You May Be Right

This is called foreshadowing, folks...

This is called foreshadowing, folks…

“The unexamined life is not worth living, man” –Demetri Martin

It has been since March last I darkened this particular internet doorway. Apparently having fun is no reliable bridge-troll on one’s path toward the flight of time. But there has been some fun, kiddos…fear not.
My family and I have moved from the Garden Island to the Emerald City (Emerald City adjacent) after only lasting one half of one year in paradise. I guess we’re just purgatory types; who knew? I have yet to determine whether or nether the leaving of the Island County of Kauai belongs in the W (win) or L (loss) column of life. My honest suspicion is that it’ll land in the WGAF (who gives a fuck) column. This is a column reserved for the score-keeping of existential crises too complicated to solve in the years I’ve been allotted. It’s best just to move on. Mayhaps I’ll revisit the issue.
I had hoped to get more writing done during my time in Hawaii, but like my friend Matt says: “There’s a reason why the folks from island paradises didn’t take over the world” (do not allow the quotes to fool you, that was a paraphrase…a poor paraphrase). The point being: warm, satisfied, happy people aren’t long on lofty ambition. Those ambitions are best left to cold, white, sexually repressed folks–you know–like they got in Europe. And he is right. It is rare when Matt is wrong about such. I did manage to get some writing done for the natural foods store where I was employed for the bulk of my stay. I was the lead copy writer and editor for the blog that accompanied their website…our website. This was and is no small source of pride for me. I even wrote this post which inspired a woman to tears. She shared this moment with me while I was ringing her up at the counter (I was also a cashier, and a shift manager, as well as a closer. But I’ve already bragged about that position so I won’t bore you) having no idea that I was the post’s author. This was the single greatest highlight of my writing career to date. A close second, my meeting Walt Morey–author of: “Gentle Ben” and “Run Far, Run Fast”–when I was in grade-school. He also authored: “Sandy and the Rockstar”, but at this point I’m showing off–sounding like all of the other needy and desperate Walt Morey groupies or “Morey-Whoreys”: as we are wont to call ourselves. At any rate, it was huge for me.
While on the island, I made a grip of great friends and three of the best friends a boy could want. The final reckoning of a short history of all things me might reveal that I lost more friends than I gained during that period of my life. I face said with no regrets. But, again, the numbers aren’t in.
Jesus and I broke up while I was there. That makes it sound like an event. It was not an event, it was a series of events, spanning somewhere between 5 and 10 years. The chronology is squirrely(It’s a squirrel!). We still love each other. I’m just not apologizing for things about which he’s never considered. Also, I’m not constantly pestering him to put in a good word for me with his old man. My indifference toward god has been a source of consternation more for his (or her, ladies?) followers than for the actual being who seems to be unaware of my disbelief…much like my prior belief. More on this up coming.
Tangential Aside Alert: I think, and I’m sure you’ll agree, that “facial scrub” model is the toughest modeling gig out there. Have you ever noticed that these heroic women are rubbing what amounts to sand all over their faces whilst smiling ear to ear? Practically beaming, really. I use an apricot scrub to promote the radiant glow of my pallid, Irish, pock-marked crater-face. When I use this scrub, I imagine myself looking like Gilbert Gottfried. Like Gilbert Gottfried receiving a prostate exam. From a gigantopithecus. Like a gigantopithecus somehow mustered his (or her, ladies?) way through med school and somehow through an horrific karmic tale of woe became the family practitioner in charge of Gilbert Gottfried’s prostate exam. And the ape has an OCD habit of needing to use two fingers. No one knows why this is, but most suspect it’s on account of Aladdin. This is how I imagine my face looks while using an abrasive facial scrub. So, yeah, those ladies are pretty much heroes…suck it, fireladies (or men, fellas?).
I’m not sure what is to become of this blog. I may be over it, and you might be too. I’m not sure. I’m still writing the short-story from which I shared the first two chapters on this very page. But I will not be posting the ensuing chapters here. I plan on finishing it and handing copies out to some folks (who may be tortured–your play, Obama.) for their frank and intelligent consideration. It just seems like a more productive plan.
So here we are. If you are disappointed in my lack of prolifery (not to be confused with pro-lifery…I’m not anti-life either–don’t get the wrong idea–I love life, mostly. rather this is a modification of the term: “prolific” with which the human language mill has yet to ketchup), I am truly sorry. I did not see this coming either. But we are moving forward. The muse, she mumbles and–when I am not being a lazy pile of waded shit-stained toilet paper–I listen, usually. But hey, you know what they say, progress and some other stuff…

Who I Am is Who I am or What?

Honesty...

Honesty…

“I always liked the idea that America is a big facade. We are all insects crawling across on the shiny hood of a Cadillac. We’re all looking at the wrapping. But we won’t tear the wrapping to see what lies beneath.” –Tom Waits

I’m not sure what to say…I’m writing because I know if I don’t it might be awhile before I do again.  That’s the way I roll.  Laziness is the “resting-face” of my behavior.  I’m okay with that.  I’m 40 years old and I’m starting to be comfortable with who I am.  I know; better late than never.  Not: “I’m more good than bad–so–I can’t be all that bad” comfortable.  More like: “good and bad aren’t really quantifiable, but I’m not embarrassed by either–I’m only sorry for the people I’ve hurt” comfortable.  I don’t want to hurt people.  I don’t really want to not not hurt people either…least-wise not efficaciously.

