It's been a funny thing, becoming a person who is known as a Christian who writes about atheism, homosexuality and other taboo subjects. I have been really surprised by the response of people as I learn to live out and share the interplay between skeptic and spiritualist in my own mind. My blog has gone from a thing for tech nerds to a thing more about mystery and empiricism.
After I wrote Equal and Michael Gungor wrote about our discussion on doubt, I've started to hear back from people all over the world. What started as hundreds of emails, tweets, Facebook messages and contact from submissions per day have leveled out to a far more readable 5-15 messages a day. Perhaps because topics of doubt and human sexuality are deeply personal, people seem to most often elect to send me private messages about my writing. That brings me to the purpose of this post.
I want to thank you for writing me.
You see, many of my family members and close friends are "freaked out" about my discussion about doubt, or my unconditional acceptance of gay people. Speaking about these issues has created conflict with people I really love. I'm the kind of person that really doesn't like controversy or conflict, and I'm pathologically opposed to arguments. It really weighs on me to write things I know will burden someone else. Even now, writing a book, I am constantly filled with self doubt and wonder if it would just be best to be silent.
And in those moments I get a message from you. You the person who has gone to church your whole life, and are in despair because you are attracted to people of your own gender. So many times, you have never told anyone your secret, but you message me because something I wrote gave you hope and you wanted to tell me.
I can't tell you how much that means to me. It keeps me going, and it provides purpose to my life. You have no idea, and I can't put into words how profound my gratitude is. My wife can tell you that your messages often make me weep.
Or you, the person who loves church, prayer and religious life but can't believe in the idea of God any more. You who title a message AT LEAST/EVEN IF before recounting the story they brought you out of belief and how those little axioms are helping you to approach God and find healing again. It was one such powerful message that compelled me to write this post. I sat at my desk and cried because the story of this person's life was so powerful.
Thank you for writing me. All of you.
It makes me very sad that you write more messages than I can respond to. I wish I had more hours in my day, because I really could be happy doing nothing more than replying to your messages.
So while my blog is quieter while I write a book about all this stuff, you aren't. You keep sharing, writing and in doing so you keep me going.
One of my favorite things in life is running across some piece of media that describes my feelings or experiences better than I have been able to. It doesn't happen a lot–I'm blessed with both an interesting life story and a relatively unique take on life, love, and God. For all the odd, frustrating things about being me, there is a much more wonderful thing about being a person who has lived a life of faith, lost that faith and then returned to a faith far more mysterious than the one before: perspective. My witches brew of Christian mysticism and materialistic empiricism almost always reminds me to look at the happenings of my life from a cosmic perspective.
My friends' eyes usually glaze over when I tell them this. That's a sign that I haven't landed on the best way to say something yet. Fortunately for me, David Foster Wallace landed on a better way to say it years ago, and now someone has helpfully transformed that speech into a very easy to watch video.
I am recommending this video for you to watch. I hope that it will make you stop and think, "This is water."
This is what I talk about when I talk about God.
It appears two explosives were detonated intentionally at the Boston Marathon today., injuring more than 20 people and killing two more. Reports are coming in of a "third incident" as well. It's a horrible tragedy.
Within moments, a fake Twitter account was setup under the account name _bostonmarathon. This account said it would pay $1 for every retweet toward the victims. For people with a nose for such things, it was obviously a fake–but that didn't stop well meaning people from spreading the account.
First you have people taking intentional action to blow up people. And then you have people preying on the good nature of others for personal gain. It's enough to bring on depression, despair, cynicism and even despondency. When will it stop?
It almost certainly won't.
So are we doomed? Are we really so flawed as a species that we can be defined by our violence? Are we nothing more than murderous primates who crash planes into buildings, set off bombs, shoot school children, operate drones and make war?
Of course not.
We don't know how many people were involved in this plot, but it was a number far smaller than the first responders who rushed in to treat the injured and secure the area in case of further attack. _bostonmarathon is already gone; the Twitter community banded together and reported the account as spam in droves. There may be some who watch these things and laugh as the world burns, but they are a tiny fraction compared to those who's hearts are broken, who pray, and look for a way to help. It is in the moments that all kinds of people draw together, hurt together, and realize that we are more alike than we are different.
It's ok to be sad. It's appropriate to be sickened by this tragedy. But, in these moments I also get hopeful because I see that I am not alone. Most people care deeply for the rest of humanity--even those they do not know.
Hold onto that. As the shock clears there is a temptation to return to labeling ourselves and others, to focus on how we are different. Instead, remember that moment when your heart hurt for people you've never met.
Let's remember that we care for each other. Let's remember that when disaster strikes, some of us run toward the danger to help.
Our heroes are greater than our villains.
Ze Frank is one of the people who's work I respect the most. I learned of Ze when he started a daily web video series called "The Show with Ze Frank." It started in 2006, and not many people were going daily web videos back then. Ze continues to do very innovative work, and he is at his best when chaotically organizing an organic group of persons to produce one piece of creative output.
In the video above, Ze talks about what it takes to be a creative person. Many people have aspirations to paint, take photographs, write, make films, play music or some other craft where the goal is to make something. Most people don't ever pursue it.
I work with creative people who are successful--people who get paid to produce commercial art. I also know successful writers, musicians, photographers and other artists. I knew many of them when they first started, and their work was interesting but not remarkable. But they kept creating.
I've started to follow this call in my own life, stepping beyond my comfort zone as a nerdy technologist into a person who shares ideas and stories through words. I write every day and I tell stories every time someone is willing to listen. The most startling thing I've encountered is how powerfully something I create can resonate in another person, even someone I have never met.
It's risky. No matter what you create, someone won't like it. But, that fire in your belly that roars to get out calms when you swallow your fear and pride and just share from your heart.
What is the world missing because you aren't sharing? Create, today.