Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Gravity of My Situation

Firstly, this note is not about me. Though, I've faced apathy of a similar kind, I've never truly wrestled with it. This is an outsider's view of a friend, written in first person. We'll call this person "Bailey". Bailey was a friend of mine who could never really decide anything and who thought that riding the fence was the best choice. But he denied it was a choice. He said that a nonchoice couldn't be a choice because of the prefix "non-". But then I had to ask if he had nonchose between certainty and uncertainty. He got mad at me.

For a long time, I had trouble deciding. I had a condition called apathy. Well, it wasn’t that I had trouble deciding; I simply did not care. It was, I’ll admit, about trying to frustrate the two sides of the same topic, I genuinely did not care for choosing between them. However, one day, in my daze of not caring, I thought of this question to affirm my position: “Why should I care?” I came up with mock answers like, “to help others!” and “to be the man I know I can be” or even “to know truth!” Without thinking, I had answered it.

“To know truth.” The answer responded like a working church bell in a marble room; it resonated endlessly in my brain. One might say that I had a hollow head, and that’s where the resonance came from; and in retrospect he would be right. I had covered up something in apathy so much that I decided to call that thing my most inner feelings. And in that moment, I realized it. What did great men like Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Pascal, Newton and Einstein have in common? The search for meaning? “No,” I decided, “they searched for something deeper.” But what is deeper than meaning?
I decided, finally, that my apathy had covered my search for truth. It may have even been a little jealous of it at first, and so started to smother it. What made me so apathetic and how did I reach my conclusion?

My apathy, I believe, stemmed from wanting to not choose a side of an argument that is pure black and white; that much is obvious. I would make fun of one side as much as I wanted, and then the other side too. But oh goodness, don’t make me choose. I could never choose. But even then, was I not searching for truth? A nonchoice is as much of one as choosing theism over atheism. To put it differently, when I don’t choose either side, I choose my preference, “no side”. If I take into account the true meaning of apathy, which is -in short- to not care, I actually end up contradicting myself. I’ve chosen my preference over two other choices. I cared enough to do so. But one might ask, “what other choice do I have?” The answer I would give my former comrade in apathy is, “You have no choice. Unless you’d like to kill yourself, that is. But even then you’re in contradiction. You’d rather choose death (a preference) than choose.” In short, I discovered, one truly cannot live an apathetic life without accepting that it is a contradiction. A step toward choice is a step away from apathy.

For awhile, I accepted this contradiction. Why should I care? The same question rang back again. “Why should I care? What’s in it for me?” Asking what’s in it for me, destroying my position again. I cared what was in it for me, by choosing apathy. What’s in it for me; the simplistic notion that I didn’t have to care for making choices? Who cares that I just cared about not caring? Not this guy; I don’t care.
Finally, I gave up one day. I asked three people the merits and beliefs of Christianity. Below, I will outline the answers they gave me.

My friend Charlie had once asked me if I believed Jesus lived and I said, in a historically based sense, yes He did. Charlie then went through the basic doctrines of Christianity, telling me of how Jesus was the Son of Man and of God, but he couldn’t really explain it very well. And how when Jesus made his sacrifice on the cross, he somehow appeased his Father God, but he couldn’t really explain it well. To me, it seemed like he knew all the answers, but he couldn’t explain them well enough for me. It was almost like he was talking down to me. Finally, I asked him, “And do you believe that Jesus will return for his Christians at the end of days?” Charlie looked at me and smiled sort of manically. He simply replied, “I have returned. Will you accept me?” Yes… Charlie did imply that he was the second coming of Jesus. Yes, Charlie has been institutionalized since then.

And so I went to Christian number two, another friend of mine –who I hope is not insane- Damien. Damien had grown up in church, and unlike Charlie, he could explain simple doctrine that a decent layman could explain. He was well spoken and quick witted and leveled with me so that I didn’t feel overwhelmed. “Although I’ve never been apathetic towards God,” he said, “I can kind of see where you’re coming from.” Damien then kind of went over the same doctrines Charlie did, only in a less insane way, and asked if I had any questions. Taken by his explanation, I simply asked, “So how do I get into heaven?” Damien looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “That has been taken care of for you. When Jesus paid the price of your sin, you were invited into heaven. All you need is faith in Him; that is all you need.” What Damien had said by not saying, is that I did not have to be a decent human, so long as I believe in God. And so I questioned him on this point, to which he replied, “Belief in the cross is enough. Don’t worry so much about sinning. God will forgive you, man. Don’t worry.” I left him then to ask friend number three.

My friend Angela used to be an apathetic person like myself. Then she chose atheism. However, she soon saw contradictions in both views and became a Christian. The first thing I asked her was, “How do I get into Heaven?” I repeated this question to her, because I got the feeling Damien wasn’t telling the whole truth to me; like he was lying or, at least, telling an untruth. The difference is simple. Lies are intentional and untruths are told out of ignorance. Angela told me the same jive Damien had said and then I asked her if I only needed faith alone, sola fide. She smiled sweetly and replied to me this:

“If you’re saying that you only need faith to get into heaven, then you’re in the same position as Satan, even unknowingly. You see, even he knows God exists and even he knows what Jesus did on the cross. In fact, if you want to call that Christianity, Satan is the best Christian there is today, because he was there; he saw these things happen. He’s a primary source. If faith alone is Christianity, then it is a religion I want no part in anymore. If an army has enlisted one of their enemies, then that army will surely fall. So, no. You were told wrong. Christianity is, first, having faith in God and his work on the cross, but then, two, acting on this to help others. It is your faith in God that enables you to help others without a want of reward or recognition. Let me put it this way for you. We’re friends and we interact. We are in relationship and we interact. Why should a relationship be multidimensional to two dimensional humans, but only be one dimensional to a multidimensional God? Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was for a relationship with us, by taking the wrath of the Father on himself. Yes, we are saved by Jesus’ sacrifice and can enjoy eternal life after mortal death. However, what good is this relationship if we never interact with God? It isn’t only about faith when you reach this point; you want to do things for God because you’re friends with Him and you may even love Him. For instance, you hang out with friends and play games and such. You do this because you’ve gotten close to your friends. We must get close to God (having faith) so that we can do things through and with him (good works). So, to answer your question, yes you can only have faith but faith is dead without works of charity and kindness. Christians are called to be like Jesus. He loved others and had faith in the Father. We cannot truly have one without the other. Are you friends with someone if you don’t interact with them?”

Realizing the gravity of the situation, I thanked her for her time and went home. Although Angela’s response made the most sense, was I ready for that? I sat in the dark of my bedroom for awhile. I could no longer live in apathy; it didn’t make sense. However, why would I live like the dishonest friend or the insane friend? And how could I live like the true friend?

Awkwardly, I knelt and prayed for the first time in hopes of caring and in hopes of making a choice.

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