Truth is, in some cases I do want to do things that might hurt people.

My plan for this post was to draw parallels between The Bible’s Jonah and the weirdo Gastonguay family of Arizona.  Have you heard of these folks?  They were really tired of–what they viewed as–an overstretch, by the federal U.S. government, into their religious liberties.  I know, shocking…generally folks from that region are so level-headed…

They decided the only answer was to board a small sailing vessel and head toward an island in the middle of nowhere somewhere between Hawai’i and Australia.  Easy-peezy, as they say.  With an 8 month old.  Less easy-peezy.  And no real plan on how to accomplish this task.  God-mode (hehehe: Doom references).  They said that they’d: “decided to take a leap of faith and see where God led us [them]” (I’m pretty sure that they didn’t all decide that)…

They got lost at sea on a boat that was badly beaten, and nearly sunk, by the storms they’d endured(a biblical-plague number)–until some Venezuelans rescued them.  Long story short, God led them right back to Arizona with no boat and a $20,000 debt for “travel” costs; which I’m confident they’ll pay because if there’s one thing I know about political conservatives it’s that they always take responsibility for their actions…

They’re planning on leaving again…

Which means they’re just a little more obtuse than Jonah who got the point after being puked up on a shore having spent, somewhere in the neighborhood of, 72 hours in the stomach of a giant whale.  Note: If the thought–“It wasn’t a giant whale, it was a big fish”–just crossed your mind, you should realize that that distinction does not make the story sound less crazy.

Are we clear, literalists?

Aces.

That was my story–poking fun at Arizonan Tea-Party Conservative Evangelicals.  Like punching someone in the dark.

But then I realized doing that would probably lead me to areas of my mind where hurtful things are stored.  So I decided not to do that.  In that spirit: please disregard the bulk of the preceding paragraphs.

I have my own issues with hearing the call of God…whatever that means.

My friend Matt once told me that I was a “yes” guy.  He went on to explain that “yes” people say yes to things unless there is an obvious reason to say no.  As opposed to “no” people whose “resting-face” answer is no, provided no compelling reason to say yes arises.  I’m not sure if that is true about me.  I know I felt a certain sense of pride when he said that.  So it’s safe to say: I wish it were true.

Maybe that’s just the way God talks to me.  Maybe God just throws shit my way, knowing that I always say yes.

I’ve learned over the years that the more I learn about the world and people and God, the less I know about all of them.

I’ve also learned that knowing less isn’t such a big deal.  The “knowing” is an artifice to which I’ve grown accustomed, it is nice to look at, but it offers no sheer-strength.  It just sits there, hanging off of life, waiting for an earthquake to unleash its potential as a person-crushing pile of rubble…

Libertarianism: The Hoax of the Elite

"Listen, I know what I said; but we're in trouble...we're going big-tent...we need their votes

“Listen, I know what I said; but we’re in trouble…we’re going big-tent…we need their votes

  “And God saw everything he had made, and he saw that it was very good; and God said, It just goes to show Me what the private sector can accomplish. With a lot of fool regulations this could have taken billions of years.” –Author Unknown

I finished writing a long-winded (long-typed? long-typeded) post about Libertarianism and its lack of historical context in America.  It went into the myth of the “Libertarian Tradition” in America and dispelled the notion that smaller government equals an increase in individual liberty.  Then it struck me.  I’m over-complicating the issue.  I don’t have to prove that the Libertarian and Tea-Party ideations of a small-government will be ineffective at offering people more personal freedom.  History has already proven that point. 

The Industrial Revolution was a great example of what happens to the average individual when government is disinterested in keeping private industry in check.  The question is simple: Is there an appreciable difference between centralized political power and centralized financial power?  The answer is no…both are effective ways to bully the majority into subservience.  While Libertarian and Tea-Party supporters can point to effective ideas for curbing the power of the government, they have no answer to the problem of large corporate interests filling that power-vacuum. 

This is not my point, exclusively; I’ve heard Noam Chomsky, Christopher Hitchens, and other like-minded intellectuals make this point.  It is a common-sense idea that is well-argued by history.  Indeed, the recent rapid rise of Libertarian-thought and enthusiasm for a deregulated free-market is born of our more modern generation’s disdain for learning from the lessons of history, or perhaps there’s a growing zeal for repeating the mistakes of the past, or maybe we just have an underdeveloped sense of irony.  At any rate, modern Libertarian and small-government leaning Tea-Party philosophy is nothing more than a do-over of archaic American economics without a strategy for correcting the problems that are known to exist in it.

