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Who am I?
I use to be super religious. It use to be a huge chunk of my life. I was the only person in my family devoutly religious. And I was proud of it. So proud in fact that I look back at it now and think, "old me was an asshole." I was so sure that I had a personal, even special relationship with god. I was so arrogant that I couldn't see how my own understandings of everything was flawed. I thought I couldn't be wrong about anything. But there was an underlying notion and feeling that I wish I had explored more when I was younger. It was the desire to grow and learn. It was a interpersonal conflict to admit that I could perhaps be wrong and look for the truth. I guess to best explain it is to give an example. I always loved science and mathematics. These subjects just made sense to me. So I believed in the Big bang, evolution, climate change and other things that the devoutly religious didn't believe in (which by the way I would come to find out that whatever understanding I had of these subjects at the time was lacking and in some senses wrong). I had a friend who was gay and I cared deeply about him. I didn't believe that what he was doing was a sin. And so I would jump to to the argument when the religious conversation inevitably turned to condemning gays. This may have caused a few strained relationships with religious friends and fellow church goers.
When I was 18 I got sent oversees to a Quaker High school in England. There, I fell in love with the Quaker practice of worshiping in silence. I felt like all the social burdens that came with worshiping in standard Christian setting had been lifted. I can't really describe it but it changed me, for the better. I started studying philosophy and I quickly realized I was an idiot. I realized I didn't know the first thing about anything. Well, OK I have to give myself some credit. I did know quite a few things. But not in the sense that I knew something. But what I learned was that there is some much more out there to study than what I thought there was. For instance with Philosophy a person could dedicate their life to studying fully one area of thought. And that's just philosophy. Just think about all the other bodies of knowledge. I thought, holy shit, and was amazed at how much I didn't know. There were things I didn't know I didn't know. The experience really put me in my place. I saw that self-reflection and being honest with myself was the key to building a happy life. So I cut ties to my old church, cut ties with my old friends, and started all over again. It's funny how a religious institution did all that for me.
And then I almost threw it all away.
When I went to university I was on track to study business. Looking back at it know I don't even remember why I wanted to study business. I think it was something along the lines of, "make money to change the world." I think now that that is a silly idea. The desire for money, wealth, power clouded my judgement. I feel that in some sense I 'reverted' to my former self perhaps even much worse. My arrogance knew no bounds. I developed underlying misogynistic tones. I thought that I was fully rational and clever. I thought I could do no wrong.
However I was not rational and clever. I would not do my homework and I was not advancing at the pace of my peers and friends. I was a dumb cocky kid.
Reality came crashing down hard on me. I didn't get accepted into the business school. I got angry. How could they not see they are losing out on such great potential! I am a god!They should be begging for me. These feelings should have been the first signs to myself that I was the one at fault. That I was not as perfect and godlike as I had imagined myself to be. That I still had much to learn.
Not being accepted into the business school I was distraught. I ended up living with my parents for a summer taking classes at a local community college. It must have been luck because I can't describe how these three summer professors changed my life. Perhaps it was a combination of my own personal development and being in the right place at the right time. Have you ever heard of those professors who live for their students? The character John Keating played by Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society comes to mind when I want to describe these professors. Now imagine having three of those professors. One introduced me to the world of law. One introduced me to political science. And the last introduced me to new topics in Philosophy. After thinking long and hard I realized that I was interested in law and politics. Fortunately my university had one of the best programs in the country. Now all I needed to do was get in.
That was easier said than done. I'll skip a head for now but I got accepted. One day I will go into a bit more detail about my journey to getting accepted. I'll just say that it was the hardest 6 months of my life. It was also a time of significant self-reflection and overcoming issues that have been plaguing my life for the longest time. At the end of it all I was proud of everything I had done. But there was still work to do.
We come to the most recent part of my life (that is the most recent 6 months). I can't wait to talk about this. I'll come back to this soon.
Come read with me
- "Just the Facts: How Objectivity came to define American Journalism" by David Mindich
- "The Obstacle is the way" by Ryan Holiday
- "Interesting Times" by Terry Pratchett
- "Ender's Game and Philosophy: Genocide is Child's Play" various authors.
Did you know?
The Violence Against Abolitionist Movements
I've spent a significant amount of time studying the history relating to various aspects of the American Civil War. I like studying the Lost Cause ideology in particular. That might give you a sense of where I am going with this. I'd like to share with you what I learned about the abolitionist movements and the overtly evil reality of slavery. In short, within the North, Abolitionist movements were often violently targeted by mobs.
In the book, "Just the Facts: How Objectivity came to define American Journalism" by David Mindich, the author identifies numerous instances of violence perpetrated against individual abolitionists and abolitionist groups. To quote, "...attempts to silence [abolitionists] meant destroying printing presses and types. Sometimes this involved trying to kill abolitionist editors, as [the mobs] did William Lloyd Garrison, pulling him by a rope around the Boston streets until he was rescued by friends. One on occasion in 1837, a mob actually succeeded in both goals: in Alton, Illinois, after destroying the presses of Elijah Lovejoy, an abolitionist editor, a mob tried to do it again. Lovejoy, in the skirmish, was shot dead."
This shouldn't have surprised me when I read it but it did. I understand that the "Peculiar Institution" had far reaching influences in northern politics and society but never to the degree that it could convince people to violently suppress those who disagreed. It's terrifying and interesting to say the least. It called into question whether I truly understand the evils of slavery. After some thinking I reached that perhaps we as a society have an all to narrow understanding of the evils that parallel the reality of slavery. Familiarity with the fact that slavery is bad in the sense,"People own other people narrative" is a recurring theme that comes up when talking about slavery, which is all well and good, but rarely do we identify and learn about the 'other' evils of slavery. For our ancestors, they lived in a world where speaking out against slavery could get you killed. I guess I shouldn't be surprised considering we fought a war to end slavery. I guess what I took away from this is that I should never assume I understand the degree of evil of slavery. That is to say, it always finds a way to out evil itself.