Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

2nd thoughts

Conversion

St. Augustine Converst to Butane

St. Augustine con­verts to butane

Conversion.

What is it? Who con­verts and why?

Strictly speak­ing, to con­vert sim­ply means to change from one form to anoth­er. To edi­to­ri­al­ize on that dic­tio­nary def­i­n­i­tion a bit, I’ll add that to con­vert is not quite to trans­form and a bit more pre­cise than sim­ply change.

Convert is a spe­cial kind of word, a spe­cial kind of change — it’s not the same as trans­form, rev­o­lu­tion­ize, invert, or sim­ply adjust. It has some­thing to do with tak­ing what there is and using it to make some­thing new. Maybe some­thing is added, maybe not, but con­vert­ed things reveal their ori­gins to some extent. Convert a Ford Bronco to a truck and many peo­ple will know at first sight. Convert the miles between Vermont and the Mood to kilo­me­ters and the dis­tance won’t change. Convert your bed­room into an office and peo­ple will prob­a­bly sus­pect that the room in your house or apart­ment was intend­ed for some­thing oth­er than work. Convert to Buddhism and you’re prob­a­bly not going to kid any­one about whether or not you grew up in China or Tibet. As Ben Folds put it “You’ll nev­er escape your red­neck past.”

So a con­ver­sion is a very par­tic­u­lar kind of change and a reli­gious or ide­o­log­i­cal con­ver­sion more par­tic­u­lar still.

Typically when peo­ple speak of anoth­er person’s con­ver­sion they are refer­ring to a reli­gious change of heart, but the truth is, I’ve seen con­verts to Marxism, Capitalism, Death Metal, Jazz, com­put­ers, the Internet, Futurism, espres­so, green tea, cock­tails and polite con­ver­sa­tion, and every damned thing in between.

As I see it, there are dif­fer­ent types of con­verts: the pas­sive go-along, the safe-bet­ter, the seek­er, and the rad­i­cal con­vert, among many oth­ers.

I real­ized recent­ly that many of my per­son­al pre-occu­pa­tions over the last 20 or so years actu­al­ly have some­thing to do with my need to under­stand how con­ver­sion works. What makes a con­vert con­vert in the first place? Do peo­ple real­ly change? Are con­verts fool­ing them­selves? Are con­verts wak­ing up or lulling them­selves to sleep? What makes some con­verts so incred­i­bly inspir­ing and effec­tive as lead­ers of oth­er peo­ple? Do con­verts actu­al­ly have to believe what they con­vert to or just make oth­ers believe they believe it or both?

I’ll be dig­ging into this and post­ing some of my thoughts and dis­cov­er­ies here. Your thoughts, con­cerns, and con­ver­sion sto­ries are, as always, wel­come.

3 Responses to “Conversion”

  1. Adrien » September 20th, 2009

    Why would any­one con­vert to Judaism?

  2. conor o'berst » September 21st, 2009

    How can a True Believer con­vert from one True Belief to anoth­er? If one finds their first True Belief to be unful­fill­ing, then what can make the next True Belief all the more ful­fill­ing? I would think that after los­ing one’s reli­gion (so to speak), it would be near­ly impos­si­ble to com­plete­ly ‘con­vert’ and com­mit to anoth­er par­a­digm, giv­en the fail­ure of the first. After the col­lapse of one’s faith, I would think log­ic and rea­son would begin to fill in the giant void of the Everyman’s exis­ten­tial mind­fuck. Beer drink­ing and The Daily Show would com­mence, pre­vi­ous rules and reg­u­la­tions might get replaced with debauch­er­ous affairs and nefar­i­ous schemes root­ed in fun and/or mon­ey­mak­ing at the expense of oth­ers. Free will and all. All that said, no faith or belief is real­ly root­ed in ana­lyt­i­cal log­ic. Otherwise, one wouldn’t need to believe it. One doesn’t need to believe the sky is blue, it just is. Much human cor­rup­tion finds a steady foun­da­tion in mythol­o­gy. Just some thoughts mate­ri­al­ized from the ether, detour­ing through your blog, ulti­mate­ly bound for the great beyond.

  3. conor o'berst » September 21st, 2009

    Do the fol­low­ing peo­ple strike you as authen­tic True Believers/Converts:

    Michael Savage (60’s Beat poet to right-wing lunatic) Arianna Huffington (switched from Republican to Democrat), Dennis Miller (“lib­er­al” come­di­an to neo­con­ser­v­a­tive apol­o­gist), George W. Bush (prob­lem drinker turned evan­gel­i­cal Christian, ‘com­pas­sion­ate con­ser­v­a­tive’ turned war prof­i­teer) Campaign Obama vs. President Obama, pret­ty much any politi­cian real­ly. I guess the same ques­tion applies for any reli­gious leader. Both politi­cians and reli­gious lead­ers have to bend their beliefs, and the way they espouse them, to their con­stituen­cies. Does that mean they Don’t Believe? Who knows?!