Coded violet.

Monday 20 August 2001

Quiet river

Nothing has changed. But you know
that time is moving like a river;
there can only be love forever.

Chris de Burgh, Shine On (from the CD Power of Ten).

Old friends, old memories

I was sitting on the commuter bus to the city, reading Nova Notes on my pocket PC. Then this fellow came onboard and sat down beside me. After a moment I recognized him, even though it has been some time. He was one of Smith's Friends, or as they prefer to call themselves, The Christian Church. (Actually a more literal translation might be The Christ-like Church. Their humility is rarely on behalf of the Church.)

Since I never asked him to let me write about him, I'll not give his name. Anyway, he was quite friendly, as well he should be. While I do not frequent the Church anymore, I did depart on reasonably friendly terms. This happened back when they were shedding a lot of people anyway, people who resisted a change of policy. I had friends on both sides of the battlefield, and have since avoided both the remaining Church and the various attempts at competing churches. But there is more to it than that. Oh, so much more.

I love these people's theology. But I hate their sociology. They are extremely family-centered. And I, as you may have noticed, am not.


It is not just a matter of taste. The philosopher Immanuel Kant claimed that we should live such, that our choices could be used as a universal law. That is, we should do what we would want everyone to do. Now this is a nice theory, but it can be sort of disturbing as a reality. And in the Church, it was very much a reality to me. The congregation was (and still is) teeming with children and youngsters, and they keep an eye on you. Expect your behavior to be used as an argument in one direction or the other without much delay.

Now this may seem like a good thing, but not if their situation is very different from yours. And it was, in at least two ways. One, as I mentioned, they are very family oriented. For a man, being unmarried was considered a bad and selfish thing. (Unless you atone for it by doing something spectacular, like travelling to faraway places and converting the heathens or communists.) The hints from my spiritual brethren gradually took on the subtlety of a big hammer, and it's not like I was gay or castrated or had any good excuse. But I never heard God's voice telling me to marry, and in retrospect I guess we can all be thankful for that. But it set a bad example for those coming after me.

There's also the minor point that I had an inner guidance. I knew in my heart what to do, I just sometimes couldn't get myself to do it. But by and large, I always knew what I needed to know. I did not need to ask, I did not need to emulate others, to use them as examples. On the contrary, if I tried to ape others, I felt a judgement inside, as if I strayed from the path of my life. The same about asking others for advice. I knew what to do and anything else was trying to sneak away from my responsibility.

Most people are not like that. They need rules. They need someone to set an example and lay down the law. The Church may have been founded by mystics, but most of them were dead before our time. So tradition acquired the force of law. But I neither noticed tradition nor tried to make new traditions. I lived by the light inside me. Sometimes I failed - OK, pretty often - but I never walked any other path for long.


I'm glad I'm out of their hair. We had much good together, and they were a tremendous help for me to develop as a person, to regain my life from the swamp of bitterness and hate I lived in as a young man, after years and years of being bullied and harassed at school. I could have been a murderer by now, instead of a friendly mystic. It was pretty bad. But the Friends taught me about divine love. They did not, however, teach me about human love. I still wonder sometimes whether it really exists, and if so, where.

Be that as it may, being honest to myself meant setting a bad example. Conversely, I could not do what was expected of me without losing my soul. That is not a life you want to continue living till you die.

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