Sunday, August 15, 2010

Giving up imaginary friends

I am moving across the country soon, and that means lots of cleaning and packing. I have pulled things out of the closet and from under the bed that go back as far as elementary school. It is odd rummaging through personal items like this; it is as if I am rummaging through my own past. Touching the items brings back wonderful/terrible/tepid memories which are linked to sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and feelings. Many of you will experience this phenomenon (if you haven't already) and so it's difficult to share anything original here. However, I wanted to share with you a few of the things I have come across while packing. Two items in particular have brought back a deluge of memories and have confounded my decision to treasure or trash them: one will be kept and the other one will not. Here is a list of some things I have found while packing, and the last one represents my final step in giving up imaginary friends.

Many things I still want to keep: pictures with friends, awards earned, first piano books played from, greeting and personal cards from friends and family over the years.

Some things will obviously be thrown away: old school notes, college dorm room posters, connection cables to a camera that was lost years ago.

A few things will be thrown away with relish: reminders of bad relationships in the past, left-over Christian literature from a different time in my life.

One thing will be burned with ecstasy: Harun Yahya's creationist book, Atlas of Creation, which has served as coffee table book to gawk at with visitors. I remember it being sent to my mentor at Duke - she quickly discarded it and it wound up in my home as a point of hilarity among my friends and especially the Bettors. It's time to move on and that enormous monstrosity of a book will be good for warmth on a cool night and an excuse to get the Bettors together for some quality, heathen good time.

One thing will be kept, though my instinct was to throw it away or burn it: my journal from spring semester of sophomore year in college. The journal spans roughly eight months, surrounding my study abroad in Spain. This is back in the days when I dated girls and was a Bible-believing Christian. Reading the first entries of this journal were gut-wrenching. Such a stupid, silly young guy - confused about sexuality and even more confused by the universe. The beginning of that journal represented my thoughts unfiltered, yet imbued by the world-view of the small, conservative, hardcore Christian upbringing of my childhood. It pains me to see how lost I was then, and how the people I trusted were not the ones who would lead me out of the woods. After reading a few of the early entires I wanted to throw the journal away, and so I did. And I sat there. Then I picked it up out of the trash can and kept

reading - month three, month five, month seven. I changed so much over those eight months. I came out of the closet to my girlfriend. I started to seriously question basic religious and theological paradigms. Questions - by the end of the journal it is filled with questions. I found solace in quotes by Albert Einstein, Oscar Wilde, and Michael Shermer. The seeds of questioning had been implanted, and this journal represented the time of my life when those seeds were nurtured and fertilized. I cannot throw this journal away - I will keep it and cherish it.

One thing has been most difficult to throw away, but today it has finally landed in the trashcan: my teen study bible (see image). It has been packed away under my bed for the last five years - untouched, unused, but worn at the seams from the decade of use during my adolescence. It has been packed away because of some unrecognizable emotional connection to it the last time I came across it. Now the edges are shorn, and the margins are filled with thoughts, references to other verses, and prayers. Many selfish prayers, some unselfish prayers, few original thoughts. It represents a time in my life when I relied on the authority of others to answer the important questions, and a time when I often spoke out loud to an imaginary person (or persons - I could never quite figure out the trinity). One major difference between my bible and every other book I own, is the number of questions written in the margins. In fact, I cannot find even one question scribbled anywhere. I have many answers and references written inside, but no questions. It has bee

n many years since I last prayed (around five or six) and I realize now that any former ambition to read and study the bible was stymieing my personal and intellectual growth. It is of no use to me now, like a sock with holes in it. It is old, dirty, and I harbor negative feelings towards it, like an ex-boyfriend's toothbrush. It represents a childhood, fairy-tale belief. It is now in a place where socks with holes, old ex-boyfriends' toothbrushes, and imaginary friends belong: the garbage.

I recommend to any Christians out there still reading this that you take the only good piece of advice that your bible has to offer:

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."

--1 Corinthians 13:11