Lost and Found

The recovery process: finding my true self

The recovery process, I am told is a journey.

I am embarking on a journey to discover my true self.

That is exactly the language of New Age spirituality and postmodern narcissism that I was warned about while I was being raised in a conservative, religious social context. The self is considered a false idol. The branded messaging of the hierarchy is to look only to God in prayer and everything will be alright.

Something about that message doesn’t sit quite right with me. Prayer without action sounds like delusional, irresponsible behaviour. If we lose sight of reality, how do we regain it? If we are to see the light, something transformative needs to take place. The typical narrative goes something like this:

I once was blind, but now I see.

At some point, one must admit one’s own blindness to have the humility to ask for one’s sight back. Humility is the first miracle. We must admit that we don’t know what we don’t know.

I studied communications in university, and what I remember is that communication is a complex system. There are many barriers to communication that get in the way of understanding.

I am also an armchair historian. What I remember is that people have short memories. They tend to repeat the same mistakes over and over, one generation after another.

Assuming that God speaks, how do we really know that we have understood God? If history has something to tell us, how do we really know that we have understood history?

Understanding God: Attempt Number One

I read my Bible. I know how it turns out for the people who never quite understood what God was up to. The people keep going their own way. They worshipped the idol while waiting for Moses to come down the mountain with the Ten Commandments. They wandered the desert for forty years, rather than face the giants in the promised land. They cut up the body of a raped woman into twelve pieces and delivered it to the twelve tribes of Israel, inciting civil war, genocide, and sexual slavery. They ask for a king so they can be like all the other nations, rather than listen to God, who warned them that the king will eventually turn into a despotic tyrant. One king builds a temple in Jerusalem as a dwelling for God, even though God says that he doesn’t need a house to live in. The kingdom of Israel is split into two kingdoms that engage in a civil war. After a foreign kingdom lays siege to Jerusalem, the nation and the temple are destroyed and the people are taken captive and are assimilated into the foreign culture.

The Messiah, the Christ, came in the most unexpected way, and people were so confused by his message that they killed him. Then we started the whole process again.

Understanding God: Attempt Number One

I read history (yes, it is biased toward the west, because that’s all I know so far). I know how it turns out for the people who never quite understood what God was up to. The people keep going their own way. They worshipped the power of the sword and enjoyed the privileges of empire while considering which books to include in the canon of holy scripture. They divided the world into east and west over theological disputes. The pope built a cathedral in Rome as a dwelling for God, even though God says that he doesn’t need a house to live in. The religious hierarchy is further divided into Protestant and Catholic over theological disputes and engage in civil war. After the enlightenment and the industrial revolution lays siege to the authority of the religious hierarchies, the religious hierarchies lose their credibility and authority and are taken captive and assimilated by a hostile economic and political system.

If history does repeat itself, we have the second coming to contend with. Or is everything cyclical?

The Messiah, the Christ, comes again in the most unexpected way, and people are so confused by his message that they kill him. Then we start the whole process again.

Well, the scriptures describe the second coming quite differently. It is to be the culmination of all things. But we don’t have any clear ideas about what this will look like.

Based on the historical precedents, I just don’t have much confidence in the human ability to know or understand what is really happening or what God might be up to, if all these narratives are true. God always seems to be in the business of surprising people. It’s like a cosmic game of peek-a-boo.

Assimilation

One of the things that makes these narratives believable to me is the familiar pattern. There is something about these two narratives that are so strikingly similar that I cannot discount the idea that Daniel speaks of in his dream about an idol and the empires that they represent. Empires die. God is eternal.

One of the favourite Sunday School stories that we read from the Bible was the story of Daniel and his friends. The foreign kingdom tries to take the strongest, most capable, most intelligent youth from the captives of the nation of Israel and strip them of their identity to assimilate them into the culture of the conquering empire. As a way of expressing supremacy over the captives, they force the young nobility of the conquered nation into obedience and servitude in the court of the king.

Daniel and his friends hold onto their true identity in the ways that they know how. They determines to eat only vegetables to avoid meat offered to idols. Daniel’s friends would rather be thrown into a fiery furnace than bow in worship to the idol of the king.

