Monday, September 10, 2012

Pattering Along (Or, "I Just Wanna Go Back")

Here's a post I originally worked up several months back.  I decided not to share it at the time, but I think I should have.  Some of the specifics may have changed...or evolved.  But the overall message - about "pattering along" is totally the same...

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It’s been a long, long time since I’ve “wanted to go back”…

I can’t find the exact quote, but in his autobiography, Malcolm X said something to the effect that he was pursuing truth. He said that if truth revealed itself to him in a form other than his Muslim faith, then he would abandon that faith – painful as it may be to him – and follow the truth wherever it led.

I’ve always taken that kind of approach to life, for better or worse. It’s not an easy approach. And it’s definitely not a popular one. I ask a lot of questions; usually about why something is done the way it’s done, or why something is done at all. As I’ve grown up, it’s become more and more about specific human behaviors.

Maybe I should have become a sociologist.

But I’m not. I’m a communication guy. A radio show host, a writer.

Just a normal guy on what I can only assume is a fairly normal journey through this life, which is anything but normal, in a world that seems to have collectively lots its damn mind.

My journey has changed in recent years. As Mike Ness, of Social Distortion, sang, “The day may come when you have somethin’ to lose…”


I still ask the same questions. But I have more at stake now.

Before, when I asked tough questions, people played it off easier.

Now, I have a family. I have a child. I have a “life”. I know I’ve always had a life…but I’m talking about the kind of life a grown-up has. A life with a job, a house, consumer debt, a couple cars, the kid, the dog, blah-blah-blah…

When you reach this phase of life, safety and security are supposed to be the most important things.

Asking questions is generally seen as rocking the boat. You don’t rock the boat when safety and security are on the top of your priority list.

The safety of my family is way more important than the security of my things and stuff, but still… safety and security are important to me.

But so is asking questions…

…getting to the bottom of things…

…figuring out why we do what we do.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” - Socrates

Most of my friends don’t get it. Nearly every adult I’ve ever met doesn’t get it. They can’t figure why I can’t just let things be.

I don’t get it myself. However, even more so, I can’t figure out how in the blue hell everyone else can seem to just shut it off.

It’s like a switch was flipped in me when I was a kid. And once it was flipped, I lost the ability to flip it back the other way.

And I don’t even want to flip it back the other way. If this is the only way I can discover truth, then so be it.

I acknowledge that it’s ugly and messy. But I firmly believe that the truth is somewhere. And I don’t want to rest until I find it. It may drive me crazy. But I want to find it.

Why don’t more people want to find it? How can they ignore it? Because I firmly believe that they sense it’s there, too. I also firmly believe that most people want more out of life than what is present before them. I truly think that everyone senses that things are “off”, but the thought of finding out how and why scares them.

One of my buddies recently acknowledged this journey I was on and flat out said that he “got it.” That was nice to hear.

He reminded me of a quote from Henry David Thoreau that I had forgotten about:

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life...to put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.”

That’s where I’m at. That’s how I want to be. I fear that too many people are going to get to the end of their life and realize that they just existed and went along with things.

I had a great conversation with my dad this weekend. He said, “It’s all about pattering. There are simply things that you do and don’t do in a small town, so people just patter along and play nice. There are things you do and don’t do in church, so people patter along. People want to keep the peace, so they just patter along. You’re just not pattering anymore.”

Why should I patter?

I don’t want to be difficult. I’m not out to ruin anything for anyone. But I’m done pattering along just because it’s “what we do”.

I’m having issues with my faith. Major issues. A lot of doubt and rethinking of things.

I don’t want to go in detail here yet. That day is coming, but for now, I don’t want to share too much – simply because I don’t want to argue about it yet.

I have a friend who's on a similar spiritual journey.  They often say to me, “I just wish I could simply go back to believing what I used to believe. That would feel good.”

No offense intended to my friend, but I don’t wish I could do that. I wish for the comfort and peace it would bring. But now that I’m in the place I’m in, to go back would be to return to oblivion. To return to the dark.

Sure, from this vantage point, that seems easier. But is it better?

I’m not saying I’m right about any of the issues I’m changing my stance on. But I am saying that this is where I am, even if just for today.

And I expect to be given the courtesy to be here today.

The former me – the one who believed so many of those things – was very vocal about those things. I was a leader in those areas. I was a mentor to people on those subjects.

The new me is very different.

And that has caused a massive change in the dynamic of so many of those relationships. I don’t talk much with those folks about what caused the shift or even the fact that a shift has occurred.

It’s tough.

Today, I went to a place that was very prominent in the life of the former me. I’ve been back to this general place frequently, but today I went to a specific place within a greater, general place; a coffee shop on a college campus.

And instantly, I wanted to go back.

The first thing that hit me was the warmth. I’m a very warm-blooded person and one of those guys who is always hot, so I generally don’t like walking into warm rooms. But this warmth was different. Somehow it was more about the vibe than it was about the temperature. It felt comforting and welcoming. The next thing I noticed was, of course, the delicious smell of coffee. I’m around coffee a lot and love that smell, but for whatever reason, it was especially intoxicating today. I then noticed some contemporary Christian music being played overhead. Nothing special there; it was like most contemporary Christian music…good enough for the group to get a record deal, but not good enough to really mean anything.

I was completely unprepared for this feeling. I hadn’t anticipated it at all. It was overwhelming. I literally felt my head swirling. I remembered sitting in this very coffee shop, having deep conversations about faith, making ministry plans, talking intimately with people about “what God was doing” in their lives.

And I wanted to go back. I wanted to do a complete 180. To simply turn around and go back to it.

A second later I knew that was impossible.

A few seconds after that, Norah Jones came on the stereo system and replaced whatever CCM had been playing. And without that complete hat trick that had initially caught me off guard (the warmth, the smell, and the music), I was now simply standing in another coffee shop that smelled really good and piped in the music of Norah Jones. I ordered my coffee and left.

On the way out, a college student I was acquainted with stopped me to visit for a few minutes. She was genuinely sweet and interested in talking to me. I didn’t know her well, but she obviously truly cared. She asked about my life in general and specifically about my daughter.

And I thought about how nice nearly everyone in this place was.

One of my biggest issues with this new life in pursuit of truth is my daughter. I don’t want to patter along just because it’s easy. And I don’t want to teach her to patter along to keep life easy. I want her to examine life and suck the marrow from it.

But, dammit, that is hard and scary. It hurts.

I don’t want my daughter to hurt. And, above all, I want my daughter to be a good person. To have value in herself and good morals. Do I have to raise her one particular way to hopefully instill value and morals in her? Is that the only way to help her become a genuinely good and caring person like the girl I visited with this morning?

My experience today made me feel like I should go that one particular route. But I know deep down inside that’s not true.

It would be easy and comfortable. But easy and comfortable don’t make it true.

Mike Ness was right; the day HAS come where I have something to lose. The stakes are higher in this game of life.

I’m growing and changing. I’m rethinking a great many things.

And I don’t think I’m wrong.

But what if I am?

I guess all I can do is keep doing my best. One foot in front of the other, all the way through this journey called life.

“There is no normal life, Wyatt. It’s just life. Get on with it.”
-Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday in “Tombstone”

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