Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Making Meaning

If you call me the enemy often enough, does it make me one?

This is old ground... I am a heterosexual white male in my 40s who attends church (mostly) every Sunday and hails from a small town in Kansas. These are details, and maybe they are enough for you to "know" me. These are the details which have kept me (mostly) silent since Donald Trump was elected president. 

Who needs another white, male, heterosexual voice from "rural America"? 

I've kept silent because men like me are the enemy. In Sunday's op-ed (3/12/17), Leonard Pitts all but says I'm the problem. He points out a dichotomy between rural/city and Christian Fundamentalism/Secular Humanism as if clear bright lines separate these groups neatly as conservatives and liberals. His words ruffled me. Maybe because I'm a white, male, heterosexual voice from "rural America." Maybe not.

In our race to "understand how this happened" to our country, we've lost sight of a fundamental human reality--and a fundamental human need that goes along with it. The universe is a big place, and we spend our lives making meaning in it.

Personally, I've found solace in knowing I'm really not in control of anything. After Aimee's death, it was a comfort to know life was out of my control. Yes, a comfort. When I think about my father's slow descent and death after a brain tumor, I realize the same strange comfort shaped my youth.

The universe really is a helluva lot bigger than I am and it really doesn't give a shit what I think.

I've struggled with spirituality all my life--what my friend Heather calls my existential crisis. I've been a church-goer for most of my forty-plus years on the planet, but I'm not fundamental. Why do I go? It's simple really: I like the community. I like to be challenged. I love a reminder that I am what I am: ash and dust, mortal, small, and definitely not in control. Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite church nights because those messages about mortality are embedded in its very fabric: "For he knows how we were formed, aware that we were made from dust." (Psalm 103:14)

Do I really believe in God? Some days, yes. Others... Does it really matter?

The universe is bigger than me and doesn't really give a shit what I think or believe. I'll write here, in this blog, a tiny bit of my thoughts and feelings and my momentary reasons for being, but ultimately, the universe will keep spinning. But we, as humans, need meaning. It's a hole which too many of us fill with addictions and destructive behavior. It's that ache that wealth and status can't soothe. My core desire is to be a part of something bigger than me--bigger even than my "tribe" (which seems to have become a buzzword of late as we frantically try to fill the gaping holes in our lives). Like that line from "Helplessness Blues" by Fleet Foxes: "...a functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me..." It's what I feel deep in my core, wherever and whatever that core is.

You call me an enemy, but I really just want to be a part of something that is serving the universe beyond me. I can only control what I can control... who I vote for, but not the color of my skin; what I write in this blog, but not the fact that I am a hetreosexual male; who I seek as allies, but not whether or not those allies want me on their side; the lending of my listening ear and empathetic heart, but not whether anyone will speak to me or trust me.

I am not the enemy nor am I on the other side of any simple dichotomy. I am just a man. A human. A cog hoping for a home in something far grander than I am alone.

My meaning in life is not to be anyone's enemy--nor will it ever be. 

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