I am from a constant question and a too-honest answer.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” “Nothing.”
I am from “you could do anything you want.”
I could do anything, as long as it’s pointless. Anything I want, except I’ve never wanted.
I am from encouragement and expectation to do well in school, easily met.
To go to college.
To get a good job.
To support a family and live comfortably.
To have a happy life.
I need a better reason. A real reason. Why does no one seem to have one, or even to ask? What makes anyone else think living is worthwhile, and why can’t they tell me about it?
I am from stories of far-away places and people that have long turned to dust and been forgotten. Some were real, some were imagined. None of them were relevant. All of them were more interesting and more true than what I saw around me: this world, these people, myself.
Are there even any stories worth telling, here? Does anyone even remember what truth is?
I am from old libraries and older books, written long before the world was as it is.
Maybe not everything is dust; maybe someone remembers.
There are no references to the American dream here; there are no references to America. These are far older than that. They speak about important things.
I am from academia.
I could write you a thesis on the relational ontology of human persons. “ποιήσωμεν ἄνθρωπον κατ᾽ εἰκόνα ἡμετέραν καὶ καθ᾽ ὁμοίωσιν.”1
It would include sections on marriage, friendship, community. It would have hundreds of footnotes, all meticulously done by hand, Chicago style.
None of them would reference personal experience.
I am from emptiness: empty world, empty life, empty self. But I have to change.
“αὐτὸς γὰρ ἐνηνθρώπησεν, ἵνα ἡμεῖς θεοποιηθῶμεν.”2
I was reminded. Theology is in the end something you have to live, with others. That’s what God did.
1Gen. 1:26 LXX
2Athanasius, Contra Gentes and De Incarnatione, ed. and trans. Robert W. Thompson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 268.