“No, I’ll drive.”
I fidget. I take looks at the area around me. I actually haven’t driven this far into the countryside on my own tiny vehicle. The cars around me are like obstacles. I continually toy with my relationship to annoyance at the other drivers. I’ve made every mistake the other drivers make. Blame and its implications. The Christian concept of sin. I distinctly remember being told in Catholic confirmation class: “You think you don’t hold grudges? Get in your car and drive.” Maybe I hold grudges. They’re temporary.
The idea as I understand it is that since everyone makes mistakes, and everyone is fallen, compassion and forgiveness are always owed to our sinners, because each of us is a child of God. One cannot reasonably expect to eliminate sin within one’s character, no matter how hard one tries. Thus we are all in need of forgiveness, and it is only our fallen nature that compels us toward anger.
To a child coming of age in a Christian (and perhaps post-Christian) culture, peeling apart the differences between secular and Christian morality is a confusing maze wherein nobody is an adequate guide. It isn’t easy after all, to explain to a child that your neighbor’s family celebrates Christmas by setting up a tree and exchanging gifts but doesn’t literally believe in divinity of Christ. How does one explain to a kid the difference between secular and religious values, when one holds particular values in the first place?
I remember looking up at the flag in third grade, and putting my hand over my heart with total sincerity, believing that this patriotic practice and the thoughts flickering in my mind were subject to heavenly judgement. I was taught that the flag was an object of worship, even if those words never occurred to my teachers. It was sacred.
We all understood this. I still don’t know how many of my classmates regarded the whole exercise as empty and pointless. Many none. Maybe some gradually did throughout grades one to twelve. How many retain their allegiance to the flag? How many have decided their allegiance to the flag is meaningless, but that their devotion to the cross is everything? Or the inverse?
I suspect that every possible combination of beliefs is out there. But of course the best explanation is that men and women, young and old permit all these symbols to be thrown at them, allow their minds to be worked on like clay on a sculptor’s table, and then carry on chasing the satisfaction of their impulses.
But follow this train of thought for too long, and you will have to leave all of those old teachings behind. Keep digging through old pages of old books and you might find you would rather hide them away, delve back under the covers and turn off the light.
“Let’s walk, I love the nature.”
I make decisions for reasons that can be calculated and understood based on my physical nature and experiences. Rationalistic, atheistic….these words taste terrible on my tongue, so I come up with reasons for why they don’t describe my beliefs. I could say pantheistic, but even if I convince others I won’t fool myself.
I look up at the sky through the branches and see one of those old houses that has been covered in leaves. I hear crickets. She’s wearing a bright yellow dress and I’m in my own world.
You can’t say that sin is real and then go ahead and acknowledge the products of evolution by means of natural selection. If evolution is real, then why is it bad to be mean? I still remember my classmate in eighth grade saying to someone “you’re so mean!” I thought this was odd, because after all, isn’t everybody? Was it not supposed to be a jungle with no rules? Was calling someone out for being ‘mean’ some kind of acceptable form of retaliation? Doesn’t the the lion eat the antelope at the end of the day?
She wants to climb down into the small amount of water below, but it’s mostly comprised of rocks, and there’s no way back up. She wants to take pictures. I just want to look at the architecture of the house. I tell myself it’s for later drawing, but I don’t suspect I’ll ever draw it. It’s something to focus my mind on.
You can’t blame, you can only explain. If someone causes you harm, then the logical response is to simply assume that (s)he did so for reasons that can be explained by neurology/psychology/biology/chemicals/invisible demons etc. etc. Blame supposes the act has a will. But you can’t give people too much credit. They act on impulses. Revenge is for people who can’t do real-time psychological calculus.
She poses by the old building. I sort of wish I had a better camera with me. There are materials on the floor inside, so I wonder if this place is going to be renovated.
Drivers are easy to predict, because they all want to get somewhere as fast as they can. Their decisions always presuppose that whoever is blocking them has an insufficient reason for doing so, and thus their annoyance is always pre-justified. This is why accidents happen in great abundance here (and they always will).
“Let’s go back.”
I can’t stand just being a passenger. I need control over my movements as my mind wanders. This is a weakness, but also an enormous strength. We of the millennial generation are cursed with low attention spans, but perhaps with them come equivalent wells of mental energy. I point to a cemetery as we drive by. I want to ask if any of her ancestors are buried on this island, but I refrain. I don’t particularly want to know the best way to get back. I just like driving in the direction I know.