I’m almost 40. This September I cross that age threshold. That makes 20 years of non-belief.
My level of non-belief ebbed and flowed for a long time before I finally came out of that closet and eventually started this blog. During my closeted years, I searched for liberal views that were more accepting of my completely changed view of “god”. I tried to embrace different euphemism. That’s to say, when I said god, I meant me. When I prayed, it was to the universe, to nothingness, because sometimes that’s all that hears our hopes.
Why am I writing all this?
I don’t know.
Creatively, I feel like I’m producing more work than I ever have in my entire career. Not only is it more work, the quality of work has never reached this level. I feel I have so much more to learn. But I’ve also never felt like the work I’ve done in the past ever meant a good god damn.
But as an artist, I have never been as deathly afraid to share my work as I do now. When I share work now, it’s forced. I’m marketing, because, well, if I don’t, my business may suffer.
A few months ago, two different clients criticized some of my work and double-handedly created a sense of insecurity in my head that I can not shake.
I haven’t blogged in goddamn forever. I know. Not here anyway.
Between business, a decline in blogging motivation, and that WordPress now requires that I pay an annual fee to house digital media, I felt the need to back off of blogging at Le Café.
I miss you guys. I miss you all a lot. This blog had reached hit counts of over 30,000 to 35,000 per month.
This blog descended from one defined by my expression of non-religious beliefs to one centered around my day-to-day work and art, which caused a rift between loyal readership to a drastically declined one. This was something I did to alleviate the stresses I started to feel regarding my conservative-Christian family.
I chose family over fans. Morally, you’d think that was the right choice.
You’d think that, wouldn’t you?
My family reads this blog — or at least used to — and I came to a conclusion that blogging about atheism created a larger rift between my family and me.
So I dialed it back. Way back. And then stopped.
I stopped to encourage a healthier, more productive relationship with my family. And at times, it seems to work. Other times, not so much.
Before all of the blog changes, I stopped any direct atheistic or liberal expression Facebook. I even told my family that it was the reason for backing off. I hoped it would encourage a reciprocated effort. It hasn’t.
Oddly enough, with certain family members, I feel it’s worse. And there’s a part of me that wants badly to divorce myself from the entirety of all that. It hurts too badly to continue, and I am finding myself somewhat close to what’s termed as one’s “wit’s end.”
I stopped believing around twenty years old. I don’t think I’m right about atheism. But I don’t think religious people are right either. Atheism is the closest mindset that reflects my views.
If you need someone to criticize atheism, give me few hundred thousand words and I’ll give you a great breakdown.
And that’s the same for religion.
But I can write a zillion words to back either up. Either. That’s the rub. I can defend religion just as well as I did as a teen. Why? Because I get it. At least I think I do.
Again, why am I writing this?
I’m at my wit’s end for sure.
Another reason: last week I heard a raucous out front of my condo. We’re on the third floor, and when I looked outside there was a police cruiser, an ambulance and a fire truck.
A group of people were out front, and one of them was my next-door neighbor Natalie. “I’m going to go down and see what’s up,” I called out to Tina. “Natalie’s out there, too. Just curious what’s up.”
When I exited my front door, I saw my neighbor with other folks just in front of our fence and neighbor’s fence to the south.
At first, I thought they were looking at something across the street. When I got closer, though, I could see paramedics were surrounding a man lying down on the sidewalk. Seconds later, one of the paramedics started chest compressions on the man. Another group of paramedics were wheeling a gurney from the ambulance to the sidewalk.
There were some six or seven people attending to man.
Once they got him on the gurney and into the ambulance, my neighbor and another man informed me that they had discovered the man slumped in front of the fence, and that when Natalie — a nurse — felt for a pulse, she could feel a faint one. Then she felt nothing. Seconds later, the paramedics came.
They took over.
The man died on the sidewalk. He was in in his fifties. Looked a little over weight. Gray hair. A dirty t-shirt and shorts.
He lived with two dogs in a building two doors down. I had never seen him before.
He died on the sidewalk.
Right in front of my building. Wait, right in front of me.
Seeing this certainly sparked thoughts of mortality. Of revisiting the ideas of heaven and hell, of afterlife. It caused me to review my perception that none of that exists. It caused question.
I think about religion — and my place outside of it — more than any other topic.
And the questions did not overwhelm my view that neither exist. And that doesn’t depress me.
What depresses me is that it’s this kind of thinking that might cause division between my beloved family, my loved ones, my life.
But I have to be okay with it. Right?
I mean, I feel much more at home in the thought that this life is it. That’s all. And soaking up the experience takes priority, rather than the idea that I’ll have eternity to cherish my loved ones.
It creates a wildly oppressive fear of not being an all-around decent person when hanging out with my believing family. It means that I stuff back thoughts and ideas for the sake of the whole. But damn does it hurt when those types of values aren’t reciprocated.
Who me? Officiate a wedding? What the fuck.
One validating moment, though, was two weeks ago. I photographer friend asked to visit with Tina and me. He’s soon to be married. Usually when these kinds of things means you are going to read or stand up.
But the request for for Tina and I to officiate the wedding. Tina, because she represents spirituality for the bride. And me, because i represent skepticism for the groom.
My views have become much more private. And I feel it’s hurting me. Or at least part of me.
But it feels so damn good to be appreciated for my views. This is the highest honor. Marriage is so important to me. It’s the best thing about life and I wish I would have married much younger. Much sooner.
This scenario deserves a stupid metaphor. My life is a game of poker. Sometimes it’s a shitty hand. Sometimes it’s a royal flush. And it’s sometimes everything in between.
I’m up when I’m in my element here in Chicago; doing my art, cooking for Tina, being a husband, a friend to many, and an asshole to others.
And that’s worth everything to me.