Monday, July 9, 2007

The Story of My Life; Or, Why I am Not a Nihilist

No fledgling blog is complete without an initial biography.

So here it is.

My name is Claire. Claire is one of those eighties, yuppie, French names, on a couple of daytime soaps... it's not a bad name, on the whole, even if I am neither yuppie nor French nor on daytime television.

I was born and raised in a land of writers and revolutionaries and preachers and good old boys--the Southeast of the United States of America. Now, despite a whole lot of things I dislike about the state of the Union, I ultimately like the United States because we're a country that consists almost totally of vagrants and outcasts. No wonder so many nations have such a love/hate relationship with the U.S.--we took all these people they were trying to get rid of, and in one sense that's great, right? Now they don't have to deal with their tired or their poor or their huddled masses yearning to breathe free. But then you take the tired and the poor and you turn them into a superpower and give them positions in government. You just have to despise that, particularly if everyone with positions of authority in your government is energetic and rich.

(I like the U.S. for another reason, too... but it probably deserves its own post.)

Back to me. I was homeschooled. This means many things.

One is that I get relatively defensive when someone makes disparaging comments about homeschooling on a grand scale. I realize that homeschooling is not always the most beneficial choice, and it's not always feasible. However, I don't diss the public school system or private schools and say that they are "detrimental to society at large," as a guy I know once told me, speaking of homeschooling.

I make it a point to never attack other school systems, for one thing, because the teachers in those schools tend to take it very, very personally. Similarly, when I sense that my school system is being attacked, I take it very, very personally--my chosen mode of education is insulted, I am insulted as both student and teacher, and my mother is insulted, because she taught me and made the initial decisions. I mean, as palpable hits go, that's incredibly below-the-belt.

The other is that I learned what I wanted to learn and challenged myself. What this means is that I wasn't always challenged. So there are deficits in my education. (Do I care? Honestly, no, not really. Everyone's learning has blind spots, and if I discover that I want or need to learn something to survive, I will learn it, no problem.) It also means that I read a lot of Dostoevsky and other authors and became a fairly well-rounded individual.

Another big, important circumstance in my life is that I was raised in a conservative, nondenominational brand of Christian home.

This clearly had an impact on me, both good and bad. My parents are great, growing up was fine, I went to church and youth group and did it all, etc.

But then I became An Adult and realized that I had to start to define my beliefs and myself on my own spiritual journey, not merely hangin' around watching my dad read Brother Lawrence. The light bulb came on when my dad told me I could be politically more liberal than he and my mom are.

"Really? You're giving me permission not to vote Republican? Can I go to church and still do that?"

This was a big step. I registered as unaffiliated, and I can't vote in the primaries, but other than that, I am very happy. People on both sides lobby hard for my vote, and I have to think hard about issues before I make decisions.

I want to reiterate that I didn't ever neglect the Christian faith. I just had the Christian faith that was always taught to me, with occasional emotional experiences unique to me. And it was good. But now, I have the Christian faith that I fought for, myself, and have thought about a lot.* And it is better. It may be less orthodox than my former familial beliefs. It may be more orthodox. It is better, for me, because it is mine.

*(By the way, Razhumikin Razzmatazz may very well betray my dependency on Dr. Peter Kreeft, C.S. Lewis, Blaise Pascal and G.K. Chesterton, who also thought/think about their faith a lot. It may also betray my dependency on others, like Harold Pinter, Kurt Vonnegut, Sartre, the majority of France, and my psychology professor who thought/think about their faith a lot and were/are athiests or skeptics.) (In fact, I'm going to step out on a limb and say that this blog WILL betray my dependence on both.)

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