Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Spiritual Journeys

Originally posted on July 31, 2017

One of my life themes or journeys has been a sort-of wrestling match with God. In the first phase, below the age of twelve, I accepted without any personal feelings. Nothing more was being asked of me—just some involvement in my dualistic identity as a Jew whose “people” had all these long-ago experiences—and some not so long ago!—but other than grieving or celebrat-ing with “my people,” it was all rather irrelevant. There were many Jews in the area of Los Angeles, especially where I grew up in the area near Fairfax Ave. and Beverly Blvd.  There was a Jewish Community Center nearby where I learned a bit about the newly emerging State of Israel—it was a foreign country, actually, but not so foreign.

About age twelve, studying for my Bar Mitzvah, a relative gave me a book titled “One God,” about all these foreign religions, and I read it. I also began to bicycle up to Hollywood Boulevard, about 4 miles away—there were used book stores—and I found some books by Robert Ingersoll, who in the 19th century was a great agnostic. He had the temerity to say “I don’t know.” I also found a book about Tom Paine, who was also agnostic—but was called an atheist. It was clearly a term was bad in many people’s eyes, but seemed to make sense to me.

This started me on a private journey of doubt. I don’t think my parents ever knew about all this. It was all dismissed as part of my bookish-ness. Outwardly I was compliant but privately I had my doubts. It was all rather dissociated. I attended Hebrew school, absorbed hardly any of it—was able to read Hebrew, but it was like learning a code alphabet. (I also became interested in codes and alphabets—perhaps this prepared me for many years later, I now realize.)

I was good enough in school with little effort. I now know that other kids had to try to be good enough, but my parents expected excellence. They didn’t notice my slight effort, or my immaturity. They were just grateful that I had overcome my medical condition and survived.

I had been born with a congenital lack of innervation of my lower bowel that left me completely constipated. It was called Hirschprung’s Diseas. (Elvis Presley had it, too!). This was fixed at Mayo Clinic, but before they fixed me they didn’t know whether I’d live or die, and they babied me. (Well, that accounts also for my interest in medicine!)

So I was runty and near-sighted little kid, picked on by my big brother, and entertaining fantasies of wolrd domination. I unconsciously identified with Doctor Sivana in the Captain Marvel Comics. . I could have turned anti-social in my entertaining dreams of power—I just read a book titled “Soon I Will Be Invincible” about a very very bright man who was otherwise a runty kid. He has “malign hypercognition disorder”—a fancy term for “evil genius.” The book was sorta fun, but confused towards the end. But my son, who suggested it, was on track.

Back to my spiritual journey: On another track, I was passive agressive, sullen but compliant. I sublimated into religious doubts. I had no intentions of being a rebel, but I read widely, and thought independently. This turned into full-blown agnosticism. Meanwhile, I watched televangelists who were remarkable! They certainly had more enthusiasm! If God were even a hundredth of what He was made out to be, that should be the most important fact in existencs.

So I began to read about comparative religion and later on that became my major in college, which was ironic because I was moving from agnosticism into atheism. (More recently, in my 70s, I have come back to a kind of spirituality at a higher level.

Well, enough for now.

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