My World View – Adversity

I know I’ve mentioned this before in one post or another. The question came up again in one of the other blogs I read, in the comments. People have all kinds of questions about how atheists are supposed to cope with life if they do not believe in gods. The answer to questions like this are not difficult at all. The problem is that almost everyone of them involves the person taking stock, weighing the options and making decisions then doing the work needed to get through whatever stress life has thrown at them.

The easy ones

The non-believer has their week to themselves, so to speak. They are not obligated to attend services and don’t have to feel guilty for not attending. This is quite liberating for some. Sleeping in on the weekends is a benefit that cannot be overstated. Fewer obligations mean less stress, so even though some miss the community they felt at church, there are benefits from not having it, like not having to lie to those people any longer.

The more difficult ones

When you’ve been unemployed for months, the bills are piling up, your kid or your pet needs medical attention that you don’t have insurance for… what do you do?

I don’t know what you do. This is, after all, my world view. Here is what I did. Each day I got out of bed and despite wanting to go back, I kept a routine that included looking for work, I kept track of my finances. I carefully considered plan A,B,C,D, and E. What can I do without, what must I  have. How do I get from today to signing a contract. It turned my stomach to see Google calendar notify me that I have no appointments today. It worried me when I brushed my teeth and could not say when I’d next sit in a dentist chair. Each day I’d tell myself that I will find a way. I put hope in front of my face even when there was no reason to do so. I know that my family and my dog were counting on me. Counting on me not just to be a provider, but to be happy. I told myself that every time I felt a tear it meant there was a new job opening that I could apply for and I would go look for it. In fact I did everything that any believer would have to do, I just didn’t pray for the strength to do it or ask why my god would put me through this. You lay your head on the pillow at night and wonder if there will be a sale on chicken tomorrow. You worry, and it eats at you and you will either decide that you will do whatever it takes or you won’t.

Prayer may offer a meditative effect. It might boost your resolve. In the end it is still you that does all the work. Do you know how many times I told myself that in the 12 months I was not employed? Then I’d say to myself, ok, self, now what are you going to do? How are you going to make tomorrow different? Often enough I did not know, but I remained resolved to do that. I did not give into a higher power. I did not call out for help. I just kept at it. In the end, I’m sure theists would call it a miracle… just as I was running out of money, just as doom lurked around the next bend, I found work. Not a fantastic job, but work. Theist will tell you that this is the blessing of a god. It wasn’t. It was bloody hard work and a change in the economy. A miracle would have been a wonderful job within weeks of losing the previous job. I did all the work. I suffered all the pain. The only difference is that I did not ask a magic man for help, I did not give up. I wanted to, several times I really wanted to give up. I didn’t. I’m here today to write these words because I did not give up. I’m here because of what I did. I get the credit for my hard work and fortitude.

I don’t know what you do in the face of adversity, but I don’t think any poet has ever given me what I needed for that. Dylan Thomas has a couple of words. In the end, I think that it is the fight we make against surrender that makes us human. That which does not kill me makes me stronger. No, I think not. If you don’t kill me, I will be stronger still. I do not travel placidly through the world. I am not a Hindu cow. I am that most dangerous of things; I am a human ape. I think for myself and I act for myself. I have a good side and a bad side, you pick on which side to stand. If without you I cannot survive, so be it, but you’ll have to prove that to me before I’ll believe it. I take my pleasures where I find them and I’ll share them with you if you don’t mind them. In my adversity I’ve learned that a flower, a smile, or even the act of animal showing kindness is a vessel filled with meaning that I cannot explain, but I know that it is.

What do you do when faced with adversity?

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  1. Wow, this story is really insightful – thanks for sharing it. Great question. Personally, I do mindfulness meditation twice a day. Its effects on health are apparently fantastic and certainly I’ve become a more content person since I begun. I would recommend it :p

    • Larry, I have meditated for years. I didn’t know that was what it was called when I started it. A calm conversation with myself. A self reality check. I do not know of any right way to do it, only how I have done it. Thank you for your kind comments, and for commenting.

  2. Excellent post.
    My version of prayer (in the World of Faith, don’t know if you’ve seen my posts on that, eg: http://leavingfundamentalism.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/i-am-a-cult-survivor/) really made me feel that the praying, and confessing the Word, *was* the work. That was what I had to do to get things done. I lost years where I was praying instead of being proactive.

    Also, on a related note, each time there is a huge natural disaster, I’m so relieved I’m an atheist. It’s terrible, but at least I don’t have to ask why God made (or let) it happen.

  3. Mal,

    “What do you do when faced with adversity?”

    Hmm…I remember that it is just a game. It doesn’t really exist. God, I love how much you hate these words, so perhaps I will say them more often. 😉

    A PLASTIC PLANT!

    The problem feels real, my head is pounding, my heart is racing, my eyes are tearing. It feels real. It feels real.

    Plastic feels real, it sure as hell can look real, fuck spray on some fragrance and it can even fool your nose.

    The smell of your plastic plant….
    “The epithelium contains millions of olfactory receptors, or neurons that are capable of binding with specific odor molecules….Once the olfactory receptors bind with a specific odor, they send their electrical impulses to a certain microregion, also known as the glomerulus (of which there are some 2,000 in the olfactory bulb), which then passes it along to other parts of the brain.”

    So my brain makes this shit happen. Your plant is fake and my brain makes it real…is it then really real? No, it is fake, dead, a decoration-not real.

    When faced with adversity I start with a simple code, a code you have heard before:

    If (outside = real)
    System.out.println(problem)

    Then and only then can I use this fake plant. I’ll either chuck it, it’s useless or keep it as a “beautiful” distraction to hide this Molotov cocktail I’m concocting right behind it.

    The only real problem in my life, that I face today and everyday, is accepting that I have to escape from something I never want to leave. I don’t mind the vacations, but there comes a point in time where you will become home sick.

    ~bri

    • bri, you have put very plainly what most will not see or worse will not pay attention to. From inside, adversity must also be dealt with until we learn to be outside. Something I’m still learning it seems.

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