I wrote In The Middle Of Nowhere, the story of Rhys and Kaycie. Rhys is a sympathetic newspaper writer who lives in Santa Barbara who falls madly in love for the beautiful Kaycie. After being together and happy for a while, Kaycie decides to end it, sending Rhys into misery. To cure their friend, Brewer and Sam suggest an old Chumash Indian cleansing ritual where they would go hiking in the Santa Ynez mountains carrying all of the sentimental keepsakes Rhys has held onto that remind him of Kaycie. At the top he would discard of the items off a large drop. Rhys obliges. On his way down the mountain, however, he loses his friends and his way. Somehow he wanders over to where the bag of Kaycie-things landed. He ends up lost and stuck on a mountain with nothing but a bag full of the things he was trying to forget, and he has to use those items to survive. As he uses each item, he relives a part of their story. Both his heart and body fight for their lives.
RHYS: She said she needed some space.
BREWER: Ooh. That need-my-space thing is the Vulcan Death Grip of relationships.
SAM: No one ever needs space.
RHYS: Ugh. This has been such a painful week. I just want to talk to her, that’s it. Even if it’s not about us, or anything. Just wanna talk. About whatever. I’m really missing that.
It’s not that hard to see Rhys was very much myself. I kept on wondering what would be the perfect way to end a play like that. Should I give myself what I wanted and have Kaycie come back to him in an epiphany that they were meant to be together? Should I have him be cool with it, or should he let her know how much she hurt him?
RHYS: Kaycie, why do I get the sense you’re trying to call my bluff?
KAYCIE: Well, I was there. I saw that bag, and all that stuff and Ashley kind of told me about everything, and, Rhys, I’m sorry you took everything so hard. I feel like this is all my fault.
RHYS: Do not blame yourself for anything.
KAYCIE: I don’t get it.
RHYS: Look. On Verona, I had a lot of time to think. You were pretty clear about how we outgrew each other.
RHYS: Yeah. It made me realize, we ran our course. Like they do sometimes. Sometimes relationships are destinations, ours was amazing, but it wasn’t a final destination. And we can’t keep each other from where we need to be. I still love you enough, and that’s why I can’t force you to stay. I think that in order for me to be happy, I need to see you happy. I’ve been thinking. About the time we were together. There were times when we were together, but you weren’t that happy. And I sensed it, and it was hurting me actually. But the times when you were happy, I was happy. Goofing around a grocery store. Drawing at the park. I won’t ever forget those times. And while I’m a little sad it’s all over, I feel better that it did in fact happen.
Was this what I wanted? The pains of loss didn’t go away for a very long time. I dated recklessly a bit to try and start a revenge relationship. I can’t say I’d ever advise that.
At a certain point I hit acceptance. We were over. It was time to change the photos I had hanging all over the place and to pick some new favorite songs. I went on a family trip to Hawaii, and came back to Santa Barbara in time for my second year at UCSB.
Then things got worse. In seemingly no time, she had a new boyfriend. Some guy who didn’t seem to match the person she was and they seemed to have incompatible values in life. He had a big head and often put Facebook statuses in Latin. I thought she was way too good for him. I thought she was too good for me a lot of times, much less him. This new relationship hurt, and seeing how fast he had what I had, and seemingly more of it, was brutal. If it was possible to understand things even less then zero, then I had just entered that territory.
It was awful. It had been wonderful. It was going absolutely perfectly, and I had it all figured out. Then it turned ugly. I couldn’t do anything, because everything that there was to do was in someway a reminder. Every song, various meals, even my clothes. I wasn’t even sure what I wanted at that point. I kind of wanted to go back, but knowing that this was bound to happen, that wouldn’t have made it better. I wanted to see her again. I felt like she disappeared and had been replaced by a new person. I fancied the idea of at least having one day with everything the they once were, if for no other reason than to say goodbye to a person who would soon be disappearing.
My coping process was the same. I went through the motions of living. I decided to turn my heartbreak into script. Over the summer I produced a 120-page screenplay about a bitter breakup. It was pretty heavy on the bitter.
It happened in my dorm room and when it did I just felt shaken under the green lights I hung up around the window. I didn’t see it coming. One bit. We ended for reasons I still don’t understand. I don’t think I ever will. To try and explain it would just be a waste of time and energy. It’s one of those things that just can’t be explained.
