a past full of wasted present

I’ve always had a very clear vision of what my life will look like once I become a grown up.

I’ll live in an old, light filled house; the kind where if you leave the front and back doors open, a soft breeze flows right through the middle. It will be a calm house in a quiet suburb, with a white picket fence whose paint is peeling off in lazy flakes. In my house there’ll be a room that’s only mine, filled with so many books that they’re piled in the corners, and a fat couch on which I can sit to read them. Days will pass slowly and I’ll spend them nestled at my desk in a nook near the window, writing glorious words. My house will have red saucepans and floral wall paper and out the back a big garden, where vegetables and flowers will grow in a sort of crazy, hap hazard harmony.

In my house I’ll have a border collie whose name will be Mack, and she and I will go running together in the afternoons. And there’ll be nosey chooks that roam the yard and who we are forever shooing out of the kitchen. We’ll string fairy lights along the porch and our friends will visit on Friday evenings to drink bottles of wine. On Sunday mornings we’ll sit on the front steps, listening to vinyls, with bed hair and big cups of tea, and the slightly too long grass will be just one more testimony to our absolute contentment. Life will be so great; I’ll be so happy when I grow up.

 

Ever since ever I was a kid I’ve had trouble living in the current moment, preferring instead to while away perfectly valid years of my life, waiting for things to get wonderful. Impatient as the day is long, I’ve dismissed so much of my present, considering it nothing but a necessary inconvenience which must be endured in order to obtain my fantastic future. Sadly, it didn’t occur to me that by remaining idle I was wasting precious years; that what I should have been doing was getting busy with my here and now.

Since downing tools at the end of last year, things have become a lot clearer. In the last couple of months, I’ve done more to actively fashion my life’s canvas than I’d done in the preceding decade. Sure, I’d played some big cards in that time; a visit to Africa, a few sweet moments in Europe. But when I returned from these adventures, I stupidly settled right back into a sort of passive discontentment.

For so long I believed it was normal for daily existence to be ordinary. During this time I owed my survival and sanity to fleeting moments of brilliance, snatched through rare displays of spontaneity. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I’d do what any conservative soul would do on the verge of a mental breakdown; I’d chuck a sickie. Then, fuelled by the short fused euphoria of stolen time, I’d cram as much living as I could into that single evening. I’d stay up all night, playing music, painting, writing, drinking booze and end it all with a pre dawn stroll through the sleeping streets. Finally, utterly exhausted, I’d crawl beneath the folds of doona, just as dreaded first light forced its way through my bedroom window, reminding me that time never stops and that the previous evening was nothing but a self indulgent, pointless protest. I see now that setting my sights on a distant, romanticised future was my way of enduring what I felt was a deeply unsatisfying existence.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve wasted the best part of my twenties learning a simple yet vital life lesson: if you want to wander off the beaten track, you will have to pave your own path. And for the first time, I’m doing just that. I didn’t know it then, but it was on those rare stolen nights that I was tasting the true essence of living; the rest was nothing but an empty waiting. Now suddenly my life has begun, and I have some serious catching up to do.

 

I watched a speech by the late Steve Jobs this week. He was addressing an audience of young people at their university graduation. What he told them really stuck in my gut. He said that to live a successful life, you have to find what you love. He urged his audience to never settle, and to continue searching until they discover their passion. He stressed that this is the only way to ever be truly satisfied, so once you find what you love, you have to remain true to it, no matter how hard this might seem.

I like it when someone successful says something like that. It reassures me that I’m on the right track; that as tough as it may at first appear, paving your own way is not only possible, but for a life worth living, it’s necessary.

Until recently, my past has been filled with wasted present; years spent waiting expectantly for a future that never arrives. Now I finally understand that it’s impossible to exist anywhere but in the here and now. And you know what? For the first time in my life, that’s exactly where I want to be.

 

 

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the problem with god

My Beef With the Big Guy In Two Parts

There are very few topics that are almost certain to cause rifts and divisions, even amongst the closest of friends. Regardless of how delicately you approach the subject, you can almost guarantee that a discussion of religious beliefs will end with somebody feeling offended, marginalised or ridiculed; unless you’re fortunate enough to be talking purely with like minded individuals, in which case it will be less of a discussion and more of an open and shut ‘amen brother’ with either religious or ironic sentiment, depending on the company in question.

Spirituality is something that we take very personally, as it’s a subject on which many of us have spent significant periods of time reflecting in order to articulate, at least on an internal level, how we feel and where we stand. My personal opinions on the matter are many and varied and have endured an almost constant state of flux over the years. The basis of my current convictions can be found below.

NB I think it’s worth noting that the God to whom I’m referring throughout this text is the Christian God; the only one with whom I have any experience. Though I imagine the points raised may resonate for many religions, perhaps especially western varieties.

If you are easily offended, perhaps tune out now. You have been warned.

