“We are Forerunners. Guardians of all that exists. The roots of the Galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun, towards which all intelligence blossoms… And the impervious shelter, beneath which it has prospered.”

The scars that never fade

by | Mar 21, 2019 | Christianity, Uncategorized | 8 comments

It was exactly one year ago today that I lost my previous job in the USA. I provided a lot of the details here, in one of my better known posts. The one year since then has proven… interesting, to say the least.

Time, distance, and a number of quite unpleasant hard knocks since that day, have all provided a certain amount of perspective, of course. Things changed both for me and for my previous employers in very big ways over the course of that one year.

In my case, well, I had to leave the USA, by law, since the Trump Administration’s (completely justified) war on H-1B visas made it nearly impossible for me to find a new job before my 60-day “grace period” ran out. So I flew to Moscow, of all places, on June 8th, and proceeded to stay there from the 9th to the 16th, which was right when the 2018 FIFA World Cup was cranking up.

Hey, I had a multiple-entry one-year business visa, so I figured, what the heck, why not use it? And actually, I used it quite a lot last year, to my considerable net benefit.

Suffice to say that it was downright weird to see so many Latinos and Africans in such a white country. But the Russians are a good-natured people, in their own rather dour and stolid way, and they accepted the, thankfully temporary, invasion of their lands with humour, grace, and hospitality.

(It certainly didn’t hurt to be able to spend time in Moscow and St. Petersburg during their summer. I’m telling you now, boys: if you’ve not walked along Nevsky Prospekt while hundreds or even thousands of young, beautiful, elegantly attired Russian women are walking along in summer dresses and high heels, you haven’t lived.)

From Russia, I returned to the old country… and straight into what felt, and still feels, like Purgatory.

The adjustments to my lifestyle and personal circumstances were wrenching and painful, to say the least. When you’ve lived on your own for over a decade, and you’re used to walking everywhere, or taking public transport, or having the ability to drive yourself around, and you come to a city where there are virtually no sidewalks that are safe to use, no particularly good public transportation, and where driving yourself is virtually out of the question because of the flagrant disregard for traffic rules… well, that’s a tough thing to deal with.

Pretty much everything changed for me overnight. The foods here are very different from what you can get in a Western country, where the emphasis is on fresh leafy green vegetables and tasty red meat; here, people consume chicken and goat-meat, if they eat meat at all, and mostly concentrate on eating river fish and vegetables. Unfortunately, they turn the vegetables into a kind of overly spiced mush, and they eat fish in either fried or curried forms, both of which I find quite unpalatable.

Internet connectivity here is abysmal even at the best of times. The nearest decent gym is at least a 30-minute drive away, and it is actually quite overpriced given what it offers. There are no decent martial arts schools nearby – well, there are MMA schools, but that isn’t saying all that much. And the very notion of simply going for a cup of coffee is a challenging proposition at the best of times; the moment you walk into the coffee shop, you are greeted by – and I’m not making this up – a massive cloud of mosquitoes that are absolutely convinced that God just sent them dinner on two legs.

And yet… life is actually quite good. I am calm, happy, contented, at peace in a way that I didn’t think was possible even three months ago.

What changed?

This:

Now, despite what some might think, based on my writing, I don’t actually like making a big deal about my spiritual beliefs, so I’ll just write a little bit more on the subject from a less personal perspective and then leave it at that, for now. Jesus commanded His followers to be “subtle as serpents and meek as doves” for a reason. When the time comes to explain what happened and how much my life has changed in the process, it will all be written out in one form or another.

One thing that does bear writing about is the way in which the forgiveness of past sins changes a man.

Surprisingly, to most non-Christians anyway, pretty much anything and everything can be forgiven. Murder, rape, genocide, incest, patricide, infanticide – ALL of it is forgivable by God. However, before anyone is stupid enough to claim that this means that Man can sin without fear of consequences – that is a thoroughly idiotic line of argument that is not merely anti-Christian, it is literally outright Satanic.

God never said that forgiveness comes at zero cost. Forgiveness has to be earned, and the greater the degree of the sin, the greater the cost of the repentance. There is absolutely no escape from this relationship, nor should there be.

