apes with earbuds
Nothing will bring you down from the ivory tower of your own ego faster than looking at your earbuds for the first time in a month and realizing that you are little more than a disgusting meat sack with a slightly larger brain than an ape. You’re not even that far removed from the ape, your ancestors just took a hard left somewhere a few hundred million years ago and evolved into this human thing that can make big words and do more damage. Dirty, waxy earbuds remind me that I am not so great, after all. I get so wrapped up in my own self righteousness, sometimes, I forget that I’m a “meat puppet with a supercomputer for a brain,” as author Elizabeth Gilbert so honestly said on my favorite podcast, last week. I recently left Facebook (hopefully for good but you never know) because I genuinely hate the version of myself that I become when I’m interacting with people on Facebook. I’m either wrapped up in my own self righteous anger at the more politically conservative monkeys on my page or I’m caught up in telling the best possible version of my own life that I forget that I am, in fact, also a ridiculous dancing monkey who doesn’t clean her earbuds often enough. Nothing about that story is compelling. Nothing about hating Donald Trump is compelling. Nothing about arguing with the same angry Republicans is compelling. Nothing about Kim fucking Davis is compelling. Why do I get so angry about these things, then? Why do I find so much comfort in my rage at these people? Because, damnit, they’re me. I’m just as capable of being the monstrous ego-maniac who loves little more than the sound of it’s own voice as Donald Trump. I’m sometimes as blitheringly stupid and victim-minded as Kim Davis. I’m as terrified of “the other” as the damn Republican party, and that’s why I rail the hardest against them. If I hate it in them hard enough, then I don’t have to see it in myself. Ugh. Gross.
You know what is compelling? Calling out the things in myself that I’m terrified of, naming the bullshit for what it is, and honoring the tiny spark of God inside of myself that wants to make itself known. That’s interesting. Working backwards from my present resistance to see into the cruddy, sticky guts of my own fear and shame? That’s worth the time. It occurred to me this morning that deep in the guts of my reluctance to go to church is the memory of my experience as a teenager in youth group. I went to a church full of people who took care of one another and, I’m sure, genuinely wanted to experience something of God. However, the youth group was a bit of a shit show for me. Certainly my experience isn’t universal for everyone who attends youth group, or even for everyone who attended that youth group, but it is where my resistance with church begins. I started secretly dating one of the youth group leaders when I was 16 years old and I saw behind the curtain of the “Godly youth leader” show pretty quickly. These were a team of people who I now realize were being sold the same “Love Jesus and act right” narrative I’d been buying and were probably as confused about all of this then as I was when I was in college. But, at the time, I was 16 and they were the grown ups who were supposed to be “walking the walk.” What I found when I started dating that guy felt like a huge betrayal of the system of morality that I was being sold on Sunday morning and Wednesday night- a morality that I was highly invested in. Back then, it was a big deal to me to realize that the abstinence and sobriety preaching youth group staff were all getting drunk and sleeping with each other on the weekends. I was secretly ushered into the shadows of the strange world that is evangelical youth leadership (again, not a universal experience and I’m sure there are many, many youth group staffs who aren’t perpetuating these shenanigans) , and although it felt incredibly cool to be sneaking around with one of them, it also ruined me for the whole “Wednesday night worship” scene. I wasn’t long for youth group after that, although I kept sneaking around with one of the leaders who told me stories about the wild parties and sex that happened when they weren’t standing in front of the kids, encouraging them to date Jesus.
I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy working through the fear and shame elements of that story and I’ve done damn good work restoring my sense of self, work I’m proud of because it took a lot of digging to sort through the multi-layered mountain of lies I’d come to believe about myself. I feel pretty solid, there. In light of that story, though, it makes sense that over 10 years later I’m deeply reluctant to get back into the “love Jesus and act right” version of church, and that seems to be the predominant narrative in Bible Belt, USA. The “love Jesus and act right” narrative is not at all compelling, and I’d rather do yoga and get brunch and take a nap than hear that story every week. I got to experience an event called “Beer and Hymns” at a local bar in Nashville the other night, and you know what? It was damn interesting. Here were people gathered together to drink delicious beer and sings songs about God and be nice to each other and that felt more sacred and compelling than just about any church service I’d ever attended. All these voices joined together in a place with zero pretense about who had the most “Christ-like” behavior or the most “right” beliefs, and we laughed and sang and made friends and it was more compelling than any hour I’d ever spent on fucking Facebook. When I hear sermons along the lines of “If you really love Jesus, you will…” or “Jesus died because your wretchedness…” or “Christians don’t…” I want to get out of there as fast as possible. Not interesting. Not nourishing. Not the freakin point.
Come live life with me. Let’s go for a walk. Let’s grab a glass of wine. Let’s not pretend that we don’t curse, ever. Let’s not pretend that we give a damn whether or not people have sex before they get married. Let’s tackle some shit that matters, yeah? Let’s talk about how insane it is that we’re little more than meat puppets with supercomputers for brains, and somehow we’re also made from the same stardust that exploded into life in the beginning of everything. Let’s talk about how beautiful it is that when I talk about God and when someone on the other side of the world talks about God, those ideas can sound drastically different but we’re talking about the same thing and that is beautiful and exactly how we need it to be. Let’s talk about how none of us really knows what happens after we die and it matters so much how we live while we’re here, because we really only have one moment at a time to be kind to one another. Let’s talk about how the things we attack in other people are the things we hate most in ourselves, and we are all capable of Trumping out. Terrifying. Let’s overcome some shit from our pasts. Let’s figure out how to meditate and soak up the present. Let’s realize that Jesus didn’t come here to build walls that define and contain His spirit, He came here to show us how to set that spirit loose on a hurting world that desperately needs to be heard, loved, and provided for. Let’s not pretend that we have something special in our version of faith that everyone else needs or they’re going to hell. Let’s listen and learn because we are all made from the same substance and need the same love to save us from ourselves.
If you ever need a reminder just take a look at your earbuds, ya damn monkey.