In 2020, I returned to the Church. At that point the feeling had been pregnant for years. I wrote in my journal on February 3rd:

I’ve been thinking about God again. I think the curse I articulated earlier today – in being part of nothing, in belonging to nothing – comes from a post hoc assessment of tribal identification as opposed to a lived experience of God. And I recall when I was young that I had a really, really strong lived experience of God. Now it feels like something I want to recapture in itself – the second order cultivation itself instead of getting the initial source that begot the consequences.

That is to say, I felt an aching in me from something I left behind but didn’t know how to speak to. Yet another lack of closure, everything inside of me sitting neglected. Since it was denied, it came out where it could come out; when I wrote poems, when we made music, somehow it was always about God. I didn’t even know how to experience God the way I described I had as a child; or maybe it was more that I lost the ability to see with the tools I had developed. I felt aware that without any telos I was a sharpened sword without an owner, and at the same time, I felt an ongoing call to Him.

Inadvertently within the next few days I was invited to accompany my friend to Anglican service and I was afraid to go. It was a broad church, a lot less ritualistic than I was used to, but once I got over the feeling of unease, it felt good as it was. It was a recognisable echo of the thing that I needed, and so I continued to go.

Within a month or two afterward, I ended up moving to an Anglo-Catholic church after being put in touch with the rector there. I was looking for someone who could actually help me come to terms with the contradictions inside of me. I felt as though I wasn’t sure I could detect the good as I was; that I might not even be aware that I was blind at all, if I dared thought I could love God as I was. He had read seemingly everything; he didn’t shy away from any questions, no matter how grand they pretended to be; he knew that after decades of opening up, the world was about to contract and splinter and we had to learn how to learn what being Christian was in that context, and it seemed rather matter-of-fact.

At the end of our conversation, he seemed really happy–he said, simply, that I had undergone metanoia.

Tidal thoughts

I revisit the word a lot now. On one hand, it literally just means “changing your mind.” On the other hand, its connotation in the modern context has a lot more to do with revelation. The world drops its veil and everything is re-evaluated.

It’s not as though you reach total and absolute clarity. You just develop the willingness to start over as a novice. My reading habits throughout 2020 started out where I came from–osmotic reductive materialism–as atheistic apologia: from Tolstoy’s Confession and Gospel, to Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, and then, headlong into Pinckaers’ Sources of Christian Ethics, histories of the Papacy and of the Eastern Church, Macintyre’s After Virtue. My Christology, too, went from low adoptionist to high Christology, gaining an emphasis on the Johannine works and on St. Augustine.It was Covid, and I had nothing else to do but to work and to read.

Yes, I had found my way to loving the Logos. But this post isn’t really about religion. All this is just presented as an example.

As Yudkowsky says, Quoting Yudkowsky at the same time as I’m talking about religious experience is simply part of my charm. Also:
Yudkowsky, Eliezer. ‘Cultish Countercultishness’. How to Actually Change Your Mind. Self-published, 2018. ePub.

If we only admit small local errors, we will only make small local changes. The motivation for a big change comes from acknowledging a big mistake.

People generally don’t change their minds all at once. Moment by moment, they incrementally correct their beliefs. Even when they think they aren’t doing that, that they believe the same old thing they always did, they really are. And once they’re ready, in specific moments in their life they can suddenly see the past as a pattern of behaviour that can be changed. One undergoes a rapid cascade as the world reveals itself anew, again and again.

Questions and answers

Honestly, it’s more like you come to realise the ways you were slowly changing your mind the entire time. As I gestured in this poem, I ended up moving to Vancouver in 2022. I had exited a relationship (and a job) and, without the ability to use them as escapes from my own life, I had to actually evaluate what my life was on its own merits. I saw myself as continually looking for escape while absolutely not allowing myself to do so.

For a long time I wanted to leave Toronto; giving myself to work let me pretend that I had. If I couldn’t travel and I couldn’t go all in on work, then I had to see my life as just what it was, and it felt impoverished. I didn’t have confidence in my ability to build a life I liked, but I felt that Toronto was as good as it got in the country. I decided I would travel a little and reflect on different places with people I liked; and after New York, San Francisco and Seattle I felt at home in the Cascades.

But even when I went back to Toronto I still couldn’t undo this internal feeling that I couldn’t allow myself to relish in moving from place to place. It felt like a bad coping mechanism; I had this voice in my head that said if I were to do it, I would be worse off and not confronting what I felt. That a place was just a place, and home was about people. I had a very firm belief that the right thing to do when feeling internal turmoil was to stay in place, but then instead, I just let myself leave without leaving.

Commentary from my ChatGPT therapist.

I was only in Vancouver for about a year and a half, but I still think it was the right thing to do. I was very, very far from home; I went alone; I had an opportunity to try out carving a life from scratch.

The trouble was that I had never actually lived on my own before. I don’t think I recalled that. I went from dorm life in university (with suitemates!) to life with romantic partners to life with roommates. But on my own, I felt incredibly anxious. I ended up with a lot of new habits: casually eating and drinking while taking long walks, flying people out to hang out, watching YouTube to passively occupy myselfWith a shout out to ranking console variations and listing off rare Pokemon glitches. .

Most importantly, I ended up doubling down on habits I formed during Covid: using the internet in place of a real life friend group. I was far more reliant on Twitter and Discord after 2018 than before for my everyday social connection. I’ve been online my whole life, but in different modes and in different proportions. The internet went from a nice 30%, to 50%, then 70%, and then to 90%.

