As I was doing some reading last night, I came upon a reference to a book I read several years ago: Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life". Of course, that was when I was a Christian and was attending church for every service; a far cry from the baby-eating, atheistic heathen I've since become. For those unfamiliar with the book (can't imagine how you wouldn't be; it's sold some thirty million copies), it is meant to be read over forty consecutive days (and/or nights; those damned biblical parallels) and contains "inspirational" writings, scripture, and suggestions for how one can live a better life--a life that glorifies Jesus/God and that just generally makes you a better person. More or less. I had forgotten all about the book until I just stumbled across it a few hours ago, and I can't say that it really changed me for the better at all, even when I was going to church. This entire entry will not focus ultimately on Mr. Warren or his book; it's just the means to an end, so to speak, with purpose as a theme.
In mid- to late-2005, the church I was attending--and was a member in a leadership position in--had just remodeled the sanctuary, changing from the traditional theme to a more contemporary one, changing the operation of things as well. What was once the church your parents would have recognized from their youth had transmogrified to a miniature version of the churches you see on TV; the customary pews were replaced with plush chairs, a new sound-engineering booth was constructed, and the stage had mutated from an elevated rectangle to gradually tiered half-octagon. There were committees now; six "teams"--the members of which were delegated certain tasks such as organizing music and praying and such. I was a member of the prayer team, which gathered during the week to pray over the prayer requests people in the church had submitted. I also served on the praise team, since I played drums and sang in the music portion of Sunday service. Since the times they were a-changin', the pastor decided to jump on the bandwagon and lead the church as a whole in a six-week long serial sermon based on The Purpose Driven Life, since all the cool churches were doing the same. Everyone in the church was obligated to purchase a copy and participate in the reading every day for discussion the following Sunday. The book had suddenly gained popularity, according to Wikipedia and The Associated Press, after a hostage read a chapter to her captor--Brian Nichols (who had already killed four people that day), and he saw fit not to kill her. Come to find out later--according to her own memoirs--that she had also given him some crystal methamphetamine as well to calm him down. Bet the churches weren't aware of that. What makes me wonder is why a woman would be carrying around Rick Warren's book and just happens to have some meth on her. I guess I should start carrying meth with me from now on just in case I get held hostage. Anyway, I bought the book, I read the book, and I did not find it inspirational or special in any way at all.
Now that I've stepped down from my soapbox, I suppose I should get to the point of my starting to write this.... I've always heard--as I'm sure everyone has--that "God has a purpose for you". We're supposed to believe that there is some bearded sky daddy up in space somewhere controlling the lives of everyone simultaneously and that everything is predetermined for us from the day we're born on this earth. I have problems accepting that, even IF I could concede that there is a sky daddy up there, and I'll tell you why. I've escaped death several times in my almost thirty-two years alive and, if there is something "God" has ordained for me to accomplish, or to have participation in accomplishing, I have just one question: What the fuck is it?
When I was born, I had medical problems. I was born via Caesarian due to some difficulty or another with my mom's health. I was born with a collapsed right lung, which was re-inflated by the insertion of two tubes into my peritoneal cavity, which left me with two scars that look more like bullet wounds than anything now. Obviously it worked though; crisis averted. When I was a toddler, I suffered a hernia; had surgery to tuck my intestines back inside, where they belonged. I survived yet again, this time with two four inch scars right above my junk. That's two medical emergencies within the first two years of my life, and we're not even done yet. There was to be worse to come.
My brother and I were placed in foster care for about three years while we were children, due to my mother's boyfriend/man du jour falling asleep with a cigarette and burning the house down. I was about seven; my brother five. My mother won custody back just before my brother's eighth birthday, so we went back with her. We ended up moving here to Huntsville, and the school I went to was within walking distance from our house. It was about a ten-minute walk; the only potential danger was crossing one of Huntsville's busiest streets, but there was always a crossing guard to direct traffic to stop. On December 5, 1990, I decided to stay after school for a while; a friend of mine and I would steal candy and snacks out of the vending machine. Time got away from me and, by the time I left school, it was a quarter til four. The crossing guard was gone. I remember crossing half way across the five lanes, waiting for the traffic to dissipate on the far side. That's the last thing I remember. I recall waking up in the hospital a couple weeks later, tasting the Dilantin gel that the doctors were giving me to control some seizures. I stayed in the hospital for a total of about three weeks; I had suffered two broken bones in my right leg, a fractured skull, and a lot of road rash. Everyone who visited me--my parents, other relatives, teachers, etc. said that I was lucky to have made it through alive, that "God had a plan" for me. I recovered from that and here I am today.
Fast forward to when I was fourteen.... It was a hot summer day. I decided to cool off by going inside and grabbing an ice cube from the freezer to suck on. I had it in my mouth for about thirty seconds when I accidentally swallowed it. I couldn't bring it back up and I had no one else there to help me. It fucking hurt; jagged edges and all stretching and poking all sides of my esophagus. With great effort, I was able to swallow it and get my breath back. It hurt for days, but I was still alive. It could've gone much worse. Another life-and-death situation and I survived despite long odds. About three years later, I was hit by lightning. My step-father owned a home improvement company and had built an office building adjacent to our house (we had since moved to the country). He decided a while after building it that it wasn't as practical as he'd thought it'd be, and that I could have it to use as a bedroom. The door had been forced open, so all you had to do to get in was to just push it open. Long story short, there was a heavy thunderstorm one night and the wind blew the door open, crashing into my drums and waking me up. I got up and closed the door and went back to bed. Not three minutes later, it happened again. The concrete floor was soaked in rain, and I really wanted to get back to sleep. I slammed the door and held it there for a few seconds. Next thing I know, I hear a loud bang--something like a gunshot--and I'm lifted off the ground. I could feel my hands and arms tingling in the second or two that I was hovering in the air. I said "fuck this" and ran across the driveway to the house. I waited for my parents to wake up and went to the ER. They told me once again how lucky I was. I figure it's not lucky to have things like that happen to you in the first place, but I guess in the whole scope of things, it's lucky for you not to die from them.
I haven't had any more real skirmishes with death since then, so I guess I've finally discovered true luck. But after all these near-misses, I have to ask myself: What is it that I'm supposed to accomplish, IF Sky Daddy doesn't want me dead yet? What is there to do in the grand scheme of things? I don't believe in God/gods, so I really don't worry myself too much over it, but I would challenge any Christian to tell me why I shouldn't have already died from one of those things I've discussed. As I've alluded to already in a previous post, I tend to spend a large portion of my life suffering from very painful and debilitating arthritis attacks, to the point of where I have actually considered getting one of those Hoveround power chairs just to save myself some agony when I'm hurting bad. Is the point of me surviving all those things which could have ended me then just to live out a long life of suffering with a few breaks every now and again? Am I alive just to do my part in helping pharmaceutical companies be successful by taking their medicines all the time? Provide inspiration to someone who doesn't have as many problems as I do? If you've made it to the end of this diatribe, I congratulate you; these ramblings are probably at least half fueled by a steady diet of caffeine and hydrocodone, and I thank you sincerely for staying the course. Is there purpose to suffering? You came this far; you tell me.