The way my experience of Divinity has happened for as long as it’s happened has been – I have an experience and then I figure it out. I have never arrived at any theological position or achieved any insight by my own efforts. Something happens – a message of some kind – and I act on it. Any mental activity happens afterward. It’s easy for me to know that there is a Divine Entity directing me – I experience it. And when I do the level best I know how to do what I’ve been directed to do, it works out. There’s always a good bit of work that I have to do, and it seldom works out the way I thought it was going to, but it always works out – and I’m always better off than I was before.
I have no other plan for my life than following directions. I am not in charge. When I was in charge, I fucked up everything repeatedly until I was homeless, hungover, barking mad, malnourished and halfway through death’s door. I am completely convinced that I can’t handle life.
And I’ve gotten fairly good at just sorta rolling with it. I had a few minutes of “holy shit, I don’t wanna do four years of online seminary”, but I accepted the new direction without much struggle. Deciding to do a fuckin’ blog was harder – I spent a few days dithering about that – going back and forth between “I ain’t got nothin’ to say” and “My experience is valid and might be beneficial to somebody, somehow” before I decided to just fuckin’ do the thing.
That’s a key component of my spiritual path. Just fuckin’ do the thing. Stop with the self-doubt and trying to figure shit out and just fuckin’ do it. It isn’t about me, anyway, so whatever self-doubt I might have doesn’t even matter. I gotta lotta doubts about God too, but like I said, I don’t think there’s anything more likely to do any good, so I might as well keep on keepin’ on with the God thing.
And I thought “Well, what would the name of the blog be?” and was instantly pulling up an English to German translator to find out what the German for “raised by wolves” is because I already knew what the title would be.
The phrase is “von Wölfen aufgezogen”. “Luther von Wolfen” means “Luther by wolves” – I shortened it and dropped the umlaut because they usually get dropped when German becomes English and because I didn’t feel like going to the trouble of putting them in there. It’s a small example of what I was saying above – start doing a thing and the pieces fall into place IF the thing is a God thing.
I wasn’t actually raised by wolves, of course. I was raised by people who did the best they knew how, yadda yadda, and it pretty much sucked. I spent my childhood trying to find places to hide and fantasizing about how much better things would be when my childhood was over. It didn’t turn out as cool as I hoped it would – my shitty childhood segued into shitty young adulthood with the added complications of depression, daily drinking and poverty.
I was raised up in a church – the Church of the Brethren. We went most Sundays and everybody paid appropriate lip-service to it. Our religion didn’t impact us much. My dad was drunk most of the time and there was a bit of violence about the house – not like an impressive amount of violence. just enough to make ya wanna keep your head down most of the time. I got used to being hit upside the head. As a teenager, I discovered that alcohol could make me feel a lot better, that punk rock really spoke to me and that some girls would let me touch their private parts. I remember very clearly running into a fork in the metaphorical road – one way was the church which really did matter to me and the other way was the way of the Devil: sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. It seemed pretty obvious to me that I wasn’t good enough to get into Heaven no matter what I did, so committing to the path of the Devil wasn’t gonna cost me much and I’d at least get to have some fun before damnation. So that’s what I did. Consciously, deliberately, with forethought and malice, I chose to follow the way of sin.
As I’ve indicated, that didn’t work out too good. Classic left-handed path type thing. The highway to Hell led to God. Now I’m clean and sober, celibate and I don’t listen to music much. I do still enjoy some outlandish noise once in a while, but mostly I just don’t have anything on.
But the image of being raised by wolves applies. I am what some people who like me might call “rough around the edges”. I’ve gotta buncha tattoos and a septum piercing which I usually don’t have a ring in. I drink a lot of coffee and I don’t pretend that I have any intention of quitting smoking because I fuckin’ like smoking. I cuss and I don’t shower very often because I don’t feel like it. I am opinionated and I don’t suffer fools gladly, despite the fact that I get a lot of practice because I’m surrounded by fools every fuckin’ day. If I had my druthers, I’druther spend all my time out in the woods because I like trees better than people.
