“Sermons” on the Dismount

Introduction

My deconversion from theism (Christianity and less specific beliefs in a higher power) motivates this series of writings I’ve titled “Sermons” on the Dismount.  The title operates as an ironic misnomer.  I only want to write about my experience, not preach on the advantages of having a naturalistic view of the universe, nature, and phenomenon; that’s why I put the word sermons in quotes.  But like a sermon, I will write what I feel and how I slowly dismounted from the belief in a God, or gods, the supernatural, and other religious and mythical explanations for the world.

These “sermons” operate within and from a naturalistic point of view.  In other words, I subscribe to the theories of evolution, the big expansion, and abiogenesis.  To me, science explains how the world (and all of its phenomenon-natural or otherwise) works.  I state this at the outset of this series for one reason.  I hypothesize that many readers, sympathetic and empathetic to the theistic vantage; will attempt to debate my point of view.  I realize that this series invites debate and emotional responses. Despite that, I am still going to post this set of writings, and I will decide who I debate to whom I respond.

My Slow and Certain Deconversion (part 1)

 After my second divorce, I moved in with my parents.  Two years before my divorce I went to church twice a week: on Mondays to rehearse my bass playing and harmonies with the church band and on Sundays to play in the contemporary service.   Once I recovered from the initial shock of the breakup, I began working a minimum of forty hours a week.  Inevitably I worked on Sundays–particularly when I was a team leader at AWS. None of the personal assistants working under me willingly worked on Sundays.  If going to church and playing in the its band really meant so much to me, I would have tried harder to get one of my subordinates to cover my Sunday shift.

I still believed in the Christian God and prayed in the morning, in the evening, and when I felt uneasy or anxious. Not going to church and band practice (which included a prayer group before we began to practice) gave me a chance to start questioning organized religion and theology in general.  Though I had read about evolution in college, on my own, and believed it to be a plausible, I started seeing that evolution couldn’t be reconciled with the Genesis account.  With more and more space between the Lutheran church, and myself I began forging my own relationship with God, as I understood him.

This personal relationship focused on a god I could talk to and his name was not Jesus. Another newer feature of this personal relationship included getting to know myself better: what I thought and felt without the filter of Christianity.  In other words, instead of praying away my doubts about religion, myself, and praying away my problems, I began to see myself as an individual who could solve my own problems, or go to someone else–whether they were believers or not.  Case in point, I began talking to an old friend of mine who was (and is) not affiliated with any organized religion.

I started to find my own way in the same way he had found his.  He lived (and lives) by his own spiritual principles, many of which he formulated after reading myriad books and contemplating those principles for many years.  Similarly I began listening to his experiences and how he applied his principles to those experiences.  At first I adopted some of his viewpoints and applied them to my own life and “spiritual journey”. I started drinking kumbucha and green tea, eating better (high diary fats, olives, leafy greens), weaning myself off of psych meds, and following a more predictable sleep routine.  I was still doing God-centered twelve-step work; but all the while I questioned if there was an actual higher power.  I questioned it because I believed I was doing the spiritual recovery, not some bigger, immaterial and invisible force.

(End of Part 1)

One Time

When we have no second life,
only one that wakes us in the morning,
is the same one in the afternoon
and the evening; when we finally
rest.

All the second chances
happen with skin and bone,
covering muscle and the soft heart
Life’s harsh light won’t blind us,
we’ll only feel warmth of blood that breaths,
not a ghostly wind from nowhere.

Here now, the bridge wobbles,
the teeth grow crooked
and the roots twist wildly:
While the flower lives;
until the flowers dies.

When beauty fades,
we remember beauty,
awhile. But as water
evaporates in the sun;
all that’s natural parishes.

It’s our pathology of perfection:
pressing petals into scrap books
past the age of 10,
that chokes life
away from growth–not the sun,
that wilts the beautiful petals
in due time.

end part 1

Hi, I’m an atheist. “I’m beginning to see the light”

Religion is my favorite drug.

If I punctuate my spiritual experiences, nine of the plethora stands out.

1. At 10, I was born-again. Jimmy Swaggart, on the television, asked the viewing audience if we accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. Out loud, I said yes.

2. At 15, I felt an indwelling of the holy spirit on a youth group retreat. I lead a prayer circle on the annual Faith Ranch retreat.

3. At 21, on March 29, 1995, I hit my knees that morning and asked God to keep me sober that day. (I still haven’t drank or used drugs again.)

