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Monday, October 19, 2009

Losing and Coping: What Is Important to You?

          Halloween has at times seemed like the center of my life for the past two decades. Anyone who works a seasonal job or a job with periods that are particularly active can probably identify with this. Sometimes our work becomes such a big deal in our lives that it seems like there's nothing else, but then things slow down a bit and we find our way back to who we really are. Like a costumed Halloween character, does work mask the real you?  What is the real center of your life?

          When I was in the Halloween business, especially during September and October I put a lot of time and energy into the work.  But I tried not to lose the balance that I made a effort to maintain throughout the rest of the year.  I had my duties for several years as a single father raising three daughters and later as a husband with a step-daughter added to our combined family. I tried to keep up with church activities as much as time would allow. I would try to follow my favorite radio programs during work hours and keep abreast of the news. In any way possible I made every attempt to live my regular life with a lot more work hours added in.  I spent a lot frantic time running here and there, getting up very early and going to bed very late.  But it felt good.
            For me there's something about the pressure of meeting deadlines and having an abundance of work that is invigorating, exciting, uplifting.  I see it as positive stress.  It is all rush rush get it done and then later there is the satisfaction of having achieved the goal and knowing it starts again the next day. It was tiring, but I always knew that once Halloween came then it was  back to a more relaxing routine again for the next ten months. The adrenaline rush can be great for a span, but the times of rest are a necessity.
            Then that side of my life ended.  My daughters had already moved away from home leaving my wife and I in our empty nest. Still it was no time to get depressed or bemoan my losses.  In losing my job I didn't lose me, in fact I now have more time for me and things I didn't have time for when I was working full time. Now I'm busy doing the me things and sitting back to just take it easy if I need to.  Sure I'll need to be doing something soon about my income situation, but I'm not overly concerned because I still have the Center Of My Life.  Since childhood I've always kept God nearby. Some may scoff, but He's never let me down.  There have been times when I've turned my back on God, but He has always been there behind me to catch me when something's tried to knock me down. Even if it seemed I was forgetting God, He was always somewhere deep inside where I could call upon Him when I was ready for Him to help. I've had my share of loss and disappointment -- divorce, death, rejection, you name it -- and God has always been there to  help me get back up to do whatever it was I needed to do.  Don't mind saying it cause it's just the way I feel and it's always worked for me.
           Sometimes I hear terrible stories of people committing suicide or committing acts of murder or harm due to losses.  People who lose their jobs, their homes, or their families and they just can't bear their loss. A home or a possession or a position in life or any person should not be the "center of one's life".  All of these have the potential of being temporal assets that can be taken from you unexpectantly at any time. God is a constant. Even to an atheist God is a constant -- the atheist constantly feels the need to disprove and deny His existence.  However, without God what is the real center of life?
            What about you?  What is your center?  Who are you really when everything else is stripped from you?  Is there any person, position, or possession that you absolutely know will be there for you always?  Any of these can be like a Halloween costume.  When Halloween is over you take off the costume and then everyone can see who you really are.  Do you know the real you?


  1. I'm glad you invited me over for this post... very interesting on a number of levels!

    As an atheist, I would disagree with your statement that "God is a constant" or center point for us. Most of us only feel the need to disprove/deny/refute the existence of a higher power when someone else insists on its existence. Unless I'm interacting with someone faithful, I don't even think about it, really. I wasn't even going to mention my lack of faith here until I saw that you specifically referenced atheism!

    That said, I think that your statements about the importance of finding one's center are valid and universal. You've found a center in God that works for you, and that's awesome. For me, the center of life is... life. If my family was taken from me tomorrow, I would go on -- broken, to be sure -- because to me all that is certain in this world is THIS WORLD and we can't know what it has to offer unless we persevere through it.

    I think that something like work can mask "the real you" but can also add to it. I am a lawyer, and that will always be part of who I am even if I never practice law again. That education, those experiences, all add up to help make me the person I am now. Similarly, I will never stop being a daughter or mother even if I lose my parents or child. These things are part of my center even if they are taken away from me, because they enrich and inform and define me.

    It is often said at funerals that people never die so long as there are those that love and remember them. So, I would say that my family can never be taken away from me, because they will always be in my heart, no matter what tragedy might befall us in the future. So, too, is my own sense of self a center for me. It has to be -- there is nothing else of which I can be certain. And so every day I strive to be better, because I will always have to live with myself, so it might as well be a worthwhile place to be.