The next night, I went bowling with a bunch of people. I had spared most of them the news, but the way I was acting that night, I wouldn’t be surprised if they all knew. I barely focused on the bowling, not that I would’ve been any good anyways. I was surrounded by pink and neon blue lights all around, a floor that lit up with different patterns, and colors and thumping bass everywhere. The sounds of the music, the crashing of pins, and the clapping of the bowling balls as they bounced into each other blended with the machines and the fifty simultaneous conversations. And none of that was getting to me. I felt like my body was some sort of room. I stood stoically, like a room, not moving. Inside the room was the real me, sprawled out on the floor.
I felt like suddenly all the fortunate events in my life that led to each other suddenly went nowhere. I felt like the period of good things in my life had effectively come to an ending. I felt no love. I didn’t think I could ever find anything good again. I figured that I had been with her against such great odds, and none of my other relationships before were ever anything as serious. Having lost that, none of my world made sense. I didn’t think I was loveable. I couldn’t really imagine anyone seeing me as someone that would interest them and I figured I would be alone for a long, long time.
Alone. That was the big thing. I never felt so alone. One of the best things about a relationship is how it helps keep loneliness at bay. You have someone to spend time with and to do things with almost on call. They stayed by your side and talked to you regularly because that was the thing to do. You would eat together, listen to music together, all kinds of things. Suddenly, I lost my conversation partner, my dinners for two, and my “list-of-movies-we-need-to-see-together.”
I hated feeling alone. I never saw life as anything good if you couldn’t share it with other people. I think one of the worst things I can imagine is being the only person on the Earth. I know all the people on the Earth mess things up a lot, but being the only person would be terrible, boring, and lonely. That was how I felt. I had made several friends on my floor, but there were only a few I had things in common with. A lot of them I couldn’t relate to very well. At this point I had yet to feel like I knew anyone well enough to share how I felt. I was pretty guarded about it all. Also, among the friends I made on the floor, many of them had coupled up by then, and it wasn’t helping the situation one bit.
My college experience was going relatively well so far, and I was getting more and more confident that Santa Barbara was a good fit. I had Jeremy and Tommy both come up to visit me on separate occasions. I liked showing them my new life. I was taking fun classes that let me write compelling papers and watch Ju-On and the Japanese version of Dark Water. I lived on a floor with interesting people. Being on a floor with a lot of people who chose it because of their aversion to drugs and alcohol was interesting. Things of that nature were very new to them, and I saw a lot of people get drunk for their very first time.
One time, Tommy came to visit me during a week where I had worked a Ra Ra Riot concert, seen the jazz legend Sonny Rollins perform live, and played some songs at a thing called Guitarmaggedon. I thought about how well my life was going, and how awesome it was to be able to walk around every day and just enjoy what Santa Barbara had to offer: a relaxed lifestyle, mountains and ocean, lots of activity. I also enjoyed the independence. I had always looked forward to living on my own, and so far it lived up to my expectations. I was taking classes, making friends, and I was also in love.
I had a relationship with this girl who I mentioned when describing the best night of my life. It wasn’t my first relationship, but it might as well have been. I had never felt the way I felt with her. Most of the time I felt like I had gotten something that I never should’ve had because it was too good for me. I might’ve been in disbelief the entire time. Something felt very complete about it. I enjoyed every minute, and planned on keeping it going forever. It felt like every event in my life had led to me meeting her, and that now that we were together I was in the pinnacle of my own life. I can be pretty sentimental. I saved every movie ticket we ever went to. I constantly shared songs. I took way too many pictures of us, too often. It was amazing.
Then one day it ended.
Anyways, I discovered I liked Philosophy a lot. I considered taking it up, at the very least, as a minor, so I could take more classes that challenged my thought like that one. After reading all sorts of ideas, I came to a conclusion about the existence of God. There were so many arguments that it had locked into a stalemate. People proved and disproved each other on a regular basis, and there were no signs of this ever ending. I decided that the world has seen quite a few people with a lot of intelligence over time, and that whether you were going to believe in God or not, you would have to do so against a lot of natural evidence.
It seemed to me that if there were a God, He had behaved all throughout history like someone who wanted to tread this line of ambiguity. I wondered why. I don’t think I could easily imagine a scenario where God was just physically hanging around and believing Him was a no brainer. Yet there were so many hints of Him. There weren’t enough to completely prove him, but there were too many to easily disprove him. It took that thing called faith. I wondered why God would want us to use faith to connect with him. Martin Luther once said that, “trust is the highest form of praise.” I suppose, if God really was all loving, then he’d want to have some sort of reciprocated relationship with us, and trust is key in relationships. I was soon about to learn a huge lesson about how important trust is in relationships.
