#Belonging to History
At 12 years of age I told my friend that I would burn if I ever entered a church. Of course, this was just a dramatic gesture for a child who felt uncomfortable in religious spaces, especially those of Protestant background—the symbology of Catholicism was more familiar, but did not entirely remove my trepidations. When I entered the churches—which was common, as southeastern Iowa predicates its community upon them—I did not burn, but my heart sank and my stomach went aflutter. I felt like a beast in a lab, the clinical setting of the church opposed to what little personality I had at that age. I shared these feelings for military offices, which my dad frequented during his last years in the Army as a career counselors, where all was silent and empty, but functional for the infrequent passersby. The cork board ceiling deadened the sound, and the white walls and office chairs willed anyone to stay for long.
The traditions of the church and military offices stayed strong, kept alive by humans seeking connection with each other, but austere enough to remind its inhabitants that their duty is not to each other, but to God and Country. It was the tradition of history that kept these buildings and rooms intact—one wrong move and all would be lost to the stray desires of men and their wanting of connection and belonging.
I could never stay comfortable in churches and military bases: Their history was too strong, with expectations of the future deeply rooted in the ancient and near-past. The inhabitants were one of historical making, those who wished to repeat the accomplishments of others by way of lifting—too repackage achievements and present as new and innovative. Did I, as a 12 year-old, know this? Absolutely not. But what I felt were the stakes of religion and military. Symbols of honor, duty, piety, devotion, faith, were all strewn about these rooms and halls, in pictures and ornaments and trophies. Knowing that I could never uphold the march of history, shied away from the opportunities of religion and warfare. My ambitions were too low, at least for this crowd: I sought freedom from history, not its contribution. Thus, I excluded myself from the march of soldiers and evangelists, and all the tertiary benefits conferred upon both: Belongingness, brotherhood, tradition, stability, etc.
Is it cowardice? These occupations belong to core tenets of civilization—was I too cowardly to commit myself to the annals? That once I revealed myself as an agent, I would be found out for what I am: An imposter? Over and over again I try to find a path within civilization that is Good and Useful, yet over and over again I default to the ways that were thrown out in disgust: Wavering, unsure, conflicted, seeking a way out. Why do I want a way out when the path to belongingness, brotherhood, tradition, stability is one or two simple steps away?