March 27, 2011
I was born on the 14th of November 1985 to Catholic German Americans. On one August night in the year 1996, a black hand would descend upon me, leaving behind a scar that would forever alter the direction of my life. For six years I carried the treachery, the shame and the bitterness of that night deep inside of me, pretending that it wasn’t there, wishing that if I pretended long enough it would be reality.
Until one late afternoon on the 28th of August in the year 2002, when I could no longer carry on. Some people may wonder what it’s like to put a gun to their head, what it’s like to put a noose around their neck, what it’s like to dump a bunch of pills in their mouth to swallow them all or to intentionally ingest poison. They wonder what kinds of things go through a person’s mind in situations like those. After that afternoon, I didn’t need to wonder, I knew.
I didn’t know what it was like to pull the trigger, to jump off the chair, to swallow the pills or in my case ingest that murky blue liquid and so I didn’t physically die, but when a person finds themselves in a situation like that, I think that a part of them does. So I walked psychologically dead after that, for almost three years, a soulless human being imitating life.
On the night of January 27, 2005 I reconsidered suicide while driving home by thinking about deliberately crashing my truck. By the morning of the 28th, I knew that I was going to die if no one intervened. I broke down at work and when they told me to leave to collect myself, I knew that if I was left alone I would not see the sunrise again. So I told them that I needed to get help.
By that evening, I admitted myself into a temporary psychiatric facility inside a hospital. For the next four years I was off and on different medications for things like depression, mood instability and bi-polar disorder. Some of them worked for a while, some of them made me sleep a lot, some of them made me feel empty inside, some of them took away my emotions and some of them made me see things that were not real.
During those years I also enlisted in the military when I was not on medication, not surprisingly I didn’t fulfill my contract and was discharged in January of 2008. In 2009 I stopped taking the medication I was on at the time and never looked back. That was the psychological journey and intertwined with it was a spiritual one…
For eight years I studied Catholicism and after that August night in 1996 I found myself praying to God to take away the bad things that imprisoned my mind, the events, the memories and the thoughts that followed after. Unanswered were those prayers and the many prayers that would follow in consecutive years. Little did I know at that time that I was whispering to no one, but myself.
By 2003 I had completed my final step into being a full member of the Roman Catholic Church. I had been confirmed before a bishop and my local church community, the third and final sacrament. However, by then my doubt in that religion had already begun to grow and by 2005 I found myself seeking spiritual enlightenment from different directions, mostly the Far East.
I absorbed as much information as I could, but of all the religions and spiritual paths that I encountered, none of them interested me as much as Buddhism. While I no longer considered myself Christian of any denomination, I did still hold to the belief in God, at least in my perception of God.
In the summer of 2006, my faith in Christianity returned and I started going to church again, I started wearing pro-Catholic t-shirts, I branded a cross on my arm as a permanent reminder, went on a missionary trip and I became what I would call a fundamentalist if ever I was one.
By that winter, my faith came to a crashing end and I returned to studying Buddhism. Somewhere between the winter of 2007 and the spring of 2008 I experienced my first doubt in the existence of God. I continued to ask myself questions and started listening to what atheists had to say for the next year until one morning when I woke up and asked myself whether I believed in any god or religion. My only answer was no.
By the spring of 2009 I felt like a whole new person. I felt free of the chains that once bound me, I felt rational and real, liberated from dogma and other such nonsense. On June 25, 2009, after a judge granted me the right to legally change my name, I did. I felt so much like a different person that psychologically I saw myself as a new person. To me, my old name and my old self was dead and Kephen Dominic Merancis was born and I was given a second chance at life, a life I had so long denied myself.
That answer about the question of god’s existence scared me, it shocked me that I said no. That after so many years of seeking God and the truth that I would somehow end with the conclusion that it was all a lie, an absolute fallacy from the very first time someone uttered the word god to me. I looked out my window and up at the sun and I told myself that the sun was created not by some mystic being, but by the Universe, that it didn’t exist because someone or something wanted it to exist, it existed because it could exist. I looked at my hands and thought to myself that I exist not because some great mystical being created me and has a plan for me, but because two people had sex.
I realized that I was flesh and bone, that everything was fragile and vulnerable to the power of the Universe. Things are created and they are destroyed, not by a god, but by a force far more complex than anything a human mind can manifest. I exist because all the necessary steps took place, I exist because conditions were right, as immensely unbelievable as it is that I actually came into existence, I did.
How incredibly shocking it is to realize that if any one point in my ancestral background had not occurred, my life would have never happened. Life is not some promise, guarantee, right, blessing, or miracle from a fictitious god, it’s not even a gift from the Universe because the Universe doesn’t give a shit whether you live or not. And yet life IS and despite the moments when it sucks, life is still amazing.
This essay is available as an audio track on SoundCloud: