Monday, February 11, 2013

The Human Spirit

Six and a half years ago I was at the crossroads again. I've graduated from my first American law program, I was fighting hard to get into the other. My classmates became attorneys and moved away in all directions. My neighbors were college kids, six, seven years my junior, and they were mostly involved in drinking and clubbing every night. Since I moved to America I was looking for people who would live up to my expectation of what a college town is like- deeply intellectual, well read and traveled, inspired and with many interests. But mostly I wanted to have a diverse group of friends since everybody around me seemed to have been doing the same thing. You can only learn if you open yourself up to what other people bring you I thought. With so many things in my life up in the air and me searching for my own purpose, direction and reason for why things are the way they are I decided to focus on my inner self and call it what you may- cultivate my spirit? I was raised Catholic and with my friend Katrina who was Catholic as well calling me from Orlando to tell me I should go to church, I decided to give it a try. Even my Jewish friends were pressuring me to go to some kind of temple for divine guidance. I don't quite remember how I got involved with this group. I know they lived in my apartment complex and I've known some of them from campus, and I'm not that hard to remember. They were trying to get me to go to a service with them and on few occasions I've agreed. They were nice kids, kind and more level headed than other people their age. I guess that's what made them so unique in my eyes. Between the fratboys and sorority girls, hipsters and emos and with sex and booze everywhere they felt like something different.  They called themselves simply Christians and they had a campus in town with services tailored towards the youth. And I can't fault them for wanting a spiritual connection even if their way was not for me. I've noticed that a lot of students that attended their service had a troubled past. Some had violence problems, others dealt with drug addiction and few were in a cult. It seemed to me that they have replaced one form of reliance with another, with the group and the pastor regulating most if not all aspects of their lives.  I never had a void like this to fill, so it never quite worked for me. And I have to say, I like the symbolism of Catholic rituals and the humbling feeling when I enter a cathedral. I wasn't going to join them, but it seemed like a good thing to have them pulled away from sex and drinking. Back then I thought, well at least they can focus their energy on something positive. But the experience wasn't exactly positive for all involved to begin with. A lot of those young people simply couldn't live up to the perfect image and dealt with a lot self loathing, guilt regret and shame. They felt like they were a disappointment because they were not able to rise above their imperfections. Like they were not applying themselves. Like they were not trying hard enough and they were failing. The group, the pastor and God. Those feelings were not something, I think, that naturally came to them. On the other hand, a very closed group, they seemed to not be interested in other people and perspectives at all. They were very quick to pass judgment. They never questioned anything or challenged themselves looking for answers. Cemented in what they felt the truth, right and wrong is, I remember one of my neighbors dealing with his own frustration punched a hole in the wall of his apartment. This simply didn't seem like a healthy thing to do. I didn't even reflect on those experiences until I've heard one of those young men came out as gay. I can't imagine what that experience might have been like considering that during one service I've heard that women should not shave their legs before a date to avoid temptation. That did it for me and I never came back. Are we not all looking for answers trying to figure ourselves out? How dare we pass judgement on other people? And that really got me thinking- just because you listen to Christian rock doesn't mean your open minded.  Just because you talkk of love doesn't mean you love other people. Your perspective can be as narrow disguised as religion. Just because you think you know what's right for others doesn't mean  it's right to tell them. To me, our true value shows not in what we say but how we are with others. What I find now striking, that perhaps I didn't before is how much these Church going kids and club kids were alike. Both focused on their little field, their limiting perspective, shutting away from what this city has to offer. Both lost. Both trying to fit in and connect to something


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