I am capable of cleaning up a bit. I wear a tie when I go to church – though I kinda refuse to tuck my shirt in. I’ve done some things that required a degree of pretending to be a civilized human being – I’m on a local human rights committee at the mental institution that serves this part of Virginia – we go over treatment plans and make sure they aren’t beating the crazies more than they’re allowed to. My kid thinks I’m a pretty decent person – I pretend to be better when she’s around. I’m pretty sure I can dress the part of a Lutheran pastor and do the rituals good enough to get by. (I’ll be relying heavily on a cantor, though – my singing/chanting voice is like tone-deaf Tom Waits.)
Really, what I got to bring to the table is willingness. I’m willing to follow directions. I’m willing to put in the hours. I don’t know how I’ll pay for seminary tuition, but that’ll work out somehow.
And I think the church could use a little rough. My own experience of life hasn’t always been pretty. If I didn’t have access to a lotta myths that contain violence and destruction and all-out fuckin’ mayhem, I wouldn’t be able to deal with reality. I think churches don’t do anybody any good when they try to tone down the harsh bits – when they try to turn Jesus into your BFF. I don’t need a BFF – I need a Spiritual Warlord who can lead through the mindless shitstorm of mass-shootings, environmental destruction, economic injustice, rape-culture, systematic racism and general assholery that is the world I have no real choice but to live in. Pretending things are better than they are is fucking stupid.
I should acknowledge right here that I expect to be changed. I’m gonna be doing the whole seminary thing and that’ll have some affect. I don’t plan on getting up in the pulpit and launching into a rant about how fucked up everything is. I do think I’ll be preaching to the dregs of society – who else? The church I go to is full of very nice people and I’m sure they’re all sincere – but they’re also a buncha respectable, decent white folks who probably don’t havta try to be presentable. I bet none of ’em ever got cut in a drunken fight. I’d be happy to have the job of absolving them of their sins, but I’m really more interested in hanging out with drunks and junkies and a few whores would be cool, too. I’d like to find a cantor with a face tattoo.
Anyhow. raised by wolves and still fluent in the howls.
The German happened because I been taking German lessons with Duolingo. I’m mostly German on both sides and German just seems like a cool language. I thought it’d be easy to learn for some reason. And Martin Luther was German, so that makes sense. And like I said, the name just came to me. That’s what happens – something comes to me and I just do it. I don’t know how else to go about it.
I also don’t know how to convey that. It was easy for me – I didn’t have a choice. Well, I did have a choice, but the other option was suicide. Completely giving up control of one’s own life ain’t that hard when the alternative is jump under a bus and hope for a clean kill. I don’t know to convince decent, presentable white folks that giving up and letting Jesus take the wheel would be good for them. Maybe it wouldn’t be – I don’t fuckin’ know. Knowing what other people need is above my pay grade.
Yeh – that’s where the name came from. Then WordPress wanted me to have a header and a picture and the first things I thought of were a praying opossum and a field of burning garbage – which is like me in the world or some such.
Peace be with you.
p.s. So after I wrote that, I went to a thriftstore where I found The Cloud of Unknowing, Karen Armstrong’s Visions of God: Four Medieval and Their Writings and some other book that I forget. Then I went home and took a nap and remembered that I meant to circle back around to that moment when I was choosing between the way of God and the way of the Devil and I chose Devil because A) sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, and B) I wasn’t good enough to get into Heaven anyway. Turns out, that’s Lutheran standard dogma. I guess pretty much all Christian churches take the position that we’re all wretched sinners and incapable of being good enough to get into Heaven, but the Lutherans really work that angle. Martin Luther was a big fan of human sinfulness, as am I.
It’s really a huge relief to belong to an institution that tells me I am not in any way good enough to get into Heaven. It feels right. I guess it “rings true”. The follow up to that, of course, is that I’m”justified by faith”, which means that I’m redeemed by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. In other words – Jesus took care of that.
So I don’t have to. So anything I do that is in any way “good” is a product of my gratitude for having been redeemed. Holy fuck, that takes a huge load offa me. I was trying to realize some kinda mystical state of postmodern Nibbana or some shit – Atman = Brahman, tat tvam asi kinda shit. ‘Cause I am of a mystical bent and all that. i plan on continuing to be a mystic – which is why I buy used books on mystics – but I’m really glad I don’t have to try to be good enough to get into Heaven.
I kinda wanna celebrate by doing something halfway evil. Or maybe just something carnal and bloody. But I probably won’t.