 

Part One: The Almighty Bollocks

I was raised in an open minded household where we were encouraged from a young age to question the world as a way of formulating opinions that were our own. I was sent to Sunday School every week until I was twelve years old in order that I might be able to make an informed decision regarding my stance on religion. As a teenager, I frequented religious youth groups where the majority of attendees considered themselves to be devout believers (even if many were apparently more than a little confused about what this actually meant). So I guess it would be fair to say that over the years I have more than dappled with religion.

I have a lot of respect for religious parables and the morals of the scriptures; that we should treat others how we would like to be treated and that we shouldn’t steal or lie or covet someone else’s missus are all good ideals by which I am happy to live.

What I don’t like however, is this God character. The original Big Brother, this fellow allegedly has access to all of our innermost thoughts and feelings and is responsible for all the good stuff that happens to us whilst simultaneously staking no claim whatsoever over the bad stuff (which probably occurred as a result of our sinner status to either make us stronger or punish us, depending on which disciple you ask).

I have serious issues with the notion that we’re all dirty sinners who need to be purged through devotion to some omniscient being who apparently created us as a trip for his own ego (‘worship me!’). This is psychological blackmail at its finest. When I was a little girl my mum decided she didn’t want a family any longer and so left for greener pastures, leaving my dad and us four kids to fend for ourselves. After being taught about the power of prayer at church, I prayed to God every night for longer than I can remember so that he might send my mum home. Of course, she never came back. According to the lessons taught at scripture, this meant one of three things: I wasn’t praying for something important enough, God didn’t think I needed the thing for which I was pleading, or I wasn’t a good enough believer to have my prayers answered. None of these reasons are without grim ramifications for the seven year old psyche.

I suppose the point to which I have always returned is that if there is a God, he isn’t a very nice one. War and death, the invention of evil and the alleged role of women aside, the primary reason I don’t think he’s much of a good guy is the way he is trying to trick us. Why should he insist we rest the fate of our eternal lives on a matter of blind faith? Surely he would be happier to know that he had created thoughtful and critical beings who didn’t accept the (let’s face it) whimsical claims written down by some other dude, but rather wanted to know a truth before we would up and die for it. If there was a God, I would have a lot more respect for the guy if he was to come right out and, with a big old PA system rigged up in the clouds by Moses and the roadies say something like: “Look, here I am. I created you guys from nothing but my own mind’s fancy. And I made the sunrise and lady beetles and every single blade of grass, too. Isn’t that excellent? I deserve a bit of praise, don’t you reckon? Think about me on Sundays and try to be good to one another. Then when this is all over, come on up here and we’ll all hang out. Because I love you. Peace out, guys.”

Instead, this God fellow wants us to believe in him for no reason other than just because. And for those of us who weigh it all up and conclude that we think the notion of an afterlife is pretty far fetched, and that the scientific explanations of things sits more comfortably with us? We are punished by an eternity of fire and brimstone. Nah, man. Not cool.

 

Part Two: Making Peace

After fighting with God for so many years, one cannot help but feel a little exhausted. So recently I made a peace with the topic of God and this has resulted in my achieving a genuine sense of inner calm regarding this issue. You see, I have always been a spiritual person, if in a very secular way. Every morning when I wake up, I fill my lungs with air and smile that I am alive. I go for walks in the evenings and get so filled with the beauty of things that I get this uncontrollable desire to yell really loudly and hug perfect strangers with a firmness that could be disarming. Seeing the moon glowing up in that crazy blue and the waves thundering onto the shore overwhelms me to a point of breathlessness.

Recently it hit me that perhaps these are feelings that some people attribute to their God. That for them, these feelings are God; that he is just a word they can use to sum up their love for the world, for their lives, for friendships and family. And I realised, too, that when we die, nothing ever ceases to be; the energies that allowed us to laugh during our time are simply released into the world where they are absorbed by other living things, so that the boom that beats my drum might one day help a flower to bloom or a butterfly to break free of its cocoon, or perhaps something less poetic but equally as deserving. : )

Since time and memoriam religion has had this fatal ability of dividing us all. Surely in the twenty first century we have the mental tools required to realise that as a collective humanity we have more commonalities than we do differences and that this truth extends to religion.

For me, there is no God in the sense that the Bible dictates. Rather, God is simply a metaphor created to explain to small children the divine nature of life. In which case, God is neither good nor bad. She doesn’t favour righteousness over other human conditions, she doesn’t punish or reward and she has no idea or interest in what you are thinking. In saying that, she is very beautiful, and without her we wouldn’t be here.

It’s time to stop being accountable to archaic scriptures and the conventions of organised religion which were set forward to control the masses all those years ago. The folks of the past were unwillingly the ignorant and the indoctrinated. In the twenty first century, the Bible should be considered nothing more than a literary masterpiece and an historical artefact. At this pivotal point in the pilgrimage of humanity, let’s take charge, and allow our minds to be the key to our freedom.