[cancer] All my trials and tribulations, sinking in a gentle pool of wine

Sometimes being a clean-and-sober atheist kind of sucks. Take this little cancer hobby of mine, for instance.

People of faith have a higher power to turn to, both for aid and comfort in their times of trouble, and as a causative agent to help explain and justify their experiences. People who drink find another approach to escaping the troubles of their lives. Likewise my stoner friends. All of those behaviors are for some people paths that for a while help abstract them from the trials and tribulations of their everyday life. They can go some place where the pain either has less meaning, or is completely transformed.

I’m not a faith holder. I’m not wired for it. I’m too literally minded, too invested in the empirical universe, to hold a mythic truth without experiencing serious cognitive dissonance. There are times when I recognize this as a loss on my part. Comfort denied is comfort delayed, after all. But faith comes at too high a price for me to willing to pay. I won’t betray my reason, not even for the example of the best of faith holders. And frankly, the fact that most faith holders visible in American culture are far, far from the best of faith holders does nothing to set an example for my reconsideration. In other words, religion is not my opiate. (As for real opiates, the less said the better. I am boggled as to how anyone can do that vile shit recreationally.)

Likewise drinking. Alcohol just makes me stupid and loud. I don’t like being stupid, not one tiny bit. And I certainly don’t need to be any louder. Furthermore, the temptations to even minor misbehavior while drinking are strong for me. I can be mean or petty without even realizing it. Kindness is a social virtue I value far too highly to trade it away for a buzz.

Pot, too. Marijuana just makes me stupid and slow. That’s a slight improvement over booze, in that I’m less likely to say or do something regrettable, but I still don’t like being stupid at all. And slow isn’t really in it for me, either. I live in my head way too much to tolerate that.

The only other class of drugs I ever tried was hallucinogens. I dropped acid once, and ate mushrooms once. I liked each of them so much that I realized instantly I would never be able to indulge again. I wouldn’t have the willpower to stay off them, and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life tripping balls in a refrigerator box under a bridge somewhere.

Never coked up, never smoked crack, never shot heroin, et cetera. I think I did ecstasy once, but mostly that gave me an erection the size and density of a two-by-four which would not conclude in any satisfactory method whatsoever, despite enthusiastic assistance.

As a result of all this, for many years, reality has been my drug of choice, with an assist from fiction. The trials and tribulations of my life have been faced with a clear head and open eyes, and no higher power than myself to turn to for either comfort or to assign responsibility to. I have always faced the world on its own terms and mine, owned my responsibility as best I could, and taken the steps to move on when required.

Cancer, especially now at the beginning of my end game, has been one of the greatest trials of my life. Believe me, I really do understand why people self-medicate or turn to God or half a hundred other solutions. I can’t. So I don’t get see all my trials and tribulations sinking in a gentle pool of wine. They ride me now, they will ride me into the grave.

I see cancer. Cancer sees me. No one and nothing stands between us.

41 thoughts on “[cancer] All my trials and tribulations, sinking in a gentle pool of wine

  1. Laurie Mann says:

    I’ve struggled with depression for much of my life. When I developed severe insomnia on top of that about 10 years ago, I became even more depressed (and my nice boss at my job left and was replaced by the boss from hell, so it was a terrible, terrible time). Still managed to get up and go to work, but I was very unhappy. The only good part of my life was Jim, and he continued to be very supportive.

    Over a few months of treading water, I made a decision – I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to get over feeling depressed or get out of my insomnia, but I wasn’t going to hate myself or my life. I was going to adapt. I took a part time job, and, sadly, got laid off about a year later. I haven’t worked a regular job since then.

    But, the weird thing is, while my career died, I generally can’t write and while the insomnia is almost smothering at times, I’ve only occasionally been depressed since then, and it’s been sporadic. I’m still an atheist. I don’t think religion would have helped me at all over the last 10 years.

    So I guess I’d say, you’ve been extremely practical lately, and you’ve been setting up additional support for when you’ll need it. That’s great because many people don’t, even when they get a terminal diagnosis. It’s hard to be practical all the time. I hope you’ll have the time to do some of the weird things you’d like to do. The weird things can make all the difference.

    [At least if you retire, you won’t write the Gospels, every morning, every evening, life is fine]

  2. Stevo Darkly says:

    The following is not an attempt or offer to convert anybody. I’m not competent to do that. But it contains a bit of God-talk from a particular sectarian point of view, so you may want to skip over it.

    And perhaps this is not directed to Jay so much as to some of his religious friends.

    I suspect Jay is as “saved” as he needs to be. The Catholic theologian Karl Rahner posits the concept of the “anonymous” Christian. Horrible label, but basically it means if a person lives as Christ would like, they are effectively a Christian. It’s not the anonymous Christian’s fault if he never heard of Christianity or (more relevant here) never heard Christianity presented in such as way that he could accept it, due to the incompetence of Christians. As Jay said, there are plenty of Christians out there providing horrible examples. We believers need to do a better job of witnessing — not haranguing nor yakkiing about religion, nor unceasingly humble-bragging about “our personal relationship” with the Deity — but simply quietly demonstrating that it’s possible to be a believer without being a horrible shitwipe!

    Certainly Jay lives a life as loving and tolerant and kind as any sort if Christ or God could want. Better than most self-claimed Christians.

    It’s not so hard to believe he has been touched by the Divine in some way. Reading _Mainspring_, it occurred to me that Jay is better at conveying a sense of the numinous that almost any other writer I’ve read, right up there with Arthur C. Clarke and my friend Jeff Patterson. Committed atheists all!

    Very curious, that.

    I hope this post was not so impudent or parochial as to upset anyone too much.

    If I didn’t fear inducing a horrible case of the eye-rolls, I’d tell Jay, “Go with God — you’ve got a better chance of doing so than most of us — and know you walk in the love of all your friends and fans.”

    I might even have the temerity to add, “You’ll think this is silly, but if it could be possible, I hope to see you again.”

  3. Stevo Darkly says:

    Usually I’m not such a sentimental sot.

Comments are closed.