Being a Christian is literally the most difficult and costly path that a man can walk. There is a reason why Jesus called His way the narrow path.

As far as forgiveness goes, Christian doctrine teaches a lot about it, but there is one thing that everyone has to remember – not just Christians, but everyone.

The only true sin, the only one that cannot be forgiven, is to hold the “wrong opinion” that the Holy Spirit does not exist, or is the work of the Evil One. That is true blasphemy, and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable if it is held until the final day of one’s mortal life.

With all of that in mind, things still aren’t easy for me. There are still a lot of difficulties and uncertainties to overcome, professionally, personally, and in lots of other areas too. But it is impossible for me to escape the conviction, now surely formed, that I was put through the trials that I was for a reason, and that the scars that I carry from them are the price that had to be paid.

It’s just the cost of doing business. All choices come with consequences. Those of us who choose to live by the Word, must pay a price to do so. It has to happen.

The difference now is that there is peace, calmness, and acceptance, that did not exist before. The accumulated scars will never fade away completely – no man goes through such experiences without being profoundly and terribly shaken by them – but, let’s face facts, things could have been much, much worse.

They are much worse for quite a lot of people. I realise that this is a trite and quite irritating throwaway line used by every parent, ever, on every stroppy teenage child that ever threw a tantrum about not getting nice things, but it is true nonetheless: no matter how bad you think your life is, someone else’s is far, far worse.

I am aware, by the way, that one or two of my readers are going through some very tough times right now. You are in my prayers, for one thing that I learned recently is that prayer absolutely does have power, far beyond human comprehension. I cannot imagine anything more sad and depressing than the thought that literally no one cares enough about you to pray for you to the Most High.

And speaking of choices and consequences and rolling around in the scheiße – I have watched with, I must admit, a rather un-Christian amount of rather grim satisfaction as my previous employer has lurched from disaster to catastrophe with almost monotonous regularity.

Out of respect for my former colleagues and friends who are still trapped in that nuthouse, I won’t say much about where I worked or what I did for them, but let’s just say that it’s not that hard to figure out. All you have to do is find out which big European bank is the most heavily fined, the most hated by the regulators, the most miserly in paying out performance bonuses, and losing over a BILLION dollars from a bond trade from like 10 years ago, and you’ll know instantly.

You will also see almost immediately why they continue to founder. The place is literally a lunatic asylum at this point – because only insane people would want to work there anymore. It was with very good reason that I used to congratulate people who left it to go to other jobs with the phrase, “Congratulations on escaping the loony bin!”, or something similar.

I have kept in touch with some of my former colleagues, and the picture that they paint is grim indeed. The place has become utterly dysfunctional, with management teams more interested in arse-covering and risk-mitigation than in getting anything done. My former boss, for whom I retain a healthy dislike and disrespect, is slated by those that I used to work with for being a kiss-up/kick-down type of guy who forces his colleagues to justify every single request for help.

That is not the sign of a healthy organisation, and I have to say, I’m glad that I got the hell out, one way or another. The fact is that I had gotten too comfortable doing what I was doing, and I had stopped growing or changing in my profession. I had been plateauing for years, in many areas, and needed a swift kick in the shorts to sort myself out.

I rather wish that said kick had not landed quite where it had, or when, and I certainly wish that the blows hadn’t been quite so ferocious, but that isn’t up to me. There are forces at work that I do not fully comprehend, and which are clearly pushing me toward something and somewhere better.

I have no idea where that path will lead. I know that there is still a lot of cleaning up that has to be done in my life – there are quite a few past sins to atone for, and plenty in the present too, especially when it comes to personal relationships.

But I do know that wherever I end up, it will be better than where I was. That was part of the compact that I made, and nothing I have seen so far indicates that it will be unfulfilled.

Let’s be clear about one thing, though: I screwed up, A LOT, throughout my previous job. Honesty demands brutal, uncompromising, and unflinching analysis of one’s own failures, and in my case, those failures were severe and repeated.

I failed on a number of occasions to take opportunities that came my way and move to a different part of the bank. I failed to adequately prepare an exit strategy and look for other jobs. I failed to properly anticipate just what an utter tool my then-new manager was. I failed to correctly conceal my intentions to get the hell out when trying to move internally. And I failed to fully understand just how hard it would become to get a new job as a foreigner in the USA after the God-Emperor’s Administratum decided to make H-1B visas much harder to get.

