Sunday, March 13, 2011

Go Get Em, Tiger

I know what the expression means, but "He's the kind of man who knows what he wants and goes after it" has never resonated with me.  My problem has always (always) been the first part.  I don't know what I want.  I have no problem with the "going after it" part.  Back in the days of my impressionable youth, all it took was for somebody to tell me what it was I wanted and I went after it and got it.

In high school it was a girlfriend.  I had several--really nice girls--the best friends I could hope for at the time and real "catches" too--but ultimately it seemed like I had them the way I had clean underwear on whenever I went somewhere.  I had them because I was urged to have them.  I had them because you never know if and when something might happen to you, so you had better be ready.

In church it was a personal relationship with God.  I had that.  Maybe too much of that.  I was raised believing "once saved always saved," and if that's really true then I am saved still, even though I am an atheist and do not believe in salvation specifically--not at least in a God who requires a blood atonement, not even one who's willing to put up his own son to seal the deal, especially such a God.  I suppose my old crowd would tell me that I never was saved to begin with, but I tell you now, from the depths of my soul, if I was not saved, then nobody is saved.  I was earnest.  I was transparently trusting in the unseen.   I spoke to God every day and convinced myself I could hear him speaking to me in return.  I read the bible cover to cover three times a year from age sixteen to age twenty-four.  People think it's Darwin or Nietzsche that turns guys like me into atheists, but for me it was God's holy and inerrant word that did the trick.  Reading it so much, I got jaded, I suppose.  It simply started to seem ridiculous.  I never decided not to believe in God, any more than I decided not to believe in the tooth fairy.  It's just that, after a while, I discovered I no longer did.  In fact, I suspect there were five or so years there when I thought I still believed--just because it was what I was used to and what, I thought, I was supposed to do--but looking back I was an infidel in fact well before I was ready to accept that I was.  

Sticking with this point a bit further, some people would assume that my homosexuality turned me into an atheist.  My mother thought so.  When I first told her I was gay--she who had once warned me that if she ever found out I was gay (see, she must have suspected), she would put a bullet through my head (the one thing you've got to hand to Christians is that they have no qualms at all about killing off their only sons)--she gasped, hurt, and spurted out, "Then you must not be a Christian!"  Which was a fact, but with uncharacteristic clear-headedness I replied, "Let's just take things a step at a time."  Some might say the church's stance against gays and lesbians, the transgendered, the bi, might have pushed me away from God.  I can say for sure the Christian church's homophobia did not help matters, but, no, sorry, even if I were straight as Roy Rogers, I would probably be an atheist today.

I would never have gone for my doctorate had there not been professors in college who saw some ability in me and urged me to pursue my education further.  Graduate school was never on my must-do list.  It was not even on my nice-to-do list.  The biggest dream I had for myself, back then, was either to teach at a Christian private school or at a mission school abroad.  It's a good thing I had those professors.  I can't imagine the shit hole I would be in today if gay as a three dollar bill and faithless as the devil, I were teaching at a Christian school--probably married, with kids, too.  Thank God (ahem) that's not a hole I ever dug for myself.

I would like money, but how much?  I don't know.  I'm deliriously happy so long as my pockets are full.  I might like a lover, but what kind?  I don't know.  I'm not sure that a long-term relationship is even for me--or just one of those things I should want--or had better want unless I want to die of AIDS.  Again, the LTR as clean BVDs!  The thought of buying a new car makes me physically sick.  I can more easily imagine my own death (apologies to Freud) than I can imagine liking a house so much that I would want to buy it and live in it.  (By the way, I'm a renter, not a hobo.)  There's not a whole lot that I want that I don't have.  Some Blu-Ray disks, some books, some more Coca-Cola Zero, some more years with my dog Tom Ripley. 

I feel reasonably content with my life as it is.  People say I'm hard to shop for.  The real problem is I'm way too easy.  If there ever was a real "the thought is what counts" kind of guy, it's me.  On birthdays (and lesser holidays) I just want to hang out, usually with just a few friends, quietly, humorously, maybe a bit drunkenly.  The two times in my life people (in both cases, people I didn't know well and, in both cases, against the advice of friends who did) threw me big surprise parties, the surprise was on them--for the life of me I couldn't be convincingly appreciative of the imposition, thoughtful though it undoubtedly was.

Maybe I'm this way because, for the first fifteen years of my life, my father was in the military, and in the military (even if you're just a GI's dependent) you don't have any wants.  You do what you're told to do. You want nothing, "but to do and die."  Or maybe my experience has been that when I have gotten what I wanted, I quickly realize it is nothing I wanted at all and am bitterly disappointed with the vanity of existence--like that kid at the end of "Araby."  Or maybe I'm just a weak-willed kind of guy--stubborn, but no gumption, no get up and go, perhaps.  Maybe I'm just a sorry excuse for a man.  But like the bald girl says, "I do not want what I haven't got."

You know that trick you're supposed to play on genies?  Where you're granted three wishes, but your third wish is always for three more wishes?  That's just one more thing I understand intellectually, without feeling very deeply.  Even as a child, still bursting with hopes and dreams, I was petrified by the pressure of coming up with three whole wishes.  I couldn't do it.  I'd be doing well to come up with two. And why do I not believe in an afterlife of some kind?  I just can't imagine its being much fun, so I'd prefer to concentrate on enjoying what comes to me in this life.  And it does come, just not all at once, and it's often not what you could have imagined, so it's never what you could have hoped for.

Lacking ambition, as I do, makes being idle a whole lot easier to do.  I have no particular hopes, so I have no particular worries of their never coming to pass.  So now that I am grown, an independent thinker, with a stubborn streak, I don't much care what other people think I ought to be going after.  But it does make me a little sad, at times, not so very often really, to think that I'm the type of man who doesn't know what he wants.

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