Friday, November 2, 2012

Reconstructed and delusional thought histories

I don’t know why I assume that everyone has had an experience of marveling at the peculiarly of where they are, who they are, and what they perceive their lives to be. I have had dozens of them. A sense of surprise and wonder around a momentary awareness of my world – a world built, decision by decision, by me but still almost foreign and strange. “How did I get to be here, doing this?” I assume everyone has had a similar experience entirely without any good justification for that assumption.

“I’m a nice guy, a good guy.”
“I’m a flawed but moral person, a disciple of Christ.”
“I want to be ethical.”
“I want to be an ethical advocate for informed compassion.”

I have thought of it in different ways over the years. I don’t know where this need comes from. If I am honest, it’s as much about being able to feel good about me as it is about empathy and compassion for others but, just as honestly, I feel that is shifting more and more to the space of real altruism.

This need has pushed and pulled me through different worlds and spheres in my life. Pushed and pulled against other urges and desires. The tempest of life – influences, desires, ideas spinning around us clutching at our ‘hearts’, minds, hungers. We are tossed and drawn, gently and violently, imperceptibly, joyfully, painfully from one understanding to another. We learn and we unlearn. We grow and we regress. Through it all, if we are thoughtful, we hope that we are making some sort of progress – whatever that can possibly mean.

As a boy I wanted to be nice and gentle and caring to the only people in this world that mattered to me, women, and I was. I was gentle and caring but insincere and inauthentic. I wanted their attraction and affection and eventually I learned how to get it. I sincerely wanted to be good to them, but I didn’t learn how to be sincere with them and so I hurt people and I hated myself and fled from myself and my world to the Navy.

I fled myself and went spiritually adrift. It wasn’t long before I found a fix for myself, in the form of a good woman and a world of simple moral absolutes. I took refuge on that island for a long, long time. Taking the calmness of the lagoon as all I needed. I wasn’t living; I was protected from living, from navigating the tempest that is life furiously churning just beyond the breakwaters made of religious dogma. Once I realized that, and I realized there was deep suffering that I was ignoring and contributing to by being on that island, I had to leave, and I had to leave alone.

I built a raft with sticks of my own budding ideas and twigs from Hitchens and Harris and I bound it all together with intellectual curiosity. My tiny sail was fashioned from offended sensibilities. Then I headed out, back into the storm, and waves. I think that I will make similar mistakes as those that sent me into the arms of the Navy and of religion but I am self aware in a way I never have been. I am world-aware in a way that I never have been. I have maps. I am adding to my vessel, slowly, and I hope that I will eventually find a good rudder, maybe even an anchor but for now I am content to know that I am sailing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Moving forward...


How’ve you been?

Yes, yes. It’s been a long time, I know. What have I been up to? Well…..

- I got divorced. I did post, once, right after that so I guess I don’t need to mention that but it seemed like the appropriate place to start.
- I became an atheist activist. 
- I started a freethinkers group, the Flagstaff Freethinkers
- I started volunteering with the Secular Coalition forArizona as their Community Outreach and Development Director
- I started dating the only professional, state-level secular lobbyist in the country
- I commenced to lose myself in volunteering – both for the coalition and elsewhere, being a single dad half-time, developing the Flagstaff Freethinkers – 150 members and growing,  as well as other nontheist communities throughout the state, going to conferences all over the country, building a relationship – oh yeah, and keeping that day job thing going.

Who cares, right? Yeah.. I know – I’m just giving the background.

So what have I really been doing?

What I have been doing is evolving my ideas around what this movement is, what I think it should be and what, if any, role I should play in it. Even more fundamentally I have been learning. I have been developing, expanding my concept of ethics and compassion. I have learned about the work of Greg Epstein and the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard. I have learned about Ethical Culture. I have learned about the Unitarian Universalists. I have had some hard lessons, I have had knapsack thoroughly unpacked with Sikivu Hutchinson. I have seen the amazing efforts of diplomats in the disheartening fight for secularism in my theocratic state of Arizona. I have broken bread with Dawkins but it was the conversation with Sean Faircloth that I remember most from that night. I stood in the rain at the Reason Rally but it was the march to the hill at the Secular Coalition for America’s lobby day that made the trip to D.C. valuable to me.

I was content for a long time, mostly because I needed it as part of my process, to pick religious dogmas and cultures and cannons and ‘moralities’ to pieces. I had an axe to grind and believe you me I still do! I also am ready for more than that. I need more than that. I want to do more than point out the problems, I am not here to champion atheism, really what I want is to participate in efforts towards solutions.

I need community. I need social justice. I need to do something productive and positive. I need to participate in active compassion. So that’s what I will be working on, and writing about much of the way moving forward – building community, finding purpose in service and social justice and the way all of that is motivated by a purely secular worldview. It’s not all going to be secular community activism, Engineers Without Boarders, Humanist schools in Uganda. I still have a lot to vent about. There is at least as much JTEberhard left in me as there is Chris Stedman so I will probably be a little “bi-polar” between my firebrand and my diplomat but that is who I am right now.

I wish I had been writing about this personal process along the way. I would like to have been more conscious and attentive to it for one thing but I would also like to have documented it and shared it with you good people, well… person. The next post will be a short discussion of my thoughts looking back at it from where I am now.