As I sit here at my desk, while my avatar stands placidly on a rock out in the Bay of Storms in eastern Azshara, idly tossing her fishing line into the grey water in search of [Stonescale Eel], my mind, she wanders.
I suppose that’s sort of the point of fishing. That’s what people tell me, anyway.
I have, of late, been given over to some musings of a sort that have not graced my frontal lobes in more than seven years. And, I have to warn you, the general topic that these thoughts revolve around has no place in Silicon Valley. My dilemma is that I spend 100% of my time in said Valley.
The topic at hand is spirituality.
That’s right. I went there. Uh huh.
Allow me the liberty to fill in some of the background, and then we’ll talk about being part of an oppressed class. You’ll like that part, it’s got great sniveling. But first, some history.
My father was what I must describe as a philosophy collector. Over the course of my childhood, I was a member of just about every religious or philosophical organization that could be joined and attended in the greater Seattle area. He would dig himself into a new sect, burrowing into it like a paleontologist, reverently dusting off, examining, and catalogueing each new idea he came across.
His interest, though, was primarily in learning new things, so once he had taken his full measure of a group, he would invariably begin to uncover their faults. This would lead to the fall from grace, the leaving, the desperate chest-beating about never being able to find anything real or true, and then the search for the next thing to dig into.
So, then, naturally I (and my mother and brother) ended up being dragged along behind this philsophical juggernaut, bouncing off each new crested wave like a water skiier trying to earn his water legs without drowning. Because if there is one thing anyone who interacted with my father knew it was this: that man could share. Like nobody’s business.
We called it being “Dwighted”.
Expressing interest in a topic that my father understood was a dangerous behavior. The best outcome you could hope for would be a quick dive into hjs voluminous reference stacks, followed by a single papered volume or article being shoved into your hands. Worst case was that he took you on as a disciple. This happened… all the time.
The conjunction of this compulsive information mining and equally compulsive information sharing meant that I (and my brother, although you’d hardly know it to look at him) grew up with one of the most robust spritual and philosophical backgrounds I’ve heard of. It was the equivalent of being a Pastor’s child, but in every religion known to mankind.
Thus, I got a chance to see the profound strengths and profound weaknesses of most of the major (and quite a few of the minor) spiritual organizations out there. It left me scarred for life. And, as it turns out, a secret social pariah, wandering in a technological wilderness.
Because I bought it, see.
Let’s be clear what I mean by that, since our good friends the Asshole sect of the Christian faith (as opposed to most Christians, who are generally astoundingly kind and understanding people) have gone ahead and polarized the philosophical landscape to the point where I can’t say the word “believe” without it accumulating extra meaning about having confidence that the sky is populated with winged messengers and human dieties with white hair, the second coming of one Jewish Rabbi or another, or various other blatant absurdities.
So. To be clear.
What I mean by believe is that over the course of my life I have taken the time to experiment with various forms of spiritual pursuit, and have proven to myself that there’s plenty we don’t understand about this universe we live in, and much that is helpful to the human condition. There is quite a lot of the experience of living that has been swept into the dark, musty subbasement of Non-Scientific Hooey that is, alas, quite possibly true (at the very least, in the context of human emotions, and quite possibly more than that). And, some of this Hooey of which we speak I have proven to myself to be factual… at least to my own satisfaction.
If only it were provable outside of my own mind. Sigh.
I am, perhaps, not the first human to express such a regret.
For the early parts of my adult life (and much of my teenagerhood) I was a practicing SomethingOrOther-ian. I gathered together the pieces of the various teachings that I resonated with (you know, resonate, like my crystalline structure vibrates when exposed to sound. I’m a crystal elemental of spirit.), and did with them as I pleased, pretty much.
Until I moved to California.
Now, you would think that moving to the Bay Area that I would be among like-minded souls, and that my spiritual interests would… nope! Not so much!
Let’s narrow in on this for a moment, since it is, in my opinion, non-obvious what is going on around here, and it certainly isn’t what I was expecting. There is a kind of perfect storm of de-spiritualization blowing its winds through the Bay, which is kindof the opposite of what the travel brochures would have you believe.
Here’s how I see it:
California, as you may know, is the generally accepted leader o’ the pack when it comes to acceptance of a broad range of ideas. People flee to the west coast to escape the homophobia, sexism, fundamentalism, and general religiosity (if I may mangle my mother language for a moment) of other areas in the country. And this is where things start to go weird.
See, some large portion of the folk that flee here are fleeing here out of a desire to be able to express themselves as a Follower of Science and a Skeptic of All Things Flim-Flammy. These folk tend to see any spiritual pursuit as an indication of a weakness of mind, brainwashing, or perhaps flat out mental illness. “How could you believe in something you can’t see or touch?” goes the argument.
Can’t blame ’em, really.
And, here’s the tricky part: many of them are up in arms about it. They see (rightfully) that fundamentalism is tearing our country apart, and (wrongfully) blame religion and the many and varied philosophical pursuits attatched thereto for the plague of incoherency that we as a nation are suffering from. They hate people of faith.
Add to this the other side of the quotient: the aggressively over-spiritual. Berkeley and the Haight are famous for broad acceptance of spiritual pursuits, many of which stink so badly of snake-oil that you’d swear that guy standing on the street corner is the Music Man. Friends, trouble! Right here in River City!
Having a conversation with these folks can be just as frustrating as one with their oppressors. A philosophical conversation with a wild-eyed Follower of Crystal Healing And Stuff is… just fucking impossible, actually. It derails so fast you would swear they were doing it deliberately.
And, often, they hate the unspiritual. Hate ’em. In a really nice, accepting way.
So, imagine you lived in a town that was populated with 25% hardcore Republicans, and 25% hardcore Democrats. Would you dare to strike up a political conversation with anyone, given a 50% chance that you’re going to be unwittingly swept up in The Great War that you have no interest in?
It is ironic, I figure, that there are enough of these aggressively spiritually inclinded and disinclined folk around the Bay Area that, living here, in the center of acceptance and progressive thinking, one gets very, very cautious about bringing up any kind of spirituality in casual conversation, if only to protect one’s sanity. And, even worse, if word gets out that you secretly harbor spiritual ambitions, there’s a chance that someone up the foodchain at your place of work is one of these psychos, and that that will have a direct negative impact on your career.
So, now that we’ve described the landscape in which I linger, I can finally start the conversation that I’ve come all this long way to write, and, as you are reading this, you have endured a torrent of wandering paragraphs to read.
I can’t take it any more. The gig is up. I confess. I’m one of them. A huge part of my person, my essence, the, shall we say, fiber of my being, is a profoundly spiritual substance of some kind. If one were to render me (as one would render fat into soap), you’d end up with 75lbs of gamer, 75lbs of dad / husband, and about 100lbs of spiritual dude.
It’s just that it’s all on the inside. So you never see it.
To some, such a declaration may be equivalent to me confessing that I wear black. Sort of an “um, gasp?” situation. If so, then great, you know me better than I have known myself for the past few years.
To others… not sure. I haven’t been very forthcoming on this topic during the last… decade.
So, here’s a note: If you’ve managed to make it all the way down this page, you must be a friend of mine, because who the fuck else would endure such a post? Checkmate! So, friend, here’s a request for you: don’t you dare dance around your athiesm with me just because I discussed this shit.Sneer at my woefully illogical thinking. Scoff if you must. Better that than tiptoeing around the topic so as not to offend. You tiptoe around me at your peril, bub.
To be continued. Because, believe it or not, I didn’t manage to talk about the actual point of this post, and I’m already well over my word count.