4. At 23, while walking in the sunshine in Levittown, NY, I recognized that all things were Buddha. (I still don’t know what this means.)

5. At 31, while working at John Morrell in the meat lab, I envisioned that I could unite all Christians and began preaching out loud to no one. This event lasted 15
minutes. (I talk out when alone. If I can hear something, I can usually figure it out.)

6. At 33, under heavy medication’s supervision, I had my last Christ experience. I even looked into going to Seminary.

7. At 34, in September of 2007, I went to Pittsburgh to visit Randy Miyan. He helped me detoxify my body of all the medicine I was on. Randy and I hiked for what felt like 8 hours. I saw God in the light and patterns in nature. (I have been off of meds for 2 years and 3 months.)

8. On December 24, 2007, I fully realized that the Bible authors fabricated a bulk of the stories. That was the day that I realized I was not a Christian. Just a year earlier, I started to analyze and critique the four creation myths of Genesis 1:1.

9. This is where the story starts.

In November of 2009, while raising out of bed to go meet Professor Kamholtz about graduate school, I asked myself a question inside my head. The question was so simple; it’s laughable now. “Do you REALLY believe in God, other than when you asking him to save your ass?” In my head I replied, “No”. Prior to this last nail in the coffin of personal theism, I had realized that to believe in God required faith and sincere belief.

Some gain faith from sudden, spiritual experiences that permanently transform their inner beings. The other variety of spiritual experience originates in reading inspirational literature and letting the “logic” of God slowly unfold over a period of time. According to Henry James, this is the educational variety of spiritual experience. In my experience, it’s the same way I realized I wasn’t spiritual. It’s James’ latter variety that unfolded to demonstrate that I was an atheist. But I am not the only one who figured it out. Randy, the guy from number 7, confronted me in September of 2009.

He apprised me of the fact that I never really hit bottom–and not spiritual. In the last part of November of 2009, I finally admitted what another person knew. And truly I tell you: I don’t believe in God, Jesus, Heaven, Hell, Mohammed, Buddha, Nirvana, Enlightenment, Karma, Krishna, Horus, Elijah, Moses, Angels, Demons, Satan, Crystals, Ghosts, Superstitions, a soul, a spirit or chakras.

Well…chakras represent “energy centers”. These energy centers metaphorically relate to colors and particular dimensions of one’s own personality. Chakras provide an excellent guided visualization tool in my experience. But I don’t ‘believe’ in them. It took me a while to believe and know I was an atheist–I’m bad at believing. So, I confess: I was a chakra con. I professed spiritual beliefs I hoped were true for me.

Or as my buddy Dolf likes to say: “…blasphemy is a victimless ‘crime’.” Victimless indeed.

(End of Part 1)

There’s No Rider Here

The hay shreds fall slant
like snow on the dirt
of the barn.
The wind rustles broken saddles
kicking its feet in the
stirrups.

He darkly fits his words around the reins.
Big fists sweat verbs:
spur. ride. whip.
Who is dark horse
without this?

His boots bounce
on her flanks.
The planks underneath
bend under damp and midnight.
Her back hits his thighs;
his legs blush black.
Who is dark horse
without this?

The fire between moments;
the smoke and ash erupts
as they both jump together.
Who is dark horse
without this?

Copyright 2010

Village Life (part 1)

We are the sun bell.
The striker shines
no mirroring eyes;
the eager shadows
push us up.

Wait for the high bell
to fall close shadows.
It tolls lunch-bug chatter,
or sings tiny
in cubicles.

Dodge the knife bell*.
The pause rings its hands,
bunches and cuts
the curtain into black.

Her long legs stream
across the stage,
and flex soft light.

Her bare feet spread
a weight less cadence,
we zombie dance
and close the shutters.

Softly knock the sides
and see:
what we latched,
and what we breathed.

*”The Knife Bell” is a lyric phrase from Brian Eno’s composition “This”: copyright 2006

Garrett J. Cummins Copyright 2009

How Trees Became Spiders: A Summary

A green-thumbed thinker,
my father sprouted joy
by talking about the petal numbers, the seed shapes and the leaf patterns.

A green-thumbed thinker,
his books grew by the Laz-E-Boy
and on the shelves. They ripened when I reached for them
and fell into the holes I inherited.

For years, our conversations
only budded in my head. The leaves soon turned.

