Comforting the Soul Without Filters

When I deconverted from Christianity, I was always confronted by the question from seeming well-wishers, “How can you get through ______ (fill in chaotic state of choice) without faith in God?” I used to ask that question myself and believed heartily for a long while in someone else’s answer to it. When one goes through hard times, one naturally wants to turn toward someone or something to help them along with it. Many people claim to have the perfect answer. Many others’ answers to chaos are destructive, such as drugs, alcohol, addiction to more chaos, and blatant manipulation of circumstances. Not healthy by any means. Many others turn to God; or at least, their concept of God. This is the filter by which they see all of the world. They do not see directly but indirectly, “through a glass darkly” as it were (1 Cor. 13). It is a willful choice to retreat from the world and not see it clearly or to choose to see it with Jesus Christ in our way. I used to find comfort in this, mainly because confronting the real world was too painful to contemplate. I would retreat behind the convenient barrier of Jesus and the church and claim it was “for Christ” when really it was a refusal to face reality head on. When that barrier crumbles, one needs to find another source of comfort.

But what exactly is reality? Is it what we see or experience through our senses every day? Is it the thin veneer of roles and persona people project at us and that we project to others? Some see reality in the physical world, in Nature, but what is reality then for a blind person? A deaf person? How can all the things the privileged ascribe to the five senses and their definitions of beauty translate for those not so “privileged?” I read an Advent devotion yesterday that said we should take comfort in the Creation as God intended it. It advised me to go outside and appreciate the grandeur of God through meditation on what I could see. My first thought was, “What if you can’t see it?” How often do we take for granted all those things that bring us comfort, never realizing that we are putting barriers in the way of ourselves and in the way of others? What filters or barriers do we erect in order to “see” into this numinous spiritual world around us?

All good questions and all questions that every individual has different answers for. Just as every individual has a different “Christ” in mind and a different “God” in mind and yes, even a different “Goddess” in mind, I too have a different sense of what comforts and heals. I believe that each one of us contains all we need to comfort ourselves. I am certainly not saying that being with others, wanting their love and friendship, is wrong. Not at all. But relying on them completely for our peace of mind is always dangerous. Ultimately, we are our own means of comfort for we alone are all we have. All we need to do is stop flailing about outside of us and start grounding ourselves within. Easier said than done, right? How do we do that?

Through solitude. How scary solitude is to those addicted to noise and chaos and the madness of crowds! But solitude is necessary to all of us. I believe that those of us who cannot relax are addicted to the adrenaline rush that keeps us going on a daily basis. I also firmly believe that we can be addicted to relationships and that some of us have not ever learned to be comfortable in our own skins and in our own lives. The only way to do that is to be alone with ourselves more and relax into that. We need to detox from that relationship high we get when we are immersed in the crowd, however big or small, and listen to that small voice of our own that tells us what is true and right for us.

On Reality Sandwich, Bob Kull writes about this need for solitude in his article “The Value of Solitude.” Like many others who have chosen this path as a route to self-healing, he writes that “…the core of my loneliness is not separation from other people, but feeling disconnected from myself.” He further writes that self-reliance is learned and that deep satisfaction comes from knowing that we will be alright if left to survive on our own. If we allow ourselves the luxury of solitude, that is, enough solitude to find that out. And it’s not just survival that we have to relearn and find satisfaction in. We come to the core of our true selves in solitude and sometimes we may not like what we see. “We each have a social identity,” Kull explains, “a persona held in place by our interactions with other people. In solitude this persona begins to lose solidity and dissolve. The process is sometimes terrifying…Solitude challenges us to face our inner darkness and to discover that we are not identical to the conception we often have of ourselves.” How true this is! Only alone do we find we have time to think about who we really think we are. Only alone can we find and employ those things that comfort us from our own resources.

