MONDAY MELTDOWN: Chained To Certainty: Are we confused because we have chosen to wander?

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On this weeks episode, we hear from Ethel, a Christian woman who may think we may have fallen into confusion and that doesn't happen to her...



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Are Wandering and Being Confused the Same Thing?

Ethel Wrote:

Zac, love reading your messages you wirte  . Sound so confused at times. I’m a Christian
But I never feel victim to it!

Ethel 🐱🐈
Sent from my iPhone

Zac's Response:

Hey Ethel! I’m not sure if confused is what I ever feel (but I can see from the Christian perspective why you would think that.) I have chosen a path away from the certainty of religion so I can live my life more open to my own human experience and that others. I found that for me, the certainty of Christianity led me away from the inclusive human experience I truly desired. So as you see confused, I see as wandering. When you wander, it can be confusing sometimes.

Not all those who wander are lost.
— J.R.R. Tolkien

Are wandering and being confused the same thing?

Well, I think the obvious answer is no. But let’s evaluate it for a bit because what Ethel brings up has definitely been in my own thoughts multiple times through this process of religious deconstruction.

The Tolkien quote comes from a poem he wrote called, "All That is Gold Does Not Glitter" (alternatively known as "The Riddle of Strider" or "Song of Aragorn").  It was written for his fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. It alludes to an integral part of the plot and describes Aragorn, son of Arathorn.

Let’s take a look at it and put it in context. It goes like this...

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes, a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
 - J.R.R. Tolkien

The poem appears twice in The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings. It appears first in Chapter Ten, "Strider", in Gandalf's letter to Frodo Baggins in Bree, although when Frodo reads it he does not realize that Strider (Aragorn) is the subject of the verse.

Bilbo repeats the verse at the Council of Elrond. He whispers to Frodo that he wrote it many years before, when Aragorn first revealed who he was.

In Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings for film, the poem appears in The Return of the King, when Arwen recites the last four lines of the poem as her father Elrond prepares to reforge the shards of Narsil for Aragorn.

The first line is a variant and rearrangement of the proverb "All that glitters is not gold", known primarily from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, resulting in a proposition bearing a completely different meaning: Aragorn is vastly more important than he looks.

The second line emphasizes the importance of the Rangers, suspiciously viewed as wanderers or vagabonds by those the Rangers actually protect from evil. (This is me.)

Lines three and four emphasize the endurance of Aragorn's royal lineage, while five and six emphasize its renewal. They can also be seen to represent a spark of hope during a time of despair and danger.

Line seven refers to the sword Narsil.

Line eight foreshadows the crownless Aragorn's accession to the throne of both the kingless Gondor and the vanished Arnor.

In the context of the story, the “Not all those who wander are lost” line refers to the Rangers, who are viewed as wanderers or vagabonds by the ones the Rangers protect from evil. I often referred to myself as a “Sailor” when confronted by those want to know what I believe.

So I don’t look at wandering as a bad thing. Leaving the certainty of religion naturally leads to a wanderers life as long as the one wandering are intrigued by its uncertainty.

So is it right for those that never leave the dock to criticize those that have taken to the sea?

Have I fallen into “confusion” or have I embraced it as part of the sailing life I have chosen?

Christianity has decided to place certainty at its core. The heaven and hell narrative, the war of good and evil, the black and white, right or wrong preference of a binary existence is very appealing. It creates answers for things. If gives you a sense of being anchored.

Certainty makes life and decisions easier. Asking, what does God want? or what would Jesus do? Serves as a perfect distraction from us having to ask ourselves, what do I want?

But in that anchoring, it makes exploring impossible.

It often fears the spiritual narrative of others because it could create questions to the anchor you’ve chosen as your spiritual reality. So while it puts “God” if you believe in one, it also puts you in a box.

You never fall into confusion because you never leave the dock.

This isn’t a right or wrong issue, it’s a preference of lifestyle. I'm happy Ethel never feels confused. But I hope her certainty makes allowances and open doors for others in her life besides just those who agree with her. That fact that she listens or follows us at all is probably proof that she does.

The reality is, when you leave the dock you will be confronted with, thoughts, experiences, and beliefs that put everything you know to be true at risk.
Every chain link connecting you to your anchor, every board and nail that holds your dock together will be examined, and you’ll find that what you anchored yourself to is lacking and that much of it is profoundly harming social inclusivity. It’s destroying the ties of unity in humanity rather than building them.

When that begins to happen, to the anchored you’ll seem to be confused. Those who consider themselves found will only be able to see you as lost. It's disheartening, but part of the process.

So you see Ethel, while you may see me and others as confused, we’re just navigating the waters of an open ocean without an anchor.



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