I’ve heard it said: “Don’t worry about the free-market; it doesn’t need regulation…it regulates itself.”  Good news, you don’t have to be an history buff to see the folly in that last statement.  Maybe pre-2008ish one would’ve been able to subscribe to the notion that the free-market is too dependent upon its customer-base to cannibalize it.  But you would need an undying devotion to ignorance to believe that now.  Don’t get me wrong, I believed in Santa Claus well after it was age-appropriate to do so, and I believe that God is real.  So you can see that I too have a weakness for ideas that cannot stand up to the scrutiny of empirical scientific data.  But I have my limits. 

Another tenant of modern Libertarian thought is the privatization of municipal services.  History says: “The Pinkertons”.  History is boring.  But we have a modern-day example of this short-sighted world-view.  Only the most ardent ideologues see the privatization of the prison system as a success.  That’s not entirely true: Ardent Ideologues and people who aren’t paying attention both seem to be pleased with the privatization of law-enforcement.  In fact it is a failure.  At best it is a system that is no more effective at accomplishing its ends than its government-controlled counter-part.  At worst it is so economically unfeasible that some have stooped to corrupt practices in order to bolster the financial viability of these prisons.  Who would have thought that adding a profit incentive to private law-enforcement agencies would be a recipe for corruption?  Who indeed.

True Libertarian and Anarchistic societies have existed in the past.  Not only did they exist but they thrived (sorry kids, this point requires a little historical homework, as most were eviscerated by Rome…you know, the guys who tried the system at which we are currently failing first), but it is important to note that these pockets of individual liberty enjoyed an egalitarian mind-set that has yet to be mimicked in modern western civilization.  Why?  Egalitarianism has a strict threshold of diminishing returns when it comes to profitability.  It is the sacrifice of prosperity in the interest of sustainability.  A concept for which the American Dream has little patience.  Who am to argue against somebody’s blood-lust for the ever-elusive brass ring?  I would never…but one cannot serve both liberty and mammon.  America has been very clear about which master she prefers…for good or ill.

As for the politicos-Paul, please hear me on this one.  If you are a true Libertarian, then vote for true Libertarian candidates.  A small-government Republican does not a Libertarian make.  The Pauls are to libertarianism what the novelization of the Twilight franchise is to literature.  Republicans are co-opting ideas that Libertarians hold dear in a move to lure them in to the fold of the Republican base.  In the late 1800’s the Democrats pulled the same move with the Populists.  The Populists fell for it and that played a huge role in you thinking: “Who?”, when you read the word: Populist. 

Any centralized power-structure is bad for personal liberty.  It doesn’t matter if that power-structure exists through the bastardization of a well-thought-out democratic process, or if one just inherits it from one’s daddy.  But if you do believe that the tenets of Libertarianism can truly help your fellow Americans by restoring  power to the individual through shrinking the influence of the Federal Government, then by all means vote for strong Libertarian candidates, not career politicians like the Pauls or the Jindals or the Walkers of this country.  Even stupid ideas deserve to be done well…

The Dirt Bag Baller Comes Clean)))Sort Of

trite bullshit

“There’s a fucking fine line between being funny and being a bully” –Marc Maron WTF podcast

My first inclination was to write a piece about nothing more than what the sign in the above picture said and whether or not its claims were apt.  But when I started to write this it became more about my personal experience from a comment that I made about the sign.  This feels more honest to me.  This is obviously my side of the story (meaning: My explanation for my behavior both good and shitty); it’s also important to note that this is an interaction between myself and two of my friends, and we are still friends.

So it’s July 5th (it may have started on the 4th…), and I’m perusing the Facebook, as I am wont to do, when I come across the above image that was posted by one of my friends who has served in the military abroad.  When I first read the sign I thought to myself: “This has to be one of the dumbest things I’ve read in recent memory.”  I did not make that comment…I generally don’t make forward comments like that…they are more aggressive than I fancy myself, and they don’t really add to the discussion in any informed way.  I think I commented with the phrase: “I love irony.”; which is not aggressive but also doesn’t add to the discussion in any informed way, and is probably a misuse of an oft misused literary term…who remembers?  This first comment didn’t land me in any hot water.  How could it?  It committed itself to no world-view and was in no way a coherent statement.  When I identified what in the sign’s text was causing me angst I became more coherent, and sometimes when I become coherent I find trouble…the aforementioned water.  What really bothered me about the sign was its seeming comparison of sacrifices made by Jesus Christ and the American Soldier respectively.  My immediate response (or reaction if you’d like…I’ll call it a response because I think that that’s what it was and, since this is my blog, my version of history wins here) was to bring up ways in which the sacrifices differed.  This second comment was not received well.  I’ll get to the actual comment shortly but first a little blurb in the interest of full-disclosure.

I’m a smart-ass, I’ve been that way for some time and as I get older I try to be a smart-ass who is careful about the feelings of others.  I do this to the best of my abilities taking into account that I am also a passive-aggressive with an emphasis on passive.  Because of that when I say something that offends someone it surprises me…their being offended surprises me.  I don’t want to offend people, but I also don’t care enough about it to carefully guard my words against such a transgression.  This is disingenuous, and I think we can all agree it is shitty behavior.  It is who I am.  I’m working on it.  I’m working on it because I love people and am motivated to do so as way of worshipping God who first loved me.  Some of my smart-assery is taken as being mean-spirited or acting a bully.  Neither of which are intended, but nor are they actively fought against…at least not to any appreciable degree.  When first I was accused of being a bully, I thought it laughable.  I’ve never considered myself a bully because my posture has always been defensive and motivated by fear.  I suppose all bullies tell themselves this lie.

