Have you ever entered a room where too much was going on?
Like, one time, I went over to a friend’s house and stepped inside right into the middle of a game of Headbandz consisting of roughly 20 individuals. People were yelling. Someone was screaming. Lots of people were laughing. Some attempted to greet me, and I could only react by slowly edging toward the kitchen, where the people and noise per square foot was considerably less.
Or maybe, for those leaning toward a more high-brow example (allow me to adopt a pretentious voice before continuing), imagine stepping into the Bargello in Florence that has Brunelleschi’s Sacrifice of Isaac displayed against Ghiberti’s in the EXACT SAME ROOM as Donatello’s David set up right next to Verrocchio’s David (like Michelangelo’s David. Did you know there was more than one David statue?) See images below.
True story though. About a year ago, I was wondering the streets of Florence with Dr. Rix, the professor who taught some classes while I studied abroad in Vienna, and we stepped into the Bargello gallery that had the aforementioned pieces on display.
Now, I don’t bring up such an example to simply clobber you over the head with how ‘fo-sisticated I am; I bring it up, because as Dr. Rix and I were standing between the two pairs of art, we both had a profound realization. Yep, that’s right…
We said in unison: “There’s a lot going on here.”
Because, truthfully there was! If you put each of those pieces in conversation with the other, things get complicated real fast.
Donatello’s Other… David. I mean, does that guy exude masculinity like Michelangelo’s David?
Pause it on the picture of the statue of Donatello’s Other David and then compare that to Michelangelo’s David.
Isn’t it bizarre that two artists made a sculpture about the same character, but came to radically different ideas of how that character ought to be portrayed? And does Michelangelo’s David even look like the real David might have? Which one looks most like the David we read about in the Bible who slayed Goliath?
And further, if you start looking at how they portray their biblical images, things somehow get more than complicated. The sacrifice of Isaac for instance – the moment at which Abraham is seconds away from plunging the knife into his own son’s gullet. Highly emotional and tense.
Now the reason I write all that is chiefly to defend (and also explain) how so much was going on in the museum. In the case of the first example of walking into a room where a lot was going on, the majority of the ruckus was physical stimuli – loud noises mostly.
Walking into the Bargello, however, the stimulus was chiefly intellectual, and yet my mind felt just as chaotic and all over the place as it did entering into the game of Headbandz – because there was a LOT GOING ON.
Here’s where it gets interesting though: Have you ever stopped and considered all the different voices in the world? All the different perspectives? All the different religions, philosophies and ideologies? Have you ever tried to put the ideas and aims of Atheism in conversation with Christianity? What does one do when two radically opposing viewpoints collide and reside within the same space?
Have you ever been thinking about this mass of humanity and what each individual person wants, desires, and believes? Have you ever walked into a world where there was a lot going on? Maybe intellectually and physically? And you didn’t quite know what to do with it all?
Well guess what? You’re living in one. There is a lot going on here. And it can be exceedingly overwhelming.
In my own personal experience, I have felt the cacophony of ideological voices overwhelm me at times. I have tried to step back from my own worldview (Protestant Evangelicalism) in an effort to genuinely understand the world as seen from the skeptic, the atheist, the agnostic, the spiritual but not religious, and so on so forth. It is quite a different world, let me assure you.
Life is not simple, and there is a lot going on, spiritually, emotionally, politically, religiously, and wayyy too often I get caught somewhere in the middle of it all trying to make sense of an almost inherently unsensible world.
Let me say that again: Life is not simple.
One of Dostoevsky’s characters in the book Crime and Punishment says to the protagonist, Raskolnikov:
“But what I say is that if you convince a person logically that they have nothing to cry about they’ll stop crying. That’s clear. Is it your conviction they won’t?”
Raskolnikov responds by saying:
“Life would be too easy if that were so.”
Life is not simple. Life is not easy, and sometimes, no amount of logical reasoning can get us there, wherever there might be.
ALTHOUGH… Life certainly can be simple and easy if we close ourselves off from 99.99% of the outside world, ignoring perspectives that don’t jive with our own, experiences that don’t fit in our box, and people who we simply don’t like.
And especially if we do not take the time to understand where these people are coming from, the experiences and beliefs that shaped and molded them into who they are today..
So I guess this post is a long-form way of me essentially saying, “Ya know, sometimes, the world does not make sense. Sometimes the way I was raised, and the God I believe in seem to lack the answers for the things I am experiencing, the things I am thinking through, and the things I am dealing with, but does that mean I abandon it all?”
See, now that is quite the question, isn’t it? There’s a lot going on with that question, eh?
Sometimes there are experiences that don’t fit within my box, yet I have to deal with them. I either try to fit them into my existing box, and the box and experience end up breaking, or my second option is to get an entirely different box.
I think Jesus spoke to this situation in Mark chapter 2 when he talked of trying to put new wine into old wineskins, or trying to sew a new cloth onto an old garment
Guess what? It doesn’t work.
There’s only one solution. Get new wineskins, friends.
I want this to be an open post to anyone out there who has felt this way before, that is, a complete dissonance with what is believed and what is being experienced – you are not alone, and doubting what you grew up believing your whole life shouldn’t be coupled with existential fear of being cast out of your tribe.
Life is difficult, and it doesn’t always make sense. But there are people who want to join together with you in making sense of the truth and goodness we happen to find in this wasteland.
And so in true Seth-fashion, I have fashioned a playlist on Spotify, entitled appropriately “There’s a Lot Going On Here.”
The playlist (in attempting to imitate classical form) has four movements, each separated with an instrumental. Each movement is a combination of a giant exclamation point and question mark about a topic/perspective/philosophy/experience that has entered my world and has also conveniently stolen my sweet sleep at night.
I want this playlist to be the starting point for many good conversations. Don’t make too many assumptions if you’ve read this post and thought to yourself, “Wow, Seth sure sounds like he’s given up on Protestant Evangelicalism and become an atheist or something…” Let’s taco bout it.
But on the reals – I would totally dig some feedback on this post, and especially on the playlist. I wonder if anyone can figure out what I was trying to convey with each of the four movements – and even the bonus one at the end.
After all, this conversation is really not just about me and what I am experiencing. I want to enter into conversation with YOU about the beauty, pain, tragedy, and triumphs of this world. I want to talk about the ultimate thing that really matters – and I guarantee the ultimate thing is not about me, nor will it ever fit cleanly into my forever aging wineskins.
What helps you get through times of doubting in your own life?
For me, sidenote – music. Hands down.
What are some experiences that you all have had that cause you to question the “box” you grew up in?