In Which I Boldly Proclaim My Ambition!

badreligion

I’ve always had a lot of serious issues with motivation. I had a good thing going for a while before several traumatic events knocked me back down — I’ve covered those elsewhere and I don’t feel like rehashing them. The more I contemplate my issues, though, the more I can trace them back to feeling like I don’t have a place in this world — not that I believe that with my head, but I can’t get the head and heart to agree on this.

There is a long list of probable influences: the intellectual disconnect between me and my peers growing up, social awkwardness throughout grade school, the lack of meaningful challenges in school compared to the intellectual challenges of video games (no, seriously), and perhaps most importantly the deeply-engrained feeling that desire is bad. I am just realizing this last point, but I realize it’s so terribly true when I examine myself. And if I had to point a finger, I point it at the corrupted sense of self I garnered from my life growing up in conservative Christian circles.

No matter what I did, I was told that it was “filthy rags” before God. At the same time, my parents constantly told me how smart I was. And I was smart — not every kid figures out algebra at 5 or the sum of an arithmetic series at 10. In fact, the other guy who figured out the same thing at the same time, Carl Friedrich Gauss, actually invented the formula. Incidentally, we both figured it out when our teachers, presumably wanting a break, told us to add up the numbers of the days of the year, 1 to 365. This is not to brag; I just mean to illustrate the point that I am not the usual case. My performance since then has held this pattern.

But when you tell a smart kid like me that his works are filthy rags, you do a tremendous amount of damage. I had perhaps better than many of my peers a profound sense of the immensity and perfection of what I called God, and to compare myself against that enormously high standard was soul-crushing. When you told me that my works were filthy rags, it wasn’t just a “church answer” that I didn’t really believe. I internalized that and made it a part of me. Worse, I managed to get my hands on the book of Ecclesiastes, and suddenly life really did seem pointless. What can a man do even with my talents? “Everything is vanity.”

By the time I grew to adulthood, ambition arrived stillborn. I was on the path I was supposed to take, going through the motions and trying to care, but I couldn’t do it. I simply couldn’t. I failed out of my first attempt at college to the tune of “Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity.” These words haunted me like a wraith hovering over my every endeavor. “Your works are filthy rags!” “You are nothing without God.” “You are totally depraved.” These ideas cut my legs out from underneath me before I could even begin the race.

It was a false savior who killed me. It was a death-god who revels in the destruction of his children, who tells them they are nothing and that their endeavors are nothing and that their dreams and desires are nothing. To want is depraved. Empty yourself of emotion and embrace the death-god’s will. Where some who embrace this only ended up conflating their own will with God’s will — and thus being able to function in society, albeit in a deranged manner — I had no will at all. I emptied myself of desire, and nothing came flooding back to take its place.

friedrich-nietzsche-1It was Nietzsche who saved me and who is saving me. He opened my eyes to the dead god and its sepulchers. He challenged me to desire power and to create a new world which sees desire as a good thing. Unintentionally, he dispelled the old myths and reintroduced me to Jesus. And this Jesus subverted man’s attempts at playing favorites by declaring that humanity itself, not just this or that culture or tribe, had value.

I’m making a decision to change my life. To want. To want and to realize that it’s okay to want. I want to be an influential writer. I want to make the world a better place. I want to dispel unhealthy beliefs and replace them with ideas that promote human flourishing and virtue. I want to be an excellent husband. I want to be a good man. I want friends. I want a fulfilling career. I want to stop sedating myself with temporary pleasures and do something worthwhile. I want to be me at my best.

I want to move my blog to my own website. I want to start a MineCraft YouTube series about philosophy. I want to write for journals and news sites. I want to write a book. I want to write another book after that. I want to start an inter-belief foundation where the Christian, the atheist, the Muslim, the Jew, the Hindu, and whomever can come together over common values.

Even now, writing this, I feel the dead hands trying to clasp around ankles and pull me back down into deadness. My heart groans under the weight of my ambition. But I will be damned if I let a thing like the guilt of a dead god weigh me down! I desire strength! Wisdom! Power! I desire to do good and to see others rise up beside me!

I cast off the lies which chain me and begin my life anew.

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About Chris Attaway

Raised in the digital wilderness of the pre-Internet 2.0 era, Chris Attaway is a true gamer and Internet citizen. After a stint studying computer science, his life got flipped turned upside down, and he ended up studying philosophy to help him sort out his life. Now the black sheep in a family of engineers, he has set out to get his footing in the world of freelance journalism. With interests ranging from gaming and technology to LGBT rights, race and politics, Chris is a diverse and skilled writer who always tries to give a fair shake to his subjects.
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15 Responses to In Which I Boldly Proclaim My Ambition!