I own those mistakes. I made them. I would like to think that I learned from them – only time will tell there, but certainly some of those lessons have stuck.

Looking back over the past year, since I lost my job, there are some things that I would have done differently, certainly – mostly related to money and how I spent it – but those are relatively minor things, relative to the one really big thing that I would change, had I the power to do it:

I would have tried much harder to be understanding and tolerant of my family. I screwed that up royally when I got back to the old country. And I damaged my relationships with my parents and especially my sister very badly in the process.

But, again, accepting Christ’s offer of redemption and salvation fixed that, and in a VERY big hurry. Six months of pain and anger was wiped clean in less than one – and that is not because I am a good person, for I most certainly am not.

The scars of all of the cuts that I took are still there. They never really go away. They are not supposed to. The key is to understand, as hard as it might be to do so in the moment, that they were put there for a reason. The true test of a man is whether he will accept this, shoulder his burdens, and simply carry on, or will fail to do anything productive and simply curl up into a ball and let life kick the crap out of him.

These days, far too many men adopt the latter pose. This is not how we were meant to go through life. When you are beaten down to your knees, there will be a hand extended to lift you back up to your feet.

When – not if – that moment comes, the very worst thing you can possibly do is to swat that hand away, because this will guarantee that you stay on your knees for the rest of your miserable and likely rather short life.

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8 Comments

  1. Nikolai Vladivostok

    Sounds like you landed on your feet, thank to your sensible preparations.
    I lived in Calcutta for a while, it's not the worst place in the world. Cheerful, lots to do. I saw some mind-blowing things. But I wouldn't want to live there permanently.
    My advice is, whatever you do next, make sure it is so much better than what you used to do that you'll be glad you got fired.

    Reply
    • Didact

      Well… landed on my feet, sort of, yes, but it feels like I broke a few bones in the process ))

      I lived in Calcutta for a while, it's not the worst place in the world. Cheerful, lots to do. I saw some mind-blowing things.

      Really? That's… surprising. Pretty much the complete polar opposite of my experience, and I've been coming here for over 25 years.

      Whereabouts did you stay, if you don't mind my asking? And roughly around when?

      My advice is, whatever you do next, make sure it is so much better than what you used to do that you'll be glad you got fired.

      Yeah, I'm working on that now. I'm doing stuff that is completely different from what I did before. It's not bad, actually, and once they get the work visa sorted out on their end, I'm looking forward to shaking the dust off my feet again.

      Reply
  2. Nikolai Vladivostok

    Stayed in Selimpur for about three months, worked in Sealdah, about 15 years ago so it's probably changed a lot since then. As a visitor I enjoyed the architecture, gardens, temples etc. It's pretty upbeat compared to where I live now. But not renowned for its cleanliness.
    Where are you heading next?

    Reply
    • Didact

      Selimpur isn't that far away from where I am now, actually – near the Jodhpur Park area, which is not too bad. Sealdah is more toward the heart of the old city and has much more of the Raj-era architecture and "feel" than the southern parts. Fifteen years ago Calcutta was a very depressing place; I remember that it had the feeling of a city that was literally dying on its feet. Things have changed positively since then in many ways; a lot of the infrastructure projects that were held up for many years, are now going through, the power supply is actually reliable, and the city is beautifully lit up at night.

      But there is still no getting away from the fact that this place is a Third World dump.

      Where are you heading next?

      Assuming that the work visa gets sorted out by my employers – Singapore.

      Reply
  3. Anonymous

    There's a great line in Fiddler on the Roof where Tevye is explaining how the point of all this is to figure out who we are and what God wants us to do. Us Catholics call that Discernment.

    I once worked for a large telecom manufacturer, and got laid off in the tech blowup of 2003 or so. I had issues finding work, and landed at a company that specialized in taking desperate people like me and paying them peanuts. I went from 6 figures to 45K to feed my family and pay my bills as best I could.

    I was miserable. But I was faithful.

    I went on an ignation retreat – what I do to sort my head out. All weekend, in silence, I prayed for a clue of what to do. Nothing happened.

