Inspiration

Today’s post is in response to suzjones’s challenge to write about what inspires us. 

She remarks that the word inspiration comes from the ancient Greek notion that we breathe in the spirit of creativity from the gods in order to create. (I dragged out my old Ancient Greek textbook and, indeed, the adjective theopneustos (inspired) does mean God-breathed, i.e. inspired by God.) I mention this because I have an interesting past in relation to God and faith. I had a distinct conversion experience at a very young age and was a devour Christian for most of my life. In my thirties, I trained, and was accepted for ordination in my church.

My faith, my relationship with God, was the bedrock of my life … until my belief system changed radically. I no longer say “I lost my faith” because the phrase implies the loss of something which we are still seeking or yearning for: “I lost my keys”, “I lost my husband”. My loss of faith was profound. I am now an atheist, and a materialist, in the sense that I do not accept the existence of a supernatural world. (I’m certainly not a materialist in the sense of valuing possessions and objects above all else!) I still mourn the yawning God-shaped hole in my life, years later, but as I am convinced there is no God, I must simply bear the pain and learn to live otherwise. I have a feeling the historical Jesus would understand my situation, though he may not share it. 

“Hold it!” I hear you cry. “You said you were going to write about inspiration! What’s all this about your belief system? Where does that fit in?” Well, please be patient – I am baring my deepest agony, the soft pink underbelly of my soul, to you. Allow me the indulgence of doing it at my own pace! 

While I was going through the process of “losing God”, I was particularly interested in observing ministers-in-training and active ministers whose thoughts also seemed to be following the same path as my own. Some retreated into doctrinal fundamentalism: “following the party line”, so to speak, almost mindlessly. Well, literally mindlessly: from the outside, it looked as though their thought processes were so painful that they stopped thinking. Others twisted their personal theology into pretzel-shaped versions of orthodoxy which, to me, to have strayed beyond the bounds of what could still be called Christianity. Still others seemed to bury themselves in the busy-ness of being a minister or priest, and cease thinking theologically. Given the demands placed upon them, this would be an easy thing to do, and not necessarily deliberate.

For me, none of these responses to my crisis of faith were an option. When I had read and read and read, consulted spiritual directors and prayed myself raw, explored the boundaries of theology and still found therein no space for me to abide, I simply had to face my reality and say: no more. I’m out. 

I could not live an inauthentic life.

This is a long-winded way of saying that my inspiration springs from that same place of utter truth within me. I write to speak my truth. I find I must tell my truth, in some way: spoken or written or sung or run, gardened or sewed or drawn: however it bubbles to the surface. When I don’t tell my truth, I become unwell. 

And the truth is transforming. In writing this, I have realized the deep truth of my words. The non-existent God is no longer the bedrock of my life; my commitment to authenticity, my absolute imperative to live in harmony with the large truths of my life, is now my bedrock. Perhaps it always has been: there was opposition to my seeking ordination, but I persisted, because I believed it to be my true calling.

I’m no saint, believe me! I fall short of my authenticity frequently, and I’m certainly not above the odd white lie, or even lie of convenience. I’m also aware that sometimes I hide the truth from myself. (I guess that’s my new cardinal sin!) However, suzjones asked where our inspiration comes from. This is it, for me. 

The wellspring of my inspiration is the bedrock of my authenticity. 

What’s your inspiration?

9 Comments

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9 responses to “Inspiration

  1. I find that such an interesting story. In my past I have also studied God’s word in order to become a minister. I did not get far into my studies before life circumstances changed things for me.
    I have not been to church for many, many years however I still believe there is a God. It may not be in the same form that my devout Christian son believes (and he is still praying for my soul) but I believe that there had to be a God to create such beauty in this world. In my gratefulness for this beauty, I believe I am worshipping God. I don’t need to be in a church to do that.
    I am pleased that you have found inspiration in your life. It truly is something that is required for happiness. 🙂

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    • Thank you. What a deeply respectful reply from someone with a different belief system! I am grateful. Perhaps I should have added that I accept that my belief system may change again in the future (turn, turn!).

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  2. This resonates with me deeply. Truth and reality are the bedrock of my life.
    Also an atheist, I use the term “evidentialist” instead of materialist, for two reasons. One is to avoid people misunderstanding what I might mean and avoid the baggage placed on the term ‘material’, by the dualistic (spiritual and material) frame of reference pervasive our culture.
    The other reason is less about dodging other peoples feelings and more about my own feelings, evidence is frankly what I base my beliefs on; *evidence* is how we know what the truth is. Evidentialism is a much more accurate way to describe how I base my beliefs than materialism, since materialism suggests that one rejects dualism and the ephemeral/spiritual, but it doesn’t deal with how one comes to new beliefs. Evidentialism does, since it’s about examining reality.

