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Lost Direction

October 10, 2010

I don’t even know what I’m doing here anymore. Apparently, all I’m good for these days is pissing people off. And the worst thing is when I look at what I did or said first to start all the mess, I don’t even identify all that strongly with whatever I had said or done. So I’m pissing people off and ruining my reputation with things that don’t even fully represent me — isn’t that great?

This takes me back to high school and junior high. In those times, I had to defend the church’s doctrine, because, well, I was a member, and an attack on the church amounted to an attack on my family or on myself…but I always resented this responsibility, because I knew that the explanations and apologetics with which I was countering rang false and uncompelling to me.

Separating myself from the church was liberating because I realized for the first time that I could say what I wanted about it without feeling pressure to own up to any answer that wasn’t my own. I enjoyed setting people straight on inaccuracies they had about Mormon belief, practice, or history, but when they eventually would ask, “How can you believe that?” I could answer, “Well, I don’t. That’s just how things are for Mormons, though.” I didn’t have to come up with lies on how I could believe something that seemed totally implausible (and which I didn’t, in fact, believe at all.)

Since then, I’ve felt that way in other areas. The atheist community? I understand people who want to distance themselves from such a community because of the social trends developing in who the more vocal atheists are. I’ve always argued that atheism is mere, that this affects the capacity for atheist communities, and that the mereness of atheism means we shouldn’t shy away from atheism as a descriptor just because of some coincidences among those who band together in communities. I don’t have to believe in x to be an atheist, even if it seems that many popular atheists happen to believe in x.

The same applies for my status as a post-, ex-, former, whatever Mormon. This mere descriptor doesn’t mandate that I must be any particular kind of unorthodox Mormon. I don’t have to be the New Order Mormon type. I don’t have to be the Recovery from Mormonism type. I don’t have to be the FLAK type, the MSP type, the PostMormon type, or any of these types. And even if or when I participate in any of these sites, I reserve the right to do so on my own terms.

I have wanted to avoid the stereotype of being a guy who burns with a constantly incinerating rage at the church. I understand to some extent why some people feel that way (and I think it’s important that their anger is understood as reasonable indignation,) but I don’t want to be the guy.

And yet, here I’ve swung all the way to the opposite side? Now I’m an Uncle Tom? Or maybe I’m more of a Green Flake?

I don’t even know what I’m doing here anymore.

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14 Comments
  1. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up. I, for one, enjoy it.

  2. I for one, am always interested in what you have to say and how you say it. It’s refreshing, in a polarized world, to see that there are some who are not so quick to jump to their given side and shout down those who disagree. The wise will always consider one the on hand this, and on the other side that.

    If you feel as though you were wrong or are listing in a direction that is unfavorable, the mere aknowledgement of such demonstrates wisdom that many do not posess. I appreciate that you are willing to look at all sides first, I think that’s what you were doing with your last post, even if the result was less that what you wanted.

    I hope you keep writing.

  3. The transition I’m going through is interesting because I read posts like the one you linked to and I start to wonder if it’s only a matter of time until I start feeling that way: like I’ve done enough hand-wringing over Teh Mormonizm in my life and I’m ready to move on. I’m not entirely sure if I’ll get there or if it will just tone down a bit and always be there in the background. One thing is for sure: I’m not going to be able to dump this all from my head until I come out to my family (parents and siblings). Until then, it’s constantly on my mind. I mean, literally decades of church, all of my hopes and dreams tied up in it until recently… it’s quite a lot to just toss out.

    It’s really because of my overwhelmingly religious background that I’m exploring the world of Internet atheism, and I suspect that’s the case for most people who use “atheism” as a unifying term. Internet atheists mostly talk a lot about religion, and while religion is on my mind, I’m interested. I sympathize with people who are shunned by their families for not believing, and as a side effect with gay people who many times have it even worse.

    It’s likely that at some point in the future when I haven’t attended church for more than a year and when my family has gotten used to my apostasy that I will no longer wonder, for example, what kind of nonsense is being said at the general conference pulpit these days.

    But I dunno, maybe I’ll still be interested in that stuff. If I am, I think it’ll be in a more John Larsen friendly type of way than in a raging way. Raging takes energy and is draining on the emotions. I’ve got some more raging in my future seeing as how my family will likely react, but it’ll be nice when that is over and behind me. Meanwhile, it is good to keep a decent perspective about the church and the many good people there are within.

