There seems to be a great deal of separation between followers of different paths. There have been many great, truly inspired teachers, perhaps touched by some Divine Power. Yet they have appeared at different times and places in human history, and almost always claim their way is the only way to God. Or their followers claim that, anyway.
The followers point to their creation stories, as though the authorship and/or content editorship could be definitively established. I am of the opinion that there may be some power large enough to create several universes. But if it is actually that powerful, and can encompass a demesne that vast, does it even remember we exist? And how, exactly, do these different prophets, and/or their followers, describe something so much larger than they?
Okay, okay. I am not a philosopher. Logic wasn’t required for my major and I wasn’t wise enough to take it in college, but I do possess information about many of the world’s many belief systems, and their offspring. And I think too much, so my mind goes down Alice’s hole and I wind up with a whirlwind of thoughts, related somehow, but too much to put in one place.
This post is one of those posts. I have more questions than answers, but I think they’re valid questions, maybe even good queries. Or not. Who knows, until I’ve done writing it, and you’ve read it. So here goes.
In my late 20’s I made radical changes to my identity. It’s hell, I’ve done it more than once. Or purgatory, just a bunch of depressed people stumbling through the same routine every single day, a never-ending litany of duties/responsibilities that are part of “normal” life.
For a slice of that artificial life, I left a partner and a practice and people who were everything in my life, my air, water, food, fellowship, the whole lot of it. Walked away, cut (almost) all ties.
Raised as an oil brat in several countries, and more cultures, I was not properly acculturated to American life. My father’s death forced our return to the country of my birth, but no home to me, the United States of America.
You never feel like you belong, as a Third Culture Kid. Ever. Forever an adopter, an imposter, because the celebrations and rituals you experienced as a young person were neither American nor Christian. The people were all the colors under the sun, and I remember bits and pieces of the language spoken in Sumatra, Farsi and French from Iran, and Spanish from Ecuador. I possess vivid memories of Thaipusam, a penitent celebration where followers of this faith were purged of sins by hanging limes on their skin with fish hooks. The call to prayer in Indonesia still rings in my memory. I enjoyed it, even though I did not understand the language. It was beautiful.
My first real experience with actual Christianity was in Quito, Ecuador, with some radical Christians. These people truly cared about everyone. They taught classes in all manner of things for the locals, and they had a clinic offering free medical care to all. They regularly met the food insecurity gap for many families in Quito, mostly indigenous peoples. They did not require them to listen to a sermon in order to eat, learn, or get healthcare. The kingdom was present in that place. As Christ said, “The Kingdom is among you now.” My different-ness didn’t matter to them, they valued me as I was. But that was not to last.
My twenties were dominated by a desire to experience an American life, which means something different to every person, but TCKs typically have a much broader understanding of some of the absurdities and realities and the hardness of real life for most of the world’s citizens. Americans seemed so spoiled, so small and mean, to teen-aged me.
Once I got a job away from family, and started actually living life for myself, things improved markedly. But I always felt like an observer, an anthropologist who smiled and tried to not disturb the habits or speech or behaviors of the newly discovered culture. I became so withdrawn as to stop laughing aloud, saying only, “Oh, how funny,” whenever something was funny.
A group of friends adopted me, and I enjoyed learning about American culture from my new friends, two of which are close friends to this day. They were smart but disaffected, just like me! So everyone in America wasn’t the same, and not everyone liked it. These friends taught me about music, and literature, and marijuana, and I loved them all, every one. I soaked up their cumulative experience, and set out to have some of my own. They accepted me just as I was. Then after a decade, I found I had to leave them all. It hurt like hell.
But when my life had to change, I left all of those lovely people’s association, as well as that with my Gung Fu teacher and system. I left one of the finest women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Fortunately for me, a few years later she forgave me, when she met the absolute love of her life, with whom she still resides, in legally wedded bliss.
I dreamt of sex with a man, and becoming pregnant on an increasing basis. But to have a child at that time, in a Lesbian relationship, did not bring a good life for the child. Back in the day, being a Lesbian could get you fired. “Moral turpitude.” I still love that woman, incidentally. But to have a child I needed a man, preferably a husband.
So I found an acceptable sperm donor, based solely on how tight his 501’s were on his calves when he walked, and the dimples when he grinned at me. My reproductive organs were ringing bells, like I had just won the grand prize, and was finally back on the “right path.”
My income had more steadily become investigative work for either my grandfather, or for my mother and her partner. When my Gung Fu teacher became a felon, I had to disassociate from him and the school, which had been my family for too many years. I was an Officer of the Court, as a Licensed Private Investigator, and I could lost my license for associating with known felons.
I moved away from my friends and my brothers and sisters in the gung fu system I had devoted a decade to. I moved away from illicit trysts, things that only hurt me, to married and praying for a baby. Fortunately for my reproductive organs, his little swimmers were aggressive, and the timing was right.