    I stumbled upon the term because of a youtube user named “Evid3nc3” and he has an entire series on his deconversion from christianity, which plays like a really long movie of personal discovery. I love it.
    Anyways, he has two videos in particular which explain why he chose that term, evidentialism, to ascribe to himself, and why rationalism still wasn’t his cup of tea even though many atheists have used it for a basis of their logical examination of the world.
    He does a fabulous job explaining the concept, and I realized I’d been viewing the world in this way for years, and I’d just never had a good term for it.
    So in case you’d like to watch them. Search youtube for “3.4.1(1) Atheism: Evidence” and “3.4.1(2) Atheism: Objections to Evidentialism” (highly recommended of course. haha 🙂 )
    The second one is a revision of some of the things in the first, but the first still has a lot of valuable concepts touched on, so I think it’s better to watch them as a pair.

    — Side note, and hopefully you don’t find this too strange… I am SO thrilled to be following an atheist with mental health struggles.
    So many people have told me to “turn to god” in troubled times.
    They don’t seem to understand, I didn’t really make a simple yea or nay choice about not believing in god, it was a pile of unanswered questions and startling lack of evidence which built and built until the scales were so heavy I couldn’t ignore the issues.
    I *can’t* just belief in a god, even if I wanted to the absence of evidence is so pointed that I can’t just fool myself into ignoring reality for convenience. I wouldn’t want to fool myself.
    There are enough twisting of reality in my head that I have to untangle and work through, I don’t need to add to the pile by making some. I find that trying to cut to the truth, and using critical thinking to be one of the most inspiring and helpful things I ever did for myself.

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    • Thank you for this thoughtful reply and also for the word “evidentialist”! It’s always wonderful to find a fellow traveller, isn’t it? I lost many friends when it became known I was no longer a christian, and I must admit I miss the comforts of faith … who wouldn’t want to be able to believe in a benevolent deity with a vested (and, for Christians, invested) interest in one’s well-being? But if you can’t believe it, you simply can’t, and there’s no use pretending otherwise.
      Let’s continue to tread this path together …

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      • (Note about my previous comment: Wow I made a lot of grammar errors in that last post. Sorry about that, truly sorry, sometimes I get so excited I don’t proof read very well.)

        Yes, indeed! That is one of the reasons why paths is such an elegant way of describing is, because world-views can push divergence just as paths diverge.
        Though I dropped the idea of a deity early on enough that I don’t miss that because I never built up any really strong emotions about it, I do sympathize and understand though, and for me it’s that I miss believing in an afterlife. I believed in that for a lot longer than in a god. (in that fuzzy new-agey way.)
        Somethings though, when you really look at them, sound a lot like something we’d WANT to be true, rather than reality. Reality is beautiful and terrible. Starving children AND rainbows.
        That missing is almost all nostalgia though, because it also hurt me, and I remember that too; the idea with it’s lack of proof sort of hung as a big hard question mark which I think hurt more than it even helped, at least in the long run, thinking about those people I’d lost.
        When I did finally let it go, it was very difficult emotionally, but it actually also helped, because then I could deal with the loss in a much more direct way.
        I hurt… and then I started to heal. Rather than continue to wonder and worry about what might have become of them, I could just remember them, enjoy and share those memories.

        Gosh, sorry, I’m overly chatty. But yes it is wonderful to meet someone else treading these waters, resting on these beaches of thought, and watching the flowers grow thinking of sunlight rather than magic. (Sunlight is magic enough on it’s own, I think. 😉 )

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      • Don’t worry, you’re not being overly chatty 🙂 I love it!
        Yes, the hurting is part of the healing, becomes part of the healing. I know that sounds trite, but cliches only exist because they have their roots in truth – otherwise, how would they persist? I was in a yoga class last week and, being very far from an expert, the instructor kindly told me to breathe through the shaking – the shaking was weakness leaving my body. I choose to believe she didn’t mean it literally, of course, but taken metaphorically it was very helpful. This is like the sort of pain which precedes healing.
        However – and I’m straying a bit from our original discussion here, but I’m sure you won’t mind – I don’t think we can “trivialize pain away”, dismiss people’s pain, by somehow seeing all pain as having as its ultimate goal healing. After all, pain hurts 🙂 I think we can speak of our own pain in this way, and perhaps respectfully engage in a discussion with another person whom we know something about in this way, but not assume that every pain is somehow “all for the best”. PLEASE note that I don’t think you were saying this – my mind’s just gone off on a tangent – it does that! Somehow I don’t think you’ll resent my meandering 😉

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      • Totally correct, I love meandering. 😀 (I ❤ branching conversations x mobeus loop. haha)