    Until Sunday, at mass, not 1/2 hour before we were allowed to speak again. I got to thinking of my dad, and what he'd do. All of a sudden, I was overwhelmed with peace and happiness. I started laughing at the most solemn part of the mass.

    God Spoke to me. He said – "None of this matters. Right now, you need to be a father. That's all. "

    In a month, I had an offer for the company I work for now. $25K more a year, benefits paid. 50% travel. But, 50% home with my kids, driving them to school, cooking dinner for them, during their teenage, formative years.

    They all are now smart, driven, faithful, better people than I ever was.

    I got throat cancer. I didn't pray for healing. I didn't make a deal "God, take this away and I'll do X, Y, or Z". I said, whatever your will, bring it on. I owe you.

    I'm cancer free. Even though I'd see death as a relief at this point.

    I still don't know what he wants me do to. But I'm listening.

    Reply
    • Didact

      That is one of the most interesting aspects of being a Christian. That whole "not my will but thy will be done" thing is virtually impossible to understand without faith. He has a plan for each of us, and shows it to us in ways that are very difficult to figure out when we sit there and try to force it.

      But the moment that we just relax and let go of any attempts to control how things turn out… wonderful things start happening.

      It's a lesson that I'm learning the hard way – that we can be under the control of a Divine Will, and yet still have complete autonomy and free will to live as we please.

      My attitude is pretty simple: I'm just a little kid looking to his Father to show him how to navigate the world around me. All of my previous experiences and knowledge don't really count except in the most superficial ways. There is something way bigger than me out there trying to help me out. And I'll never, ever be truly alone again.

      Reply
  4. Eduardo the Magnificent

    Since we're sharing stories, I'll share mine.

    I finally heard God talk to me, but I had to ask. Long story short, my girlfriend had a bad car accident last New Year's Eve, and come to find out, scrambled her brain pretty good. Only it took over a year and six (!) trips to the Mayo Clinic to get to the bottom of that. Anyway, we have a mutual friend who has a PhD is neuroscience and is also a Christian, who said some things about my gf's health that, while I think is untrue, I wasn't prepared for and bothered me greatly. However, she reminded me that I need to be listening for God's voice and pray for it, and one day I broke down and did so.

    Let me tell you that when God speaks to you, you know it. All I heard was "She's going to be ok", only I didn't hear it, I spoke it, and afterword came the most eerie calm I've ever experienced. I tested this by trying to replicate it throughout the day and it didn't compare. We return from Mayo this week having learned that they finally got to the bottom of what was wrong, and though there's no cure for what she has, she now has a timeline for being able to self-manage her symptoms, with a possibility of doing so drug-free. At the time I broke down we thought, pending a test result, she might have 2-5 years to live.

    All through this time, we have prayed not for results, but for strength and wisdom. I am not strong enough to handle everything on my own; I need the guidance of my Father. Through Christ who strengthens me. I am unquestionably a better man, and it is only through God's grace that I am. But I had to open my eyes.

    I am happy to find that you have suffered similarly. BTW, I find the Christian definition of suffering to include receiving grace and glory afterward. Shepherd Christ may occasionally shear his flock, but He will never skin them.

    Reply
    • Didact

      I finally heard God talk to me, but I had to ask

      Yes. And getting to that point often requires a level of brokenness and pain that is really hard to fathom until you actually experience it.

      There's an old quote from President Lincoln, for whom I normally have a rather dim opinion, in which he said something to the effect that, "I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go". He was right. In the end, we have only one choice that truly matters – to accept His help, or not.

      Let me tell you that when God speaks to you, you know it

      Yeah. It's a feeling unlike any other. And when the full weight of it hits you, it is not possible for an honest man to deny it – or Him.

      I am happy to find that you have suffered similarly

      Funny thing – I am too.

      It sounds ridiculous to say that I am glad for suffering. The process of being broken is extremely unpleasant and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. But the result of that suffering is what matters in the end, and when the forging of that result is handed over to the Lord, the final products are men and women who are more strong, humble, and resilient than they could ever have been without Him.

      I am really happy for you, my brother, that your girlfriend will be able to live a good life, and that she will be around for – I hope! – a long time. I'll be praying for you both, as I do for all of my readers.

      Reply

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