Things are getting a little interesting…

A friend’s friend’s father died yesterday. I’m still in shock, even though I know the know the father not at all and the friend’s friend very little. I was openly shunned when I asked my friend how she was holding up given the death: “See, this is why I didn’t want to tell anyone. I don’t want to become a pity party.” I had two simultaneous reactions to this: first, pardon me for checking on how you are doing, oh friend of mine; secondly, I know it’s not about me and is probably about her reaction to grief and everything, and I guess she doesn’t know me well enough to understand that “pity” isn’t in my social vocabulary… Yeah. The first reaction is winning. I’ll just say “hi” in a very uncaring tone next time tragedy strikes a friend. Or a friend’s friend.

Sorry, I’m still in shock, which in turn leads to bitch-mode.

I just had a fascinating conversation with Jenny that could be seen as related. It concerned religion. While I’ve learned to avoid violence during such discussions (yes, eigth grade with a Roman Catholic friend was fun), and even manage (I think) to avoid insulting the other party, the discussions still come out largely inconclusive. I think I understand things a little better now, this drive to be unconditionally loved and to have a balm for unbearable pain, I don’t have a need within me for that sort of… crutch (sorry, Jenny, I just come up with a better word than that). Yes, I am a deist (although at times I swing to become a non-theist), based on this fascinating Unitarian Universalist sermon. I would characterize Jenny as a Christian of the non-Fundamentalist sort, with an interpretive perspective on the Bible and all that. It made for a fascinating, if abruptly ended, conversation. I’m going to be an über-dork and post the majority of it (the order of statements has been modified slightly for clarification… you know how IMs are). Read it if you like.