So, we are back to the filter question. How can we find our true source of survival and comfort if we use various filters to block our true way? What filters do we use on a daily basis and do we really need them? Do we try to find ourselves in the pages of ancient texts? Do we try to find ourselves in the natural world? Are we brave enough to be alone and look at ourselves without looking through a “savior?” Do we “focus on progress” as Kull writes or do we live and enjoy NOW without thought to past or future? Because that’s all that solitude is isn’t it? All it is is learning to enjoy NOW while we are in it and refusing to place those filters in front of us while enjoying it. Comfort comes when we disregard the mistakes of the past and allay our fears for the future and exist totally in our own skins and find that everything is all right, right now.

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10 thoughts on “Comforting the Soul Without Filters

  1. Very interesting post. I agree with the solitude and it to can be as much of a cruch or filter as the chaos for some. As you stated, everyone has thier own “thing” that comforts them – and yes, we all have the capacity within ourselves – I like to think of that as my inner God. I wish I could find the comfort in God that many do, but now I think uncertainty has become my comfort zone. By the way, how does one deconvert?

  2. Jodi,

    You are correct. Anything can be a crutch or filter including that which we find to comfort us temporarily. I used to find that comfort in “God” myself, so I know how that goes. When I say “de-convert” I mean to detox from Christianity as an institution. For some people that means de-converting from belief in Jesus or God as well. Those people in that process right now are over at De-conversion.com and have numerous stories to tell. Those of us who still cling to our ideas of “God” and “Jesus” still find comfort there where we can. If not, we turn to other sources, but ultimately, we ourselves can be and should be our greatest comfort.

  3. Jodi wrote:
    “By the way, how does one deconvert?”

    I assume your question is a general one, since, if you find yourself chiefly in the uncertainty zone, the deconversion process is well under way – assuming of course you had converted in the first place.

    Filters of one sort and another are always with us. I envy those with religious faith because, presumably, they feel that one layer of filtering has been removed, since faith, by its very nature, is a window on certainty. To have some unquestioned certainties in one’s spiritual life is something I would grab with both hands if it came to me. As it is, the faith of others looks to those of us who don’t share it like someone else’s filter.

    Reg

  4. Reg,

    Faith as a window on certainty? Hmmm.. I’m not sure about that. Isn’t faith another filter because aren’t you still seeing through a “glass darkly” so to speak? And I’m not sure everyone has those “certainties” or at least they don’t have them rightly in my opinion. They seem to me to be certainties based on tenuous evidence. But your last line is spot on I think. 🙂

  5. I think we are perhaps meaning different things by faith.

    I would not of course presume to guess what you mean by it, so here’s my attempt to explain what I mean by it.
    Belief is a rational business. It’s what our heads tell us, based on experience, reading ETC, is true. We will all have a different standard of course; the point at which we find the evidence sufficiently convincing to warrant the description of “truth”. For me, this means that I’m convinced until some contrary evidence comes over the hill and lays waste to my self-satisfaction at having at last found something I could believe to be true.

    Faith is similar, a form of belief, but one based on emotional rather than intellectual conviction. The “heart” is involved, crucially (excuse the pun) but not exclusively. If, for instance, I had faith in Jesus Christ as the incarnation of God in human form, my response to that would be an emotional one. BUT I would still “know” this to be true, if only for me. How would I know this? Because my faith would be based on some kind of experience. In that sense, any experience, including numinous experience, is evidencial. If I were asked to explain why I had faith, I might say that I had an encounter with the living Jesus, or some such thing. This, to me, would be a fact every bit as compelling as a concrete proof that gravity causes apples to fall towards the centre of the earth if they become detatched from their tree, striking you on the head if you’re in the way. This would be a heart experience which my head could attest to have actually happened. This combination would amount to certainty I think.

    If many have been prepared to be burned or stoned to death for the sake of their faith, I guess they must have been fairly certain about it.

    Reg

  6. Reg,

    I think that we are operating on the same definitions of “belief” and “faith.” Even though the bible says that “faith… is the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11) I would argue that faith cannot be as convicting as belief can. I can believe that the sun will “come up” tomorrow because it has every morning for as long as I’ve been alive. That’s a reasonable belief I think.

