside its own familiar borders. The barbarians have come and they seek to destroy our way of life: crisis. The world is about to be destroyed from without/within: crisis. Crises have a tendency to pile upon us and as our awareness of the world increases more and more, so does our understanding of said crises. Some crises are made up, over exaggerated, or understated. It really doesn't matter what we may think, say, or do. There will always be crises.

I had a roommate that seemed to function on crises. There was almost some major project due at midnight or the next day that he had put off working on until then. He never wanted to face the fact that he was gay or why he felt so alone or lost, so he would drift and wander through life until the crisis of feeling self-hatred reached epic proportions inside him. I used to wander why he did this. Why didn't he face his problems a little at a time? It finally dawned on me that as twisted as it was to function the way he did, it also was very understanding. He functioned as he did because it made sense and because he thrived off this environment.

I think humanity is very similar to this. We are a species that is slow to act on so much. We are lazy, foolish, and easily distracted. These odd characteristics give us one scenario: we live forever in crisis. We function in crisis, thrive in crisis, and seek to always be in crisis. Something is always wrong. Something will always stand up and be wrong no matter what we do. We should not deal with it but recognize that humanity's collective desire is to remain in the realm of crisis.

Crisis is where the hero appears. The long dark night ever hangs over us, ever gives out the challenge for the hero to arise. Forever there is the "ultimate" clash of good and evil looming on the eternally near horizon. Forever do we call out to be saved for we refuse to save ourselves. And why should we? All our solutions ultimately require years and years to solve our problems.

Crisis' heroic form appears in fantasies. The fantasy genre is where the ongoing orgasmic interchange between titanic clashes of good and evil occur. Frodo must forever journey to Mordor to cast the ring of Environmentalism/Consumerism/Communism/Capitalism/Theism/Atheism/Moral Depravity/Moral Supremacy/Racism/etc. into the fires of Mount Doom. Harry Potter must forever duel the Dark Wizard of Crisis.

We are a culture of crisis. We seek it. Crave it. Hate it. But will never truly spurn it. It haunts us. Drives us. And chases us forever down the corridors of our "declining" civilization. Face it: society never declines. It simply changes. The Roman civilization did not decline. It changed and evolved into a barbaric society that eventually blossomed into the barbaric but refined modern Western Civilization.

The real question, I think, is not how to avoid crisis. But how to forever solve it in our individual lives. Like the fantasy genre, our modern society will never escape crisis because it awaits the coming of a hero/savior that will never come because they simply cannot.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Crush My Heart

The emotional roller coaster of my heart began, as always, at the beginning of the year. It began amid school, moving, and trying to realize I was running from my fears. That's my default response to situations: I run away from them. I refuse to face a lot of my problems it seems. Now, in my defense, I am working on it and working to face more and more of those problems in my life. It gets easier with time, but it still hurts.

The biggest roller coasters were facing the realization that I have anxiety and panic attacks and listening to the heartbreaking words of my father as he told me that he would consider disowning me. These two moments, happening near simultaneously were horrendous. I had major panic attacks the fall semester of 2010. Those same panic attacks followed me into the new semester and would get so bad that I just couldn't go to school those days. I knew better. But I was just too scared. Naturally, I failed some of my classes because of this. I failed them and that was that.

When stung so badly this past summer was when my dad strong armed me into telling him what was wrong. After telling him of my fears and even a confession of not belonging at BYU, he yelled and raged at me before finally deciding to tell me that he would be considering cutting me off financially and implied emotionally. My heart broke that day and never recovered until even now. No child should be told so casually that. No child. The emotional wound never healed. I still love my parents but have been psychologically preparing for them to cut me off. So I move ahead with distancing myself and letting them go in preparation for that day. It has been a mostly unconscious move that I have merely observed but never halted.

I apologize. This post is meant to be short. I cannot focus on anything else tonight because those two events were so heart-wrenching. Good night!

The Atheists

Meeting the atheists came at a crucial time in my life when I thought I was going to have to face the rest of my college time alone. It came as a sort of accident, really. The beginning of the year meant that I was in the library at school working on some homework. A friend of mine had just added me to a number of different post Mormon groups because I was starving for a more sympathetic attitude toward my views than what I was currently interacting with. I saw a post by one of the founders of the atheist group in town inviting anyone who wanted to to come to their group. I quickly commented wanting to join. 

As I did so I felt this desire to join. This desperation to be a part of something that meant I could relate and communicate with in person instead of online or with people that were decidedly theist. I didn't want to debate. Just talk. But the guy responded and soon enough I was on my way to my first meeting with other people like me.

My friendship with them was a roller coaster ride. It was a breath of fresh air and friendships were made based on a common "us against them" mentality. We had our own inside jokes, stories, and vocabulary that set us apart from others. The group grew and grew over the year I was with them. New faces and new stories were added to the group. Some people were able to jive with the group immediately and others drifted or took a lot longer to become incorporated into the group. But we bonded and became close. We were like a fire burning bright, hot, and too fast. 

Soon we began to move away from each other. Some moved to Salt Lake City and others to states both near and far. What began with a close friendship became distant and spread out. Some tried drugs and bonded with others in the group based on that connection. Others became bonded on commonality of attraction. But we still were not meant to last.

The group was the starting point. It was the starting point for me. Like USGA, it was not a place to be forever in. So many of us were in a temporary place. For some it was college and for others it was waiting to find a chance to go somewhere else. For me, it was finding a sense of self in a community. A place I could call home. 

