thread: 2005-08-05 : Going Home

On 2005-08-09, Thor Olavsrud wrote:

I'm pretty late to this conversation, but I figured I'd share anyway. The whole religious upbringing thing is pretty alien to me. I was raised in a completely secular family.

I mean, I know my dad was Lutheran, because he was Norwegian. And I know my mom is Jewish, cause, well, my grandpa's name was Abraham and his brother's name was Saul. But that's about the extent of it.

I never wrestled with god as a child, or even gave it much thought.  But it seemed like the sort of thing I "should" be concerned with. I mean, everybody else puts such emphasis upon it. I always figured life was a matter of trying to make yourself happy while not stepping on any toes and doing right by everyone else. Cause why make other people miserable when this is what we got?

On the other hand, growing up on the Eastern shore of Maryland, there are a lot of religious people and a lot of WASPs (Catholics too, but they all kinda look the same, you know?). There are very few Jews and even fewer Norwegians. So I think that difference kinda spurred me to pursue my heritage on both fronts in an intellectual kind of way. I actually read the Torah and New Testament. Parts of it spoke to me philosophically and ethically, much of it spoke to me as a literary work of beauty, none of it spoke to my spirit.

Meanwhile I went to college a couple years early. And late in my third year, my dad died. I had always been really close to my dad, but I'd been away at school for three years, and hadn't seen him that much, and now he was gone and I hadn't even been there. I felt really guilty about that for a long, long time, and for the first time, I really, really, sincerely wanted to believe. Just so I could hold onto the idea that somewhere, sometime, I'd have the opportunity to be with my dad again.

I convinced myself that I believed, in an agnostic sort of way, after struggling with it for a long time. There had to be a Plan to give purpose to my hurting so bad.

Then I met a girl that I really wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Maybe there was something to this Plan thing. Things were looking up. But you know, despite loving each other, despite working at it, it just didn't work. And we painfully called it quits after 5 years of marriage.

I think the last part of me that was stubbornly clinging to that vestigial belief in a Plan just let go right there. Sure, I felt empty for a long time after that (still do on occasion), but it had nothing to do with giving up on the idea of a Plan. I actually found that kind of comforting, because there's nothing outside me that's directing my happiness or my suffering. There's me and there's chance, and that's it.

Just as a side note in this already really long post, my younger brother, raised in the same household as me, under the same conditions, has become a born again Southern Baptist since my father's death. I guess his ability to believe, or to convince himself that he believes (I can't really tell), is stronger than mine.

And Wow! I think I know exactly what Matt was talking about in his first post. This wound up far longer, and is far more revealing, than I originally intended. But that's kinda liberating too.


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