CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Gary” is a pseudonym.
I like to think of my awakening as the sun rising rather than a light bulb being turned on.
I think of my awakening in this way for several reasons.
First, because it wasn’t one moment in time I can pick out that changed it all, no one event or interaction. It was instead a dawning, a slow realization spread out over the space of about 14 years.
Second, because it is not some small illumination that can be broken or switched off again, but rather an all-encompassing, earth warming, life giving blast furnace of truth that rises into the sky.
Third, because it starts small, from total darkness. I was stumbling, groping in the dark, blind, being tripped up by things I could not see.
Then comes the faintest of glows, far off, or, if you face away from the sunrise, you see first faint outlines of objects, the slightest differentiation of light from dark, form as different than the formless, the earth from the sky.
Little by little the light grows; the things I stumbled on in the darkness are shown to be small stones easily avoided…..now that I can see them for what they really are.
Did it start the day I realized, while reading my father’s old psychology textbook, that my father had been intentionally manipulating us children with Pavlov and Freud based tricks? That he KNEW what he was doing? That his bizarre behavior was not just him “being crazy” but was based off actual theories and practices he had studied in University?
That he was intentionally and with malice trying to make us children afraid of the outside world using psychological manipulation?
That when he spoke of how everyone but himself were “sheep” that could be so easily manipulated he was including myself and my siblings in that number?
Did it start when I realized at age 15 that I was the intellectual equal to my father? That I wasn’t an “idiot” or a “simpleton” as he so frequently told me but rather on par with him in every way? That he could not come up with a single form of manipulation, a single trick, that I did not see through like a pain of glass?
Was it at the age of 20, sitting in the seats of a prominent fundamentalist College and hearing raw hatred spewed from the pulpit day after day after day?
Hatred for Catholics, hatred for LGBTQ people, (thinly veiled) hatred for other races, and thinking…..”these people are crazy”….not just average crazy, but completely, 100%, to the very core, crazy. Dangerous crazy. Wild eyed, clenched teeth, foaming at the mouth NUTS, that they WANT the apocalypse to happen, desire it with a rabid hunger and dream about the end of the world like a little kid dreaming about going to Disney World.
Was it at the age of 21-22 when I started reading actual science textbooks and articles for the very first time and realized that there was no global conspiracy of scientists working to cover up the modern day existence of living dinosaurs left over from the flood?
That the Loch Ness monster wasn’t real? That even other Christians believed in evolution? That the “scientific truth” I had been taught was the collective fantasies of just a handful of complete crackpots who had absolutely zero credibility?
Was it at the age of 23, hearing Neil Young’s “Keep on Rocking In the Free World” on the radio, and hearing for the first time the lines: “…so she puts the kid away and she’s gone to get a hit, she hates her life and what she’s done to it, that’s one more kid who’ll never get to go to school, never get to fall in love, never get to be cool…” and realizing so very clearly that I was essentially that child?
That my parents’ addiction to the sense of superiority they got from radical fundamentalism was more important to them than my chance to have any semblance of a normal or happy childhood?
That they were juicing up with “hits” of radical ideology and paranoia as fervently and regularly as any addict? That all else, every other thing in the world, including the health and mental well-being of their children, would always come second to their need to feel superior?
I can’t pick a single instance when I woke up completely, but I can clearly see the end result.
A stronger, more educated, clear headed, less fearful human being.
A person no longer groping in the darkness.
A person striding ahead into future, the path ahead finally illuminated, not by light bulbs, not by candles, but by the all-encompassing light of day.