    Often when I read your blog I find myself wondering what it is that you really think, because sometimes it seems you take a devil’s advocate approach just by default or just to spice up the echo chamber a bit (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?). You’ll often act as a stabilizing force in a comment thread, siding against whatever team has the advantage at any given moment, just to keep it balanced. I sometimes wonder on which side of the fence your opinions lie, or if it really is turtles all the way down in the sense that your opinion is simply that there must be a balance of opinions. You’re a fascinating subject. 😉

  4. I don’t think I follow…

    Are you saying that you don’t know what you are doing here anymore because certain people don’t seem to like you? Or for some other reason?

  5. Jon,

    certainly. I have to at least make it to (Dis)Grace’s second birthday!

    marcus:

    thanks. I’d hope to be wise enough to avoid going so far off-track in the first place, though.

    Carson:

    I guess my issue is this: for me, I don’t have so much day-to-day involvement with Mormonism except through the internet. I can go every day at school without mentioning, and my parents don’t really hound me or anything either.

    I’m coming to find that while I want to sympathize with people who have had it rougher than I have…since I simply don’t have the experience, it’s difficult even to sympathize. Isn’t that interesting? So I’m finding that I have less patience for angry people, even though I recognize their anger is justified because the hurt they have experienced and still experience is real.

    My position really is that things are more nuanced than either side tends to admit. I just feel like recently, I’ve tried to force in nuance that even I don’t find plausible.

    Seth:

    It’s not (just) that certain people don’t seem to like me: it’s that when I find out what they don’t like me for, I think, “Wait a minute…I’m not trying to be that. Do I really come off that way?” So I don’t even know what kind of image I’m presenting. I can’t really identify with certain articles or comments I write.

    • “I’m finding that I have less patience for angry people, even though I recognize their anger is justified because the hurt they have experienced and still experience is real”

      I have seen this in myself, as well as around others. It can be difficult to navigate. Reading CB’s comments on the BKP post was of course difficult – not really even because of the content, but the process. People have VERY valid experiences, and have been hurt – sometimes to the core. It helps me to reframe communication like that sometimes – there is almost always a “noble intention” behind the behavior, which doesn’t take away from the opinions/views of the comment itself. I have felt similar comments from people close to me, and have tried hard to get at the noble intent or underlying emotions. So yeah, I believe that when most people talk of wanting the church to burn to the ground I know they have either good intentions and/or are hurting or coming to the defense of others who have been hurt.

      Back to myself – I have found that my hurt over the church’s stuff on gay marriage and etc. (as my sister is gay) often leads to me expressing myself in ways to other church members that ends up nearly causing fires in the other direction. So I try to use the same ideas with myself – if it’s safe enough, I try to speak from a place of pain and hurt rather than of anger, no matter how valid it is. Still, most cannot really stay in their hurt for long without lashing out.

      Anyway, yes, I think a lot of actions are justified/valid/etc. but we still need to protect ourselves. Some relationships are just too costly, no matter how valid the other’s experience is.

  6. Andrew, don’t make the mistake of confusing all this for real life. Sure, it’s all real in a sense. And it isn’t trivial either. But it doesn’t even come close to representing everything you are. There is always a sense in which we are playing a game here. And like any game, a certain degree of emotional detachment is required.

    I’ve encountered bloggers before who were incapable of “leaving it on the field.” By and large, they are emotional trainwrecks. People who can’t distinguish a valid fair debate from a threatening personal attack. Their fear poisons everything they write, they end up writing in a way that feels vindictive, panicky, and rather unhinged. They lose all credibility in the process, and end up surrounding themselves only by people who will emotionally validate them and sooth the deep-seated insecurities they have about themselves.

    You are not at that point. But I don’t think this is a path you want to go down.

    If you want to be at home in this world, you have to learn the game, and keep it as a game. You can never be committing so much online that your success or failure here feels like a matter of life and death.

    If you have that kind of emotional investment, you’ll never survive here. You simply won’t have the resiliency to take the kinds of beatings we tend to take.

    If you don’t feel like you are getting out the message you want to get out, then that’s something to work on changing definitely. But you should be doing it because you aren’t satisfied with it.

    The reaction of others can make a useful barometer for gauging that, but keep in mind that it’s a very rare person who is taken for what he or she really is.

    In short, your readership is always going to get it wrong.

    As such, they make a rather lousy mirror for getting dressed every morning.

