the digital home of Lauren Tyree

Just the Ticket

consciousness feels like a massive rollercoaster

that i didn’t ask to board,

and i’ve no idea when the twists and drops will come.

but i’m strapped in;

it’s a chaotic order, where the

one and only sure thing is that

it will most certainly end.

since i can’t say when or how abrupt the stop will be,

i will not obsess or predict or turn my knuckles white

but relax and enjoy what’s left of the ride, instead.

On Solitude and Freethought

Back in high school, I chastised a close friend for embracing a new habit that brought much-needed tranquility to her life. “I’ve been learning how to meditate. It’s amazing so far.” she announced one night. The word sliced my gut with a dull razor. “Meditating! On what?!” I was as horrified as if she’d just admitted to torturing my family for sport. She jumped to defend her treasured practice. “On the silence! You just sit really still and start by repeating this word- ‘ soo-rah , soo-rah ’…” I winced and felt my body heat up. “Sura- like in the Koran ?! You don’t even know what it means; it’s demonic!” I lectured until she began to cry, and I felt too little remorse. As far as I was concerned, my clueless friend was standing at the altar across from Satan himself, and I wasn’t willing to forever hold my peace.

When you grow up entrenched in fundamentalist religion, you learn not to trust your own thoughts. Every fleeting sensation, every instinct of mind and body, is to be immediately scrutinized by your higher spiritual faculties. Your precious ruminations, critical opinions and profound epiphanies are worthless and even detestable in the face of an omniscient God. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, the true believer’s stance is made clear: “ We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ” No wonder I felt so justified in my intellectual arrogance. I’d agreed to replace my mortal knowledge with my Heavenly Father’s perfect wisdom. And since I knew my brain and heart were blackened filth apart from His grace, it was an irresistible offer.

But there was still that mercilessly unrelenting battle to keep my mind in service to the Spirit of the Lord. It wasn’t a one-time deal; you really did have to manually take each thought captive to Christ. And I, like most other high-strung kids, had plenty of unruly thoughts to wrangle. The last thing I wanted was to be left alone with the lot of them, defenseless and scared. I hated to imagine what might spring up if I gave them the chance to run free. After all, what did the godless think about? Murder. Deception. Pleasure. Self. These things were evil in equal measure. Meditating on anything other than scripture could only lead to untold spiritual and psychological torment.

Intense guilt accompanied my every errant thought, and I could only relieve the discomfort brought on by sin with the help of nightly prayer sessions. Prayer was my chance to grovel, to apologize for all the “worldly” junk that’d slipped through the cracks throughout the day, for my careless lapses in judgment and vigilance. Since not a single one of my mental images or lines of internal monologue had escaped my watchful Master, the confession bit was just a humiliating formality. Despite any preference I might have, He was the Holy Ghost in the machine, the Ruler and Judge Eternal. To purposely seek out a private corner of my own imagination would be futile, and back then I wasn’t so insolent as to try.

As a relatively new apostate, I still find the concept of freethought thrilling and taboo. It’s also a challenging exercise for the weak, a sweet nectar for those of us who were never allowed a taste. The very first step was accepting that I just might survive if left stranded with a psyche stripped bare of dogma. I couldn’t have predicted the personal reward in store. Where fear and anxiety once ruled with an unshakable furor, I have placed a still hope and abiding trust. As it turns out, this is no wedding dance with the Devil; it’s a gently evolving harmony of reason and intuition, a peace I never dared to conceive of. I can see why a jealous God would refuse to compete.

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