Wednesday, August 24, 2011

7 Epiphanies

Coming to terms with those enlightening moments

You know those moments where things just click and you suddenly realize
something life changing. I've been thinking about those times in my
life lately, and there are lots. Still, I think I can break it down
into seven really big epiphanies.

  1. 1984: I can choose to beleive
    what I want.

    I wasn't just raised in a Christian home, my Dad was a pastor. We had a
    great youth minister who did puppet shows. Still, I wasn't entirely
    convinced about the whole God thing. I had an active imagination, and
    the whole thing struck me as one of my little fantasies; what if you
    had an invisible friend who could do anything? It was fun to play, but
    was it real? I remember my church had a prayer meeting and everyone was
    real into it and I was just hanging out, as usual, trying to be good so
    I didn't get spanked. I looked at this one guy's eyes when he openned
    them at one point and they were different, glossy, I guess. I started
    looking at everyone's eyes and they were all doing the same thing. I
    asked my Dad on the way home what was up with everyone's eyes and I
    don't really think he understood what I was asking. I started watching
    eyes. I noticed this same thing happenning sometimes when people were
    taking communion or having a good prayer meeting. Finally, I made a
    connection. This is a real tangible thing that happens in the presense
    of God. Imaginary things don't make real changes.

    Still, I thought there might be more to it than that. I realized that I
    still didn't have
    to beleive in God, even with this "evidence." I found it pretty easy to
    move back and forth between believing and not. So, I realized then that
    a person can choose to believe things. While the choice to believe in
    God is a pretty big thing, realizing that beleifs in and of themselves
    were a choice was pretty big in and of itself. Since then, I have been
    able to "try on" beliefs about all kinds of theoretical or
    controversial things. Sometimes that's worked. Sometimes it hasn't.
    God, on the other hand, has shown me results again and
    again. I admit that miracles still wig me out, but I know that God is

  2. 1987: I am in control of what my
    mind does.

    When my parents moved to a place that was not in a town, they thought
    they were doing something good for me. They might have been, but I
    didn't see it at the time. Previously, we'd lived in a town with about
    2500 people and I had things I liked to do. I loved getting change
    together and going to the drug store to get a comic book or the
    convenience store to get a soft drink. I was an avid window-shopper and
    loved walking downtown and looking at stuff. It was a small enough town
    that I could go about unattended and it was safe. Moving to the farm
    was, to me, boring. I would often read fantasy novels to deal or just
    walk around and wish I could do something. One day, I was in one of my
    fantasies and I realized it had been fun. I realized that I never
    needed to be bored. I hurried in and told my mom that I never needed to
    be bored because if nothing interesting was happenning, I could always
    still think about interesting things. She thought it was so funny. She
    told my dad about it later and he laughed. She told my grandmother
    about it and they laughed together. I know they thought it was funny,
    but to me, it is still one of the defining moments in my life. You can
    choose to be bored. You can choose to be scared. You can choose to be
    angry. You can choose what your mind does because if you don't like
    what it's doing, you can just think about something else.

  3. 1991: I don't have to tell
    people everything.
    My cousin and I were into music and decided to go together on one of those
    CD of the month clubs. We'd divide up the CD's and the cost. It was a
    pretty good deal, but I wasn't sure what my parents would think. Would
    they be against spending the money, especially on secular music? That's
    when my cousin pointed out that I really didn't have to tell them.
    Honestly, this had never crossed my mind. Not only could I just not
    tell my parents things, there were all kinds of things I didn't need to
    tell. If I thought someone would disagree with my point of view on
    something, but I didn't want to fight, I just didn't have to tell them
    I dissagreed. Before this, I really kept myself apart from people
    because I was afraid they wouldn't like me if, say, I told them I
    didn't have a nintendo or something when they were discussing games.
    Now, I realized I could just not mention it. I wasn't lying or even
    letting someone believe a lie. I was just not talking about it. My
    parents wouldn't be actively believing I wasn't in a music club. They
    just wouldn't be thinking about it. In the end, it was my cousin who
    got in trouble for joining the club. My parents found out, but I don't
    think they cared.

  4. 1995: I can learn to like things.
    I really don't count most of my college epiphanies here. One should
    experience epiphanies in college. I had millions of minor epiphanies
    during that time, but a couple of big ones. One of these epiphanies
    came as a result of my Music Appreciation class. I always liked music.
    I sort of liked pop (of the early 90's), I liked "alternative" music
    and I liked quite a bit of rap. I didn't like classical. That changed
    in my classs. Not only did I learn to understand other genres, I
    learned to love them. As I found out more about differences in the eras
    of music and differences in the styles of the composers, I fell in love
    with classical music. This taught me that it was possible to learn to
    like things I didn't like. Sometimes, I still let myself dislike
    things, but if something seems to have stood the test of time and seems
    to be loved by the best and brightest, I find out why. Then, I learn to
    like it too.

  5. 1997: There is absolute truth.
    Realizing that I could choose to beleive things or not, and realizing
    that I could control what my mind does left me a bit of a relativist. I
    mean, I beleived what I did, and thought about what I thought about and
    if you wanted to beleive other things, go for it! One of the things I
    loved to do, however, was argue. Not in a mean way, just finding
    someone with an opinion and trying on the other side. We'd hash it out
    and have a good time. It was exactly one of these that pompted my
    fourth epiphany. A very good friend of mine said something that took a
    relativist position. So, I jumped on the other side. The fact that a
    lack of absolute truth is so obviously self contradictory not only
    convinced the other party in the argument, but it convinced me too. I
    can choose to beleive anything, but sometimes my choice is true,
    sometimes it isn't.

  6. 2005: I can learn anything
    anyone else can learn.

    I've never been all talented in math.This was a problem for me throughout grade school and high-school. When I got to college, some very patient teachers finally got the ideas into me. Continued patience in graduate school helped me even more. The fact that I could learn something I didn't think I could learn should have brought about this epiphany sooner. Still, I felt like I was dependent on these really caring people, and on my own I couldn't get it. I finished my dissertation and decided to reward myself by doing something I'd always wanted to do. I built my own computer. I had upgraded my computers several times, and thought I knew the ends and outs. When a box of parts came in a big brown box, and I began looking through them, I realized I was in over my head. I got online and started reading about different parts and procedures and before long, it all started to make sense. Not only did I build my own computer, I really taught myself how. Since then, I've taught myself all kinds of practical skills. academic skills and just fun things to learn. I now realize that I can learn anything anyone else can learn. It may be slower in an area where I am not talented, but that's all.

  7. 2009: I can do anything if I
    have to.

    In 2009 I lost what I thought was a secure, tenure
    track job at a small midwestern liberal arts university. I began
    immediately applying for new positions, but to no avail. Eventually, I
    had to pay my bills, so I found jobs. They were mostly horrible jobs,
    shovelling rotten beans, driving railroaders, cleaning up after old
    folks in rest homes. I hated them, but I did them. I learned something
    really important then. There is no job to hard, to gross or too
    demeaning that I will not do it if I have to. That also means that I
    could make myself do those things at other times. It didn't make me
    happy, but I did it.

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