Joy Behar stated, “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another to say Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness.” Although she later apologized, first to Vice President Pence and later to all Christians, (1), what she stated is a quite commonly-held view, even among Christians. There is a world of difference between the so-called “milk” or “lukewarm” Christians, who are judged as being sane, and the “meat” Christians, who are judged as being insane.
Two things seem to require further thought. First is, what makes up “belief”, and second, what makes up “sanity”?
One thing apparent to me is that much more “belief” is involved, in the ordinary thinking of ordinary people, than they care to admit. Teenagers ordinarily become aware of this when they first dare to question the Status Quo, and rather than answers get ultimatums, however in most cases youthful restlessness fades into resignation, and teenagers “settle down”. (This is just a nice way of saying “you can’t fight City Hall”, even if City Hall is corrupt.) Yet in the back of all minds, (very far back, in some cases), there remains a questioning silence, often never voiced, that doubts the values of the Status Quo.
I became interested in this silence when quite young. I suppose it was because I tended to be a loudmouth and was told to “shut up” a lot by three older siblings. Also I was skipped ahead a grade in school, and this made me smallest in my class, and unable to knock peers down, when they told me to “shut up” (though I did try, from time to time.) Because I had to be quiet, I looked inward, and discovered inward landscapes sometimes were more interesting than that which was going on outwardly. This was especially true in Algebra classes. I dreamed out the window a lot.
Once it became obvious I wasn’t going to be a mathematician, I decided I must be a poet. Unfortunately I wasn’t discouraged from this impractical idea, and in fact won two poetry awards as a teenager. (At times I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn‘t won those awards, and instead had taken the other, more-practical fork-in-the-road).
As it was I conformed to nonconformity along with all the other nonconformists, with my hair long and my clothing ragged in a “hip” way, which was a sort of signal to society not to hire me, but also that I might be interesting to talk to. I walked with a notebook dangling from one arm at my side, which made me look thoughtful and interesting, which was helpful, back in the days when a great form of public transportation was hitchhiking.
As years past I became increasingly aware many of my fellow artists were con-artists, playing the role of an artist while producing very little true art. They were experts on the suffering of an artist, but not very good when it came time to stop talking and start doing. Those who did make any money had usually compromised to some demand of the Status Quo, even though we called such compromise “selling out”. They might become the demeaned servants of the ugly and elderly, (called “patrons”), or they might dedicate their talent to selling Chocolate Sugar Bombs Breakfast Cereal. I wasn’t tempted to sell out in this manner. I would like to say this was because I was virtuous, but mostly it was because the opportunities didn’t arise. The few times I was tempted I fortunately was in situations that made my skin crawl and I was repelled, (if not initially, then before the quicksand rose above my heart).
Eventually it became apparent that there was no money in poetry, and that I needed to work if I wanted to eat. I did attempt to get around working by learning about wild plants I could eat, but there was no such thing as wild cigarettes, and that addiction forced me to conform, to a certain degree. I became a working man.
By that time I knew a lot about the “bohemian” lifestyle, and very little about having any common sense, so I cannot say I “settled down”. I had learned to be thrifty, and not to mind discomfort, and didn’t mind sleeping in my car. I called myself a “free thinker”, but confess it was very lonely. As a drifter I was often on the outside, looking in at others in their happy social-groupings. I saw myself as a sort of detached anthropologist, taking note of what others “believed” in.
An example of this occurred when I was living in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I was a working man in a landscape of people on vacation, and the most beautiful (in my young eyes) were the young ladies in bikinis strolling along the road by the shore. They showed no interest in me as I drove by in my tiny, dented car, but one day my boss had me drive his Cadillac to the repair shop, and I took the longer route, down by the beach, so I could continue my anthropological studies of bikinis. Much to my surprise a large number of the young ladies smiled at me. I glanced in the rear view mirror to see what was different about me, but I didn’t look any different. Then I abruptly realized what was different was the car I was driving.
Mind you, this was not merely one or two girls. I drove the Cadillac along four miles of the Grand Strand, and have never been smiled at so much in all my life. At first I smiled back, but it slowly sunk in that they did not believe in me. They believed in Cadillacs, and I decided I did not approve of that. After four miles they stopped smiling at the man in the Cadillac, once they saw he was frowning back at them.
Not that I am worth believing in. God is the only One worthy of worship. But I bring this up to demonstrate that even people who scoff at religion believe in something. It may not be Cadillacs, but even dedicated atheists believe in something.
And when you believe, you are listening to a voice in your head. It may not say, “Oh! Look! A Cadillac! Smile!” But it is there. And at this time a voice in my head began saying, “Women are not interested in me; they are interested in my wallet”. This explains why I was a bachelor so long. No woman likes hearing that. It may be true they want a good provider for any children the future may hold, but they’d much rather hear a man say he will slay dragons to make them happy, (or at least move out of his car.)
I wanted to hear a woman say she’d stick by my side, even if life’s dragons kicked my butt, and left me on crutches. In a sense what I wanted, and what many women wanted, was the concept of marriage, wherein the couple stick together “for better or for worse“. However “marriage” seemed terribly old-fashioned and outdated, and by 1980 many young men and women were seeking some “alternative” that avoided the pain many had experienced as children, when the divorce-rate soared from 5% towards 50% in the decade between 1964 and 1974. Because many people had lost faith in marriage, they didn’t “believe” in it. The alternative, (at times loosely described as “free love”), was not clearly defined in many minds, and because of this many were involved in situations that did not “feel right”. They often were recoiling from experiences of crude lust, which made them in a way “reactionary.” At times my simply bringing up the word “commitment” could make a young lady yell at me. They wanted to be free and “liberated”.
