Tuesday, August 14, 2012

MitchWords: Part Nine

 What do I do on my birthday? I tell Death to screw off for another year.

That mentality seems especially poignant this year. I won't soften it: the past year has been full of disappointment, pain, heartbreak, and misery. Anyone that has been following MitchWords knows my story, so I won't recount the details here. Instead I want to declare, on this day of my birth, that in the midst of this personal storm...

Wednesday Theology is rising.

It has been quite the year. I go through severe bouts of depression but somehow manage to find and cling to moments of levity which get me through the bad times. Well, this whole year has pretty much been one bad time. If you've only known me for a year or less, which would include everyone I work with, then you've known me only at my lowest, at my most desperate. I used to be a nice guy. I used to be rather care free and happy. Now there are times when I am completely consumed with bitterness and anger.

Don't read this the wrong way. This isn't a cry for help. I already made one of those, and the outpouring of responses was overwhelming. You guys...you guys are awesome. All of you. What this is, instead, is an attempt at an explanation.

When you're depressed, severely depressed, you think the bad thoughts that nobody wants you to think. You toy, even in passing, with thoughts of the Wood of Suicide. Again, not a cry for help. Let me explain. I have recognized and acknowledged my own mortality in a way that I never have before. I am going to die. There's no way around it. Death is certain for me, as it is for you. Heck, today is a celebration of me being one year closer to death.

And in this comprehension of death I came to understand that I have a lot of crap to do before I die. If I ever get really down in the dumps and wonder what this miserable life is worth, I realize that Death cannot come for me today. Because I have a lot of Wednesday Theology to write before it does come.

And all this morbid rambling leads me here, typing away at this computer, wearing a dress shirt and tie.

Why am I wearing a tie? Because I have this mentality that if I dress professionally I will write in a more professional manner.  I had a girlfriend who once told me she didn't think it worked that way. Well, now she's an ex-girlfriend and I present papers to academic conferences on religion.

That is how I'm spending my birthday. I'm telling Death to screw off because I'm writing a paper on Wednesday Theology for a conference at Dordt College in November. The event is called The Christian Evasion of Popular Culture Conference. On Friday afternoon, November 2nd, I will present the paper I am currently writing, entitled Daring to Address God: Confronting the Negligent Deity in Graphic Literature.

Wednesday Theology is rising...

On the top of my birthday cake this year, my parents placed a Batman action figure. My grandmother laughed at the sight and asked me if I was ever going to grow out of that. I thought about the conference and my paper and told her, "I sure hope not."

Admittedly, sometimes I do wonder if I should grow up. Maybe I should take down all the Batman memorabilia off my walls and shelves, cease wearing Doctor Who t-shirts, and just present myself more as what people expect an adult should act like. But then a book like Sean Murphy's Punk Rock Jesus comes out, a graphic miniseries about a media company cloning Jesus and raising him on a reality TV show, and I know...I just know I am doing exactly what I should be doing.

When I was in seminary I was told that every student there needed to be called by God, otherwise they wouldn't survive seminary. I'll be honest, I never really felt like I was called by God to go to seminary. Until I started writing seminary papers about comic books. Now I am attempting to generate an academic reputation based on my exploration of theology in graphic literature, and people are responding to it. This is an idea, a plan, so crazy that it could only be of God.

I will die. And I may die, in my personal life, a bitter and miserable man. I would be content with that. Because my life is not about me. It's about this idea of Wednesday Theology. It's about exploring and encountering God in all aspects of life, especially graphic literature. If only you knew how much in the past year I have found God in comic books. I don't mean just finding religious references. As I've examined, discussed, and wrote on these issues, I have experienced sincere and overwhelming encounters with the Divine, to the point where tears are dripping onto the keyboard as I type.

As my advisor said the first time I met him, "There's something wonderful about worshiping God with your mind."

Wednesday Theology is my worship. It's not something I have to force myself to do. Thinking about God and comics is an addiction, a natural occurrence in my brain that I cannot turn off. And there is something very wonderful about this.

Okay, this may have gotten off to a morbid start. But in the face of morbidity I've discovered honest hope.

I am currently rather fascinated by Job chapter 7. Job is crying out, without reservation, in all his anguish and despair for God to just leave him alone and let him die. And I find this dark poetry to be absolutely beautiful as a representation of Job's courage to speak to God with such honesty. Is that weird to see hope in such despair? But not hope that the despair will be removed, but hope that such despair can provide the opportunity for such sincere commune with the Divine?

Some additional thoughts:

In Grant Morrison's book Supergods, one line sticks out to me on a deeply personal level. "Then, as if handing me the keys to the jet pack, my dad bought me a typewriter and taped a message to the inside of its case: 'Son - the world is waiting to hear from you'" (2895, Kindle location). My parents never gave me a typewriter, but this laptop I'm on was a Christmas present from them. On this laptop I have written my Master's thesis, every Wednesday Theology blog post, and am currently writing my paper for the conference.

Mom. Dad. Thank you for the jet pack.

Even more than that, thank you for the love and encouragement in all my endeavors, despite how absurd they may seem. I know you don't always understand what I do, or why I do it. I know sometimes you probably don't even like what I have to say or write. But you've always supported me. Your love is the most awesome jet pack of all.

Again, thank you for all the jet packs.

The power of a story can be startling. A story can inspire us or crush us. It can move us to tears or make us burst out in laughter. It can change a person's life. It may even be able to kill a person. Please be careful and mindful with the power of stories.

To all the women that have once been in my life romantically, from the very first to the most recent, I miss having you in my life. For everything I did, I am sorry. And on the other end, all is forgiven. The exception, for now, being the one that initially drove me to such levels of depression and despair. I still can't forgive you. But I'm still trying. Such forgiveness would be utter madness. And for once in my life I'm not that crazy. But I will get there. I promise you that.

To all the family, friends, and complete strangers that have ever prayed for me: someone heard you. Thank you.

To the creators of pop culture: keep up the good work. My periods of joy and happiness can usually be traced from me hopping from one pop culture reference to the next. About a year ago I found a picture of Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor dressed as Batman. I joked that it was proof that God loved me. My mom told me she was glad I could still find joy in the little things in life. Sometimes in life that's the only place one can find joy. And believe me, I have found so much joy in the little things.

Now, Death, go screw off. I've got work to do.

Thank you,

Bitter. Sarcastic. Handsome.

And finding so much joy in the chaos.

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