It seemed like logic, philosophy, and reasoning back and forth all formed this bridge to actually believing in God. Each following plank was a belief based upon the plank before it. But if you kept walking, you would hit a final plank and stop. The bridge just ends. You would hear from some people, “No don’t stop. Keep walking. There’s more to this bridge.” Then you would see other people just sitting there, in disbelief, on that last plank, not walking further than they could see.
Faith was that unseen part of the bridge. Supposedly if you made it all the way to the other side of the bridge, you would find the most joyful place you could possibly imagine. A place where love flowed everywhere, where Guanilo would’ve booked resort reservations, and where my dad was waiting behind the door of a master bedroom. We all hit this point where we could either walk towards the other side, and risk there being no more bridge at this part where we can’t see, or we could just have a seat on the furthest plank, hang out with the friendly people there, and just be content and happy and stagnant.
I had hit this point on my bridge, and I knew what I was going to do. I was just about to do it.
Then my world got lit on fire.
Some other day, I would research these theories in more detail. It got crazier. Apparently Guanilo’s Island was pretty weak. There were a ton of other arguments that brought it down. But there were other arguments that brought those down, and arguments on top of those ones. It was more like St. Anselm started a huge chain reaction of people disproving each other. Speaking of his start, more arguments showed up to disprove him, and others to reprove him after those. Philosophers went after each other like rappers did in the late ‘90s.
I think there are a few common misconceptions about Philosophy. A lot of those in higher education believe that the idea of God has grown obsolete and is no longer seen as valid. It seems like all the noteworthy Philosophers have lately been atheist, and that that’s the trend we’re heading towards. Well, first, I was surprised by how many non-atheists were in the field of philosophy, especially at my UCSB, as postmodern and anti-religious as it seemed. I encountered a number of noteworthy thinkers who believed in God and even practiced different faiths.
I also think that people tend to think that atheism is the new train of thought that just seems more reasonable as time progresses. Various discoveries have always led us to drop certain beliefs. It often seems like people started believing in God and other entities or spiritual worlds to explain phenomenon on Earth. Now that we know a lot more about science, those beliefs will gradually be phased out. Well, atheism is far from a new destination that we’ve arrived at as the result of being scientifically aware of reality. The truth is that at all points in history God has been difficult to believe in. The Bible mentions a large portion of people who didn’t believe in God, as do many other ancient documents, and these are from times when seemingly all of society believed in God in some way. But if nonbelievers are addressed, then clearly many had their doubts, for the same reasons we would have now. I think modern culture makes nonbelief less stigmatized, so we might hear about it more today, but ever since there have been nonbelievers. It shouldn’t be too hard to see why. Believing in God requires believing in something that we’ve never heard or seen, at least the way we usually hear and see, and that’s pretty difficult. If there has never been anything supernatural, I think it would’ve been extremely difficult to get all the different religions we have in the world off the ground. Without anything supernatural, I don’t think it’s likely any more than a couple really unstable people who didn’t fit in would’ve developed such complex, specific, and odd beliefs.
If non-belief is nothing new then you’d also have to accept belief is not something that’s old and that will eventually be diminished as humanity progresses. The both of them should at the very least be given equal and respectful consideration.
The other problem with thinking of nonbelief as an ultimate destination of human thought is that it’s a bit of a vain thing to think of one’s own time period as a destination. Who knows if that hint of a trend will continue in the future, hundreds of years long after we’re dead? No one can say what discoveries will come about, and what new trends of thought will be started. The thing is, they’ll all be trends. Not destinations.
Somewhere out of the midst of an internal debate, a paper was born. It was on pace to being one of the best things I’ve written. Before it was finished, though, I had to throw in my own opinion, my own honest opinion, with no need to disprove anyone else’s or to respond.