Initially getting yelled-at backed me off. It wasn’t anything like I wanted, which was to hear a woman say she’d stick by my side. However besides being a coward I was curious. Often it was obvious to me that the liberated woman was yelling about something I hadn’t said, (or at least hadn’t intended), and this suggested she was hearing some “voice in her head”.
Once I started actually talking to militant women, rather then observing them from a safe distance, I became aware the voice in their head was the voice of fear. There were nightmares in their past, and they feared a reoccurrence. I think one reason women wanted to be liberated from men, and be self-sufficient, was that they had never met a man who wasn’t a sleaze-bag, or (at the very least) a man who wouldn’t desert them. The other side of this coin was that I never met a woman who showed the slightest desire to stick by my side, or to accept me as I was. Instead I seemed to be hit by demands I be impossibly rich, kind, and undemanding.
It reminds me of an old quote, “I was searching for the perfect woman, but when I finally found her I discovered she was searching for the perfect man.” It is a quote that works both ways.
Eventually I decided that the best alternative to divorce is to stay married. Much of the pain children remember from a parent’s divorce is caused by the divorcing, but children blame the marriage. The solution then seems to be to avoid marriage, but that is to move in the exact opposite direction from where the true solution lies.
To use an analogy: Marriage can be like a leaky boat in a sea full of sharks. Some point out that bailing, and constantly caulking leaks, is very tiresome, while abandoning ship and swimming free of the burdensome ship would simplify things. Then these advisors smile, with the teeth of sharks.
In essence one is converting from faith in one thing (marriage) to faith in another (self-reliance.) It seems a simple matter of choice, but the difference is profound, for it is a shift from selflessness to selfishness, and from faith to doubt. Hardest of all to comprehend, by those who are displaying great courage by setting out all alone, is the fact the inner voice they are heeding is not a voice of courage, but of fear.
I cannot stress how important this distinction is, yet how difficult it is to see, when you are the one responding to fear. One is basically casting off the advice of saints for the advice of sharks, but one is never really aware of the compromise they have made by casting off, until they wind up on the casting couch.
Some women can’t imagine men can have the slightest idea of the degradation involved on a casting couch, but men can, if they ever were young and smooth poets, seeking help from an old and sleazy editor. I was once in those shoes, for once I thought art was judged on its merits, and naïvely walked into an old editor’s office thinking he was attracted to my poems. What then happened likely served me right, for I was operating under the assumption that “It is not what you know; it is who you know”, which is false. What you know does matter most.
To cut an embarrassing story short, I was a lot faster in those days, and when the editor got tired of pursuing me he leaned up against his desk and, shooting me a withering look, stated this Maxim: “No writer has ever succeeded without f—ing someone or getting f—ed by someone.” I replied, “Well then, I’ll be the first.” Let it suffice to say, I got no real help from the man. Nor did I ever succeed, in terms he could understand.
Sad to say, once you have abandoned the selflessness of saints and accepted the selfishness of sharks, you accept a reality that holds no real giving. All is a bargaining, and even bullying. You must “pay to play”, and if you refuse to pay then efforts will be made to prevent you from playing. Rather than a “getting a lucky break”, you will be marginalized, ostracized, blackballed.
Some do not like to admit such behavior occurs in places like Washington D.C. and Hollywood, yet it not only occurs, but it spreads like an insidious infection unless people stand up and dare to state it is wrong, and the people who dare to stand up risk being subjected to the very marginalization, ostracizing and blackballing they object to. It is for this reason some don’t dare, and instead learn the “right” things to say, and fear saying the “wrong” things. They study the latest fashions and fads, striving to be politically correct, and practice “virtue-signaling” to demonstrate how correct they are, regardless of the questioning silence in the back of their minds. That silence is drowned out by a louder voice of fear. It is fear of being marginalized, ostracized and blackballed.
I ran into this most recently when I started studying the facts behind Global Warming, and began to see there was scant evidence man-made CO2 was the cause. The questioning silence in the back of my mind produced a thing called “Truth”. Many who then rose to angrily protest against what I discovered had not studied the subject at all. They had no facts at their fingertips, and rather were “virtue-signaling” how politically correct they were by yelling at me. They threatened to marginalize, ostracize and blackball because they were afraid that, if they didn’t, they themselves would be marginalized, ostracized and blackballed.
But what might occur if that fear didn’t exist? What if the voice in their head stopped frightening them?
One nice thing might be that we could have a reasonable discussion about Global Warming. But one not-so-nice thing might be that people would turn on those who had been scaring them for so long.
No one likes to be bullied, and the one thing that big bullies fear most is seeing people stand up to them. In fact tyrants become increasingly oppressive in their fear of facing the rage of the people they oppress. They can never relax their marginalizing, ostracizing and blackballing; they can only increase it. The moment the fear is relaxed, the moment political correctness allows greater scope, all hell breaks lose.
Ann Coulter has an interesting take on this (2). She stated that as long as the Clinton’s were in power there was no uproar about casting couches in Hollywood. People merely shrugged and accepted the sleaze as the way things were done. The anguish of a woman taken advantage of was dismissed as a “bimbo eruption”. It was politically correct to look on President Clinton’s unethical behavior and to say, “Boys will be boys”. But then the Clinton’s lost power. Trump was elected. And then suddenly Harvy Weinstein couldn’t bully any more. The repressed rage of woman exploded as the “#Me Too Movement”.
What this suggests to me is that the voice of fear women had been listening to became quiet enough for women to hear the questioning silence behind it.
Christians aren’t the only ones who hear voices.