These young men have lost everything, their families, their nation, their temple, and their way of life. How do they keep from losing their identity, their own sense of self?

Poetic Justice

I always wondered why God would stop speaking to people for a couple thousand years. Why are we not adding more ideas to the canon of scripture? One reason is that he told us not to add anything more after John gave his Revelation.

I think there might be another reason. I think that God had it all planned out from the beginning. The first chapter of Genesis is actually a script for world history. God defined the terms, the grammar, the syntax, the characters, the setting and the plot in the beginning.

God is a poet. And we don’t even know it.

If I look at current events in the United States of America, the way I see things is that history just made an abrupt turn, and while it may be hard to see from a straight, white, Christian, American, male perspective, it appears to me that this religious hierarchy was just taken captive and are being assimilated by a hostile economic and political system. They just lost their Christian identity by becoming whores to the Babylonian empire that they have been trying to fight this whole time.

And if, according to Daniel, God had this all planned out from the beginning, this might suggest to me that God has a sense of humour. Justice is indeed poetic.

Pure Conjecture

I may be wrong. I am probably wrong. I don’t have a monopoly on understanding God. I dare not predict the end of the world, because no one can claim to know when that will be, according to these scriptures. But we were instructed to read the signs.

I see signs of self-absorption, corruption, greed, myopia. Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.

When I see a pattern, I look for a meaning behind the pattern. That is what we look for to recognize whether there may be a signal that indicates existence of intelligent life beyond the bounds of this earth. If we see a pattern in the signal, we can suspect that this signal may be a means of communication.

In all these systems that surround us in the natural environment, in our common history, I see a pattern. There are patterns of life, of intelligence, of design all around us. I can assume that it is all random, but something tells me it is not.

And when we assume, that makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me.”

Lost and Found

With everything that is now happening in world politics, it might seem that we are on the brink of losing so much of what we have gained so far. Are we all losing our minds?

I am going through the process of coming to terms with the losses in my life. I was recommended a book, The Grief Recovery Handbook.

According to the video, we need to face our losses by avoiding the typically unhealthy ways that we deal with grief and loss in our culture:

  1. Don’t feel bad.
  2. Replace the loss.
  3. Grieve alone.
  4. Just give it time.
  5. Be strong for others.
  6. Keep busy.

If those who exert power over our lives are abusing their position, we don’t have to let their abuse of power destroy our sense of self. Now that the Conservative Right and the Republican majority have united in unholy matrimony and are drunk on their own power, creating the conditions for a dysfunctional family, we might give in to shame and fear as adult children of this unholy union. This might result in a laundry list of unhealthy reactions.

However, we have the agency to assert our own identity as whole and healthy individuals.

  1. We move out of isolation and are not unrealistically afraid of other people, even authority figures.
  2. We do not depend on others to tell us who we are.
  3. We are not automatically frightened by angry people and no longer regard personal criticism as a threat.
  4. We do not have a compulsive need to recreate abandonment.
  5. We stop living life from the standpoint of victims and are not attracted by this trait in our important relationships.
  6. We do not use enabling as a way to avoid looking at our own shortcomings.
  7. We do not feel guilty when we stand up for ourselves.
  8. We avoid emotional intoxication and choose workable relationships instead of constant upset.
  9. We are able to distinguish love from pity, and do not think “rescuing” people we “pity” is an act of love.
  10. We come out of denial about our traumatic childhoods and regain the ability to feel and express our emotions.
  11. We stop judging and condemning ourselves and discover a sense of self-worth.
  12. We grow in independence and are no longer terrified of abandonment. We have interdependent relationships with healthy people, not dependent relationships with people who are emotionally unavailable.
  13. The characteristics of alcoholism and para-alcoholism we have internalized are identified, acknowledged, and removed.
  14. We are actors, not reactors.

Perhaps we can lose our sense of outrage to recover our true identity.

Perhaps we have more reason to find ourselves in the values we still hold dear: compassion, humility, generosity, faith, hope, and love.

Designer, writer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective, Leading with Design. https://stephenbau.com

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