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?!