09/23/05 10:34:00 - Journeys

I just finished reading the last book in Orson Scott Card’s Ender Quartet. It was absolutely stunning. No matter which of his books I have read (the only other of these was the spin-off, “Ender’s Shadow”), I’m moved by the depth of them. When I was in high school, I read all kinds of stuff. Well, not all kinds, exactly. I read much more in action novels than I did anything else. Whether it was Tom Clancy or Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was all about the adventure. Actually, Ender’s Game would have been right up my alley. But I’m rather glad that I didn’t get to it until I was almost 30 years old. I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed the following three books nearly as much. I was a teenager, and was interested mostly in teenager type things – action, adventure, and maybe some romance.
Now, however, I’m at a different point in my life. I’ve been married for nearly seven years. I have seen two children born and have held the lifeless body of one of them after she succumbed to a disease every bit as lethal to her as the descolada. Now I wait, 2,000 miles away from what remains of my earthly family, while the other undergoes a procedure that will bring him nearly to death’s door in order to prevent him from falling to a disease that only attacks those too weak to fight it. I have experienced the pure joy that can come from love and from family. I have also felt the agony of the loss of one of them. I have moved from utter faith to almost total disbelief, and have found myself, for now, in the much more tenuous realm of hope. I have reached the point where I doubt nearly everything, including my own senses and even my rationality. I have had all of my beliefs, including those regarding the most basic functions of humanity – love and compassion – razed almost to the ground. In fact, I think there may have even been large chunks of my foundation that were found to be faulty and were excavated. If you think of yourself as a building, it brings a whole new sense of meaning to the word “condemned”.

In the midst of this journey, however, I have become aware of several things. I’ve become aware of my ignorance. I’ve become aware of my arrogance. I hope that I have come to learn some of what makes me human, what makes me a free agent, an Intelligence, a child of God. I’ve learned more about my dark side, and how weak, even at its most brilliant moments, my light side is. I’ve learned to depend on the Lord in such a way that only those who believe simply out of an act of will are able. Of all the apostles, I may identify most with Thomas, who is derided as “doubting”. Yet, I remember the Lord’s teaching, “because ye have seen, ye have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

I have learned more about the seed of faith. I have planted it, and have felt it grow within me. I still can’t say that I “know” that much of anything is true, but I do know that it is Good. I have felt myself drawing closer to God. I find myself believing that He is truly my father, possibly in the only way that matters: He gave me life, and He wants me to progress. But “progression” seems to be an imperfect word. Maybe it’s because of today’s society, but to me, it implies ambition, like corporate politics. As in the very words I put on a form recently, trying to justify my company’s expense to pay for further education for me: “It will be invaluable as I progress through the company.” Maybe “grow” is a better word. Eternal growth. I rather like the feel of the phrase, but on the other hand, “growth” seems very passive, as though there is absolutely no effort of any kind required. “Progression” at least connotes some sort of act of will. But then, we speak of mental growth, or emotional or moral growth, and I don’t think anyone would say that it comes without any effort. I don’t know.

See? There it is again. It’s self-doubt, I suppose, but it’s not the same type we think about. There is a self-doubt that is debilitating, even crippling. There is another type, however, that leads to a readiness to learn. It’s not really a lack of self-confidence, it’s just a knowledge of limits. An acknowledgement, really, that there are others who know much, much more than you do. A desire to learn from them that you might be lifted to a higher plane. The peril seems to be actually in self-awareness. If a person believes they know nothing, they will not reach the pride that leads to so many destructive tendencies. The paradox, however, is that when one becomes aware of their ignorance and realizes that in some respects, it may be a virtue, pride can set in. If one is too pleased with their humility, are they still humble?

As I have grown over the past few months (at least, I think it’s been growth), I have come to realize something. The rampant destruction in my own life has been a part of a renovation. My soul feels as though it’s becoming new again. Re-born, if you will. And I find myself wanting to describe it, or at least the trails I have taken (mostly unintentionally) to reach the point where I am now. I want to write about my experiences in the hopes that others might learn. I don’t presume to have any deep mysteries of the universe. But, maybe others, as they examine my life, might be able to glean some help from it.

I think that’s the hope of everyone – whether they write about themselves or even write at all. Maybe not. Maybe it’s better just to be loved. I don’t know. I do know, however, that the books I have just finished have moved me, even to tears at times. The most noticeable feature of all of these books is their mercy. I read of the compassion, the understanding, the mercy of the characters in this book and I am filled with hope. Perhaps there is someone (or, better yet, Someone) who can look deep into my soul and find something worthwile. We are all endowed with a center. Whether you call it a spirit, a soul, an intelligence or even a philote, we have a point deep within us that is truly a free agent. My hope is that when it is time for me to be judged that the Judge will be able to look through the layers, through the excuses and lies and justifications and see my most inner self – the self that is the most unknowable, even to me – and see that there is something worth saving. Maybe that has already happened, hence the reconstruction going on within me. I don’t know, but I can definitely hope.

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Velda wrote:
Hey Rick

Just a note to say I really liked this article. I'm not sure what's up with the notification - I assumed you hadn't written here for a while. I was feeling just this way the other day though, about the rebuilding thing I mean. In alot of ways these past few years have been pretty horrible for me in their own silly ways. Silly compared to what you've gone through, but I've truly felt like I've been taken apart piece by piece to the point where I hardly recognize myself anymore. Sometimes I mourn the loss of the 'old' me; I remember being happier then and I have to wonder why I'm having to go through all this. Again, "all this" certainly doesn't ammount to much. Guess it didn't take much to knock this building down! :-p But oddly enough I feel more stable now? Plainer, maybe a bit melancholy and certainly more pacifist. But built to stand. Or maybe that's just the prozac talking :-o Just thought it was interesting that we came to such similar analogies. Missing you guys!
16/12 00:40:39

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