16 September, 2011

Doubt vs. Truth

In an interesting conversation with a friend last week, he shared with me his favorite argument to bring to bear against Christians. I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a particular axe to grind. He's a sweet guy!

Maybe he just brings it out for the obnoxious, or maybe just for kicks, or maybe sincerely and in the spirit of polite and passionate debate, which plenty of wonderful Christians engage in cheerfully.

I don't like to argue with Christians, or people of any religious faith, at all. I don't have anything better to offer, and I used to envy faith. Now I just envy a satisfying, communal religious practice. Just not any that I've ever experienced.

Anyway, his argument was that it wasn't the knowledge of good and evil, itself, that was the poison in the apple that got Adam and Eve kicked out of eden.

It was the absolute knowledge of good and evil.

Absolute knowledge. Pretty much of anything.

That kind of surety leads to righteousness. And holy wars. Possibly sainthood. Or of telling other people, who did not ask for your opinion, how they should be living.

I occasionally have a righteous indignation. It is an extremely powerful emotion in me, and exactly coupled with an anger that is, frankly, scary to have. And possibly scary to witness.

If it's about something trivial, like the feeling that people are saving transaction costs--at the same time as charging me a "convenience" fee for paying online--

Well, in that case I don't like my indignation, because, frankly, who knows? My surety that online payments are cheaper to process than post office mailed payments is firm, but not exactly absolute. And it's not like I care enough about $2.95 to take issue with misrepresentation and fraud on that level.

I am willing to write a letter on the subject! I haven't decided if I should send it. Because my righteous indignation fades quickly enough. And thank god for that!

Living through that kind of anger (and unbridled misanthropy!) is really unpleasant. And who knows? I am not absolutely sure. Only, like, 99%.

So anyway, back to my point, doubt or truth?

I prefer doubt! The feeling of truth frequently comes, as gift with purchase, with a feeling of absolute knowledge.

I got to have a fun exchange with some people online the other day, about sacrifice, I guess. In the arena of love. It was inspired by this quote:

"How could you be so selfish that you would demand I choose you over my own happiness?" --Anthony Demello

Which was taken in a couple of different ways for all different kind of relationships. I think we managed to convince people that you can not shoot yourself in the foot and at the same time make someone else happy.

You can, of course, sacrifice yourself consciously to make other people happy. But only if it brings you happiness. And probably not over and over again, daily, going without part of yourself. Because you probably can't be happy without being whole.

And one lady brought up a situation from a book she's reading about love. No sacrifice involved, just an interesting case...

"Any ideas about what might be going on when A feels a lot better around B, but B feels a lot worse around A?"

And my answer: B needs to avoid A, and/or seriously examine whether the harm is self-inflicted, self-appropriated, or something that A needs to stop laying down.

Now the part that I find really interesting, is that her example is supposed to represent unrequited love, and I can't for the life of me figure out, from that example, who is IN love. (The book, fwiw, is A General Theory of Love, and I have never heard of it before, but it sounds interesting.)

I have extensive experience with having unrequited love, and I would not be able to categorize myself as B from those experiences at all. I always feel great around someone I am in love with, and frankly that feeling is part of why I consider myself to *be* in love.

But I also don't think that the various objects of my unrequited affections, over the years, have felt like B either. Obviously, they didn't exactly return my affections.

One figured it out because I am not cool, and wasn't playing it cool. Eventually, this fellow managed to let me know any hope was a forlorn hope, in the most gentlemanly way possible, and then I felt bad. Because then I didn't know what to do with myself, and my love. And I WAS rejected, not that I blame him!

I got over it, after months of tears, by telling myself that, just like I hadn't felt like it was a choice to care about him, he didn't choose to jilt me. He just didn't care in the same way, and was (eventually) tired of me almost pestering him.

With another guy, I played it a little cooler, because I was older, and 'wiser', and frankly, he said he had just fallen in love with someone else too. Maybe he knew how I felt, maybe he didn't. It never came up explicitly, and though we fell out of touch for a long time, my unrequited love persevered for years before it faded.

I did not know what to do with myself this time either, but I figured something out. It was mostly a tear-free infatuation. It even started from a "love at first sight" kind of moment, though, really, it was more about the sound. And not first sound either, because before that one transformative moment, I'd seen and heard that fellow more than a few times, without particularly noticing him. And afterward, I could not stop thinking about him.

Eventually I began to worry, a bit, about the staying power of THAT infatuation. It kind of took up a lot of room in my head space, which didn't leave a lot left over for any kind of a normal life. (Suffering from depression took up MOST of my head space in the first place, but hindsight is always clear.)

And both of those times, it was kind of a fabulous experience, and also educational, even if I am a VERY slow learner.

Which brings me around to the feeling that I don't know what to do with unexplained feelings of falling in love. I don't get this lovely 'truth' feeling of delight or direction about a great many positive things, that I can remember. Four guys, that I can think of, none of whom did I ever date. And writing. And, most frequently, but not particularly seriously, a good debate in personal conversation.

Which, frankly, brings me back to the title of my blog. There is always another question possible, if you don't buy into the idea of any 'truth'. If you manage to live in an expectation-free zone, you can teeter around the edge of something that feels like truth without falling in.

"Why do I feel like this?" is a good question. "What do I expect?" is a GREAT question.

"What is going to happen next?"

That's my favorite question! But my speculation on this question is not fun. Hopefully I can remember to focus on a question I can and should find an answer to:

"What should I do next?"

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