Just a little perspective- for that poor sucker I saw jogging down Morse Rd. in the freezing rain the other day.
I am not in any way, shape or form an optimist by nature. At best I am pragmatic and can adjust, adapt and overcome, but I hate to admit I am not generally one of those “carpe diem” (seize the day) types. If one is shaped by early life experience, i.e. having the hell beat out of you just about every day, then, at least in my experience, you tend toward a wee bit of trepidation in simply facing the day.
I know that Christian faith is necessarily optimistic, which is one of the reasons I really struggle with faith. I admit that there have been many times in my life when the only thing keeping me from the option of self-annihilation has been the Catholic teaching about mortal sin. I was raised old-school Catholic, even though I can’t in conscience call myself Catholic. My particular way of understanding Christianity is best described as confessional Lutheran, which is fairly close. I don’t want to end up spending eternity being tortured forever and ever being chewed up in Beezelbub’s flaming maw because I died with a mortal sin on my soul. According to Catholic tradition, suicide is a mortal sin because if you kill yourself you don’t have the opportunity to confess your sin and be forgiven for it, so you burn in hell. As miserable and painful as life can be at times- and my life has had plenty of misery and pain- I still believe that no matter how bad it gets (even though Obama was “re-elected” by sole virtue of voter fraud and I’m still pissed about that) automatic and eternal consignment to the fires of hell is definitely a downgrade.
Obama’s bad, and dangerous on many levels, but even he’s not the end of the world.
I need to believe that there will be a day when things are made right- not just in this country, not just on a few small levels, but made completely right. Yeah, perhaps in this, color me optimistic, or perhaps just a perfectionist. I want to be around to see it. No, I can’t explain faith in rational terms, other than to accept Pascal’s Wager. I would rather live with the knowledge that God IS, than to pretend He is not, and have to face the consequences of conscience-less living at some point. I know my agnostic friends have trouble with the notion that God is in charge. I’m weaker than that. I have to acknowledge that God is in charge, which is (paradoxically) liberating. I have problems when I start thinking I’m in charge.
Even knowing that God is in charge doesn’t guarantee me a sunny outlook. It’s a challenge for me to wake up in the morning and see life as a gift. Sometimes I do view life that way, but more often than not I see it as a burden or even a sick joke. Sometimes sarcasm is the only way I can get through the day, and that’s not a very good thing either. I wish I could take the Lord’s advice in Matthew 6:25 and not worry about stuff- but I do. Worse than that I let stupidity and ineptitude piss me off which (while pointing those things out can be funny) doesn’t do much for my mental state either. Anger and worry are not a very good combo.
There may be some hope for me yet:
4 thoughts on “Life is a Gift (a Gag Gift?) and Other Greeting Card Sentiments”
There are many appealing things about Christianity, its optimistic nature not least among them. I’m not sure if your “struggles with faith” upset you, but I hope they don’t. Faith is about struggle. Blind faith breeds bin Ladens and gave Obama another four years.
I do think that we’re predisposed to a degree to a certain outlook, but we can change. I am generally predisposed to be happy and optimistic, but I don’t it’s determined by circumstance as it is other factors (one of which is heredity, which bleeds a little into circumstance). I mean, I think my life so far has been pretty great, and if you asked me why I’d list my accomplishments and joys. BUT, if another person had access to my memories, he might contend that my life has been pretty useless, choosing to concentrate instead on my many, many failures, heartbreaks and disappointments.
It really is all in how you look at it. And I don’t pretend that it’s as easy as “Cheer up, Grumpy!” the way so many self-help books seem to make it. But it can be done, and I think one of the first steps is having these discussions with yourself.
The main reason I started blogging several years ago was to do exactly that. It’s been therapeutic and cathartic. Believe it or not I’m much more balanced mentally and emotionally than I was 10 years ago, let’s say. We all have issues- but it’s how we deal with them that counts. I’ve come a long way but still have a long way to go.
Faith and the journey that is Christian faith has literally saved my life in more ways than one. I don’t say it enough but the pastors at my church are the kind of guys who are the question authority types- sort of hard to take for an old school dogmatist at heart like me- but the challenge is exactly what I need. And most self-help books would be better utilized for toilet paper in my humble opinion. There are some good bits of advice but most of the really valuable life lessons are still learned in the School of the Burned Hand. Yep, the burner’s hot!
but most of the really valuable life lessons are still learned in the School of the Burned Hand
That’s a lovely expression, and one which I’ve never heard. Did you coin it or is it an old saying I haven’t heard? The reason I ask is ’cause I’m gonna start using it, and I like to at least know (even if I don’t necessarily give it) to whom the credit is due.
I have a pretty low opinion of self-help as well, although through my work and through general exploration I have encountered a few good ones. I tend to think of them as ‘self-development’ or ‘philosophy,’ but I guess it’s all what you call it. Personally, I’ve found the following books to be EXTREMELY rewarding: The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, The Courageous Follower: Standing Up To And For Our Leaders by Ira Chaleff (but buy the audiobook!) and the old chestnut 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by the recently-deceased Stephen Covey.
The School of the Burned Hand just sort of came about as I watched my son grow up. You could tell him and tell him that something was a bad idea (especially involving skateboards and ramps and the resulting frequent trips to the orthopedist) but until he got burned with it, it seemed the lesson didn’t stick.
I’m stubborn too, so he gets it honestly. The bad thing about experience is that there is no substitute for it!