        That is a really good sort of centering visualization I think. To be able to picture the process of working through the pain, as shedding the pain at the same time, especially in something that's got a specific end point like and exercise, where you ultimately control when it stops. Brilliant. Also yes, I know a lot of people who think that "everything happens for a reason" is somehow comforting, and I think that falls in the same vein as "pain is for a good cause" — Well in both cases if you CHOSE it can be, but if you didn't, then probably not. Hard truth of the world, sometimes things just happen. The power went out, no we weren't "supposed" to anything. One of the most wonderful things about atheism for me personally (I don't know how it is for you, but I think this is one of those things that can be appreciated) we decide our own path, truly, and we make our own meaning. Our lives are our own to find beauty in, and decide the meaning thereof.
        This means we can own our pain, or dismiss it, depending on what we want. I think we can learn from anything, and everything, always, but learning doesn't mean accepting as purpose. It means looking at and trying to ascertain possible value for future reference. (I say that with glee not cold calculation. The idea of figuring out the things that help me, is thrilling I think. 😀 )

        And the other part of your comment makes me want to go off on a tangent of my own, partially because I think this is awesome, and I think you are capable of actually appreciating it. 😀
        On the nature of cliches I've actually read quite a bit, they survive, in the way most memes do, because they are repeated so often. That repetition is technically regardless of truth, but is instead connected with "truthiness". (which is the flavour or appearance of truth, without necessarily having the validity)
        We have studies showing the more often an idea is passed through our minds (without challenge, and that's key, because if we challenge something it's not the same) the more likely we are to accept it as truth.
        Repetition can actually shape our view more than what we logically know, because it can be emotionally impactful, but more to the point, it can shape what we think we know, by over-riding good information with 'predominant information'. Our brain can be taught not do lean on the 'majority rules' principal, but social psychology shows us that, that is the default.

        Example, there was a journalist who set out to study how urban legends work, and s/he did this by starting one. Have you ever heard the thing about swallowing 8 spiders a year in your sleep? (Maybe you're a rarity and haven't heard it, but it's a thing people throw out) It's false.
        That's the urban legends that journalist started. It had enough truthiness to be spread about, but it's complete bull.
        Spiders aren't very fond of mouths, they tend to mean death. But humans are very scared of spiders, and we think of them as stupid, so we're totally willing to believe that they'd be happy to died just to torment us.
        The journalist came out about this and wrote a paper on it, and you know what happened? We discovered something new about how the mind processes urban legends, namely, that even when you are trying to DEBUNK them, and spread true information, if a person has heard the urban legend itself more often, trying to debunk it will actually reinforce that urban legend in someones mind. (Again unless they then actively try to challenge it as a thought.. If they think it's interesting, but don't log it away like a new type of jam or who the monarch of Belgium is, they will likely forget because they have not invested emotional energy into actively trying to challenge their current conceptions or preconceptions.)

        That we have the choice to examine things (even when we don't always get the choice as to what we are exposed to entirely, we also get most of that too) means we can help shape our own perceptions actively. And filter out bad information more easily after knowing exactly why we retain that crud even having heard the facts.
        (I had to be told the spider thing twice, and felt like a fool the second time — But I revised that feeling, because it is GOOD to learn, and I shouldn't feel foolish for being human. If I have learned, *that* is the good thing. To ignore and not try to get good information would be the foolish thing. — To me learning is the purpose I give my own life. My inspiration and aspiration, so as you can imagine when I realized that I found it quite affirming. XD Hopefully you'll also find something inspiring out of it. <.< )

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      • My friend, there is so much content and so much wisdom in this ‘comment’ that it deserves a rich reply – probably richer than I’m able to supply right now! 🙂 But I especially appreciated “…we decide our own path, truly, and we make our own meaning. Our lives are our own to find beauty in, and decide the meaning thereof. This means we can own our pain, or dismiss it, depending on what we want.” I’ve been reflecting these past few weeks over the past painful year and thinking about how I relate the story of that year to myself. It’s interesting to note where I take responsibility for things which I am properly responsible for, where I adopt responsibility for things I am not responsible for, and where I abnegate responsibility … it’s also interesting to notice those things I believe occurred because of random chance, and those things which occurred because of some conscious choice (mine, or someone else’s).
        But yes, one thing I love about being an atheist is that one is ultimately responsible for one’s own stories. (With the ever-present provision that we’re *not* responsible for our genetics, nor our early biopsychosociological conditioning which create the unconscious processes that influence our thinking!)

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  3. Pingback: Good Writing Just Keeps Giving | In & Out, Up & Down: Dysthymia Bree's Musings On Mental Health and Psychiatric Wards

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