“A recent struggle with my idea of spirituality has, as well as certain existential conundrums, left me wondering “where am I?”, there are also other crises of self awareness that are troubling me, but I wont go into those in this letter.
So where was I?…oh yes! where am I?
Well I’m on my bed, in my room, in my parents house in the small town of Enniscorthy, in the ocean side County of Wexford, in the Province of Leinster, in the magical land of Erin; but that’s not what I mean, I mean where am I in my life, spiritually, mentally, emotionally.
Well I know one thing, at the tender age of twenty three I don’t know if I have the spiritual, mental or emotional maturity to figure any of this out, but damn it, I’m going to try.
So spirituality…well I grew up Catholic as did most Irish children of my generation, at least the ones I grew up with. I was even an alter-boy at one stage, but despite all the stigma around it recently, I was never given any “difficulty” by any of the priests, it was a fairly pleasant experience, as pleasant as church can get I suppose. But I wouldn’t say that was significant in my being Catholic, it’s just a pithy tale that came out in the moment. I would say the biggest influence on my being Catholic was my parents and my primary school. Every morning in school we gathered in the main hall for assembly and found every way we could to misbehave before the principal got up on the stage to read announcements (most of which had to do with our parish church) after that he would start the morning prayer and hymns, when we all had to stand in lines organized by what class we were in and face the stage, standing perfectly still until the entire ordeal was over, and then would begin the systematic wearing down and remodelling of young minds that was the primary school education.
I am making it sound a whole lot worse than it was, but then, I’m a very dramatic person when I find a situation that warrants it.
My exposure to Catholicism didn’t stop there, my parents made sure that every week we spent Sunday morning in church doing our weekly aerobics workout, standing up, kneeling down, then standing up again, then sitting, then kneeling again and finally sitting down before we were aloud to leave and go about our Sunday playing video games or watching television or whatever we could find to try and forget that first hour of the day. Not to mention all the really good things being Catholic did for us like, Christmas and Easter for example, and although I have subsequently learned that they are not originally Christian holidays, that didn’t seem to stop going to church on those days as well.
I wouldn’t have described myself as a devout Catholic, I don’t know what that is, I definitely believed in God and Satan, Heaven and Hell and these were ideas that were very deeply embedded in my mind, I did believe that I was a sinner and that at some point I would have to repent for all of those sins or when I died I would be plunged straight into the depths of hell,I believed whole heartedly that when I got to heaven I would be greeted by all my family members and I lived my life under those beliefs for thirteen or maybe fourteen years, then I had an awakening, an epiphany moment in the middle of church and realised “holy shit!!’ everyone is chanting and bowing to someone we’ve only ever heard about from some fruit in a dress…what the fuck am I doing in this circus” and within the space of about five minutes after a serious inner debate I decided these people are all mental and I need to find some way of getting out of coming to this every week, so I discovered Heavy Metal music, which only threw fuel on the fire, I then proceeded to grow my hair long and wear black clothing with satanic, sometimes just eldritch but always cool images on them. Now I don’t know if this had anything to do with the fact that we started going to church less and less but it certainly seem like it may have been a factor, my life was mine now, even though I still had to go to school and be in bed by twelve, but at least I wasn’t afraid of going to hell if i disobeyed my parents and stayed up for an extra four or five hours.
I was off the millenarian band wagon and living it up on the existentialist express train, on my way to self awareness, truth was all I cared about now, I didn’t want to know about religion or spirituality or heaven or anyone or anything trying to run my life, I was taking matters into my own hands, I was learning an instrument, I was meeting new people and I was neglecting school, the latter being something I would definitely end up regretting later. Anyway I was now an Atheist, trying to discover truth, a mission that would lead me to another Atheist, Friedrich Neitzsche.
His life interested me more than his writings, though “Thus spoke Zarathustra” has meant a lot to me, to me he was modern day prophet, living in the mountains cut off from the world with naught but the wisdom of nature to learn from, I felt like one of Jack Keruak’s “Dharma Bums” everytime i read TSZ, like I was reading from ancient knowledge and I wanted to be like him.
I then discovered John N Gray and his book “Straw Dogs” and he talked about Neitzsche’s work being based on the same principals as Christianity and it made sense and I was crushed, this truth that I had put so much value to, was based on a lie.”
This was a letter I wrote to myself earlier this year, a rather overly dramatic ending wouldn’t you say?
I have since discovered through long deliberation that being a humanist and being spiritual do not have to be separate things, the search for the truth is, at least in my opinion a search of the self, and that is a very spiritual journey as I’m discovering every day.
for all those truth seekers and faith dealers may the force be with you.