Herbietown - Is This All There Is?

Is This All There Is?

This might be my all time favorite Calvin & Hobbes.

You may not be able to relate, because you’re not as successful as I am. But from where I’m sitting, this is pretty much what it looks like.

No matter how many times I get the things I want, or achieve the things I’ve set out to achieve, it’s never good enough. I either reset my expectations immediately or I attack myself for being a fraud.

Life, for me, is not a simple game of making more money so I can go on nicer vacations and drive fancier cars. I wish it was. Oh, I wish it was. That’s probably a game I could play, and do well at.

But noooo, I expect to find meaning and purpose in my life. I require something more, something deeper, something meaningful. I HATE this about myself.

My mother is to blame. She beat these beliefs into me, about needing to use my gifts wisely and help other people and root for the underdog. If only she had let me root for the Yankees and just enjoy it, I would have had a chance at happiness. She ruined me.

The other destructive force in my life was Christianity. I was a very impressionable teenager in constant search for meaning, and Christianity came along with a seductive story that provided all the meaning I could ever want.

I had a necklace. I wore it every day for about 5 years. It had 6 colored beads and they each meant something special about my journey with jesus.

1. Black: Sin separates us from God (Romans 3:23)
2. Red: Jesus shed his blood on the cross to pay for our sins. (Romans 5:8)
3. White: The blood of Christ washes us pure and white as snow when we accept Him as Lord. (1 John 1:7)
4. Blue: Water baptism is an outward sign of our faith (Romans 10:9-11)
5. Green: Our faith grows [like a plant from a seed] as we pray and read the Bible (2 Peter 3:18)
6. Gold: We will spend eternity in heaven with the Lord (Revelation 21:1-3)

I prayed, I read the Bible, I didn’t drink or smoke, I even tried to convert my Jewish friends to Christianity. My license plate was “YNG-LIF” which stood for Young Life, the youth group organization I belonged to. I believed that I was innately sinful, that jesus died for my sins, that I could become pure if I accepted him into my heart, and that I would spend eternity in heaven. The world made sense.

Then I went to Harvard and took a philosophy class.

I had already studied the bible as literature, a few years earlier in 9th grade. I knew it was riddled with contradictions, but I had believed that it was only imperfect because man had corrupted it. The fundamental premise still made sense, I thought.

This philosophy professor took me through it pretty quickly. People had attempted to prove the existence of god for thousands of years, I learned, and they all failed, miserably, embarrassingly. He didn’t come out and say that, he didn’t need to. He just took me through the history and encouraged me to work the problem on my own. If you try, with a truly open mind, you’ll get there too. You’ll at least start to question the things you were taught and blindly believed, without ever really examining.

The icing on the cake, for me, was meeting people from different parts of the world, with different religious beliefs. I couldn’t fathom that they were all going to hell, as Christianity teaches. It was laughable. I still think it is laughable.

So here I am, a perpetual seeker with no home. I’m left with something my stepmother calls “existential angst.” Without the tidy structure of Christianity to explain all the hard stuff, it is not clear why we are here, how we should live, or what happens when we die. And because my mother had to go and give me a moral compass, I can’t just dominate the idiots around me and load up on Porsches.

It can be unsettling.

I am constantly searching for inspiration, but I am also extremely cynical. More than anything else, I hate phonies. It is pretty miserable.

Is this all there is?