On the Subject of Me
Let me start by telling you something about me that you don’t know, that you could not know unless you knew me. I was once in a religious cult. Strange to some no doubt, not the everyday experience of most. And now a dozen thoughts form in your head, you have ideas no doubt on what that means based on things you’ve heard or read. And that, as you will see is the basis of this article. So what does my experience mean? In simple terms, it means that I’ve had my time in the past of being under some form of control and not free to think so much or choose my own path. Well that’s depressing right? Now let me tell you something else, something positive, I got out, and that can be rare. Some of you may say that you would never join a cult, that your mind is clear, but a cult is just an enforced way of thinking and contrary to what we might suppose, we follow enforced ways of thinking all the time, even unknowingly. But we will get to that.
Some people I know now, especially Christians, which was what I once called myself and of whom I still make friends, may think of me as the one who needs converting. They may see my openess and friendliness to all types, as a disregard to God. You see, most religion has a standardized way of thinking and they need to make things fit their worldview. But are they the only ones doing that? If you think about it you will start to see where I’m heading with this, but back to the example. There have been religious people I encounter who see only the me now, of course, how can they see the me before? Maybe they think of me as not a bad guy exactly but not exactly a follower of anything either. But some want to step in and alter my life to their ‘correct’ path, to save me as one being lost. They do not understand my past, they see only as they think of me at present, having not known me before, as such they try to fit me into their worldview. Its hard to understand that as much as a conversion experience goes one way, it can also go the other. Instead of becoming a God professing, newly ‘saved from sin’ convert the transition can also be from religious cult control to thinking freely. New experiences do that to you. Trying to fit things into a group restrict you and though I use the religious here its far from limited to that. But in this example the real problem is a snap judgement, the trying to fit me into a category. We can do that alot, but with a little listening one might come to a better understanding of who I am and where I come from.
You could hear my story and say ‘well I’m glad that I never joined a cult, that I can think for myself’. But the truth is that we always need to check ourselves and see if we are in old patterns that are no longer relevant or trying to please everyone else and yet missing out on what we really need in our own life. This goes not only for religion, it can come from culture, family, school, and many other places. Ask, are you free to think as you like, or is there a nagging fear of displeasing someone or going against some dimly remembered creed? In your heart you can know one thing to be true and yet have a rule or value system in the back of your mind from another source. There can be uncertainty when these two meet, uncertainty on how to proceed, a stifling effect. You feel fear to go against something you were taught to follow, but if that teaching makes you unhappy and worse, resists your own well being, perhaps its time to reject it and see new ideas. Your feelings are not always random flashes, they can also be there for a reason.
I find the thing that helps me find new friends always and generally have people like me is that I try not to view things through any preconceived prism of belief anymore. When I talk to people of belief, or of any kind, I am genuinely fine to hear about their experiences, thinking it may add something to me by listening. Despite my past it made me appreciate more where people are coming from. But I’m not out to convert them either. If they state an idea I disagree with, I simply tell them why, but my goal is not to be better or more right than them. We disagree on ideas everywhere, healthy discussion is good. But I can see alot of people I talk to already formulating their worldview as I speak to them and trying to make it all fit. It does’nt surprise me, I’ve been there. Alot of the time we want to make things fit so we feel secure, the world is scary, we want order. But if we can step outside the box we see more, its a bit chaotic, it challenges our thinking, but it’s not dull either. What box do I mean? The things that others have told you are true or that you were taught but that you’ve not seen for yourself. And here we come to the point mentioned earlier, though many would say, I would never join a cult, or, I am a free thinker how much of your thinking is influenced by things you’ve heard or been taught? How much is from experience and listening, without judgement, to other people?
If you take time to look outside your worldview, what religion told you, what your parents said was true, your own disappointments or fears, you can see a larger picture take shape. Think of it like a simulation type video game where people are building their own castles and societies. They have designs and order that differs from yours. If you stay in only your own world you won’t see other ideas, you might even like some if you were to see them, in fact, they may actually enhance your own. And importantly, just because you don’t see them or acknowledge them does’nt mean they don’t exist or are not every bit as relevant as yours. All it means is that you are ignoring them. Take a step outside your domain, travel, talk, meet, ask, and best of all..listen. Overcome the fear of difference and chaos, does life seem boring? Is something off, or not feeling right? Look around and you may realize that the room you were in was only a box made by ideas, have those ideas lost relevance? Have you outgrown them? Were the teachers of those ideas wrong, or using another frame of reference? What is your boredom, indecision, or unhappiness trying to tell you? The box is not the end of the world, its was a safe place to be until you were ready to move on. You can always create wider and wider spaces, and the only limit is you.