Three Yous

Blog Posts, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Secular Grace, Thought Experiments

Imagine a genie walks (floats? sidles?) up to you and says, “See that guy over there? Yeah, the 80-year-old that looks like he’s having a great time. If you say yes, I’ll make him sad and lonely, riddled with guilt, obsessing over the past. So, shall we?” How would you react?

Assuming you react with disgust or shock, why is that? Seems obvious: It would be awful to do that to someone.

Or try this: someone walks up to you on a playground and says, “See that mom over there? She used to yell at her kids, like super angry stuff. You should go over there and tell her to undo it.”

That’s also inhumane, but why? Again, seems obvious: she can’t do anthing about it. Plus, she’s doing better now. It’ll do a lot of harm, and what good would it do?

Now imagine the 80-year-old guy is your future self, or the mom is your past self. We do those things to ourselves all the time. We beat ourselves up over the past, even though we’re doing better. We shortchange ourselves now, laying the foundation for sadness and loneliness in the future.

For that reason, I like to think of myself as three different people: past Jimmy, Jimmy, and future Jimmy.

With past Jimmy, I try to be kind. An arm-over-the-shoulder, kindly uncle to my past self. Sure, past Jimmy screwed up, but he knows it, and he’s working to do better. Plus, you see how much progress he’s made? Cut him some slack, present Jimmy!

With future Jimmy, I try to be kind. I invest in friendships, knowing that friendship is key to human flourishing. I try to do healthy things, knowing that future Jimmy is the one who’s going to pay for today.

In the end, all we have is right now. The past is unchangeable and the future is unknowable.

I like how James Clear put it, though he’s coming from a self-help perspective:

Be forgiving with your past self.
Be strict with your present self.
Be flexible with your future self.

Being forgiving with your past self sounds pretty healthy to me.

– Jimmy

PS – I literally speak in the third person about past and future Jimmys. (Jimmies?) Try it! it’s weirdly helpful.

You Can’t Change the Past

Blog Posts, Deconversion, Philosophy, Purity Culture

Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see.

Meditations 3.10 (Hays)

One of the hardest things about deconverting is coming to terms with the fact that there’s so much time already spent: time spent doing what now seems like a complete waste; time spent not doing the things that seem to actually make up a life. So frustrating. Such a waste. Why did purity culture have to happen when I had youth and energy? Why did I spend that youth and energy building up hangups and trauma around sex? Why don’t I know how to have friends?

It’s like Plato’s allegory of the cave was somehow tangled up with that urban legend about waking up after a party, missing a kidney. Or does that metaphor only work for me?

And it’s harder the later in life you deconvert.

One of the most helpful things I’ve found is to accept that the past is gone. Nothing I can do about it, nothing I can do to get it back.

Easier said than done.

First, why is it helpful? If I know I can’t do anything about the past, I can shift my focus on the present moment. The present moment is something I can do something about. Sure, I can learn from the past, but when it comes to making choices, what matters is the here and now.

Even better, if I accept the past as unchangeable, I can be kind to myself, cutting myself some slack for the road ahead.

A thought experiment to take away: What if you were dropped into your current situation? What if you were unceremoniously plopped into the body, memories, life, history, and family of someone else in this situation? What if you knew it wasn’t your life? What would you do? Would you do anything differently? Would you feel differently about the past? How?

– Jimmy

PS – I asked one of these new AI programs for a suggested title for this post. My favorite: “From Kidney Theft to Puritan Lessons: Surviving Unappreciated Time.” …success?

Come to the Edge

Blog Posts, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Secular Community, Secular Grace

Come to the Edge 

by Christopher Logue

Come to the edge.

We might fall.

Come to the edge.

It’s too high!

COME TO THE EDGE!

And they came,

And he pushed, 

And they flew.

The edge—the brink, the threshold, the end. The edge is where you may, with one false step, plummet to your death. The edge is where uncertainty lies, and that’s terrifying. 

When we get to the edge of nearly anything, our limbic system kicks in and screams, “You’re about to die. Stop! Turn back!” We want to run away. And if staying alive is our highest objective, perhaps we should. But is there not more to life than simply surviving?

If I leave christianity, where will I go? 

If I keep asking these questions, who will be there to answer them? 

If I no longer have faith, what will I have? 

The thing is: you don’t know. Everything about standing at the edge is uncertain. But, if you’re honest with yourself, wasn’t life uncertain back living inside the fences?

Still too much outside your control. Now, at least, you can acknowledge that truth and move forward. Do it.

Do it, scared. 

Do it, full of doubt. 

Do it, seeking help along the way. 

But do it, move forward toward the edge. Let yourself be pushed and then fly. You may be pleasantly surprised at the trip. 

–Arline