We begin these habits because they make up for our weaknesses in life. But when they stop serving us, when our life doesn’t fit the habit, then they end up leading us into dysfunctional patterns.A few weeks ago during a Tarot pull, I got the Devil Arcana. As the Unknown Friend in the Meditations on the Tarot writes, the card depicts the Devil as the androgynous child of the couple that birthed it, now chained to it. He tells us that half the importance of tulpamancy is the idea that you can just as easily disspell your tulpas as create them. You have to remind yourself that you made them. They’re a product of you. What habit isn’t a tulpa, a neurosis, a subpersonality, a framework of thought?

In a sense Vancouver both revealed to me that I could just as easily construct my life anywhere I wanted, but also that I did have values and I did have a structure I wanted; it also ended up catalysing the ways I was coping with the difficulty in reifying the values. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to find the place in my life to be creative. I thought, “I will transplant my creativity in my work,” and stopped making creative work altogether. I tried to make a studio where we could use the proceeds to fund internal artistic work, and I ended up overworking myself even more while not actually doing anything creative. And what’s worse, I now was fundamentally incapable of even getting into the mindset of making anything, because I was too nervous all the time.

I developed a slow confidence in my professional life but I also felt like I had failed in even constructing the value I desired.

Rhythm and intention

I had a hospitalisation around April 2023. At that time, I had been weaning myself off anxiety medication and then got caught off guard by a stressful situation and promptly had a mental breakdown. For me, that meant that I did nothing but lay in bed for two weeks on strong antibiotics, eating nothing and listening to sermons all day and all night, because doing anything else made me feel as though my life was over. In hospital I felt a profound guilt, a sense of failure, like the task of making something of my life was given to me and I squandered it. It also took me a while to realise I was not going to die, even though that seemed like it was never really on the table.

I went to Church again after spending all my time in Vancouver researching occultism and cried in the front row. I felt as though I was, after all this time, still so vulnerable and small. I felt as though I needed to make a huge change to organise my life around my values, but I was still so resistant to it. I didn’t trust myself now. I felt like if before I was leaning into ‘young tech worker,’ I felt as though I needed to construct a life pattern that respected the balance between my work and my creative life. I felt like I needed roommates, I needed family, I needed something more than myself and my vanity to carry me.It’s good to reread Ecclesiastes sometimes so that you memorise the phrase ‘This also is vanity’ when you feel bad, so you can lash yourself while you’re down.

I asked my parents and my friends if I made any sense, if it seemed like I was rash–and everyone thought I was being rational. So I decided on Montreal. A friend moved in with me and, settled into a new flat, I set out to work on another creative work. But I just couldn’t focus.

After the fall was spent meeting dozens of people and getting acquainted with the scenes, I felt more sociable than I had ever been in my life. But I was still doing the same habits! I kept being overtly reliant on the internet – incapable of even incorporating someone into my life without plugging them in somewhere into the social stack. They had to join my clubhouse, they had to be followed, they had to be interconnected. But I was seeing people multiple times a week! I didn’t need to do this anymore. Why did I keep doing it? It seemed to just alienate other people from me.

I didn’t have an answer. When 2024 came, I decided on the theme for the year: “rhythm and intention.”

The changes worked: over January I wrote just under 30% of the work I’ve been making. But I had given up everything to work again, and made the tradeoff of leaving social contact behind. It seemed to alienate people even more to drop off the face of the earth after being regularly social, but I didn’t know what else to do. Some things take priority over others at different moments. To everything, there is a season…

When Lent came, I remembered the Lenten message of 2022 by the Pope and decided I would give up social media again. But I took it a step further and checked out of nearly everything, relying only on SMS communication.

After a few weeks of this, it’s felt really good. In removing things from my life I realised how I had structured my mind around having them. And so, I wanted to keep going.

Everyday carry

Recently I made the decision to start weaning myself off having my smartphone on my person. I’ve ordered a flip phone that I can at least use Signal on; I got a 2000s digicam and an e-reader and a Walkman. I’ve started to focus myself on using single-function devices.

So far, what I’ve found is that it forces me to not act on every thought that comes to mind. Instead of thinking of a topic and searching it; or reading about my breakfast as I have breakfast, I take out the Walkman and realise all I can do is listen to stuff or just sit around. And so, I sit around.

Mindfulness has been a perpetual weakness for me. I think too much, and I want too much control. In the past I felt that I could make up for whatever lack I felt in myself by simply having a better work ethic, being more present, being more available, being more ready to serve, being more useful, making myself better, learning more, reading more–but everyone dies in their own style, and our lifestyles write our constant illnesses.For the chronically ill in the audience, not all of them, I’m sure, but I will insist at least some. Even when I burned out–even when stress catches up to me, and gives me whatever hypertension ulcer hernia pelvic muscle wound infection no one can pin down–I would find my way back on the horse, just as busy as I was a few months before.

I’m not sure how else to do this; I don’t know how to go about writing my life other than to tweak around these values and to realise my own story backward. But from where I am now, I feel happier–I am at least able to name happiness for what it is, rather than something I’m not sure how to recognise. I feel as though I’ve spent a long time reacting to life, relaying cached thoughts, reflexively bouncing from context to context; organising polyphony in a way that seems graceful, then stepping off the podium and into the pit.

It’s strange how peaceful I would be once I fell in, admitting I was lost. I remember my second trip back to the hospital I felt absolutely resigned. My life had become about procedure. My diastolic had dropped 30 millimeters.

When I first gave up coffee after Ash Wednesday, I suddenly found myself preoccupied with the beauty of sunbeams cascading through windows.

Metanoia - February 28, 2024 -