The comment that I made was that only one of the two defining forces mentioned on the sign received a chance at a college education for their efforts.  Again this started as me pointing out a difference in the sacrifices made.  It was meant to be a smart-ass way of busting my friend’s chops…the friend who originally posted the picture of the sign.  My friend’s wife, who is also my friend, and who has also served in the U.S. military abroad, did not like that statement…not even a little–I think.  We have yet to actually talk about it…  I was not trying to call into question the practice of giving service women and men a chance to go to college as part of the compensation for their service…I fully support that policy.  If we as a people have decided that it is important to have a strong military presence in the world, and thus people that presence with folks who are of college age, we should be committed to helping them with education and the buying of a house and anything else that could somehow repay their sacrifice, a sacrifice that I recognize as being profound.  I think the U.S. military is horribly over-funded.  I think the people of the military are horribly under-paid.  Especially when one considers that their efforts almost always result in someone getting very rich.  Also, let it be known that I am against giving Jesus a college education, not because I’m anti-Jesus or anti-education…I guess what I’m trying to say is I wouldn’t want Jesus to be in my college class it would be distracting, Jesus raising his hand over and over again saying: “My Dad told Me it happened differently.”…we get it Jesus, Your Dad is God.

I started to get the impression that my off-handed remark/joke was being taken more seriously than I had intended, so I tried to make it clear that I was kidding.  That was met with a comment about the sacrifice of the military who are charged with doing their duty regardless of their conviction about the specific task at hand.  Which is a true statement.  My friend told me that she was sent off to war while her dad was in the ICU.  I couldn’t imagine what that must have felt like to her.  It made me realize the sacrifice that she made even more deeply.  I had never not valued the sacrifice…I understand that the people of the U.S. military make massive sacrifices, the likes of which I’ve never done (I say that without shame, I’ve never wanted to make said sacrifice, it is not my conviction to do so). 

My intent was not to diminish the sacrifice.  My intent was to diminish the claims of the sign, claims that I found hyperbolic.  I was thinking: “What would a North Vietnamese Christian think if he read that sign? What of the citizens of East Timor? What of the Native Peoples of this continent who have entrusted their lives to Jesus?”  I imagine they would be confused by the sign’s claims on both an historical and theological level.  I also thought the sign was self-serving and wrong-minded; lots of people offer to lay down their lives for us as U.S. citizens: first responders, cops, people working in south-east-Asian sweat-shops, a significant percentage of people who happen upon a burning building…the list could go on, but you get the picture.  On some level I think that I was confused by the use of Jesus Christ in a sign that was meant to promote American Nationalist propaganda.  I could’ve handled it better…hell, I should’ve handled it better.

At the end of the day, I have a love for people not institutions, but here’s where it gets tricky: sometimes when I call-out institutions I hurt people who are involved with those institutions.  I don’t want to be a guy who hurts people (I tried to come up with an interesting way of saying that last sentence…swing and a miss).  I apologized in the same thread because I was sorry for not being careful with my words…I couldn’t ask for forgiveness for my words, I hadn’t said anything wrong and to apologize for that would’ve been insincere.     

One last thing to consider: History is filled with strong-willed leaders who use force as a means to accomplish their ends and dopey smart-asses who are willing to question those ends as well as the means by which they’re accomplished.  History is very clear about what happens to a society when the smart-asses are forced to be silent…

Breaking Hard is Up to Do 2: Break Harder

on the bright side, I have new shoes for travel

on the bright side, I have new shoes for travel

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”–Will Rogers

I’m starting to lose myself in this transition…I don’t think this move is going to kill me, but I doubt it’s making me stronger…don’t worry, Mr. Nietzsche, everybody says stupid stuff to make themselves feel better in times of despair; your optimism is a comfort to us all.  Though the house is on the market and people are showing interest, there is still much to be done.  I spend my days thinking about small things around the house that might not be putting the house’s best foot forward.  Then I clean and or fix those things.  I need to be thorough…I don’t want to let my family down on account of my laziness.  All these projects are slowly making my hands and back strong, and my mind weak.  Merle Travis, and later, Tennessee Ernie Ford were very clear about their views on manual labor.  I’m starting to think they were right.  We all owe our souls to the company store in one way or another.

Small projects, like the ones I have left to accomplish, are kryptonite to obsessives.  Yesterday I worked until around 10 in the evening detailing a stove that will probably be exchanged for a nicer unit within the year.  The little dishes underneath the burners (it’s an electric burner style stove) were caked with shit, remnants of nearly a decade of life.  I had to scrape them with a razor blade to get them clean.  Why?  I really couldn’t tell you.  The job was frustrating, the results: disappointing.  But that’s the nut of the problem with obsessive people, isn’t it?  My wife thought my neurotic fixation on this project was both funny and maddening.  When the job isn’t going smoothly everyone in the house pays a price.  When I am frustrated I should just walk away rather than cuss and scream the thing into submission.  She knows this and it’s painful for her to watch me make an ass of myself in front of God and man.  I know she’s right.

