I just had Thanksgiving dinner. My dad stayed on a computer in another room while my mother, my three little brothers and myself sat around a table eating Kraft Easy Mac and some chicken, watching I Love Lucy re-runs. My younger sister did not come home, but remained at her apartment in Provo. My seven-year-old brother (whom my parents refuse to allow baptism) sighed, "This was the worst Thanksgiving ever."
I'm sitting here at my computer, and I'm looking at some books around me. I raided the library this week; a co-worker asked if I was experiencing some sort of spiritual schizophrenia. There's the Bible on my left covered with an old Batman comic, and the Qur'an (Koran) on my right. There's a book by Nietzsche stacked on top of The Problem of God in Modern Thought,Teachings of the Dali Lama, and a Johnny Cash album. A book about karma sits on my floor next to an article on Christianity from U.S. and World Report. On top of my dresser sits my Yankees baseball hat, the I Ching and three coins.
I don't know if you're familiar with the I Ching. I wasn't until the other night when I was in a bookstore and impulsively bought it. I didn't realize it was considered an oracle by millions throughout the centuries, and I'd paid $10 for some sort of divinitation device. I decided that I would try using it, and I tossed the coins wrong the first couple times, getting strange answers to nonsensical questions like "How's the weather?" But then I decided to be serious. In this schizophrenia I'm experiencing, I'm trying to feel out where I can fit in spirituality, once and for all. I've established that I do believe in a God, and in Christ. I believe in the idea of karma, but I won't accept karma itself just yet because it rules out the need for a Christ. This is what independence is, I guess. Living on my own has taught me that I can't take anything for granted anymore, and I'm being forced to re-evaluate my concept of God. I have realized that most of my life, my idea of God was divided into two illusions: a harsh divine dictator who only favors the Mormons, or a mysterious Creator quasi-billions of who knows what far away. I cannot fit the father figure into my concept of God. I never found out who God was for myself, or Christ. I just relied on happy feelings and the testimonies of others. As Nietzsche famously proclaimed, I found that God really was dead to me.
So with anticipation, I tossed the three coins and asked, "What is the relationship of the I Ching to God?" I guess I was wondering how the book would help me in my search for a connection to God. I don't know what answer I was expecting, but I didn't expect the answer I received minutes later. The answer was: "Limitation." That I Ching, the books around me, and many of my choices lately could only help me with so much, but in the end could not get me all the answers I'm looking for. I was limiting myself in my search and growth by finding answers in narrow places. I didn't expect something as mystical as an ancient oracle to admit it was too "limited" to help me find God. I almost laughed out loud.
Because it seemed ridiculous. With everything that had been going wrong lately - from recent relapses, to the loss of friends (one being forbidden by parents to associate with a 19-year-old not on a mission), to family disturbances, to failing at school - I felt like I was standing on the edge of a shore, looking into nothingness. Deciding to find God suddenly felt like a joke and a duty at the same time.
So it's Thanksgiving, and I'm trying to find my blessings, but I see only a wide expanse of oblivion around me. A waste land. And when I try to think about things I'm grateful for, I draw a blank. Everything I was grateful for - my friends like Ammon or Ben or Eric, my family relations, and my testimony...all of that has disappeared in less than a year. I've been completely wasted away to find...what? Memories? My music? (I thank God for U2 and the Beatles, and all my music - and I don't mean that flippantly.) One can be grateful for memories and music, I guess. But they are "limitations." They can't congratulate you, or hold you, or even kiss you.
I don't mean to sound like I'm complaing. I want to say: feeling like the only person in the universe has taught me to appreciate one thing, and be grateful for another. I appreciate love, and I believe I'm coming closer to understanding what love is and is not. As the great John Lennon once said, "In the end, the love you give is equal to the love you get." And I pondered a few times if I made the right choice in not committing suicide over the summer. This is undoubtedly the worst time of my life. But, for some strange reason, I am excited and glad to be alive for it. It's strange...Indeed, in years to come I may look at this year and say "Those aren't my happiest memories, but they're my most important." And maybe, with that mentality, my limitations will act as signs to guide me down the right road. Then, I'm grateful for my limits.
Happy Thanksgiving, all!