Jenny: sometimes i wish i could give the whole world a hug
Irrsinn: lol. i don’t. they can hug themselves.
[…]
Jenny: i really do think a lot of people really just need to know that somebody loves them unconditionally
Irrsinn: there are always conditions, Jenny.
Irrsinn: it’s a little unrealistic to say otherwise
Jenny: no – i may never want to speak to you again, but i will always love you and care about what happens to you
Irrsinn: lol. i guess that makes you… well, you can’t be a better man, cuz neither of us are men, but… you know what I mean. The cooler chicka. I hold grudges quite well
Jenny: even people I parted with on bad terms, people thatbhurt me deeply, i still don’t want bad stuff to happen to them
Irrsinn: not even a little revenge?
Jenny: i have to love you first to love you forever
[…]
Jenny: am i still hurt and mad at them? yes. do I want to see their lives fall apart? never.
[…]
Jenny: no, seriously
Irrsinn: i know
Jenny: there’s this Christian song I love that has this one line – “how will they know our God is real until they feel His touch?”
Jenny: that means a lot to me
Irrsinn: a good quote. that very thing causes many agnostics and atheists to be born. 🙂
Jenny: a bumper sticker I once saw: :”nobody’s perfect: just forgiven”
Irrsinn: lol. very Christian/Jewish
[…]
Jenny: I really believe that whatever you do, you are forgiven if you believe and know you were wrong, truly, truly
Irrsinn: you know, we had an almost-discussion about that back when we were reading… Hamlet I think, or MacBeth in English. Apparently you can even get away with murder.
Irrsinn: 🙂
Jenny: faith means so many things to so many people; it’s so much more than God
Irrsinn: true
Jenny: to me, i like the constancy of it. He’s always there – a rock, a shelter, a shoulder. Being with Michael has taught me a lot about God and love and peace
Irrsinn: i don’t know. I have just never felt the need for that sort of… “shoulder” (I was going to say crutch, but…). I believe that while, yes, shit happens, hard work and dedication to your cause can see you through. I don’t see a need for me to think something else is pulling the strings. And I don’t think that’s just pride or me being a control freak.
Irrsinn: Although I do understand how and why some people want/need religion. The structure, the hope, etc.
Jenny: so do we have complete free will? even if not some god, our genes, our instincts play a larger role than we realize or like to admitJenny: God’s not pulling strings – I’m no Deist, but I’m no puppet either
Irrsinn: So what is God doing if not pulling strings, giving you love and peace, getting you off for heinous crimes you are now “sorry” about?
Jenny: there are no “”s – you are, in your heart of hearts, sorry
Irrsinn: ok. so why should that change things, is my question?
Jenny: nobody’s perfect – should we all be sentenced to eternal damnation
Jenny: ?
Irrsinn: I don’t think there *is* eternal damnation.
Irrsinn: I don’t necessarily think there is eternal *anything*
Jenny: so we live and die
Jenny: that’s all
Irrsinn: why not? what is so bad about that? why do we have to make everything have such a great and purposeful meaning?
Jenny: organized religion was created because people needed something more than “shit happens” they needed to know there was a reason
Irrsinn: but why try to turn to something that we cannot, by definition, understand, and thus can never comprehend those “reasons” we are searching for?
Irrsinn: My question is really, what is so bad about being ephemeral. Why must everything have a “purpose” and why do we all need to feel like we are basking in some supreme being’s glow?
Jenny: i really do think a lot of people really just need to know that somebody loves them unconditionally
Irrsinn: but…
Jenny: that’s why – love is not explainable by genes or instinct
Jenny: what is the evolutionary value of me caring so much about the world?
Jenny: as long as michael (or somebody) impregnates me and I bear viable children, what does nature care?
Irrsinn: b/c love is what keeps you around to raise the children, to give them the skills they need to live and spawn more children.
Irrsinn: but why do we have to “create” a diety to love us (and I do feel that whatever god may be, he isn’t what the human have written in the Bible, in the Qu’ran, etc., and thus what people worship here is “created” and ficticious)
[…]
Jenny: He has given a gift – eternal life – and all we have to do is accept it
Irrsinn: But I don’t see why life must be a gift. Why must there be a source other than your parents on Earth?
Jenny: there doesn’t have to be. there just IS
Irrsinn: but why do people feel a need for there to be a source. And they must have, or else organized religion wouldn’t exist.
[…]
Irrsinn: so shall we go back to gods and our basking in their praise and glory?
Jenny: most of the time, actually, I see God as a disappointed parent, feeling he’s failed, wanting to intervene but not because he gave us a choice
Jenny: so I am not basking in his praise but instead working to be better for him
Irrsinn: even if you accept the Bible as fact, you must admit that it has been changed over the years, and by mere mortals (unless there’s something about King James you’d like to share with the world). Do you think that God has stepped in somewhere along the way to make sure that every fact in the Bible has withstood the changes we put it through?
Jenny: I had a hard time with that too- this isn’t just soemthing i’ve accepted blindly since birth you know – my parents don’t believe
Irrsinn: But why should god care? If he’s created one or several universes, with (insert large number here) planets with people and life on them, why is he going to care that I can’t get enough money to go to college? Why should he? Who are we to say that his job is to watch over us? If you don’t take the Bible verbatim, then how do we know that the writers weren’t smoking some opium? We have no right to presume anything about a supranatural being. At all.
Jenny: the Bible isn’t perfect, and I don’t accpet it’s infallability – but I beleive all i need to know – God is Love
Irrsinn: Why Love, why not generosity or science?
Jenny: because generosity is love and science isn’t essential for survival
[…]Irrsinn: uh, no. i can very generous to ppl/things that I don’t love. and sometimes, love is *not* generosity.
Irrsinn: My parents love me to death, but they are withholding money for college in the hopes that it will make me a hard worker. Is this the anti-love?
Jenny: 1. god gave his only son that we might live
Jenny: 2. no matter how hard people try, you cannot live without it – you will have a psychotic break with reality
Irrsinn: is that second point proven?
Irrsinn: (i won’t even go into the first pont)
Jenny: keep people without human interaction and they will go crazy
Irrsinn: love does not equal human interaction
Irrsinn: love isn’t essential for survival either.
Irrsinn: i have human interaction all the time and can think of no one I truly love
[…]
Jenny: I don’t know what to say to that, Melissa – all i can say is that I love you and i’m sorry you haven’t had the joy I have from loving others….i’m stunned… are our definitions of love different?
Irrsinn: i think they must be
Irrsinn: i care about certain people, yes, but I wouldn’t call it love.
[…]
Irrsinn: and that’s another thing: WHY the HECK must it ALWAYS be about LOVE?!
Irrsinn: 🙂
Jenny: love is all there is….cheesy i know
Irrsinn: but why deny the full extent of human emotions?
Jenny: whadda mean?
Irrsinn: By defining everything in terms of love: god is love; we must have love; love, love, love, you deny, in many respects the importance and potency of other human emotions: hunger (spiritual and otherwise), anger, hatred, sadness, joy, etc. It seems to me like you would actually define these all in terms of love: to search for love, to be sick and tired of your love, the anti-love, when your love won’t call you, when you’ve found love, respectively. doesn’t that seem a little… skewed to you?
Jenny: because love is what satisfies the hunger, makes the pain bearable. Love is the goal. it’s what we should aim for. it’s what we need. but, like you said, we’re human, and love’s power doesn’t override the existence of otehr emotions – it is there when they all fall short
Jenny: for a more concrete example – when somebody gets a disease, the fact that it is curable doesn’t make it any less scary or sucky
Irrsinn: it must be the “makes the pain bearable” part that stops me from desiring a religion. In fact, I’m pretty sure it is. I have lived through the deaths of some folks close to me, through rejection by peers and loved ones (I change my mind, I have been in love before. silly me :-)), etc., and although I have struggled with depression, I have never experienced “unbearable pain”. I guess.

The conversation ended shortly after when her sister had to steal away the computer. This is something I will probably want to sleep on for a little while. Let it sink in. It was nice to have a conversation about relgion (really just Christianity, I guess) without one of us trying to convert the other. Thanks a bunch for the interesting conversation, Jenny. It’s been a while since I had one of those.

I also had a fascinating conversation with Jamie, a fellow IB student, today. Jamie’s an interesting person; despite her occasional attitude with teachers, I think that she has an interesting perspective on life and education that isn’t often expressed within the IB program. And I was proved correct today while we were both missing our useless history class. We spent about an hour talking about careers, schools, education, respect between students and teachers, etc. Why is it that when I have conversations like this, I feel as though I haven’t had this kind of intellectual “stretch” in months? Like I’ve been hanging out with the most superficial and shallow people that talk about nothing except hair, parties, and clothing? I know I don’t, but it feels that way. I guess I really have been removing myself from people, although not in such a positive way as Hannah suggested to me in an e-mail (” I don’t think you are in danger of [losing touch with the private, inner “self” shown only to those you are comfortable with in striving to maintain a pleasant/agreeable/convincing outer “self”], and therefore, I wouldn’t worry too much about this societal removal you are effecting. You adhere far more strictly to the (often ironic) platitude (as it has become, sadly), “to thine own self be true.” (Socrates, I think? […]) “). I’m afraid it’s more of a type of depression than anything else. I’m not staying true to myself or anyone else, or else I would be pursuing all the ways in which I can expand my “knowledge” (not knowledge in the Theory Of Knowledge sense, hence the quotes). Well, areas for improvement often spark ambition, right?