Losing my religion

I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing I thought that I heard you sing

I think, I thought, I saw you try

But that was just a dream

–REM/Losing My Religion

 

I lost my religion gradually while I was a teenager.

As a child, I was quite religious. Or maybe I just really enjoyed singing. I’ve never been completely sure, but singing definitely kept me in a religious environment long after I’d otherwise lost all interest in organized religion.

 

The first blow to my life as a Believer was in Vacation Bible School when I was 11 or so. We were having a discussion about choosing between right and wrong, and how we had the ability to choose because God had given us the gift of free will. We could choose to do either right or wrong because God loved us so much he allowed us to choose. That confused me a bit. I’d been taught that God was both omniscient and omnipotent, so I didn’t understand how letting us choose when he must KNOW we were going to screw up could possibly be a loving thing to do. The teacher attempted to explain by explaining that God wanted us to freely choose to do the right things.  When I asked “but, you said he knows everything we are going to do as part of his plan for us! It seems kind of mean of Him to let us choose if he already knows we’re going to fail. Why let us choose? What doesn’t he just make us want to only do the right things?”

 

That was not well received.

 

I wasn’t trying to be argumentative (really!) but the woman teaching the class thought that I was questioning the will of God, and didn’t appreciate my curiosity one little bit.  I persisted (nicely! really!) in my questions and was asked to leave. Kicked out of Bible school. I was mortified. I also assumed that I was completely in the wrong.

 

That was the first crack in my religious armor.

 

The hole in my armor got bigger when Elton John came out. What does that have to do with religion? To me, as it turned out, it had everything to do with religion.

In one of my churches, when I was 9 or 10, someone had overheard me singing an Elton John song and commented that I probably shouldn’t listen to him because he’s a homosexual and the Bible says that’s wrong. I don’t think I knew what homosexual meant, but assured him that if Elton turned out to be a homosexual I would have to stop listening to him if the Bible said so.

A few years later, in  1976, when I was 12 or 13, Elton came out as bisexual in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. By that time I had a better understanding of what homosexual meant, and also knew that I was not about to quit listening to my favorite performer because a book said some of the things he did were morally wrong.

 

Free will, right?

 

I chose music.

 

God clearly saw that one coming.

 

By that time, I’d already more or less stopped going to church. I attended a youth group through much of High School just because it involved very little preaching and a whole lot of singing.  As I got older, my religious beliefs fell away more and more.  For a while I tried to keep up a semblance of religious belief. First I would identify as an agnostic, but eventually had to admit that I simply did not believe in any kind of God at all any more.

 

I still don’t.

 

But I still love Elton John.

 

Music is one of the things I will always believe in.

 

 

 

 

Here is what Elton (via Bernie’s lyrics) has to say about criticism in the song “All the Nasties.”

 

 

 

Summer reading, or what will I be reading at the lake

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear
And I need a job, so I want to be a paperback writer

–the Beatles/Paperback Writer

 

 

I have what some might consider an unreasonable number of unread books.

I have what some might consider an unreasonable number of books period.

Yes, I have heard of the public library. I’m a frequent customer.

Yes, I know I can’t read all the books.

No, I don’t know that through experience.

Yes, I read a lot.

Yes, I have a life.

Yes, I have a job.

Yes, I leave the house. C’mon. You’ve seen me at football games and in bars.

 

Where do I find the time? It’s important to me, and I love it. I make time. I steal time. I don’t cook or clean as often as I might. I don’t watch as much TV as some people. Sometimes I don’t get to sleep as much as I’d like because I’m soooo close to the end of a book.

 

 

What’s so great about reading? Whole new worlds that people invent to entertain me? Ideas I’d never have thought of on my own? Things that make me laugh. Things that make me cry? Things that make me angry. Places I might never know about? What’s NOT great about it? I don’t understand why people don’t all read.

 

 

 

These are some of the books on my Kindle that are not read yet. You don’t need to know about all of them, or about the ones on my physical bookshelves. One might argue that you don’t need to know about these either, but one should just shut up about that right now.

 

Don’t bother counting–there are 26.

