Tuesday conversation: what would you do?

There are some days when I miss performing.  I’m the type of performer who doesn’t need an audience (though, like all performers, I can certainly appreciate one).  I just like being with a cast and creating a role, and falling into that character.  I always considered myself an actor who sang, not the other way around.

Were I not doing the work I presently am, if religion weren’t such a problem, that is undoubtedly what I’d do.  I’d get a job delivering pizzas for the extra money, and find repertory roles or try to be a less-talented Shelley Segal.

Performing, for me, whether it’s taking on a role or just singing a song, is what it means to really put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  For me, it gives me perspective like few other things can.  It’s like playing pretend, but with just enough reality to matter.  And once you find a way to make a role sincere to yourself, I always found that the audience would be moved right along with you.

I miss that a lot.

So what would you do?  If you’re an activist who spends a fair amount of time opposing unreason in the world, what would you do if suddenly religion dried up and evaporated?  If you’re not doing what you always wanted, what would you do if you could?  What moves you?  What gives your life meaning in the absence of god?

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • http://auldshaman.blogspot.com/ Robert

    I’d write a play about the struggle between believers and non-believers. A comedy with the believers always looking stupid. Always the victim of a punchline that makes the audience think.

  • Glodson

    If you’re not doing what you always wanted, what would you do if you could? What moves you? What gives your life meaning in the absence of god?

    Luckily, I mostly am doing what I want. I just don’t get paid to do it. And it is part of what moves me. I love being a dad. That’s the most important thing in my life. But it isn’t what gives my life meaning.

    Because there is no god, my life has the ultimate meaning. This is all I get. This is all anyone gets. When I abandoned my faith, I lost all pretenses on there being a chance of wrongs being made right in the afterlife. There is no afterlife, there is only the here and now. I don’t know how long I will live. I don’t even know how long I’ll get to exist, as there is a history of Alzheimer’s in family. When that robs me of my intellect, my memories, my personality, I will be dead for all intents and purposes. I hope this doesn’t happen, but it is a real possibility.

    I still cannot accept my own mortality. But I know it is there. I won’t obsess over it. I will do my best to enjoy my life. I want to enjoy my time here. However, I must do my part to make this world better. We can do better. And because there is no god, we have the sole responsibility to make life better for those around us. Too many profit off pain, too many ignore the hardships created for their own avarice and lust for power. Too many put their superstition above the needs of their fellow human. Too many people ignore the problems of others because they don’t share in them.

    And because of that, I feel it is my duty to do my best to help, however I can.

  • http://reasonableconversation.wordpress.com Kaoru Negisa

    I would spend my time talking about the other things that interest me. My blog would become just about comics and video games and movies and music. I would fence more often, learn my mandolin better (and figure out how to sing and play at the same time without falling out of tune). I would really sit down and learn more about Renaissance era music theory and try to find a subject worth writing a paper about it on. I would shift my LGBT activism toward acceptance of bisexuality not as a subset of being queer, but rather addressing perceptions by homosexual and herterosexual people that I am greedy/really gay and unwilling to admit it/not the subject of discrimination/etc., since with the disappearance of religion, there also goes the majority of organized homophobia.

    The thing is, I love being an activist. I would do it all the time if I could. But I don’t want to be. I would much rather live in a world where opposition to religious abuse is as useful as opposition to alien abduction. I admit, a lot of the meaning I find in life is in trying to make the world a better place by addressing subjects that resonate with me, and it would be disorienting to have that suddenly gone. As much as I care about the environment, for example, it doesn’t animate me as much as the fight for social and civil rights against unreason does. There would still be problems, but I’m not sure if they’re problems I could throw myself as readily into.

    Still, if exiting the field victorious means letting my sword rust while I play music and read, it would be worth it.

  • AmyC

    I would buy a marimba or vibes set and play to my heart’s content–don’t even care if I have an audience. I used to be in bands and drum lines and music was the only thing I had for a long time. Now my life is crowded with so many other things that I can’t ignore (school, activism, work, finding awesome baby bbq recipes) that I don’t have the time or the money to do what I had a passion for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m trying to become a paralegal (and hopefully one day a lawyer), and this area of study really excites me, and I’m also having a great time being pres of my school’s SSA, but if I really had the choice I would just be a musician.

  • Kodie

    I think I would feel a lot better if people did not have feelings like they wished they were doing something other than what they’re doing. There, I am also a hypocrite, I have time management problems, money problems, and head problems, but I like to also think I’m the kind of person who would be most likely to say quit making excuses and do it, today is the day. I’m not an activist, but I spend too much time online, I think, working out these responses sometimes. If I stop doing that, then would I do what I would rather/should be doing? Except for the pay, I have a pretty sweet deal right now. It could pay in the future, but right now, I somewhat volunteer my ass off for a little cash that I need now and then. That takes up the rest of my time, and maybe that will level off. I am helping my coach ramp up his new fencing club, and I get to stroll in about 2 or 3, wear sweat pants to work, get free lessons, and fence whenever members stop by. It’s pretty much subsidizing my most expensive hobby to be there, which isn’t that horrible. I would rather stay home and I was before, not doing all the things I thought I would do with so much free time. So maybe I am living the dream.

  • Andrew Kohler

    I am somewhat the opposite of JT: I’m a musicologist who wants to do more activism! But, I also want to do more performance, conducting, and composition than the average musicologist seems to, which is going to be an interesting challenge for me in the future. The problem is that it’s hard to find orchestras and large numbers of singers to make recordings of obscure 20th-century German operas. Still working on that. But I have to say that researching, writing about, and teaching music is pretty awesome itself :-)

    I once heard Philip Glass speak and he talked about having a “double calling” (music and Buddhism in his case), and I very related to that; it sounds like you have something similar, JT (although I doubt Buddhist meditation is high up on your list, somehow….)

  • whelve

    I’m not doing the job I always wanted, which is training horses. Instead I find myself being abused by cats on a daily basis in a veterinary setting and I find it deeply satisfying despite the many scars I now bear. (Seriously, I have been approached and offered “help” while shopping by well meaning little old ladies who think I am a cutter due to cat scratches!)
    For my artistic side I indulge in photography as a hobby, it would be great if I could make a living off of it but I seriously doubt that will ever happen.
    While I may be working poor and not have a lot of free time, I am pretty damn happy with what I have.

    But jobs, titles, hobbies, ways of making a living or things we do for the thrill of it. These are only a fraction of what we are.

    JT, you ask me “What moves you? What gives your life meaning in the absence of god?”
    Life moves me, experiencing life moves, living gives my life meaning. For all that I am just another person on a planet of billions in a cosmos inherently inimical to life itself, for all that my experiences are not unique and I am not terribly “special” compared to others around me, I am me. I am not anyone else. Here I am, in this place and experiencing my life, no one else sees the world in the way that I do and I cannot become them nor truly know how they experience the world other than through the amazing mediums of language and art. Even then it is but a poor reflection of what is really going inside my brain or theirs.

    Sometimes, when I am standing in a lost place, say: an abandoned building in the middle of residential area, yet cut off from the surrounding people by crumbling, forgotten walls; it hits me all over again. I am seeing something that is right here, in front of thousands of people, and yet they have never seen it. Then I realize that even if one of those thousands were standing right next to me, they still may not see it. I am humbled and exalted by my place in the cosmos, and by the beauty and ugliness that surrounds me. This is the only time I have to be, so I will be. Me. One day I will no longer be, perhaps I will be remembered, most likely not except for those few close to me, and only until time takes its toll. Yet that doesn’t matter, because now is I all I have or ever will have.

  • ben porter

    i rlly would like to write screenplays but i feel that i lack the talent