"What is my purpose?"
From butter passing robots to the scientists who make them, this question has plagued self-aware beings since the dawn of philosophy. The pursuit of purpose has driven men into madness, nations into wars, me into yelling sad poems over brooding instrumentals. There is no easy answer to this question, and it is very difficult to live a fullfilling life if you don't know what you're living for. Some find purpose in their families. Others dedicate their lives to their work. Many people turn to organized religion, a welcoming group of friendly faces with a nifty instructions manual that will tell you what you're living for and that you can live like a king forever if you do it right. My parents did exactly that, and at the age of five I was introduced to Newlife Foursquare Church, a place that would forever shape who I was and what purpose means to me.
While belonging to the Foursquare family, Newlife was a Pentecostal church at its core. For the uninitiated, Pentecostals believe in close, personal experiences with God that can manifest into "gifts" for those closest with the Lord. Speaking in tongues, healing disease and disabilities through prayer, performing supernatural miracles, and sensing spirits both good and bad are a few of the gifts I was raised to believe were possible if I were to stay the course and dedicate my life to my Lord and Savior.
Along with being promised the chance to essentially acquire super powers (fuckin' dope right?), I was warned of a battle raging right in front of our faces between God's army and the Devil's followers. To stray from the Lord was to allow demonic entities the chance to come into your life and possess you, so there wasn't really an option to casually believe in an invisible holy war being fought all around us that requires everyone to pick a side or be swallowed up by the embodiment of evil. My parents and pastors alike championed me as a leader of the next generation due to my charisma and prose, so I was given my purpose at an age where I was too young to question it... along with a very frightening view of what would be waiting for me on the other side if I ever chose to take a different path. It seemed legit at the time, better to put together an army of kids to flex on demons than get flexed on I suppose.
Fast forward thirteen years, and for some odd reason I'm an anxiety riddled teenager going in and out of the hospital due to severe panic attacks that I believed were the work of attempted demonic possessions. The generation of young adults I was destined to lead never materialized despite my best efforts, my purpose leading me to one failure after another. Along with my failures as a spiritual leader, I began finding inconsistencies in both the words of my pastor and the Bible I lived my life by. After witnessing my failures in my calling and my wavering faith in the Lord, demonic entities were pouncing on the chance to ruin me forever, just as I was taught. The only logical solution to my problem was to dive headfirst back into my faith. To let go of all the questions I had or I would surely be ruined, so dive I did.
I was going to church three days a week, reading my Bible daily and praying even more frequently than that. I was living my life exactly the way the Lord intended me to, but my panic attacks would not cease. Looking back I knew deep down that my reality was crashing down on me, but at the time I was completely focused on reconnecting with the Lord. Despite my best efforts, the only times I truly felt at peace was during worship and my daily writing sessions.
My refusal to let go of the beliefs instilled in me lasted for several months, until a friend of mine named Colton Hagan approached me about recording an EP in his home studio. I had begun posting the work from my writing sessions on Facebook, and he took notice of my talent/sadness and wanted to help out with my music/sadness. Within a few weeks my producer/mentor Jon Ingram came on board, bringing the team together to make my debut EP Glossophobia a reality. During the recording process, I engaged in many intelligent discussions with athiests and agnostics that pushed my already strained beliefs to their limits.
Though I made it through my failures as a Christian, the panic attacks that threatened to destroy my sanity, the debates that flourished in a studio full of intellectuals with differing opinions, and my lingering doubts, the tipping point was two pieces of art that will forever hold a place in my heart: Color My World Mine and It is Such a Beautiful Day. Both the song by Eyedea and the film by Don Hertzfeldt tackled a man who's perception of reality came tumbling down around them, but instead of succumbing to the chaos they decided to create a reality of their own. I was inspired by these two fictional characters, and after spending a few months approaching Christianity as a skeptic rather than a believer I was able to conclude that the reality I had known my whole life was not a reality I wanted to continue living in.
“So what’d you do next, Good Samaritan?” That’s a good question, two or three people still reading this. After concluding the book that shaped my life was a work of fiction, I had to acknowledge that I centered my entire life around a group of men’s ancient fantasy novels. The reality I lived in was nothing but someone else’s work of art, much like the painter from Color My World Mine (listen to the song!!!!!). Rather than letting that fact defeat me, I decided that, much like the painter, I would use art to create my own reality. I replaced the men I once believed were God, becoming the master of my reality and deciding that my purpose in life was to be the creator I always thought I needed.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is what God is a Starving Artist means to me. A pursuit of purpose that led me to dedicating my life to creating art. Thank you so much to anyone that has read this far, you people are incredible and I love you more than words can express. Even words coming from someone as long-winded as I am. This is Good Samaritan, signing off till next month’s edition of my monthly blog. Hint, hint.
I hope my former belief in demonic possession and holy war stuff didn’t freak anyone out. Apparently all I needed was some meds, weed, and therapy to calm me down. Coming to terms with the fact that many adults I love and respect burst out into babbling, roll around on the floor in a puddle of tears, and sometimes exorcise evil spirits from each other was a traumatizing rather than spiritual experience also helped. I’m not knocking it, I know it has saved many of the aforementioned adults that I love and respect and will never try to take that away from them, but I definitely prefer my own way of tackling existential dread. One love y’all.