What do you know?

This summer when I made my friendship rounds, looking into people’s faces talking about ‘first principles’ and discovering in a whole new way (at fifty-six) the rest of you simply never assimilated some God-sized motive for being or action, I found I really was different. And not in a flattering way. I discovered in a rush the whole painful meaning of ‘not thinking for myself.’

There’s really nothing to rescue me from that. I think most of us, perhaps in less traditional ways, just cling to the hard-learned rules of our coming-to-being, and manage to cram whole worlds of complexity and nuance into a handful of blind beliefs. Perhaps we can even pass for ‘sophisticated’ in certain circles where our gymnastics are misinterpreted as odd wisdom.

It surprised me. It was new. I lost my ground. I got some textbooks to find out how the leading rationalists thought. Like all new impressions I’ve had, I briefly made the mistake of thinking the impression was new all around – this absence of a Big Truth; this inaccessibility of a God. But quick, I learned, you were all taught this way from infancy; sat around in colleges thrilled by the implications of language and the vast im-probe-ability of it all.

So I’m like a toddler. I’m embarrassed, rescued only a little by the fact we – none of us – ever knew what we were talking about anyway. So I can just modify a few phrases here and there, and suddenly today I appear as ‘with it’ as ever. But I’ve done what’s known as ‘losing my religion.’ And it’s affecting. I still weep. And I know nothing.

Just the beginning, that – or part of something larger. I find what crumbled away was my assurance I knew what to do. I thought God told me, I guess, or there were at least some ponderable rules which were just as solid for everybody. But I can’t find them. I want to rush into something that fits. I feel I’ve been unsettled forever.

This thing I am – it moved and commanded and obeyed according to laws forgotten. I am solely responsible for it, and I can’t believe myself. I want someone to reach out and take my hand, but there is no-one there. I try to cling to what I have, but it can feel so achingly wrong.

I can see why people worship within the structures. I understand the language of country, church, and family, because after all we will soften under the straps. And I know why I want to believe someone might truly understand me – because it’s just supposed to be that way. But nothing is true. I’m creaky and stiff, but I am the only one who will do anything. Because I am the only one who does for me.

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