The thing about people who are obsessive or compulsive…or both is that there is no right answer once our minds have locked on to something.  I’m one of the lucky ones as I don’t lock onto much.  But when it happens, the cycle is nearly impossible to break.  When I’m fixed on a thought or project it is natural for the people around me to see that as being unhealthy and the loving thing for those folks to do is to tell me to stop…to walk away and come back to it.  The problem is walking away makes me feel just as bad as pushing through.  It’s not as though I’m thinking: “This sucks and I need a rest, but if I push through the reward will be great.”  My inner dialogue is more like: “This job sucks, rest sucks, nothing is working fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck, fuck!”  That’s the rub, I can’t rest while a project is unfinished.  I just think about finishing it the whole time.  When my hands stop hurting, I go right back to it.  My hands generally stop hurting long before my brain is emotionally ready to reengage the challenge. 

Before the stove project I got locked into pressure-washing all of the concrete and the cedar fence around my house.  It took me the better part of 40hrs to get it all done.  40 miserably cold and wet hours holding on to a wand that was hell-bent on causing permanent nerve damage in my hands and wrists.  Three days after the project feeling returned to the tips of 9 of my fingers.  One of them, the one I smashed between to ductile-iron pipes when I was a kid, has yet to relay sensation to my brain.  During the entire project my wife was encouraging me to take a rest.  She was probably right; the project would’ve gotten done just as surely with breaks in between as it did with none.  In retrospect I can see the value in what she said…I can see the truth.  Right and wrong and truth and lies are all so damned esoteric in the throes of a good obsession.  It becomes the comedy of reasoning with an ant.  Everything becomes impenetrable save the task at hand.   

Cry much, diaper-baby?  It’s not all bad news…actually none of it is bad news per-se.  It just is what it is, and I’ve found that it rarely is what it isn’t…so there’s that.  The house is looking better and better, and I’m confident it’ll will be someone’s dream-house realized in short order.  On an unrelated topic, if you know anyone looking for a nice house in the west Bremerton area here is one.

 I learned how to blog from watching television’s Doogie Howser, M.D. when I was a kid.  Most of us did.  Doogie always ended the show by journaling on his computer…he would type out a paragraph and then stare of into the distance while the sickly green cursor would blink at us stupidly and impatiently waiting, like a reasonless ant, for its next group of letters to drag–from God knows where–onto the screen.  Doogie would come up with one beautifully succinct sentence to conclude his thoughts…it was always so perfect.  I’ve found that those lines are more abundant on television…

Breaking Hard is Up to Do part 1: Breaking Hard

The Garden Island...like the New Jersey of the archipelago...

The Garden Island…like the New Jersey of the archipelago…

I wouldn’t mind the rat race – if the rats would lose once in a while.” –Tom Wilson (creator of Ziggy)

My house is short for time.  We are two weeks from putting our house on the market (a month later than I anticipated).  This mark seemed like an eternity two months ago.  But it was no eternity…in the midst of erosion-paced days and lightning-quick years the two months passed in no time.  And now shit has gotten very very real around here.  It is quite likely that my family and I are about two months from moving to Kaua’i.  Two months?  That’s like an eternity from now. 

The house has been a whirlwind of activity lately.  I haven’t been writing a lot of new content; I’ve been dealing with the to-do list around the house.  I plan to journal here a bit about the days leading up to the big move.  I know I have only tread lightly on the topic of this move here, but what do you say concerning something you’re trying to avoid thinking about.  Not that I haven’t thought about it.  It’s more that I’m always thinking about it but never acknowledging it.  The whole thing is so over-whelming.  Change is something for which I–simultaneously–clamor and fear, a paradox that a young Alanis would call ironic…and maybe it is, in Canada. 

The nut of it is: my family and I are selling our house and a large chunk of our earthly possessions (hopefully a large chunk), and moving down to The Garden Island to help start a church community with our longtime friends Jeff and Kim Adams.  We are doing this with some of our other longtime friends (I think nine-ish families in all); several of whom have already relocated to the island.  While it is exciting to be a part of something to which I believe God has called us, it is also stressful and scary.  Maybe it sounds arrogant that I believe God is calling me to something.  I don’t mean to be arrogant.  I believe the call of God has more to do with His story than the qualities of those called.  My greatest qualification in this endeavor is mere willingness.  Were willingness a virtue, I’d be sainted.  You know…if I were into that sort of thing.  My willingness is not really very pure.  It is, in large part, born of my own lack of imagination, or an insatiable appetite there for. 