    Final point – you only get good at writing by doing. If you get discouraged and stop writing, you’ll never get better at it. Screw-ups are part of the territory. But I tend to think that persistence ultimately pays off when it comes to blogging.

  7. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Please stay

  8. You know, Andrew, the first time I registered a blog was in 2005, when I was 23 years old. I wrote an introductory post.

    And then the blog just sat there. And sat there. And sat there. Until I finally got rid of it.

    One of the reasons I was afraid to blog was a safety concern. I’d known some rather creepy people some years before who were very good at prowling the Internet to find things, and I didn’t want to give them any help with finding me. I’ve longed to blog about the experience for a long time, but have held off; I really don’t want to give these people an excuse to come back into my life.

    But the other reason was that I was honestly afraid of having my ideas critiqued by others. I’d seen how nasty and heated online discussions could get. I’d posted on message boards off and on for years, and I’d always had a difficult time staying in a heated debate for a lengthy amount of time. I wasn’t sure I could do that with a blog on a regular basis. I was afraid of posting my ideas and having people come by my blog to tell me what a dumbass I am.

    I finally took up blogging in 2008, and the only reason I felt pushed into that was because my mother was dying and I needed the distraction.

    You’re much younger than I was when I started blogging, and you’ve got a lot of time still to decide who you are and what your positions are on different issues. I don’t think you should feel discouraged that some people hated your post on BKP, or that you’re coming off in a light that you don’t mean to come off in. Either accept the hits and shoot to improve or decide that the people making the critiques are in the wrong and keep on going. Getting better at voice and finding your direction will come by doing.

  9. Chris permalink

    Well, I enjoy the occasional I.D. post even though I don’t comment much.

    In the past, I’ve had somewhat of a tendency to offer advice to internet people when it wasn’t really warranted. However I’ll just throw this out there just for fun: I wonder if it would be beneficial for you to somehow monetize your blog. I say this because it appears you get some satisfaction from positive reviews/comments. But perhaps there could be a way to change the way you are rewarded (or increase the number of ways). Adding multiple avenues for reward/compensation/etc, puts less importance on each single avenue, which may make negative comments and such less of a big deal.

  10. So, I could be totally wrong, but I am guessing that this post and the last one – “Charity Towards Pres. Packer’s. . . ” If so, then I got where you were coming from on that post, even if I disagreed with you. If I recall, you did a similar post on Elder Hafen’s nasty Evergreen talk where you called for “charity” towards him. I see both as a sort of devil’s advocate approach.

    I think you still maintain an important voice on here, Andrew. Sorry that you aren’t feeling appreciated as of late. I always read, even if I don’t always have something to comment.

  11. Sorry, my brain was working faster than my fingers could type. The first sentence of my comment should read, “I am guessing that this post and the last one. . . are related.”

  12. Seth,

    I suppose this is not the first Get A Hold of Yourself Man I’ve needed…thanks

    Loren,

    I’m not planning on leaving, I guess.

    Jack (and Seth too),

    I guess I hadn’t fully appreciated how much this is something that requires practice to get better at.

    Chris,

    Interesting suggestion. I just think that it would be a bit difficult to pursue. 1) WordPress.com doesn’t really allow for monetization (although I had been thinking about going to .org or something)…and 2) I don’t really know how I’d go about monetizing in a non-obnoxious way (I dislike intrusive ads, and don’t really know much about any ads that wouldn’t fit that description).

    Mme Curie: Yeah, the Packer post was definitely problematic for me. There were a few other posts that I didn’t like how they ended up, but it’s only the Packer one that I’m reacting in a “What was I really trying to accomplish?” way.

    I reviewed my Hafen posts a few hours back…I liked my coverage of those a lot more.

  13. I too hope you will keep blogging, and continue participating wherever you want to on your own terms. I think you have thought provoking posts and discussions here and elsewhere.

    With that said, I disagree with you on a few issues. I respect where you’re coming from, but disagree. And I believe it is perfectly okay for people to agree to disagree. In fact, I think it’s healthy. Maybe I’ll have different thoughts after reading your other post…that’s just where I’m at. And just because people have similar narratives or share some beliefs, doesn’t mean they will share all the same viewpoints or beliefs. The typical example is just because I might vote a certain party sometimes, doesn’t mean I will always vote for members of that political party.

    But I think I actually agree with Seth on this one. Which is mildly shocking.

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