    My own conscience means more to me than what the world says. -Cicero

  2. Thank you for your intelligent and well thought response.

    Good quote from Cicero -- I would wholeheartedly agree, though sometimes it can get to me when others are saying something bad about me. If I hear it.

    I also agree with you about how work, education, experience, etc. are all part of one's identity. When I was managing the costume company people who knew that fact associated me with that role. When people meet me for the first time they know what I tell them and what they observe (unless they got information elsewhere and even then they would have to verify that thru their contact with me). And since I have done a number of things over the years I may be different things to different people. My job is not necessarily the real me, but like you say it's part of who I am.

    As for your atheism I hope you won't be offended if I say I'm sorry, but I guess that's part of who I am as a Christian. You are given a choice to make whatever decision you want and fortunately in our country nothing is forced up you. I was not saying that the denial of God's existence is the center of an atheist's life, only that God is a constant. If God is a constant for the devout believer, then conversely it must be a constant to the atheist who must deny His existence when confronted by the issue. I realize that if you were never challenged by God's existence, then you would never openly have to defend your position. I also understand that much of the time you don't even think about it. I know of many people who, if asked, will say they believe in God, but rarely think about it either.

    Out of curiosity, if you don't mind my asking, were you always an atheist--do you grow up in an atheistic family-- or did you "convert" at some point in your life? What led to this decision?

    Thank you again. I look forward to more communications in the future.
    I will be keeping up with your progress on NaNo. My Nano name is "wordleeness".


  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog, I read yours from today with great interest. I look forward to going through the rest of the posts soon.
    You do remember Orillia as it still is today. Highwayman Inn still going, Gordon Lightfoot was just back here this summer... (I think).
    As for blogging, I don't really have a focus for mine. I tend to just type as I think of things. I also started posting about movies we watch to force myself to think while I watch, and not just stare. Its been a good exercise for me. I tend to write for me, I guess, though I also wanted to get things out there that others can hopefully relate to. Salt and light, you know.

  4. Like you I sometimes feel that my blog doesn't have focus. But I've been trying to figure out exactly where I want to come from and what will work. I agree with you about just writing whether or not you have anything specific to say. It's good practice and eventually you may come up with something worthwile.

  5. Thanks for dropping by my blog and for taking the time to comment on my post. Your post is thought-provoking. I agree that the antithesis of anything means a constant acknowledgement...I can't think how else that would work!

    NaNo will be a wonderful experience for you. It helped me to launch my first book, and I'll use it to begin my second, also. Blessings to you!

  6. Hee! I'm not offended that you're sorry, I'm going to take it as a compliment that you only want the best for me. :-)

    I hear what you're saying about how "it must be a constant to the atheist who must deny His existence when confronted by the issue" but I would respond that refuting god/God is still not a constant for me any more than, say, refuting Vishnu is a constant for you. If you lived in a predominantly Hindu community, it might come up a lot, perhaps even daily, but it still would not qualify as a "constant" in your life... do you see what I'm getting at? From my perspective, Vishnu and Zeus and Jesus all have equal weight in my life.

    I was baptized Catholic, raised non-denominational Christian. At some point as a kid I told my parents that I really didn't see the point of going to Sunday school, and so we stopped that, and then in high school I would have said that I believed in God but not any organized religion ("deist"?) and then in college I suppose I was agnostic and somewhere along the way I decided that since I simply saw no evidence whatsoever of a Supreme Being, I should just call it like I see it. It was a pretty gradual conclusion, and there was no moment of "conversion" or anything like that. Mostly I care about the legal side of things... atheists are Americans, too! (Can I get a new set of dollar bills that say "In God Some of Us Trust"? Kidding.)

    My mom doesn't like it. She thinks atheism is too hard-line, like I'd refuse to consider proof even if it was right in front of my face. (Hmmm... I should get her that bumper sticker that says I'm a Militant Agnostic: I don't know and neither do you!) But I don't think I'm being hard line, I just don't see any valid evidence of a higher power, be it the Christian God or any other. I'm still culturally Christian -- we celebrate Xmas as a holiday of family and giving and sharing, that sort of thing. And I'm not going to tell someone not to "bless me" when I sneeze.

    Hope that answered your questions! I've already made you my "writing buddy" on NaNoWriMo, and I look forward to chatting with you again!

  7. Dear Carrie,

    I was delighted to receive your response to my questions. As I often like to say, "I could write a book about that!" And a book could certainly be written about the topics of atheism and religion. And by golly I guess a lot of them have been written and will be written.

