TLDR: Love the sinner, hate the sin.
Now I want to reflect on a rather liberating thought that I had awhile ago. I’m not sure if I wrote it down, so I’ll write it down. Here it goes. I am a pattern in space-time that’s trying to take care of itself. This amazing, wonderful assemblage of assemblages of atoms– condensations of energy– in systems that operate in tandem with one another. A circulatory system, a digestive system, an immune system, a nervous system, all these systems. Systems upon systems, the vast majority of which I have little to no control over, most of them making tonnes of decisions every single day without my intervention. Without them I’d be utterly screwed, I would cease to exist.
But despite all of this staggering complexity, the fact is that the part of me that I call I– the conscious decision-making I– is responsible for the whole shebang. And despite all of my fear and worry and anxiety and nervousness and guilt and shame– the fact is that I’m actually doing a pretty decent job. I’ve been able to feed myself and clothe myself and keep a roof over myself. I have of course benefitted tremendously from loads of things and people beyond my control– I was born into a country that is relatively rich, that has a functioning State that provides roads and public transportation and a justice system and all sorts of things that people in wealthy countries take for granted. I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy access to public libraries, and to the internet, and to food and water. All of these things are taken care of for me, which makes the messy business of existence and survival… actually a lot less messy for me than it might be for a lot of human beings in the world.
That said, I’m doing okay. I’m doing alright. I have many missed obligations, and I have upset and disappointed people I’m sure– I think I still regret all the nonsense that I put my teachers and peers through, and a part of me really wants to make amends for all of that. Maybe that’s part of why I still sometimes have recurring dreams about me being in school and failing exams, or being tardy with homework and stuff like that. I’m never fully at ease because I’m always concerned about deadlines and promises and other things like that. I know that things are always suboptimal to some degree, everything is always missed and missing to some degree, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m not carrying my share of the weight, that I’m not doing enough, that any pleasure I do get in life is somehow stolen.
As I write this now I realize it sounds rather absurd, and it is my hope that I will be able to recognize the absurdity and laugh, and forgive myself for all of that. I’m thinking now again of the Divergent movie, where the protagonist faces off against herself in the final battle– and her dark side goes, “Nobody will ever forgive you”– and she has a flash of insight and she says, “No… because I will.”
And I realize, cheesy as it sounds, that’s something I sort of need to go through, too. I need to forgive myself as well. As long as I haven’t forgiven myself, I’m just going to continue the same cycles and patterns that have been gnawing at me for so long. I’m not sure if the mere act of saying “Yes, I accept this as who I am, I forgive myself for all that nonsense, everything is okay now”– is going to make much of a difference. There’s obviously a whole lot of action that needs to be taken after that. But I feel like I have been struggling to take all of those actions– they feel painful and messy, and there’s something very deterrent about them– it feels like showing your face in a space where you know you’re not welcome, and you’d much rather just quit or exit or die in some way that doesn’t require you to have to face it. I’m not sure if that is exactly the case, but I still feel like I haven’t yet “earned” the right to look at myself in the eye head on, to face up to reality head on and say “Hey, this is how it is right now, and it’s okay.”
I don’t know. I can’t even really talk about this without feeling like a bit of a fraud. How do I know I’m not rationalizing? Protip– I’m always rationalizing, there’s no escaping that. Okay. Then what? Well… it feels like as long as I’m still a criminal inside my head, I’m still going to be indulging in criminal behaviors. A criminal does what is expected of a criminal, right? Call a person a criminal and they start behaving like one. So I need to start addressing myself differently. I need to start seeing myself differently. This goes back to the comfort/discomfort thing I talked about a few vomits ago. I should be enjoying this opportunity to correct this imbalance, because it’s a glorious opportunity to take steps towards a better life– even if they’re arbitrary steps towards an arbitrarily better life.
Does that mean I stop calling myself all the things that I call myself, and wipe the identity slate clean? It feels like there’s some complexity there. Simply wiping the slate doesn’t make things go away.
Here I realize I’m starting to veer into language that feels almost Christian– Jesus died to forgive your sins, so you can wipe your slate of sins clear, or something like that. I’m seeing how it can be a useful metaphor, and at the same time it can also be a crutch and I want to avoid crutches as much as possible. But of course, the obsessive refusal to use any sort of crutch is, itself, a sort of crutch in the sense that it prevents you from going very far. So I will take what I get. And I will be kind to myself and to others. And I will do better.