teleology: living for the ends or living for now.
i’ve been told i would marry so many times that i couldn’t count them. and that i would have children. in lesson after lesson—as a sort of formula: live your life correctly and god will bless you (and we all know that, for a woman, marriage and children is the greatest blessing). it’s never that explicit, but it’s there nonetheless. i’ve also been told that i would marry and have children in priesthood blessings. many blessings. starting when i was an infant and moving through every significant moment of my life and quite a few ordinary moments.
at this moment, i don’t think i will marry and have children. it’s not that i’m convinced it won’t happen; it’s more that i’m not convinced it will happen. which leaves me with this—what my life is in this moment, with no promises of what it can be beyond that.
i’ve been thinking about this. not so much in terms of the fact that i’m not married with children at a point in my life when i fully expected i would be. instead, i’ve been thinking about the idea of living a teleological life—an ends-driven life. and of how to stop living an ends-driven life. this is something i dislike intensely about Mormonism—its tendency to focus attention so fully on accomplishing specific ends. getting married. getting married in the temple. being married with children. having enough children. having those children behave well. having children remain active in the church. having children serve missions. having all of one’s children get married in the temple. have you noticed how it’s never enough? these ends have ways of swelling? of building on themselves?
it may not all be conscious and most of them would certainly not be held up as ‘official’ goals that must be reached in order to be ‘spiritual.’ but i defy anyone to tell me that mormon culture does not measure spirituality based on such milestones (among many others). and then there’s the fact that our doctrine is also teleological. it’s about achieving certain ends—getting to the celestial kingdom. becoming like god. eternal progression. the list could go on.
i’m sick of living this way. of always thinking forward to when i’ll reach the next goal. of valuing myself and my life in terms of whether i’ve reached certain goals. and if i’ve done so on a reasonable timeline. i can hear the objections. ‘but Amelia, that’s not how you’re supposed to interpret these teachings! you’re not meant to use them to judge yourself!’ i know that’s the official line. but i disagree. any ends-driven teaching is, by definition, meant to result in an adherent measuring herself against that goal. i’m done measuring myself. (well, i should qualify: i’m done doing it consciously. i’m sure it will take me more time to accomplish it than saying ‘i’m done’ since i’m convinced it’s a deeply ingrained thought process.)
so how do i want to live instead? i want to live in this moment. i want to see the beauty in my world now. i want to recognize the value in my life as it is. right now. i don’t want this in some misguided effort to ‘eat, drink, and be merry.’ for some reason mormons (among other Christians, i’m sure) think that anytime someone says they want to live in the now and for this moment, it’s because the person is lacking. they want short term pleasure rather than long term joy. they seek insubstantial gratification rather than true accomplishment. nothing could be further from the truth. i want joy. i want beauty. i want every good thing. i want to love the people i encounter the way christ teaches us to love. and i think i will find these things if i stop spending so much time thinking about where i should be and where i hope to be and instead embrace where i am.