  1. Alan says:

    Chris, we met briefly a few weeks ago on reddit talking about being gay and celibate, and I signed up for your blog. Reading your post brought back growing up. . . all the pressure of not being good enough from others who assumed they were came flooding in. Thanks man. Being more of an adult now, have had to work thru those things and their things and what it means to follow Jesus and what self worth means in view of him. Still working thru things and don’t know much/enough about Nietzsche, but find it healthy to have my heart set on going on with Jesus in this world. . . that he’s worth it. That somewhere basic to things is that God is better and worth it and that I’m included in that in Christ. In practical ways, still working thru Jesus’ call/invitation that if I/we want to become like him, we need to deny our self, take up the cross and follow him. . . that we find our life/his life only in this way. Growing up that came across only negative and now seems like a door and a way forward in this world. Thinking ambition is good and from God, that the heart is full and free in that.

  2. shon says:

    Why do you still follow Jesus despite all of this? Is it just his teachings you follow or do you believe that he was a real person?

    • My understanding of who Jesus is was entirely reset somewhere along the way, probably in piecemeal fashion over many years. I believe Jesus was a real person, and while I have no way of knowing what actually happened to him or what he did, the significance of his stories and reasons for living and dying, told through the gospels, is extremely compelling to me. I live as though he died and rose again, even if I don’t know that he actually did so.

      • shon says:

        Is Christianity more a philosophy for you or a religion? Is there still a god in the picture or is having a deity irrelevant?

      • Judeo-Christian tradition is a hodge-podge of beliefs, though I think a few fairly consistent themes emerge from early Christianity. I would consider it more of a baseline and a cultural expression of certain ideas than a philosophy. That, I suppose, makes it a religion.

        God, though, is still central. I do believe God exists. My argument for that rests on a prime mover-like argument involving subjectivity and the fact that emergent phenomena do not exist. As far as Christian belief talks about God, I take a very traditional view that almost all talk of God’s attributes is metaphor and that it is impossible to say much directly about God. There are some things I would be able to say but would need a lot of words to do so.

      • shon says:

        I apologize if I am asking you too many questions, you have an intriguing set of beliefs. I am trying to understand them better. Have you though about doing a post on this topic?

      • shon says:

        Do you still believe in converting people to your form of Christianity? Are you sure your views are traditional? They come across as more modern to me.

        What do you mean when you say emergent phenomena do not exist? Would you mind also explaining the subjectivity argument?

      • shon says:

        Were you interested in answering my other questions or do you feel I am asking too many?

      • Oh, sorry, I will try. I sometimes lose track of comments. I’ll hopefully get to them tonight.

      • shon says:

        Thank you, look forward to hearing back.

  3. You should read the book entitled “Zealot”. It paints a realistic picture of who the real Jesus was, and what he was about. Christianity, as with other organized religions, is so caught up in the myth and legend, they can’t seem to grasp the reality.

  4. humanistfox says:

    Reblogged this on Humanist Fox and commented:
    “But when you tell a smart kid like me that his works are filthy rags, you do a tremendous amount of damage. I had perhaps better than many of my peers a profound sense of the immensity and perfection of what I called God, and to compare myself against that enormously high standard was soul-crushing. When you told me that my works were filthy rags, it wasn’t just a ‘church answer’ that I didn’t really believe. I internalized that and made it a part of me.”

  5. humanistfox says:

    This compelled me to pull out a paragraph from an essay paper on Ecclesiastes (titled “The Ecclesiastes Project”) I wrote in Christian high school:

    “Life is not fully meaningful until we are dead. Of course, this does not mean that we should kill ourselves; that would be foolish. Rather, we should live the life that we have through faith so that both death and life will have meaning. It is good to be content with our works here on Earth, and it is better for God to be satisfied with those works. If we live in a manner that God desires, and we can be happy in that, then this is truly the ideal way to live.”

    Looking back on this, I now realize just how harmful it is to be taught to think this way. I truly believed that I was a “filthy rag” and I was saved only by grace. I believed life was merely a stepping stone with which we must live by faith, and only in death could “ultimate” meaning be found.

    Ten years after I wrote that, to make a long story short, I had read too many apologetic arguments and learned too much Biblical history to call myself a believer anymore. The only position that made sense when confronted with the evidence of reality was atheism. And when I finally started calling myself an atheist, for the first time in my life, I discovered what “meaning in life” truly meant. Every moment was precious, and I had to make the most of it.

  6. megmichelle says:

    You have no idea who I am and neither I to you. I was looking for blogs that stood out to me; I relate to your post. I am about to graduate college and get pushed into the big ocean. I have big dreams and ambition, but doubt always manages to creep in. Very insightful post.

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