    I did find it interesting that you put the controversial historical figure of Jesus Christ together with what I think most modern people would accept to be the mythical concepts of Vishnu and Zeus. But, well I guess one could write a book and I don't want to do that here.

    I kind of know where you are coming from on the way you look at church. I too decided in high school that church and all was not for me. For the next 20 years I did not go to church very many times, but I often studied the Bible and studies about the Bible and other religions. I never stopped believing in God, but I was not particularly thrilled with organized religion. However, through continual studies about religious and spiritual subjects and God, I found nothing to dissuade me from believing in the Supreme Creator and my belief was only increased.

    I hope you have read and continue to read the Bible despite whatever you currently believe. There are some very strange and difficult to comprehend things in the Bible and it really can encourage one to think. It is an important and powerful book which is reflected in its influence throughout every part of our lives and the way it has inspired some of our greatest literature, art, and music. The Bible should be required study throughout all schooling.

    I need to check out that NaNoWriMo website some more so I can maneuver around on it more.

    Look forward to some more intelligent exchange of ideas. For me that is one of the main parts of this blogging experience.

  8. I thought for a long time before responding to this, but... I don't think it's fair to say that "most modern people" accept Vishnu as a mythological concept. Hinduism is the third-largest religion in the world. According to the quick research I've done, the world is 33% Christian, 21% Islamic, and 14% Hindu. So, replace "Zeus" in my statement with "Mohammed": to my way of thinking, Jesus, Mohammed, and Vishnu all carry equal weight. Belief in EACH of these religious figures is a MODERN but MINORITY position, from a worldwide perspective. There's no reason (for me) to think any one is more mythological than the others.

    Yes, it was a bit snarky of me to put Zeus in there, which is why I ultimately had to come back and post again... because nearly a billion people at this very moment think that Vishnu is NOT merely a myth.

  9. Dear Carrie,

    Again, thank for your input. I always appreciate the readers who bestow kind words upon me or those who chime in their agreement with what I've said. However, I especially welcome challenges such as you have been presenting and an opportunity for debate.

    You are absolutely correct that Hinduism is the 3rd most practiced religion. Also, I accept that the Hinduism is older than Christianity. However, I would stand by my statement that Vishnu is a mythical concept and would go on to say that I doubt whether many if any Hindus would accept Vishnu as a historical figure. From what I understand about Hinduism, that religion is more about concepts and philosophies and the various deities represent these ideas. I don't think there is much solid evidence that any of the Hindu deities ever existed as actual historical persons, therefore I would equivocate Hinduism with the multideistic religion of the ancient Greeks.

    Christianity is an extension or continuation of Judaism. Christians are Judaists who believe Jesus Christ was the Messiah. There is a great deal of evidence from many sources which support the history as recorded in Biblcal records and the figures depicted in this record. The Bible offers philosophy and concepts, but within a framework of records and historical continuity. The evidence offered as to Jesus being Messiah is convincing as you delve deeply into the Bible. And some of the prophesies found in those pages are amazing as we see them shaping into reality in recent history.

    Mohammed definitely existed. However, the Islam religion he inspired was highly derivative of the existing Judaic and Christian beliefs. I am always suspect when a new religion reinvents a preexisting religion. The Islam religion may have started with some good intent, but when we look at the state of the Islamic world I think some logic should prevail. As Jesus said, "By their fruits you shall know them."

    I am no religious scholar and I don't want to go on too much about these topics here. But if encouraged I may decide to do some more regular blog posts on these topics. It's been said before-- a person could write a book.

    Thanks again Carrie. And please feel free to say more if you like. I think a friendly debate is fun and mentally stimulating. I hope I get more civil conversation on this site. So if any other readers want engage in some thougtful exchange, then toss it out here and I'll try and toss it back.

    Carrie, good luck with your novel!

  10. Hi Lee,
    Thank you for following my blog. But more importantly...I loved this post! I am glad that you suggested I should read it. I think you did a fantastic job both in writing the post and in ministering. Your response to your Atheist reader was well put in my opinion, as a fellow Christian. Did she respond to your question about whether or not she had always been an atheist? I would be curious myself to know the answer to that question. I am definitely following. God Bless!

  11. OK -I see. Had I read further I might have answered my previous questions. In response to your comments,Lee, I am printing the page and intend to ask my group to read it tonight.Will get back to you :)


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