On top of the move, this week has its own excitement.  My wife and I are celebrating our 19th year of marriage today, June the 4th.  Saturday, up-coming, I’ll be celebrating 40 years of being alive.  My 4 year old daughter will be starting in her first pre-school class, set to last the duration of June.  And my 5 year old daughter will be participating in her first “Field Day” at school.  This Field Day thing has given me reason for anxiety.  I hated Field Day.  I have the physique and natural athletic ability of a person who hates Field Day.  Maychance my daughter will do better in these sorts of endeavors…it would be impossible to do worse.  I don’t know how they do the whole rewarding superior athleticism thing these days.  In my day, it seemed humiliating.  Just a lot of other kids with ribbons.  I hope that if this is the case for Lu she at least has a better perspective about it than I did as a kid. 

I’ve turned into one of those annoying parents that enjoys kids sports where-in no one pays much attention to the score.  Not because I think the presence of winners has the potential to hurt the feelings of the losers (of which I generally was one), but because it sends the message that Field Day or Little League or Jr. Soccer actually matters.  When I was a kid, I thought that a red or a(maychance to dream)blue ribbon was an identifiable achievement about which I could brag through the summer.  I found out that it was much ado about nothing.  But I digress…we are a society who places a high importance upon victory even when it is symbolic.  And who knows, maybe Field Day is one of those things that teaches us a skill-set uniquely tuned to the pitch of the rat-race.  I learned much about the rat-race from my Field Day experience.  Chiefly: Fuck the rat-race.  It would be a proud moment in my life should my daughter learn a similar lesson.  But I digress even further…

So here it is post number one in a series documenting my break-up with the most enduring love of my life…The Olympic Peninsula.  I never imagined I would actually leave this place.  Now I can’t imagine staying.  Not because I don’t like it here, but because I don’t think I’m supposed to stay.  Great stories thrive on tension…

I/m O-Thomas You/re O-Thomas

The actions of a person who never questions their actions...

The actions of a person who never questions their actions…

“There is nothing so pitiful as a young cynic because he has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.” –Maya Angelou

I’ve been thinking a bit about Thomas.  He was a guy in the bible who hung out with Jesus.  Lots of Christians call him “Doubting Thomas”.  They call him that in a sort of judgmental way…but a Christian judgmental way.  Like: “Hey bro, I get it, I don’t know what I would do in that situation.”  Meanwhile, they totally know what they would do in that situation…crush it.  It all comes down to this story in the bible about a meeting with Jesus a few days after he had died.  Thomas was out doing some stuff, and a bunch of his friends were huddled in a hut…or a flat…or a shack.  It was a structure.  The door was locked because they were all scared about what the religious ruling-class was going to do to them.  Then Jesus pops in and says, “Peace be with you.”  Which is Jesus-speak for: “Sorry about your soiled ephods”.  He then showed them various evidences that he was the guy who died a few days earlier.  When Thomas returned his friends told him what they had witnessed because Jesus had already bounced.  Which is Patso-speak for: “He had taken his leave of them.”

Thomas didn’t buy it right off the bat…he was standing in a room with a bunch of people who were recovering from losing their shit a couple of days earlier when their worlds were turned upside down.  He was standing in a room with a bunch of guys who had spent the last three days proving to Thomas, and one another, that they don’t always understand what’s going on–even when they say they do.  The whole time that these guys were hanging out with Jesus he was telling them: “Hey I’m going to die but don’t worry, I’m going to come back to life three days later.” (Patso abridged)  Then, when it all started happening, the disciples were all: “What the what?  Let’s get outta Dodge!”  So Thomas comes back and they’re like: “You’ll never guess who stopped by.”  Of course he was skeptical, given the witnesses he was left to believe.  I think Thomas’ inner-dialogue was conflicted.  On the one hand, he knew that he’d misunderstood what Jesus was talking about when he was hanging out with him.  On the other hand, he knew that that was true of everyone in the room.  Added to that was the idea that if what they were saying was true, it would change everything.  I think Thomas was the guy who took seriously the implications of the news that Jesus was risen.  So he said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Eight days later they’re all hanging out in the same dwelling…still scared.  This time Thomas is with them all and Jesus pops in again.  And Thomas has a chance to see and believe.  Jesus tells him put your hands in his wounds.  He tells him to take it all in…to look dead in the face of the evidence.  Thomas does and says: “My Lord, and My God!”  Have you believed because you’ve seen?  Jesus asks of Thomas.  Then Jesus told Thomas blessed are those who believe and do not see.  There are a lot of things I don’t understand about the term “blessing” in the bible.  I don’t think it was a rebuke.  Thomas only wanted the same evidence that everyone in the room had received eight days earlier.  Let’s not forget that everyone in the room had evidence that Jesus was indeed risen and their reaction to this news–this upturn of world-view–this redefinition of authority–was to stay locked in a shack for eight more days.