This is what I wrote down:
Having deeply examined the Ontological Argument, a case against it, and a reassertion of the argument, I am wary of accepting it as a definitive argument in favor of the existence of God. Although I am a theist, I look at other arguments for God’s existence as more legitimate than the Ontological Argument. Instinctually, my first reaction to hearing this argument explained was to feel confused rather than feel as if I had just heard an astonishing revelation. Although there are no rules that require an argument to be instinctually appealing, it definitely has an impact on how it is received by those who must chose whether or not to deny it. There also seem to be many windows open for this argument to be attacked. The idea that we can establish something’s existence based on our conception of it seems rather unlikely to me, despite Anselm’s apparent ability to make it work.
Despite my hesitance to whole heartedly accept Anselm’s Ontological Argument, I feel as though I have no choice to accept it. Having looked up numerous cases against it in addition to Guanilo’s parody, it seems as if none of those refutations are strong enough to turn down the Ontological Argument. All of the objections I have seen can be accounted for within the reins of Anselm. At first glance it seems as though there are many points in the argument where it could be logically and reasonably challenged, however the fact that this argument has stood for years without being definitively toppled at any of these points leads me to think that this argument is stronger than it first appears. If one were to ask me to prove the existence of God, I would likely pick a different argument. However, due to lack of an ability to sufficiently turn down the Ontological Argument, I shall accept it.
I did it. Somehow I managed to prove God without going over the page limit. I printed out my paper and went out into the hallway where the guys were having Asian Night. We had a pretty large Asian-American population on the dorm floor I lived on, and so every Wednesday they would break out seaweed, spicy things, srirracha sauce, and a bunch of other delicious items I don’t remember the names of. The best part was having a full on rice cooker present at every Asian Night.
The night I proved God, I ate rice wrapped in a crispy, salty sheet of seaweed. It didn’t feel like I had proved God at all though. Not in a way I would’ve ever expected. I didn’t feel like erupting in worship, changing my life, or reinventing myself. All I wanted was some more seaweed. I felt like He was proven only in the most algebraic way. The logic added up, sure, but that just didn’t do it for me. Discovering God shouldn’t feel like I just did an algebra equation. If God is all loving, He wouldn’t be a math problem. My relationship with math problems isn’t one of love. If that was all there was to believing in God, then St. Anselm sure earned his sainthood.
The next round went to the inner skeptic. He used a strategy known as reductio ad absurdum, fancy Latin that meant if you could apply an argument to prove something so absurd that everyone knows isn’t true, then that argument structure is false and you wouldn’t be able to conclude anything. It’s the same approach the more vocal atheists take with their whole flying spaghetti monster campaign. This fight used the help of an old Benedictan monk named Guanilo.
Guanilo used the same argument to prove the existence of an island. He imagined an island so perfect that had palm trees, and wine, and oranges, and penguins. Basically it was the greatest island of all time, a utopia. He then went through the motions, talking about how this island could exist as a concept or as reality, and deciding that it had to exist as reality. Except it didn’t. Everyone knows that there’s no such thing as Guanilo’s Island with its lakes of hot chocolate and perfectly constructed baseball diamond. Apparently Anselm’s Ontological Proof wasn’t so solid, if you could use that structure to prove just about anything.
Now it was time to take the fight back to the believer. This would be a harder part yet, since I didn’t have any sort of existing theory to work with. I’d have to get past Guanilo on my own. I noted that there was a difference between God and the perfect island when it came to working with this proof. An island is much more subjective; what one person perceives as a good island might not work for the next person. With God, all-good and all-knowing allows for God’s supreme knowledge would enabling Him to determine what is good, and that He always delivered on doing good, so there was no room for subjectivity. I also noted that an island, by definition has limits, and God, as an all-powerful being, wouldn’t have limits. Then I wrote something that my T.A. really liked, and that probably boosted my grade quite a bit. I threw out the suggestion that if you switch the word island with place, and tried to describe the best place imaginable, Guanilo may have unintentionally proved the existence of Heaven.
It was my first paper, and I had to determine whether or not God was real in a double spaced, 12-point font. That was quite a tall order. I wasn’t completely without guidance, though. We were given arguments by St. Anselm and Thomas Aquinas and Rene Descartes, and we had a format to follow. First we would have to explain an argument that proved the existence of God. Then we had to follow it up with an argument that nullified the first one and proved He wasn’t real. Then we had to argue against the nullification to reinstate God into reality. Finally, the fourth part of our paper was to state our own belief, the part that gave me the most freedom.
