Monday, March 15, 2010

A Philosophical Fragment

While I often write about activism and social change, I tend to approach the topics as a philosopher. The philosophical temperament that I seem to have no doubt finds it genesis in my unusual childhood. I was raised Pentecostal by a father who was incredibly intelligent, but also emotionally damaged. He visited his own emotional wounds upon his children in various ways, cementing our allegiance to a dogmatic religious enthusiasm that was at odds with even his own intellectual tendencies. He rejected those tendencies as some sort of thorn in the flesh that fought against his true desire to be a perfectly obedient follower of Jesus.

I turned first to philosophy when I was around 18 years old, though I had a keen interest in theology and comparative religion from an earlier age, which doubtless set the stage for my later departure from Pentecostalism. At 18, I read a book entitled The God Who is There by Frances Schaeffer. I remember its serious engagement with modern society without the simplistic condemnation so typical of most Christian writings. I was hooked on the idea that philosophy had a crucial role to play in life.

Fast forward about 7 years and I am married, a college drop-out, and father of a precious little girl. I am still fighting those inner demons from my abusive childhood, and struggling with the latest in a series of episodic unemployments. I decide to return to college and immediately enroll in philosophy courses, in part because they are the only courses that engage religion at all at the state-run University of Illinois of Chicago.

It was in those two fabulous life-changing years at UIC that I encountered the amazing ideas that would catapult me beyond the limits of my Christian upbringing. I read feminist, anarchist, Marxist, and postmodern books that expanded my horizons and nourished my starving intellect. While I was forced to drop out again after the birth of my son, I would never be the same.

Philosophy has held me spell-bound ever since. I still dream of becoming that professor of philosophy that I aspired to in those years at UIC. I might still return to that path, though I cannot say for certain as I approach my fifth decade how much I can invest in such a major change of direction.

Peace! Charley

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