Jack of Many Trades

Agnosticism and Faith and the Hole In My Brain

Originally posted: 2016-09-15

I still don't know.

You remember the MRI I mentioned back around Labor Day? The one where I was supposed to have the results on Wednesday? Well it's a week past Wednesday, I've emailed and called my doctor, and I still haven't heard anything. I haven't yet had a nervous breakdown yet. I attribute this to Lady Prozac and my patient spouse, who pointed out that the last time I got bad news about a tumor it was very prompt, so it's probably fine.

After trying to reach my doctor's office again today I spent a few minutes freaking out and then sitting with my fear. I'm scared of abandoning my spouse and my child. I'm scared of all the things I haven't written. I'm scared of all the ways my mind can betray me.

What I ended up thinking about, though, is that the tumor is there in my brain regardless. It has been there my entire life. It may be growing, and it may not be growing, but whatever it is doing, it was doing it before I had the MRI. Knowing doesn't change what is actually happening in my head.

So: I am an agnostic on the subject of my tumor. Most of the time I hope it is harmless, static, not doing anything much. I have no way of knowing unless it's time for my alternate-year MRI, or unless something goes very wrong. (And depending on the wrong, I might not get the chance to know then.) I believe the thing that let's me stay functional. I probably am fine. It's statistically likely, and yes, they would almost certainly have called if something was worrisome. My OCD is better and my aphasia isn't worse and I'm probably fine.

But I wonder: what if it's not fine?

And I believe in the powers because the alternative if a lifetime of self-delusion and schizophrenia and a world where nothing makes sense, not even my senses. But sometimes I wonder: what if none of it is real?

I was asked recently who or what motivates me as a writer, and as I chewed it over, I realized that a big part of my motivation is fear.


I wrote that last line and then I thought about it for a while, stepped outside and raised my arms. I called: Hekate! Mara! Redbird!

I offered: I make a gift to you of my fear!

I doubted, and then I shook my head. My fear must be precious, because I give it so much space in my heart and my mind. It motivates me and it protects me. Many of my virtues spring from it. I either need to learn to work with it or I need to learn to cast it aside. Do with it as you see fit.

And then I made my offerings as I usually do lately, and since I didn't bring another way to divine a response, I unlocked the car and turned on the radio.

I was greeted by: Every storm runs, runs out of rain Just like every dark night turns into day

And it was so perfect an answer that I wondered if it could be that easy, especially when I'd just been writing a blog post about agnosticism. How am I supposed to make my point when the powers are being so obvious? And yet I know that it's only really obvious to me. I've divined by song since the 90s, never in any kind of system so much as I know when a song is meant to be for me. But wasn't that just the same thing - having faith that patterns meant something, when I had no way of knowing for sure?

About that time the song ended, and the next one I recognized almost immediately.

Feels like the Holy Ghost running through ya When I play the highway FM I find my soul revival Singing every single verse Yeah I guess that’s my church

It's a song called My Church, for fuck's sake, about finding meaning in the songs on the radio and the heart of the wind and I thought okay, okay, you win.

You win.

And that's the thing about my fears, and the gods. I can't prove the powers exist in any objective way. I can't prove that my fears are impossible, even if they're statistically unlikely. That doubt worms in despite the drugs and the therapy techniques and the meditation... but throwing off that agnosticism feels so good, even when I know it'll be back. Giving myself permission to believe things, to try them on and see if I'm happier with them or without them, is my big act of faith. I can always stop having faith later if it's not working out for me.

So: You win. For now, I believe, because the alternative is worse. I need to go back to writing more, because the alternative is worse. I ask: Hekate! Mara! Redbird! I make a bridle of my compulsions, I make a saddle of my goals! Help me to tame my fears and to ride them out. Show me how to find motivation without being swallowed up!

And I say: Voice of Fear, I see you, I hear you. I call you out. Work with me. Let us have a partnership.

I have a Muse who inspires me, but I suspect the Voice of Fear is a title for someone who's been around, and pushing at me, for a while. I think I need to learn to take from, and give to, both of them.

Why do I write like I'm running out of time? Because you are, he whispers. But I'm running out of time whether I write or not. Energy moves whether I believe in it or not. The gods answer as they will, regardless of how I feel in that moment.

I feel better when I write. I am happier when I make. I feel better when I believe in the gods. I am happier when I have faith. I feel better when I accept that I will die eventually, and I am happier when I tell myself that it's probably not now. I won't know until I do know. I'm agnostic. But I choose to have faith, I pick a side and march forward, I keep going, because the alternative is to... I don't even know. I just keep moving forward.