My Journey

My Journey Away From Faith: Part 10

To start at the beginning of my journey click here.
For part 9 click here.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ – Luke 15:21

Moving to Des Moines would provide me with a couple of things. For one I would be far away from all the memories that I had built during the time my wife and I had been together, and two I would be able to reinvent myself, much in the same way I had done when moving to Texas. I would be moving to an area where only one other person knew me and so moving seemed like one of the best ideas I could make.

When I arrived my friend was living with his brother and his sister-n-law.  Soon the other occupants were going to be moving out and so it would only be my friend. I got along fairly well with his brother but his brother’s wife was one of those overly bubbly, overly loud, and incredibly obnoxious types. The good news was, I had been told they would be moving in two weeks. After three months, I realized their moving out was less and less likely.

 I got along fairly well with his brother but his brother’s wife was one of those overly bubbly, overly loud, and incredibly obnoxious types.

I found work at a local Git-N-Go gas station. During my time there I worked evenings and it was easy enough to pick up extra shifts, especially in stores that had gotten robbed in the last week. It was believed, though I never verified it, that if a store is robbed they are far more likely to be robbed in the days following the initial robbery. So I would work at my store and pick up an extra couple of shifts per week at various other Git-N-Go stations around town.

On the personal side, things were getting both better and worse.  I had decided that I would never be hurt by another woman for as long as I live. I became the type of guy that seemed like a dream at first but later would dump you like a nightmare. It was fairly easy to find people to hang out with and so I roamed around a lot.  Within the confines of my mind, I never enjoyed being this type of person, but outwardly I acted as if I loved it. At least it seemed that no one would ever become close enough to me again to hurt me in the way that I had been hurt.

A couple of things shortened my time in Des Moines. The first was the fact that i never had any privacy, since the two occupants that were supposed to move out never did, I was stuck sleeping on the couch. This wouldn’t have been so bad, but getting home at midnight, grabbing a quick bit to eat and going to sleep around one, only to be awoken at 3 by the other occupants getting up and getting ready for work, got on my nerves fairly quickly. Second, my friend was addicted to meth. He was trying to get clean but at least once a week I would find him crying and telling me how he had relapsed and was back on day one. I tried getting him to check into a local rehab but it was too expensive and, had he done so, he feared he would lose his job.

Lastly, I found that even though I had moved away from all of my problems, my problems had found me. I was still drinking way too much and had started popping pills again from time to time, either to stay up or to get sleep.  I felt empty inside, and I would often times park somewhere and sob into my steering wheel. This was no way to live and I knew that I was still going nowhere in life. I felt awful about myself, my surroundings, and life in general and was probably the closest I had ever come to ending my life.

Lastly, I found that even though I had moved away from all of my problems, my problems had found me.

I remember one night, I was sitting at a total strangers house that I had met a few days before. I was sitting at their computer while not more than 5 feet away he and his girlfriend had incredibly loud anal sex behind me.  It’s quite the awkward position to be in but at the time I felt nothing. I had taken a couple of xanax and was drinking a bottle of whiskey.  It became quiet behind me so I figured it was over, so I got up to leave, the guy was supposed to give me a ride home. Before we left I asked if I could use the restroom. Upon entering the restroom I promptly threw-up all over the entire room. I nearly passed out but caught myself at the sink. Looking up I saw myself in the mirror and was absolutely sickened by what I saw. This wasn’t me…I wasn’t this person… I cleaned myself up and walked out of the bathroom, closing the door tightly behind me. So if you are the girl whose restroom I threw up all over, I’m sorry.

The next morning I could barely move.  I was burning up with a fever and my chest was so congested that I struggled to breathe.  Going to the doctor was out of the question, I had no money and had no interest in waiting 3-5 hours at the free clinic for an appointment. So I went to sleep and I slept, for three days I slept, the whole time getting worse and worse. On the fourth day I awoke in my bedroom at my parents house. I kid you not, somehow in my sick stupor, I had woke up, driven the sixty miles to my parents house, walked in, told my mother I was home, and then went to bed. When I awoke my mother took me to the hospital where they gave me some fluids, medicine, and told me that I had a really bad case of strep throat and on top of that a stomach bug. I would end up spending the next week in bed.

Once I felt a bit better, I received a call from my friend who was livid at me for moving out. I told him I hadn’t actually moved out and tried to explain exactly what had happened but he would hear none of it. He told me they were keeping my stuff and that I was never welcome back at his house.   I hung up the phone and didn’t talk to him again for about 4 years. Thankfully he did get cleaned up and we were able to make amends to some degree. We aren’t really friends anymore but we aren’t enemies either.

Anyway, things went relatively back to normal. I got better and started looking for a job. I found one at Wal-Mart but the job wouldn’t start for a couple of weeks and so I had a lot of time on my hands. I spent most of my time on the internet visiting chat rooms and playing games. One day while I sat at the computer, the phone rang, I picked it up and said “Hello.” The female voice at the other end of the phone said, hello and then asked if I was my father? I said no, and that my father was currently at work. I asked if I could take a message? The voice on the other end of the phone said no, and said they would call back. Then they said something that nearly blew me away.

“Well, anyway, I’ll talk to you later, I guess this means you’re my brother.”

The voice on the other end of the phone was my sister, a sister that I didn’t know that I had until that one day, on the phone, at 22 years old.