I most sincerely enjoyed writing this paper. I felt like inside me there was the believer and the skeptic and the paper allowed me to split them up and let them fight against each other. Maybe my paper was so well received because of how passionately those two sides were going up against each other. The inner theist was the kid who grew up in the church and was conditioned to automatically cringe when the idea of no God was mentioned. He had hopes for a Heaven and that every night while he prayed he wasn’t just saying words that ultimately weren’t heard. He had a very relieving experience with the Bible before, the book that usually confused or disinterested him, and he wanted to come out victorious. The inner skeptic, on the other hand, didn’t care so much about who won as long as he knew what was true by the end. He looked at everything, from the reliability of scientific theories that didn’t match up with Genesis to just how unlikely it seemed for all the wild claims of religions to be true. He felt what he was sure most people felt, that somehow we drew some wild conclusions in attempts to explain things that couldn’t be understood. These two sides were given a grading rubric, and ten double spaced pages to let their arguments fly.
I had never been given an opportunity to allow these two sides of me go to war before. There were four rounds, but the first three already had decided victors. In round one, I was about to work my way from proving that there is such a thing as reality, to that there is such a thing as God. I started with Descartes, who pointed out that our own consciousness is a sign of reality. That led into St. Anselm’s infamous Ontological Proof. In short, this proof says that everything exists in two ways, as concepts, or as reality. The Ontological Proof went as follows:
1. God can be defined as an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving being, and nothing can be greater than God.
2. Things that are real are automatically greater than things that are only concepts, because things that are real are also concepts.
3. God exists, at the very least, as a concept.
4. If God exists as only a concept, then a real God would be able to be greater than this conceptual God.
5. But, if nothing can be greater than God, then God cannot exist only as a concept. Everything exists as either a concept or as a concept and reality. Therefore, God exists as a reality.
That was a strange way to prove God’s existence, and it certainly didn’t feel like I had proved His existence once I finished. But, following proper logic and argument structure, it added up. It was also hinting that this idea of God and of an absolutely perfect being had to come from somewhere. As my pastor would later put it, “It would be weird to feel thirst or hunger if there were no such thing as water or food.”
One of the things that made me excited to start going to UCSB was my schedule. I was signed up for an acting class, since I wanted to continue acting, a class on maps, which had always interested me, and a class on Japanese horror movies. That class was a good one. The one class that really put my thinking in motion was an introduction to Philosophy class, and I really enjoyed it. Something about hearing somebody else’s perspective on the world and why everything was the way it was ended up being very captivating.
The course was taught by an excellent professor with a midwestern accent. He was balding, and had a strong Abraham Lincoln-esque beard. One day, he showed us some clips from Vanilla Sky to demonstrate how it was incredibly difficult to prove what’s real and what isn’t real around us. He would do things like forget to turn off the DVD menu, which kept running in the background of his lectures. The Vanilla Sky cinematic soundtrack provided the perfect backdrop, as he would shout things like “So what is real? We couldn’t possibly know! Could we?” flailing his arms. It was really entertaining and unintentionally epic. Often when someone would ask him a question, he would start drawing an illustration on the chalkboard without announcing it. I always thought it humorously looked like he just got bored with the question and wanted to start to doodle.
One of the reasons why this class was such a good start to college was because a paper I wrote for the class went over really well. My T.A. Justin said he thought it was a lot better than most of the stuff he usually saw from freshmen, and that encouraged me. The other reason was because this class was centered on the stuff that so often lingered in my mind, namely if God was real.
Little did my friend know that her question would prompt me to begin ambitiously pining that question. I had been discovering that our lives contain stories, are stories, and are part of a bigger story, and connecting with these stories and their Author results in a life really being life.
Over the course of a month and a week in Argentina, I would spend nights in my homestay without internet just typing furiously away my story. It didn’t feel like work at all, it was as natural as stream of consciousness writing is. When I finished, I wound up with over 200 pages on Microsoft Word. Single spaced.
What I had was my story on paper. It was a story about redefining love, rediscovering faith, and releasing hang-ups. It's a story worth telling, as is anyone's who pays attention to story in their lives.
In a culture so focused on facts and arguments, it's important that we don't lose sight of how humans really experience the world: through story.
This is my story. I'm just putting it out there. There will be some moments I look back on fondly, and there will be some moments where I will be very vulnerable with you.
I will be posting a bit from my story everyday. It's a long read, what I wrote. This will probably be a lot more manageable.
Thanks for following along.
The story begins on 30 January. Subscribe via RSS.