    However, I cannot have as solid a belief in prayer where some requests appear to be answered and some do not. Not only that, prayer is not falsifiable or re-creatable. We can pray all we want for a specific thing but it will not be answered every single time nor can we recreate a specific prayer that will always get a specific answer. I can have faith that it will be so, but I can’t believe it with certainty.

    Therefore, I think that belief must be more certain than faith to be believable. Does that make any sense at all? Of course, some will say that their faith is that certain, but I think that faith and certainty cannot go hand in hand or it wouldn’t be faith. The only thing I could solidly commit to was a belief in a faithful agnosticism.

    Thanks so much for the considered and thought provoking response! Whether mine makes any sense at all remains to be seen. But then, that’s why I’m so confused myself about faith and belief and simultaneously doubt much. 🙂

  7. In grappling with the meaning of faith for the individual, we’re brought up against the function of faith in the life of that individual.

    In talking to those who regard themselves as people of Christian faith, it seems to me that most of them look to it to take over where rationality fails. Your definition of faith seems to present us with something in which you would put very little faith – something you seem to regard as a fuzzy emotional response which will always come a poor second to your much greater faith in your rational convictions. This strikes me as more of a nagging doubt in the face of rationality than faith as others describe it.

    It was to try and come to grips with my wish not to get faith and belief polarised as opposites that I introduced the possibility of a “faith experience” as evidence. Naturally, not all religious faith is derived from such experiences. Some people feel it because they were born into it, and it works for them. But back to that numinous experience. It’s evidencial value is that, having had it, it can not be denied. So, whatever one’s rationality says from other sources, those who have had such an experience can always say “this I know to be true, because it happened to me”. We do not have to measure our individual experiences against the dogma of priests, or the opinions of others and their professed rationality.

    To be sure, the evidence of our senses and the promptings of our consciences is all we have. But to judge someone else’s experience as irrational simply because it doesn’t fit with our notion of what rationality is is perillous. A field like quantum mechanics could suddenly come up with something which renders our entire view of the physical universe to be merely a construct which gets us through the day.

    If we feel something is true, we can be as certain of it as we are certain that the sun will rise tomorrow. As a teenager, I had an experience of the reality of God, not Jesus. Whatever happens to me in ,my life, I have to make everything else fit this experience, because it happened to me and I have to deal with it.

    Reg

  8. BritishReg,

    You wrote:
    “Your definition of faith seems to present us with something in which you would put very little faith – something you seem to regard as a fuzzy emotional response which will always come a poor second to your much greater faith in your rational convictions. This strikes me as more of a nagging doubt in the face of rationality than faith as others describe it.”

    I suppose now it does seem as if I define faith this way, perhaps because the rational far outweighs faith in my opinion (yes as a fuzzy emotional response to unexplainable and unprovable experiences). It would seem to me that you value experience so much because that is precisely all you have to go on in daily life, besides what others teach you or what you soak up in your reading and listening and learning life. I understand why the experiential would take precedence.

    Sometimes, however, even my “rational” brain tries to discredit my experience and I find myself wondering who’s kidding who within. What a strange position to find oneself in. I wish I could solve it! 🙂

    And welcome to the blog fold!

  9. Silence and solitude have been my cure of choice for years, even when I was a christiannazi. Today a combination of ear plugs, shooter’s ear muffs and a blind fold come in handy when I can’t escape to my beloved wilderness.
    Even my nephew knows this. He lives 50 miles east of town and says that he can “feel the neighbors walls around him” and that the “people noise” bothers him when he’s staying with his dad in the city.

  10. Jamesotis:

    I can see the wisdom of that. We are not aware sometimes just how much we need filters or, as in your case, to keep the noise level out. We definitely need filters at those times. We don’t realize also how much we could very well do without them however. The wisdom is in knowing one from another and choosing wisely.

    Thanks for commenting!

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