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Let Boulders Fall

I lost another loved one. It was my grandpa, on my father's side.

I loved him and I will miss him. I also feel the intensity of the grief felt by my loved ones who knew him better, and loved him more, and miss him more painfully. The end of such a long life has me thinking of what life and death mean.

As I have tried to prepare a draft of this post, I have scrapped several. My thoughts are stuck in awe of how mundane the terms are that I am trying to define.

I have lived this morning. I got up early, brewed coffee, ate breakfast, went to the gym . . .

Somehow in these, in the accretion and secretion of every effort, is the thing I am missing and dwelling on. The being that was my grandpa.

Socrates ate. Alexander slept. Dante killed spiders. Washington sneezed. Jesus wept. Confucius said.

Life is absurd.

Often we resolve that absurdity with purpose, and that is the context in which I feel myself encountering my loved ones. They believe, in fact they would tell you that they know, the purpose of the life we lost in my grandpa. They know the purpose of his death. The sweet terror and glorious sadness of this moment in our family history make sense. There is a certain meaning that warrants them.

Mormons have that if nothing else. They can search their system of beliefs and find specificity, definition, and purpose that accounts for everything. Anything.

I'm therefore proposing a new analogy here for ex-mormonism. We have told our stories often in terms of finding contradictions and falsehoods in the truth claims in our tradition, and placing them on a shelf. In the analogy the shelf is our testimony. The weight of the pieces of Mormonism that we set aside builds until that shelf shatters. 

I feel that Mormonism is more like the fate of Sisyphus. As punishment for his hubris, Zeus doomed Sisyphus to move a boulder up a steep incline forever. As an extra horror, Zeus made it so that the boulder constantly slipped away, back down the slope, every time. I picture an infinity of boulders. Each one is a reality of the cosmos. The slope is Mormonism, the top is the reconciliation of facts with Mormonism, and the task of moving boulders is the purpose God has given us.

Mormons climb steep terrain on tedious switchbacks, but death is just a Sisyphean boulder among the infinite quarry God planted at the base of his Olympus. Each one, Camus taught us, is the meaning of life. Not because they are intrinsically pleasant or logical, but because they are occasions to continue. One can reasonably continue to move rocks forever who has been given the task of transporting an infinite number of them.

In leaving Mormonism, and theism altogether, I'm not denying the existence of the boulders. Death is sad. Beauty exists. Love exists. Horrors occur. I know that as well as anyone. I've just realized that they don't need to be moved. The top is not worth seeking.

If I relocate life, or death, do their natures change?

Of course this is a negative position. The only thing that I have said positively is that the things that my loved ones are seeking to find a purpose for, are purposes, meanings, ends in and of themselves. Stop carrying boulders and just let them be. We may yet have Camus to deal with, but for now I'll be staid on the existence of the boulder and rejoice in the futility of the hill since I'm not climbing it. If boulders are too mundane an object for your mind to stay on, choose a star instead:

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud—
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says, ‘I burn.’
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats’ Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.
- Robert Frost

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