In some key respects I remain the same, but I was altogether a very different person in high school. I spent most of my time awake, with roughly 4 hours of sleep each night. I always did extra credit work, and much like Belle, my best and truest friend was the librarian, because she knew what I liked to do with my spare time: read.
|Why did the anglophile cross the street? Because it was Abbey Road.|
I attended one final service project with my Methodist church in my sophomore year, but made it my last truly Christian church participation. Even on that trip, I feared that these people who I loved (and who loved me) would find out I didn't quite believe in all the supernatural bits, though I cherished volunteering and singing with them.
So when I came across this collection of poems by T.H. White, my mind was as open and sponge-like as could be. Not a label of Christian, or of anything really (other than anglophile) stuck to me. I was enamoured with science (biology especially), politics, world history, transcendentalism and many other things, but so undecided, so green.
My favorite poem from that collection was actually a pair of poems. Reading them, and then reciting them in my head later, marked a milestone in my eye-opening journey of doubt. For that newly non-Christian, brainy 16-year old, I'm sure you'll see why. They're also quite lovely:
God is love, the parson whined.
Yes, and is he also blind?
God is love, the bishops tell.
Yes, I know, But love is hell.
What a beautiful demonstration of how man's attempts to define god are so easily shown to be nonsensical. God is love, he is omnipotent, but he's also blind. God is immaterial, unknowable, yet he wore sandals and wrote a haphazard collection of books. And I'll agree with the parson and bishop here, love is wonderful. Yet at the same time, as White points out, love can make us feel like we're stumbling blindly through the fires of hell.
Surely some attempts to define god are beautiful or awe-inspiring, as anyone who has been in a temple or church and befriended the congregants will tell you. Yet when these attempts are looked at clearly, they all share a common non-sense. Nonsense is sometimes beautiful, yes, and sometimes joyous (think Monty Python), but I have found in the years since discovering these poems that non-sense is simply not at the heart of what I choose to base my life and values on.
Nonsense has crept into my life before, and I expect it will again and again. But the very core of me has grown to treat the appearance of nonsense not as something to worship or revere, but as a valuable human learning experience. As a chance to refine and question, and to arrive at a truer (if not always better) state than before. These are my values. To become more alive and able to create positive change by becoming more accurately aware of reality. In all its awful terribleness, in all its outstanding beauty.
|[Untitled] Original watercolour by T.H. White.|
Image Credit here, via the family of author and evolutionary anthropologist Elaine Morgan.