The words evolved
then crawled under and over, every sharp letter,
on the boy webbed in the corners, often cut down to shatter.

My mother had wrapped herself
in a study schedule and arms of gossamer men:
a divorced student, counseling the dying,
but denying her little fly was rotting.

Her nights caught her on the couch
she was breathing and tangled with closed eyes.
In my bed, the quite pills kept me awake with loud, gnashing fangs.

After rolling in sticky sleep,
the mornings with a stove-fan dawn
made the tangles shine into the shape of a family.

His neatly folded, tent napkins,
and country clubs were not made for tumble-over boys.
Under the table, my hands would creep into guitar chords on my trouser legs.

His four star, diamond parade–
her origins. Barb’s purse had thick strings.
She only cut him from the twine when he reached for me.

My second wife:
her first strings felt like warm palms
blanketing my cold-flushed cheeks in my first, single winter.

My soft Melissa,
as strong as a fly could walk on,
covered our homes with alphabetical, book shelves,
spread-sheet shopping lists,
and scheduled sex.

In our mornings,
I fell loosely out of bed,
into the cramped study,
spinning songs,
while her eight eyes saw past that room,
weaving a plan without me.

When she asked me to leave her nest
my original corners, still frosted in brittle silk
found me stuck in my mother’s house with a dying mind.

My heart-cage shaking
and hinging its door over the spanning shadows,
my footsteps echo its swinging rhythm,
walking on bitten and bleeding soles.

Copyright 2009

Thermoduck

The sky spreads warm marmalade
and fractures red.
We scoop the orange with glow-wood
while we watch you lift from the dark pond.

Maybe Pop and I could throw
our fragile boxes,
packed with old daggers,
in the water this time.

Your wings slap the sky too soon.
We sit fading by the embers,
and can’t thaw the frost
biting between us.

Copyright 2009

Bent

Heaven dreams with gold-brick roads,
chill will not grip our feet.
The auger light shines on
in beauty; without greed’s reach.

Heaven bends the mystics backs;
the panting footsteps;
The hungry ghosts grab
the breaths.
They cover the storm warnings
with lies about lyres and clouds.

Heaven weeps honey
through the knot holes of trees;
My feet are welded as I climb.
Every building crumbles without
their shoulders.

*Inspired by Yeats’ “Second Coming”.
Copyright 2009

Life Among the Young Folks

Some people purport that age is relative; or, a state of mind.  I can surely vouchsafe  that idea in one regard: state of mind.  I feel and think younger than I ever have in my life.  Returning to college, to continue into a graduate degree, certainly puts me into a younger set.

When I went back to school to finish my undergraduate in music, I was 23.  23. That was 13 years ago.  Let’s put that into perspective.  In 1996, when I was 23, most of my current, fellow students were between the ages of 5 and 8.  Basically, I have been an adult most of their lives; yet, they are graduating at the ages of 21 to 23.  Now, let’s consider another existential truth.

Most of the grad and doctoral students who attend UC are between the ages of 24 and 30.  These intelligent and driven individuals are my professors, advisers, and intellectual superiors.  I am grateful that they treat me respectfully; it is kind of them.

These scholars of the deep graciously counsel, connect and organize my thoughts as a writer and a wannabe scholar.  I never imagined being in the unique position of the older-learning-from-the-younger.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  When I taught music, I learned a lot from the elementary kids.  But these aren’t kids; these are adults: families, all sorts of payments to make and debt.   And here I am: a man who was wondering through life for the first 34 years of my life.

In light of that consideration, my view ignores the truth.  I, too, am a young folk; despite my reading glasses and curmudgeon comments.  Perhaps my life among folks is my first, real life.  The reinvention I craved for long seems to have taken.  I haven’t done it alone; I owe thanks and praise.

To the 18 year olds to the tenured professors, I owe a debt of gratitude.  Each one has taught me more about writing; and a passion for it, than I had ever imagined possible.  I have learned and re-learned lessons I missed about dating, love, money and responsibility; they helped with that too.  In my life among the young folks, my old dog has learned new tricks.  And  remembered the old ones as well.

Kundalini

The leaves seethe amber:

dripping crimson,

flaming orange,

and rusting golds.

The evening flushes green;

its third-eye brushes–

hushing umber twilight.

The color dries;

the sapphire sheens

expanding purple

into a violet wire-sky.