To continue on to part 11 click here.

Before leaving, don’t forget to check out our new feature article, Wednesday Woo:Synchronicity!

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Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #1: Synchonicity

Wednesday Woo is a weekly column written by my partner and chief advocate of all that I write, Jennifer. Each week she will describe some aspect of New Age Spiritualism and the logical flaws that each of these things contain.  She comes from a very different direction than I did with Pentecostalism but I think you will see, New Age Spiritualism can be just as dogmatic and harmful as mainline organized faiths. Thank you for reading!

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“Synchronicity is an ever-present reality for those who have the eyes to see it.”
– Carl Jung

 

As living beings, we continuously seek out patterns in life as a survival tactic. This is left over from a time when we had to rely on our senses to detect predators hiding among the flora, track food sources, or navigate our way around terrain to find resources. If we did not have this trait, we would not be here to discuss whether or not we have ascribed some sort of deeper meaning to the patterns found than are actually there. If you’ve ever heard the stories of Mother Mary being seen on a piece of toast, or witnessed the face on the moon, you recognize this ability of human beings to come to the wrong conclusion with this ability.

The New Age movement has taken this superstition to a whole new level, conflating pattern-seeking behavior into something far more metaphysical and often dramatically solipsistic. They identify this pattern “synchronicity”, a term coined by the infamous Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung, who defines the phenomenon as “temporally coincident occurrences of a causal events.” The most common attributions are numerical, like 11:11, 2:22, etc., but can be geometrical, topic based, or even take the form of seeing certain objects they had discussed, thought about, or seen elsewhere. New Agers will relate these patterns to messages from angels, aliens, ascended masters, or what they call the “higher self”. Of course these things cannot be verified or demonstrated by any means, because they’re in the 7th dimension, the unconscious mind, or some other invisible realm of existence. According to them, if you see the pattern repeated, it means these entities are trying to get your attention, confirm that you are on the right path, or whatever specific idea they deem relative to the symbology. It’s a great way to sell books or products that aid in translating these symbols and their determined intuitive meanings.

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“In a desperate attempt to psychically reconnect with her, as well as lift myself up from the rut of sadness, I opened my mind to woo. As a result, my brain pretty much fell out of my skull.”

How do I know about the New Age philosophy of synchronicity? I was a believer for about four years after my mother passed away from liver disease. We were really close – so close that we could exchange a glance from one another, from across the room, and begin laughing, because we both knew what the other was thinking. There was a huge void in my life, and I was so overcome with grief from her death that I had a nervous breakdown. In a desperate attempt to psychically reconnect with her, as well as lift myself up from the rut of sadness, I opened my mind to woo. As a result, my brain pretty much fell out of my skull. Astrology, numerology, dream interpretation, astral projection, kabbalah, tarot… you name it, I was into it, and spent a great deal of money, time, and effort to pursue my quest. It felt good for a while, and the pain of my mom’s death seemed to fade. There was a huge fellowship online to discuss all of these things with, and it felt as though I had found my tribe.

Now, you may be wondering why I left this belief system if it felt so good and helped me connect with people. That’s a great question, but I’m afraid there is no simple answer. It wasn’t any one particular thing that made me abandon the philosophies of woo, but a heaping pile of stuff that just kept growing bigger and bigger until my brain could no longer justify the inconsistencies and far-reaching logic in the system. If not for my very helpful and logical husband who presented me with great questions and kept an open dialogue on these philosophies, I may still be stuck. He challenged me on some of the beliefs I held, which prompted me to really wonder if I was wrong about my New Age ideas. When it came to the subject of synchronicity, I started to feel like I was some sort of conspiracy theorist, making ghostly connections, and the entire universe had been the conspirator. Contemplation of this made me feel quite silly, so I began searching for other explanations to the patterns that kept showing up in my reality, and what I found was elegant and actually quite simple: a concept called “confirmation bias”.

Confirmation bias is the tendency for us to only view information that conforms with our already existing belief systems. So if I see 333 everywhere I go, it’s because my brain was actively seeking it. That’s what it does to aid survival, but I was giving the patterns a deeper meaning because I desired so badly for my beliefs to be true. Yet seeing these things over and over again did not make me psychic or special; it only highlighted my wishful thinking and genetic disposition to pattern seek. I simply wanted this to have deeper meaning because, for one, I didn’t want my New Age beliefs to be wrong, and two, I longed for the universe to hold my short life in high regard. My bias simply had to be important, and no one could prove me wrong better than myself. Thus, I learned more about confirmation bias, and subsequently threw the idea of synchronicity into the garbage.

“I want to believe as many true things, and few false things as possible.”
-Matt Dillahunty

Sometimes we struggle to be right so much that it can actually feel like we are attempting to survive. After all, if our outlook on reality is incorrect, it takes a lot of effort to relearn how to view things with more skepticism. We are not our worldview, and must find a way to separate these things from our actual identity to get beyond them. For me, it took seeking the contrast to my beliefs to really pull myself out of the mind of woo. Every day is a struggle, since I’ve surrounded myself with bias confirming people from tribes of the not-so-distant past. I have had to take a hard look at my previous self through others, and it’s never easy. But, in order to have a rational, more accurate outlook on life, it’s well worth the effort to me. In the words of Matt Dillahunty, “I want to believe as many true things, and few false things as possible.”