Aside

Trying something new

WordPress (that awesome thingie that powers my blog) just updated with a few new features, so I’m trying something new here to see if I can post updates to Facebook (and Twitter) right from the WordPress dashboard.  Can y’all see me?  Yoooooohooooooooo… anyone here?  Bueller?  Bueller?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Anyone?

THE WORM HAS TURNED

Or, to quote Vigo out of context from Ghostbusters 2:

WHAT IS WILL BE, WHAT WAS WILL BE NO MORE

I worked the same job for 15 years, a job that kept me trapped on Long Island, and with no chance of upward mobility or expanding my skill set so I could explore other career options.  It was as dead end as a dead end job could be, and over the years, the work conditions continued to spiral down into chaos, destruction, oblivion, and utter gnashing of teeth.  I didn’t think it would ever end.

But then a flicker of light happened last June, and I found a new part-time job with the hope of eventually going full-time.  I wasn’t sure if it would pan out, but it was the first major break I had been looking for after years of struggle.  Since I started that new job, it had been a roller coaster ride of crazy ups and downs, but it all ended this month, when I was offered full-time and a steady salary.

When I got the news, I just sat at my desk at my old job shell-shocked.  I had gone in that morning not knowing what would happen to me, and yet by the afternoon, when I finally got the word, I realized that was the last day I’d ever have to work there.  No more menial, soul-sucking, thankless drone work.  No more being talked down to, demeaned, insulted and passed over.  It was over.  IT WAS TRULY OVER.

My supervisor had come over to my desk and did his usual daily rant about how we were understaffed, getting no help, and continued to get mishandled and mismanaged by the powers that be.  I smiled broadly and said:

“I guess this would be a bad time to tell you I’m leaving too?”

It took 5 minutes before it finally registered that I wasn’t joking… and then the blood started to drain from his face.  I gave my two weeks’ notice, and because of the benefits of it being a public job, I was able to use those two weeks to burn out the leftover comp time I had on the books.  Tee hee.

I’ll only have to return once more to hand in my resignation, ID card, FOB, etc, and then I am free and clear of them forever.  Not only them, but soon Long Island as well.

It’s no longer a dream anymore.  Now it’s real.

Prancing Time

They are not all Israel, which are of Israel

I’ve been thinking about how the culture we live in can influence our belief systems and livelihood, and it occurred to me that true Christians will always be at odds with those who take on the label simply for appearances’ sake, which describes the vast majority of Christians today.  They don’t really believe anything they hear in church (or in the Bible), they don’t actually read or follow God’s word, they’re just going with the flow so they don’t stick out from the crowd and risk becoming a social pariah.  In America today, especially in our more conservative states, they are a dime a dozen.

There’s absolutely no variation in this no matter where people live.  Muslims being Muslims not because they believe it but because they don’t want their heads chopped off.  Or someone who pretends to be Mormon so he doesn’t get treated like a second class citizen in Utah.  And so on, and so forth.

I made the mistake of assuming if I went to the most beet red states in America, I would be ensconced in a sea of fellow believers, but the actual truth is the remnant of believers would be just as hard to find there as they would be to find in places like Iran.  Just because they assume the identity of Christianity (because this is the culture they live in) doesn’t mean they are one.  They are not all Israel, which are of Israel.

But rather than this fact vexing me, I have peace when I finally stop treating cultural Christians like real ones.  I’m sure there are many things we would still have in common, maybe similar political beliefs and also a love for America, but I don’t fellowship with them, and take what they say and profess with a grain of salt. I’m able to recognize my own, and I gain more out of the fellowship with the rare few that I’ve become blessed to know, and consider my family in Christ, than to subject myself to those who “say they are Jews, but are not.” (Revelations 3:9)

Are we merely the product of where we live?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, especially when contemplating where to move outside of New York and observing the different subcultures I’ve come across in my travels.  While growing up on Long Island, my introverted nature turned me into something of a recluse, too proud of my individualism to run with the herd and participate in the myriad of strange cliques that surrounded me.  I was always the fish who swam the other way.

It made me wonder though: was I really such an anomaly, or were there others like me who only behaved the way they did, not because they were being true to themselves, but so they could fit in and not risk being alone?

When I traveled, in all the places I visited it seemed like everyone was like everyone else.  In places like Seattle, everyone was a hippie and a liberal.  In the Bible Belt, everyone was a conservative, church going Christian.  So if I wanted to be with people that were like me, it would just be a matter of going where they were, and I’d be happy right?

But I started getting uncomfortable with the thought that people only evolved to become who they were not out of individual choice, but because that was the culture they grew up in.  If you were born and raised in Utah, you likely became Mormon.  If you were born and raised in California, you likely became a surfer dude.  If you were born and raised in Wyoming, you became a cowboy (or at the very least, not a city slicker.)

So that’s it? We’re nothing more than the environment we wind up living in?  What if my parents had been Muslims instead of Christians, would I have grown up to be a Muslim too?  Are the convictions I hold in life really based on the choices I make, or did I simply inherit them?

That’s when I started to realize what was bothering me about some of the places I’ve visited, particularly the south.  Despite people who had the same political leanings and Christian beliefs I did, something was off.  And it occurred to me that despite the appearances of camaraderie, I still had nothing in common with them, because their livelihoods and Christianity were not borne out of conviction, but out of social expediency.  Their culture was steeped in conservative, Baptist tradition, and yet the Bible Belt culture did very little to change the true nature of man.  That’s why there was the paradox of encountering people who quote Bible verses while, for example, cooking meth.  It was part of the culture they grew up in, but it didn’t change who they were. They were just schools of fish, swimming the same way.  The monolithic culture was a facade.

That’s why I tend to regard people who “profess” the name of Christ with a heavy degree of suspicion.  Do they really believe that, or was that simply how they were brought up?  It’s easier to believe one is a Christian living in an Islamic country than if they were living in Alabama, because despite the enormous collective pressure to be Muslim, they rebuffed it, often at the risk of their very lives.  They didn’t go along to get along, they specifically chose a different path.  Those are the kind of people I think I have the most in common with, the ones who are true to themselves.

Being a true individual I think carries with it the burden of being a stranger in a strange land, and if my goal was to move only to find people who were like-minded as me, I would never be happy.  Instead, I find contentment in accepting who I am, and that I will always be the square peg who can never fit in with the circle of the world.  Once I learned to accept that, I realized my happiness doesn’t have to rely on being surrounded by people who shared the same convictions and beliefs I did.

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