Religious Awakening

Life is really hard to pin down. We can’t wrestle it into a box, tie a bow on top, or list some neat equations which fully and completely describe this phenomenon.

Physics might hold up the tracks, but life is a ride on the roller coaster. We aren’t seated at a desk. We’re strapped on a rocket, zooming up and plummeting down so fast our bodies cannot understand.

First as a kid, then a teenager, then a college student, and most recently as a young adult, I’ve felt varying degrees of lost or found. “Woke” it’s called nowadays. In the honesty of my soul, I’ve only felt fully woke in a few discrete instances. Certainly never for a full day.

I’ve always enjoyed simplicity. It lends certitude, elegance. The soul-soothing refuge of mathematics…what a joy! So I’ve searched for the principles undergirding my life, often unconsciously and never to any avail. Wokeness comes up behind you in the dark, I guess. Like a prankster friend avoiding the flashlight beam.

It’s tempting to stick to the math. And that’s why school is a big problem. It’s easy to get lost identifying as one of the student body. Because the student body doesn’t leave the schoolhouse, until it graduates. And that’s the end.

Opening up to adult life in its fullness can be very destabilizing. It’s a big world outside the schoolhouse. And the anchor of death is much heavier than your diploma to drag around.

I have heard that many folks find religion in their twenties, and I never understood why this might be. Surely I wouldn’t be one of those weirdos! And yet, here we are.

Today, I cried reading Pressfield’s War of Art. It’s as close to a religious experience as I can imagine. The revelation of his words, the exhortation to the devine, the logic and sanity and pragmatism—it all came together in Book 3. He spoke to me, deeply.

Accretion has occurred since day 1. And now there’s so much encumbering rubbish it’s become challenging to lift my anchor and move forward. What was so light before in the schoolhouse has grown vague and oppressive. Do I need to carry any of this? What’s it all for?

I’ve begun to crystallize my own hodgepodge of concepts and stories. Things I believe in, things that help me make sense. Religion is a strong word because faith in the right dogma is a superpower. An exoskeleton propelling us forward, an Iron Man suit that turns the ordinary day into an extraordinary experience. It might not fit on anyone else, but that’s OK. That’s religious freedom.

I’d love to know how folks fill the void in our modern, atheist-leaning world. When you eventually leave school, or when you stay long enough to become the teacher, how do you deal with the myriad assignments beyond this and next semester?

I left school when I was 17, but I couldn’t find my way out of the building until very recently. It’s taken me a good six years to even begin to orient myself. At first, I thought I’d find a map, that there would be some moment when awareness would bestow itself upon me. The problem with hope is it dies hard, dragging you stumbling along behind it.

Now I try seeing things a bit differently. I make due with a compass instead of a map. I’m at peace breathing the uncertainty in the atmosphere outside the schoolhouse. I find it pure, untainted and refreshing. I recognize that every day is a new awakening. And every turn, every choice, every action is a grateful prayer.

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