our neuroses and our wisdom are closely aligned

neu·ro·sis noun

a mental and emotional disorder that affects only part of the personality, is accompanied by a less distorted perception of reality than in a psychosis, does not result in disturbance of the use of language, and is accompanied by various physical, physiological, and mental disturbances (such as visceral symptoms, anxieties, or phobias)

Someone told me recently that “should” is the foundation of all neuroses. It is something their therapist said to them once in trying to process why their childhood wasn’t different than it was. It’s been about two weeks since I heard this and it’s been in the front of my mind -I think that’s how the brain works- pretty much every day since then. The idea is that you will drive yourself crazy thinking about how things should be, because life doesn’t give a shit about how things should be.

This is an aside but I tried to give twitter dot com a few bucks to promote my writing recently and they said no because my page contains foul language. I’m apparently too crude for the world’s worst website. I even went in and bulk deleted about four thousand tweets in the event that I said or retweeted something problematic in my youth… but still- too rude, man!

I’m at a point in my life where I would argue that I’m not a very religious person. I know that David Dark, from whom I borrowed the title of this post, would disagree- but I’m the captain now so we’re going to roll with my view. David wrote a phenomenal book called Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious, which I recommend purchasing several copies of because good writers need your money and he’s a very good writer. The premise of the book is that we are all religious- everybody is in a constant state of worship of one thing or another, and he is correct. In establishing his point, he writes the below:

The question of religion is the question of who and what we’re bound to, how it is we find ourselves tied up and what our biggest big ideas actually are.

When I say I’m not religious, I mean in the traditional sense. I have grown to understand that many of the world’s religions are fairly similar and throughout history people have elected to go to war over the fairly minute nuances that make them different. I grew up in the church, played in the worship band(s), was a leader in several youth groups, and spent much of my life believing that I might begrudgingly end up in Christian ministry because God had his hand in everything and I would ultimately have no say over the calling in my life. If you would have told me that in my early 30s I would feel the way I do now about the church, I don’t know I probably would have believed you because I’ve always been pretty cynical. I used to think my cynicism was charming, but it isn’t so I’m working on it (for the last 15 years).

Resorting to the idea that someone or something else is controlling your life takes a lot of the pressure off. You can be a huge piece of trash for a majority of your life but if the big man has plans for you, you’ll end up in good shape. Almost all of history’s most famous prophets started as huge pieces of trash because character development is hard (there’s my cynicism I’m sorry). Other ways this idea plays out are if someone in your life is sick, you don’t need to worry about it because soon they’ll have a new body and be at the infinite luau in the sky. If you live your whole life struggling to keep the lights on and food in the fridge, don’t sweat it because it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for Jeff Bezos to enter the kingdom of heaven, like you will because you’re broke and spent your life struggling.

Nietzsche called these ideas true world theories. I touched on this some in my last post if you’ve got a few minutes to go read it. Popular thought is that Nietzsche hated God/organized religion, but the reality is that what he hated was the idea that people are not responsible for their own actions and outcome in this life. That if murderers don’t receive punishment for their deeds on earth they’ll get what’s coming to them in the next life. We’ve got a short time to be alive and should experience the consequences of our actions (good or bad) while we’re here.

There is potentially a lot of peace to be found in these true world theories, and I honestly don’t think there is anything wrong with that. As my nana’s body finally submitted to her cancer, my whole family found peace and comfort in the notion that she was no longer in pain here on earth but was now sitting beside God in some excellent new cancer-free body and a penthouse condo overlooking whatever prime body of water that real estate is built next to in heaven. I have had proximity to many others in my life who have made it through tremendous hardships by holding onto the hope they found in their true world theories, and overall I think that is a positive thing. The not-so-positive part of it comes into play when you use it as a guide for how things should be. “I pray every day but still can’t afford to pay my gas bill” or “I volunteer at the rescue mission once a month and still some asshole hit my car today wtf?!” You can make yourself endlessly neurotic believing your life should be a certain way instead of accepting it for how it is and trying to make the most of it from there.

I have always particularly liked the Jesuit idea that when God created the universe, he essentially wound it up like a clock and let it rip. “I made this very excellent existence with science and laws and equal and opposite reactions and it’s your problem now!” Like he has been sitting in his recliner for a few millennia wondering what will happen just like the rest of us. I know there are some problems with the Jesuits throughout history, but their focus on education and science is admirable. Gotta learn how to better yourself if there isn’t a deity controlling every moment of your life and making sure that all things will work out for you.

I wanted to write a few paragraphs about the Hieronymus Bosch painting I used to lead this piece, but I think it’s probably best to leave it alone. If you ask me, the pensive look of peace on the face of Saint Anthony is admirable and worth striving for. He can’t be bothered by the chaos that exists because he’s above his own neuroses. He isn’t ignorant to what’s happening around him, but he’s existing in his own right without letting it ruin him. Every Bosch work I’ve ever seen is worth staring at for hours, so throw this piece of writing away and go get lost in his work or in any other religion that occupies your time and energy.