They filled that emptiness inside me just like USGA did. They filled that lack of family that I yearned for and stood by my side during the hard times. Yet when fall arrived, I knew that my place among the group was not outdated. Old. I was one of the few people that had been in the group for a while. I didn't need to argue about the problems of religion (and there are many), why drugs should be legalized, why Utah is crazy, and so on. I had discussed most of that already. 

By the time 2011 was drawing to a close, I knew that I needed to move on. I needed to say goodbye and let go. Most everyone I knew already had. What was left for me now?

Friday, January 6, 2012


I began to get involved in USGA, in a committed way, in January of this past year. It was a group that completely set me free on believing that gay groups couldn't exist at BYU. We existed. We thrived. We loved. I watched members of the group fall in and out of love with each other. I watched as some made the painful but rewarding journey out of the closet.

I attended the group with my dear friend, my "wife." Now, she is not my wife in any legal or romantic sense but we do love and care for each other as friends. We watched and participated in discussions about gender roles, the LDS Church's stance on gays, and about acceptance. Through it all we sought to create a place of safety and inclusion. 

When I think back over the year on USGA, I think of a place where friends could meet and feel safe. My life has been forever changed by the existence of this group. It has been forever altered by the lives of people I have interacted with. But it taught me something I cannot shake to this day.

USGA is a place to begin at. It is a safe starting point. By the end of the year I felt old. I had already been out for a couple of years. I had already discussed the same old topics and made peace and resolved many of them in my own life. I was much older than some of the people in the group.

I didn't belong. 

I know that many there would not accept that. But by the end of the year, I accepted that I no longer had a place at USGA. I had outgrown it. I still have a great deal of love for the group. I still want to visit it every once-in-a-while. But I now realize that I don't belong. It was this realization that I first came to when attending USGA in the fall that helped me realize that I no longer belonged at BYU, Provo/Orem, or anywhere down there. There was nothing left for me there. 

The home I had built had become too small for me now.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2011 In Review

I feel that last year was about closure in many ways. It was about realizing that this part of my life was reaching an end and that it was time to move on. I have felt for so long this yearning and desire to find a place where I can belong. To find a place where people can love me and accept me for who I am. What began in boredom and the hoped for desire of finding friends has ending in coming full circle and saying goodbye to so many friends. But I will talk about those groups in subsequent posts.

I went to BYU originally because I thought that God had wanted me to and that this had been confirmed by my acceptance into the school. But what began with such heartache, loneliness, and sense of loss has ended with friendship, community, and hope. BYU may have been the place and time that saw the destruction of so much of what I had built throughout my childhood. It saw the end of my hopes from when I was child to one day marry a woman, my belief in God, my desire to follow conservative politics, my desire to fit in, and my hope to create a life filled with money. But what I got in return was something far greater: a true and better understanding of who I am, the hope to create something better for myself, an odyssey into my soul, friends that truly care, and a community that is built around love and common purpose.

I have walked the campus of BYU for several years. I have yearned to be like those couples that walk around holding hands. While I still am not dating anyone, I feel so happy and at peace knowing that I am fine with being me. I am not perfect and have no real expectation of every being that. But I still have the choice to improve my life as I see fit. This desire reached it's highest level this past year when I moved away from BYU approved housing and the superficiality of so many people I have known there. I moved in with friends that were gay at two different times and set about rebuilding my life. It was hard and it was difficult and I had to face several brutal truths about me.

I spent half of the year still clinging to the hope that I could somehow keep my parents in my life even as I slowly drifted away. But my best friend pointed out to me that in doing so I belittled those around me by hiding them from my parents. My life seemed to blow apart over the summer when I got in a huge fight with my dad. It revealed to me how little I had succeeded in winning his approval of me. And when I was forced to confront that, I came to the initially sad but ultimately freeing realization that since I couldn't get their approval I should give up and focus on gaining approval from me.

This past year I felt lost as I struggled to find a home. I felt safe and then exposed and vulnerable. I felt lost and adrift when I thought I had lost my parents. My whole world seemed to fall apart then. But now I realize that it was a blessing in disguise (not a religious one). It made me stronger and helped me accept that I can make it on my own. That I had to now.

My parents are still in my life although distance both emotional and physical is still there. Our future is uncertain but I now know that I can keep moving forward, with or without them. I know now that I can say goodbye to them if I must and with only minimal bitterness. I know I can now forgive and let go if need me. That I can pursue a life of supreme happiness and peace whether they choose to join with me or in it or not.

This past year taught me that it's time to say goodbye. It's time to bid adieu to this place I called home, however horrible and wonderful it was, for the past five years. I have fought so far against my depression while there and in the process came out, left God, and gained people that have not filled the void in my heart but healed that rift and provided fertile soil for a garden of peace to grow within, so to speak.

Goodbyes are the hardest thing of all to do. To end what was originally the potential of near unlimited experiences with someone makes me want to cry at times. To know my most cherished experiences are not in the present but the ever growing past is something that reduces me to sorrow.

Yet, goodbyes have occurred. I have said goodbye to BYU and to too many friends. This past year, I almost said goodbye to my parents. I said goodbye to so much selfishness.

Still to review:
atheist group
Emotional Rollercoaster

The anticipation is just killing me...