I identify with Thomas.  I would be the guy saying: “Are you sure you saw Jesus?  You’ve gotten a lot of things wrong the past few days.”  There are a lot things about Christian Dogma, particularly American Christian Dogma, that I don’t buy.  This is not because I am a naysayer…or maybe it is precisely because I am that.  But it’s also more than that.  I have a lot of history with my church…and there are hundreds more years of history to be read and it is a history of a people who consistently misunderstand what God is telling them.  It is a history of folks claiming to love God and people with their words and showing the opposite with their actions…a pantheon of hypocrites…just. like. me.  I’ve believed in things I haven’t seen.  Does that make me more blessed than Timothy?  I don’t think it does.  Jesus doesn’t seem to make a distinction between my relationship with Himself and Thomas’, if we are to believe that the blessing in question pertains to the relationship that Thomas and I share with Jesus.  It seems to me the blessedness in question could be summed up thusly: “Thomas you have seen and have believed, that’s great, but blessed are those who don’t see, because they may not have the choice.”  It is not a statement that makes a distinction in quality, rather it is a distinction in reality.  Thomas had a blessed reality, he got to see for himself the evidence of Jesus’ claims.  I have a blessed reality, though I haven’t seen, it has been seen to that I can believe.

The story of Thomas is not a cautionary tale of a disciple with the audacity to ask questions.  It is not a fable about the virtue of willingly suspended-disbelief.  It is a story of a God willing to answer questions–not required–but willing.  In the midst of my disbelief over topics that have made their way–legitimately or illegitimately–into the canon of Christian dogma, I have no need to fear.  I know that, in as much as I’ve made a commitment to God, He has also made a commitment to me.  If I’m honest with Him, He can correct me on issues that I’ve misjudged.  He does this in a myriad of ways…His word…the community in which He has placed me…and other ways that are at the employ of a sovereign being.  In some ways God is still in the business of saying go ahead, put your fingers in here…

 

June Fourth

“A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.”

–Ingrid Bergman

In 1994 on June the 4th my wife Kristy and I were married…I’d known her for a couple of years, and she was the second serious girlfriend I’d had in my life.  Though I had had two girlfriends and had been dating for four or five years and I was about to get married, I was still a complete idiot on the matter of girls and relationships…A complete idiot.  This well-veiled fact was of little deterrent for my soon-to-be-bride and I.  It had no power to deter her, because she wasn’t aware of my ignorance.  Somehow, I’d been able to hide my stupidity.  It had no power to deter me because I had no vested interest in listening to reason, and one’s wedding day is no time to start listening to anything that might “rock the boat”, as they say.  So there we were: two people completely, blissfully, ignorantly, about to give our lives to one another…what a happy mistake.

I know describing a marriage, especially one that has lasted eighteen years, as a mistake is not romantic…it may even be borderline rude.  But when I look back on all the years my wife and I have been together, and how little we knew about love, commitment, and one another, I would be lying to call it anything else.  I couldn’t have written this story.  I couldn’t even have coordinated this effort.  Someone else deserves the credit.  Someone who knows how to turn happy mistakes into lives that tell the story of redemption.

I’ve heard it said that the way people generally view marriage is something like this: “I know that I love me, and I’d like you to join me in the life-long quest of loving me.”  I don’t know who said that originally, but it seems to me very apt.  Though it will never make its way on to an anniversary card and it is an ill-advised way of beginning a marriage proposal, it is what people seem to be thinking when they decide to get married.  I know that I put far less thought into what I needed to do to love my wife, than what she needed to do to love me.  I don’t know if she was thinking the same thing, but I do know that in this scenario the ratio was in the 50% range, and that is as large a consensus as one could hope for in these tumultuous times…for good or ill.  As such, I feel good about considering this an appropriate generalization.

It is an interesting thing, marriage.  Two people trying to turn separate histories, separate ideas of family, and separate ambitions of what family can be into one singular story while everyone they love and who love them look on.  It may not be the highest pressure situation known to human-kind…but it is close.  It’s no small wonder, that the failure rate of said institution is so high.

So how did I get so lucky?  Me, a guy who’d fought against all odds to even find love.  Me, a guy who has no idea what the term really means, in the larger scheme of things.  A guy who struggles in the most non-ironic way to understand it every day…a guy who cares less about reciprocating it than having the capacity to truly understand it, as life goes on…how am I so lucky?   It seems unfair.  And it is.

But what am I supposed to do?  Apologize; try and make you feel better about your misfortune?  I cannot.  I will not.  I lack the power.  All I can tell you is that love is real. I never believed it, but for crying out loud I’ve seen it…even though I had no right.  I’ve seen it.  And now what can I tell you?  Get off of your ass and find it.  You are unable to do it in your own strength…and please believe me when I tell you this is no taunt…you are unable to find love in your own strength.  But this does not preclude you from finding it…so go!

Eighteen years?  Here’s to mistakes…beautiful, beautiful mistakes…thank God for them.  I know I do…

Meandering the Fringes: Thoughts in the Wake of the Emerald City Comicon pt. 2: Hey God, Did You See That?

“Science, my lad, has been built upon many errors; but they are errors which it was good to fall into, for they led to the truth.” –Jules Verne Journey to the Center of the Earth

We (my friend Ricker and I) were standing in line at the Subway sandwich shop located in the convention center when he (Ricker) turns to me and asks, “What do you think God sees when He looks at this event?”  My initial suspicion was that Ricker meant something deeper, though I never asked if that was so, or what that might have been.  I guessed that God saw what I saw.  What did He think about it?  I had no idea.  I wondered if anyone there cared, except Ricker, and I—after he pointed it out to me.  What, Seriously!?  You are, once again, way ahead of yourself here, boy-o; let’s start with what I saw.

