Tag Archives: Steve

Why Isn’t Life Enough?

I never realized Steve was an atheist.  I think he grew up Roman Catholic in another Connecticut suburb just like me.  Now I know full well Roman Catholicism in suburban Connecticut during the 1980s and 1990s was nothing earth shattering in a spiritual sense.  There was a lot of talk about feasts, joy and celebrations when nothing of the kind manifested itself.  Nobody sang the songs in church.  If I did, I felt extremely self-conscious.  Mr. Battiston preached pretentiously from the pulpit and he was only a deacon and his kids bullied me throughout my childhood.  The folk masses sucked (Mrs. Battiston played guitar).  People left the pews before the last verse of the last hymn.  There was nothing spiritually going on at all.  Based on all that and assuming his experience was similar to mine, I can understand why Steve rejected that form of Roman Catholicism.

At his wedding Steve had a UU minister.  Later on he explained to me that he and his wife told the minister they did not want any reference to God in the ceremony.  One drunken night I asked him if he ever read the bible.  The reason I asked him was because I had just read the entire bible for the first time.  It was something I did to pass the time at work.  Steve reacted with annoyance.  I think he suspected that I was trying to spread the word or some such.  In truth, I really felt that the bible was interesting from the standpoint of literature, the impact it has had on our culture and therefore deserved respect.  I was motivated to share that intellectual experience mostly.

The conversation progressed to Steve telling me that he was a science teacher and he looked at data to discern the nature of reality.  I presume he suggested that he thought religion was uninformed or ignorant because it was not based upon observable data.  Later he asked me why life was not enough for religious people.  I remember thinking that was a legitimate question but I also thought this question suggested religious people were somehow greedy.

My response to the question at the time was something along the lines of, “I don’t know, but I know it’s not enough.”  Part of me wants to say that for a person like Steve (unencumbered by a shame ego) it is easy to say that life is sufficient and satisfying.  But for a person encumbered by a shame ego there has to be a resolution, and if resolution does not happen in this lifetime it must happen elsewhere.  But that argument is the shame ego’s argument.  It is not approached whole heartedly.

To approach the question whole heartedly, I must say the world does not make sense to me without some spiritual underlying reality.   This belief was confirmed first hand through several acid trips. I  know it can be argued that the influence of drugs caused me to falsely perceive the existence of a greater reality.  But to me those experiences felt far more real than reality.   Please note that I in no way advocate or encourage the use of any drugs.  I am simply describing my own experience.

So Steve is correct when he says that religion is inconsistent with science in that science only perceives the existence of measurable data as real.   However, I believe with my whole heart that there is more to reality than materiality.  I also had a conversation with Griz (another atheist) about this.  I said there must be more to reality than what we perceive.  He said, “What would that be?” as a counter argument.  But what would the New World be before Columbus discovered it?  What would  relativity be before Einstein promulgated his theory? To simply ask what they might be does not prove their non existence in my mind.

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I Want to Know What I Want

I have a friend named Steve.  Steve lives in a world completely unbounded by shame.  He fascinates and irritates me at the same time.  He fascinates me because I have no personal frame of reference for his world view but I also am envious of the freedom in which he seems to live.  He irritates me because from my shame ego’s perspective his mere existence is a negative judgment on how I live my life.

I remember hiking with him many years ago.  We were walking along a mountain trail.  He suggested we go off the path.  The neo-hippie wannabe part of me readily agreed.  Yeah!  Stick it to the trail man who wants us to hike in specificly designated places!  Another part of me was annoyed.  We had a perfectly good trail to walk on, we were outside, getting exercise, being healthy and enjoying nature.  His suggestion implied that walking on the path was conformist and somehow an inauthentic experience of the natural world.

Recently I thought about this interaction when I was walking on a sidewalk.  Clearly the sidewalk was the designated place for me to walk.  I felt annoyed that the sidewalk builder was dictating where I should walk.  I considered walking off the sidewalk and cutting through a yard.  Then it felt like Steve was telling me where to walk and that felt annoying too.

In this scenario I do not really know what I want.  If I walk on the sidewalk I am conforming to society’s rule.  If I stray from the sidewalk I am conforming to Steve’s neo-hippie ethic.  If I ask myself what I truly want to do in this scenario my mind goes blank.  I have no real, whole-hearted desire.  Rather, I am trying to please two alien masters.  I am motivated by a desire to avoid the shame that goes along with making the wrong choice.

Even though I do not know what I want, I think the feeling of being annoyed is informative.  From the shame based perspective, feeling annoyed is wrong.  By being annoyed, on a passive aggressive level I am fighting the system and fighting the system is sinful.  Passive aggression is a primary tool in the shame-based tool box.  But the feeling of being annoyed is also a message from my true self.  There is something happening in the universe that I do not like.  That is the truth.  That is the key to finding out what I truly want.

Gestalt therapy taught me that my feelings are always right and never sinful.  That is, there is always a legitimate reason behind my feelings.  They do not arise because I am flawed.  I think my feeling of being annoyed comes from the no win situation my shame ego has constructed for me.  I can choose to walk on the sidewalk or cut across a yard.  Either way I am conforming and as such, unoriginal and inauthentic which is shame worthy.  It is the no win situation itself that irritates me.  I want to be unbound by shame and the no win situation.

I imagine Steve would not spend a second of his life considering any of this.  He would walk where he wanted to walk because he wanted to.  How utterly simple.  How utterly beautiful.  The no win situation is a construction of my shame ego as is not knowing what I want.

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