Monday, April 23, 2012

In Which I Ponder Sadness Magnets

When I was in college, there was a commons area in the downstairs of the library. There was a Starbucks, eatery and a computer help desk. Tables lined either side of a large walkway. I was sitting there one day when a young man sat down and said, “Hi. I just need to tell someone this,” and proceeded to tell me about a situation with a classmate that was really bothering him. “So if you hear someone say anything about it, tell them what I really think, okay?” He then got up and I never spoke to him again.

The next year, a similar thing happened in the same place, where someone I didn't know sat down with me and proceeded to tell me things he “couldn't tell anyone he knew,” for well over an hour.

And right before I moved, a random woman outside the library stopped and talked to me for a bit about losing her son the month prior.

The first month I moved to Lansing, I was walking home one day and noticed baby sparrows preparing to leave the nest. A woman walked up, and watched the birds with me, and then started talking about the Illuminati and secret government. We talked conspiracy theories for awhile, and then she shared her personal woes and concerns. We sat on the sidewalk and talked for two hours. I hugged her good-bye and never saw her again.

Yesterday, the bus detoured around my usual stop. I was all excited to go home and eat some Greek yogurt, but as I crossed Washington Square, I suddenly decided to go to Jimmy John's. When I entered, I saw the young woman on the other side of the restaurant and somehow knew she was going to talk to me. I ordered my sandwich, sat down, took two bites, and she came and sat with me. She talked with me for four hours—super personal topics mostly focusing on genetics, mental health, depression and eventually began to touch on religious beliefs (which I consider having a massive impact on someone's mental well being). I hugged her good night, knowing that she probably hasn't been hugged in weeks or maybe even months, and that she definitely needed a nice hug.

I know that I have a pattern of being drawn to deeply sad people, and can relate to despair and hopelessness. Maybe I'm just chock full of defense mechanisms, disallowing me to get lost in it any more, mostly because there's nothing particularly sad to be caught up in. If I believed people could go to hell and God was a petty tyrant that required people to buy their way into heaven with slavish obedience, yeah, maybe I would be ridiculously depressed too. I was, when I believed that. But I did get angry about it, refusing to accept that concept of God as Divine. If I, as a human, can be “better” than the Christian concept of God, then God is severely lacking. I won't accept a less than perfect Divinity. I don't view logic and faith as counter to one another. If the basic suppositions about the nature of the world are different, all the things people believe can only be believed in through faith are not only possible, but probable.

That's the lucky thing, I suppose. I've never been able to really accept that God requires us to be any certain way, or to say certain things, or to not do this or that. What else could there be but God? Why would God require us to sacrifice or suffer? That's not freedom, and a truly loving God would allow us to be free. Free to make mistakes, and to correct our errors in thought; to learn and remember. To wake from our strange slumberous dream. We're already perfect; we just don't see ourselves that way.

When I began to consider these things, everything in my life changed. I think her life would be changed if she considered these things. But it's not for me to push. I can offer when asked, but I know that people who believe they are right and everyone else is wrong have a tendency to disregard the difficult, giving an answer about God's mystery or the audacity of human pride. Everyone has the right to be confused. If we knew how things really were, the illusion of choice would fade into nothing. There is no arguing with reality; there are no choices to be made.

It is no wonder that such great sorrow coils itself within many of us. The greatest gift a belief in Divinity can give is the knowledge that one is loved, and most of us just don't feel it.