“As kids we believed that the angels talked;
Everything is magic until you think it’s not.” –Cloud Cult, “No Hell”
I sat across from my friend and nodded again and again.
“I get it,” I said.
“No, that makes sense,” I added.
“No need to apologize,” I repeated.
When you’re raised to treat the things of God (or about God) with a certain reverence, it’s hard to shake such layers. Even if God is the very skin you’re trying to shed.
Two hours into the conversation had yielded one criticism after another, one point of confusion atop another as he detailed his journey away from his childhood faith. “I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe in God anymore,” he said.
“I get it,” I said.
“I’m sorry,” he responded.
“No need to apologize. God didn’t send me here to defend.”
“I know. It just feels weird.”
“Yes. Yes, it does.”
This is the middle. Leaving doesn’t seem quite right. Staying feels even worse.
* * *
The first single from Cloud Cult’s latest album, The Seeker, speaks my friend’s language. “No Hell” is the script of this middle ground he’s inhabiting, where he’s waged war for a belief in something greater. He’s glimpsed such beauty. He’s felt something beyond. Yet the world has also delivered death blows to his faith, stomach punches to his innocence, uppercuts to the truth and beauty in which he believes — or at least believed.
“We grew up believing good wins over bad.
So you gave your heart away, but then the wolves attacked.”
There’s the script. The longing. The hope. The true belief in something beautiful at work in the world and then the wolves come. They always do.
I listened to my friend detail the wolves in his world. The disgusting underbelly of church leadership he’d trusted. Unanswered prayers for an ailing friend, dead long before death should have had any say. The general toxicity of the world. When you’ve encountered a wolf, the senses are transformed. Seeing becomes looking (for them). Hearing becomes listening (for more).
“I just don’t believe all that shit anymore.”
“You’ve said that.”
“Oh, are you mad?”
“Not at all, man. I’ve said it, too”
* * *
“We grew up believing we could learn how to fly.
We came from the earth but we belong to the sky.”
These lines are my favorite within the song. The magic of our youth will disappear; the wolves will see to it. But the second line holds a tension that I appreciated the moment I heard Craig Minowa (Cloud Cult’s front man) sing it. It’s grounded yet hopeful. It’s a mature perspective of knowing both where we are and where we’re going. Yes, this is where we’ve come from. Yes, that is where we’re going.
“You’ve said it too?”
“You’re conflicted. I’ve been there. I am there. But on most days, my doubt somehow gives way to faith.”
“What do you mean?”
“I had to take everything out of the room in order to know what to put back in it. It was a painful process. It made me feel guilty as I stomped on the sacred, so to speak. It made me feel alone, isolated, depressed, angry, confused. It was everything you mentioned. And I can still feel that way. But in the end I always come back around to the mystery, to the magic.”
“I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
* * *
“Oh, my love. Oh, my hope.
The Great Mystery cannot be solved.
There will be joy and grief,
But live it all in awe.”