Shortly before our wedding, the agency I did work for had lost a huge contract with the State of Oklahoma Indigent Defense System. Easily half our clients were represented by the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System. Shortly thereafter I got a job in Code Enforcement for the City of Norman, just after marrying my child’s biological father. I was pregnant while on the pill in the first year of our marriage.
My “normal” family was being assembled. Heteronormative. Culturally Appropriate Christians (before my name was Christian). I was still working on my undergraduate degree while we were married, and it was nice to have the ring on the ring finger of the left hand. I even found us a house around which he ultimately built a white picket fence. He completed that project shortly before our divorce because we had to sell the house.
Single mothers were and still are looked down upon by a certain segment of American society. But it was better to be a single mom because I had been married to a man. So I was “normal.”
Joining the church was ultimately the largest investment in time I spent in a dysfunctional relationship, but it added another “normal” patch to my American Woman vest. I had had two experiences in which I had felt moved by something to act a certain way, and each time it had been an act of complete grace, because I could never deserve that kind of experience. I’m broken in so many places, literally and figuratively speaking, that I’ve lost count. But in certain places, or certain situations, I can feel something. Something other. Truly other, not just in appearance or preferences.
I cannot testify to any actual miraculous events in my lifetime, or in the history of human beings for as long as we’ve been evolving on this planet, except for the fact that we did become, and we have evolved, and continue to do so. There have been teachers of the word and the deed. How can I, or you, or your guru or rabbi, mullah or minister, in our extraordinarily miniscule size and capability describe something large enough to engineer everything? It puts me in mind of the blind men trying to describe an elephant by touch.
If we can’t define, technically, accurately, quantifiably this God, then how can we know who is right and who is wrong? And do we need for anyone to be wrong in their authentic culture? Why is that necessary? Americans believe that this country was founded on religious freedom, or the right to worship whomever, whatever, whenever, but that’s a twisted tale. Actually, the Puritans wanted to no longer be persecuted for practicing their religion, but they were not of a mind to be tolerant of anyone else’s beliefs! Oh, heavens no! A good witch burning keeps the believers in line. More sacrifice to “God,” just like the torture and murder of the Nazarene. Did that man really have to die as a “sacrifice” to some God to appease Him regarding the matter of the sinful nature of humans?
When you keep mopping up the blood from the botched relationships, one of which is the church, it makes one weary. I was denied seminary on the whim of one human male. I was honest in my discernment, and spiritual autobiography, a tool the Episcopal Church uses in many different settings. In this printed document I was completely transparent, as though I were talking to God. Wanted to be accepted for who I am, and have been. Honesty has always been one of my greatest weaknesses, and likely will be my downfall. I still cannot maintain a mask well enough to function in an American public school. I’m not always happy.
But my life ended in 2019, everything I had worked so hard for and given everything to dissolved. Dis-integrated. Had to leave my school, as I could not be a teacher there in that regime any longer. But I excelled in my first 7 years. I thought I’d make it to retirement, something normal, something I had worked for assiduously. No such luck.
That spring I suffered a number of concussions. They left me with a new disorder, vertigo, and best of all, short term memory absence. Unconscious at least 3 times in my life from blows to the head.
“You’re punch drunk!” said the first neurologist. He could do nothing for me, referred me to another type of neurologist. Eight hours of tests, $300.00 spent, still no diagnosis. All she would say on the phone was that she felt there had to be something wrong with the results because they were so unusual. Unusual how, I don’t know, but she did say that on certain parts of the test, cognitive ability, literacy, general language knowledge, all of these I scored in the 95 percentile.
But numbers, math has never been my thing, and memory of a collection of random words, three columns, probably twenty rows of words, and I could only remember six the first time, so we did it again. I got six that time also, as she read it backwards, and I remembered the last two rows. Six words. Scored in the 2 percentile.
My wonderful husband has been working with me to think of ways to remember things I have just been told, or ways to remember where I leave things. We could talk for hours about 18th Century British Women’s Literature, my bachelor’s capstone. But tell me something, and make me repeat it. Sometimes I just feel lost.
These days I divide my time between bouts of depression and episodes of IBS-d. I have gone eight days without bathing. I cleaned up, but did not bathe. I walk outside in my nightgown, a modest ankle length solid fabric, sleeveless. My hair still tousled from sleep, the wind arranges it as I retrieve the mail.
I started this piece before my only child was murdered, so the tone has gotten darker as it goes. My apologies. Sometimes things need to be made real by introducing them to the world. All my writing on Sarah is on my Medium page. https://lezliechristian.medium.com/ To read on Medium you have to make an account, but it is free.
If you go to the trouble of doing that, and following me, clicking on “read more” on one of my stories, it would make my heart swell, and you’ll get free access to my first chapter of my first book, which I will put here on WordPress some time in the near future. And my writing doesn’t suck, but some of it is weird. Welcome to my musings. ~