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Episode 148 Henry & Charlie Smith: To Love and Be Loved

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Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Henry & Charlie Smith from Colorado. They’re in their 70s, married 47 years. Henry is a former minister, now atheist, Charlie has retained some of her faith, and we witness how they remain respectful and loving in spite of their religious differences. What comes up for me this week, and in light of this interview, is how each of us, as stewards of our own happiness, choose the paths that we see fit for us. Some might look at the relationship of our guests today and say, “no thank you.” Others might envy it and say, “I wish I could have that.”  And of course, there is no right or wrong answer to this. You do you. A question was posed this week on the secret Life After God Facebook site by Brian Peck, he wrote: “What does your heart long for?” I just immediately started writing my answer with no forethought. I was a bit surprised by what rose up out of my own heart in response. I wrote, “It seems in all this talk of agency of individuation and differentiation that the most mature version of my "heart" would "long for" nothing, ideally. That I would be self-sufficient, self-soothing, etc. That I would marry myself because anything less would be expecting too much of others or being needy would apply too much pressure on another. That no one could or should be trusted with my "heart." That love is too risky and may, in fact, be a myth. After all, we're just animals and only here for a brief time and relatively meaningless. But if I'm honest, my heart longs for love and if that's a weakness then color me weak. Somewhat hopelessly weak. FML.” Which is short for fuck my life. What I mean by that is that, as ex-Christians, we’re having to rediscover what it means to be human, but more specifically, what it means to be us. Ourselves. We were taught to not trust our heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” So we were led to distrust the core of our beings. That it lies to us. That there’s good in it, no redemptive value, it is sick and it cannot be cured. And besides, no one can understand or decipher it’s message. It’s the source of confusion. It’s led around by emotions. Don’t listen to it. And so some of us stopped listening to it. But as we know now, it went on talking, and we struggled to differentiate, as Josey said on last week’s episode, between what is God’s voice, what is Satan’s and what is ours—only one of which was to be trusted—God’s. In our work to dig our souls out from under the rubble of our demolitioned Christianity and reconnect with our truest selves, we’ve borrowed some techniques from science, namely differentiation which has to do with identifying ourselves apart from that which we have unhealthily relied on as an authority over us—our parents, our domineering friends, our lovers, and most of all, God. But the thing about LOVE, is that neither religion nor science has the first clue how to understand love. We see little signs of it in a few animal species, but it is a big, fucking deal to us home sapiens sapiens. It makes us do crazy things, experience surreal elation and gut-wrenching pain. The sense I got from all my exposure to the psychology of agency and differentiation was that in order to be mature, evolved, healthy, I had to not need anyone. And perhaps semantics cannot capture the nuance of this elusive thing called love, but I began to say, “I don’t need this person or these friends, but I want them. I choose them from a place of strength with more to give and receive in the relationship because I’m strong, independent, and detached. But it’s a fine line b/w need and want. Perhaps Jeremiah was onto something when he said, who can really understand the heart? But when the question was posed, “what does your heart want?” it didn’t say power, independence, detachment, it said to love and be loved, it said intimacy, it said other people, who I can be myself around, with whom I can share my secrets

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