 

Before you get all excited, no I won’t read all of these during my weeklong vacation. I’ll probably read one or two before I leave. I probably won’t feel like reading some of them while I’m on my vacation. I will end up reading about half of them, probably picking up a few others and then re-reading others for the zillionth time. I may never read some of them.

What are you reading that needs to be on my list?

Suggestions, anyone?

Happy Summer reading, y’all!

 

 

The Cloud Atlas Liam Callanan
She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth Helen Castor
The Blood of Flowers: A Novel Anita Amirrezvani
The Irish Americans: A History Jay P. Dolan
The King of Kahel Tierno Tierno Monenembo
Before I Go To Sleep: A Novel S. J. Watson
Ladies Coupe Anita Nair
The Princes of Ireland: The Dublin Saga Edward Rutherfurd
Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) Hugh Howey
The Child in Time (Ian McEwan Series) Ian McEwan
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: A Novel Ben Fountain
The Wanderer in Unknown Realms John Connolly
Odd Thomas Dean Koontz
Johannes Cabal the Necromancer Jonathan L Howard
The Taliban Cricket Club Timeri Murari
Ava Gardner: the Secret Conversations Peter Evans
The Wasp Factory Iain Banks
Smoking Ears and Screaming Teeth: A Celebration of Scientific Eccentricity and Self-Experimentation Trevor Norton
The Silver Linings Playbook Matthew Quick
Bossypans Tina Fey
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements Sean Kean
Bag Of Bones Stephen King
Walking on Glass Iain Banks
The Orchardist Amanda Coplin
Cry, the Beloved Country Alan Paton

Who are you, anyway?

“What’s your name,’ Coraline asked the cat. ‘Look, I’m Coraline. Okay?’
‘Cats don’t have names,’ it said.
‘No?’ said Coraline.
‘No,’ said the cat. ‘Now you people have names. That’s because you don’t know who you are. We know who we are, so we don’t need names.”
–Neil Gaiman/Coraline

 

Who are you?
Who, who, who, who
–the Who

 

We’re Nature’s librarians, we humans. We love to catalog ourselves and each other. Politics, religion, height, weight, skin color, gender…you name it and we stick a label on it. How many of the labels are important for how we really identify ourselves? I’m fond of some of mine–I’d hate to give up “smart” or “funny” for instance–but don’t really care about most of them. If any of you would like my “short” or “fat” you are welcome to them!

 

While we’re very good at labeling, many of us are not so good at figuring out who we really are outside of the labels. OK, me. I’m not good at it. I’m sure everyone else has it all down. Not me.

 

Which brings me to the thing so many Americans find  crucial to their identities: their job. Every year in elementary school they would make us answer that dreaded question. You know the one: what do you want to be when you grow up?

 

An artist? A writer? A judge? A brain surgeon? An astronaut? An acrobat? If you could be anything in the world, what is your dream?

I DON’T KNOW LEAVE ME ALONE I’M ONLY 6!!!

I’ve never really had that..one thing…the dream. It’s something I envy in people who do have it.

 

All of the personality/aptitude tests I’ve ever taken have declared that I should be a writer or judge.

I do like to write, but not enough that I’d want to do it on a regular basis. Yes, I do realize that I’m writing right now. Thank you for the reminder. Sometimes I forget.

 

Being a judge is something I feel more inclined towards. I love to judge people. Oh. Right. That’s being judgmental and I’m not supposed to do that at all. Why not? I’m really, really good at it!

 

I am such a dilettante, though. I am immediately “pretty good” at almost everything i try to do. Not prodigy material (except in being judgmental), but I’m talented at a lot of different things, especially if they’re creative. I can draw pretty well. I can sing pretty well. I can write pretty well. I tend to pick up musical instruments quickly and get pretty good at them. I’d be very good at a lot of things if I chose to work hard at them, but what I’m best at is lounging. World fucking class. You have never met a better lounger than me. Ever.

 

Which has nothing to do with who I am, does it?

Who I am not is the sum of my labels.

 

I have figured out that although having a job is important for many reasons, it isn’t who I am. You may not agree. A lot of people do identify with their work.

Which doesn’t really tell you who I am.

 

 

I also figured out that I could avoid growing up at all.

I know, and like a cat I’m not telling.

 

 

 

Meow.