Costumes everywhere, that’s what!  Though a brighter writer could probably put the experience into categorically easier to swallow segments, there is no such writer here…save the ones I’ve dispatched in fits of jealous rage, as a result, they are in no shape to comment.  Costumes are a proud tradition among “Conies”, although I would’ve assumed them to be more widely worn, perhaps Seattle has the same attitude toward fan-boydom as it does toward everything else, that of passive indifference.  Still, there were a few costumes, some entertaining, and some that gave me the itch to give my hippocampus a rape shower.  The costumes gave wall flowers the chance to shine in a controlled environment, and 6s and7s the chance to be 8s and 9s.  There is a strange self-absorption to these costumes; it is a self-absorption that requires others to play along.  At the “Con” (as my friend Ricker calls it) there are many willing to participate.

There were Princess Leias, storm troopers, Fetts of all stripes, zombie every things, He-Man was there (though he had really let himself go) (Ricker thought so too), some higher ups in the COBRA organization, at least one Ewok, various Steam-Punks, and two or more Kevin Smiths.  I also saw some alien beings that were like ten feet tall!  I think God saw all of that too.

I saw a zombie who was clearly irritated by the large crowd gathered at the “Con” (as my friend Ricker calls it).  Here is a thought (mayhaps judgmental, so please forgive me in advance), if you go to the Comicon dressed as a zombie try to stay in character and not act irritated by crowds…zombies love crowds; especially slow moving crowds that are locked up like cattle on a feed lot.  You guys “live” for that shit.  Slow moving crowds are to zombies what low hanging fruit is to Aesop…fodder for tales.

Dear He-Man please do a sit-up or two before you decide to don the ole ephod and double bandolier, or whatever you call your ridiculous get-up, there are kids here!

There was a man dressed as the Riddler of “Bat-Man” fame pushing around a baby carriage, this made me think of the intellectual-anal cavity search I underwent to adopt my two girls, all of which would have been flushed down the toilet had the caseworker found any component of the Riddler’s costume in my closet.  This put me in a dark and bitter mood.  Child rearing is so easy for some.  Tim Engstrom warned me not to write that, “It sounds too much like a bitter re-telling of sour-grapes tales of woe”, he said. (I think)  Looking at it now, I think he was right.  But what am I going to do about it now?  Go back and erase what I’ve just written?  Negative, not only would that affect the observation itself, but all of these thoughts that follow as well…unacceptable.  Move on!  That is part of the point though.  How can I even begin to imagine what God thinks of this spectacle, when I am so insularly informed by my own bitter predispositions?  And if I could, would anyone care?  The answer is no.  No one would care.

In the 1940s a group of physicists were talking about intelligent life in other universes, of which there are many.  They spoke with great anticipation of how many different societies there inevitably were given the fact that there are so many planets in so many universes, and given the relatively short amount of time it took for humanoid life to evolve here on earth.  A man named Enrico Fermi listened patiently to all of this talk, and then he replied by simply asking if all of this were true, where was everyone?  More to the point, where is everyone?  This idea became known as the “Fermi Paradox”.  Decades later it was posited by Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico, that perhaps “Runaway Consumerism” was to blame for the lack of intelligent visitors from other planets.  The idea being that once a society, on any planet, evolved to a certain point all the trappings of said evolution—trappings like Xboxes, comic books, and Comicons—would interrupt said evolved beings from caring about all other living creatures in any meaningful way.  More simply, a society with video games wouldn’t care about visiting their next-door neighbors, leave alone visiting creatures in neighboring galaxies.

The costumes at the “Con” (as my friend Ricker calls it) attest to the idea that it is more rewarding to pretend to visit other planets than to do it.  What does God think when he looks at the “Con” (as my friend Ricker calls it)?  I don’t know for sure.  The more troubling question lies shallowly beneath the spectacle.  Does anyone care?

You Got to Lose Yourself

“Striking at mental apparitions
Like a drunk on a vacant street
Silently beset by the hands of time
Indelicate in its fury” –Greg Graffin

A dusty cowpoke once told me that “the more you leave, the less you lose”, but I’m starting to think he was losing his mind…but then again, how could I know?  I never got a good look at him on account of the fact that he was just a bunch of random magnetic impressions on a tape…in a movie.  For a time this was my M.O. (my modus operandi).  I lived my life and shared relationships as though I was gonna take off one day…soon.  This wasn’t because I didn’t like people; it was because I was always afraid of what people might think of me if they ever looked behind the curtain.  What a pitiful little wizard.

I never determined, at any point in my life, consciously, that I was not going to have meaningful relationships.  That was just my resting point.  Like the unfortunate people who, when not paying attention to what their face muscles are doing, sit there with their mouths a gape, watching American Idol.  My immediate reaction to intimacy, of any type, was knee-jerk, and visceral.  I didn’t even like to be touched, if someone put their hand on my shoulder, it found no soft purchase…I was tense.  While there were a myriad of reasons for this—horrible experiences that inform the most reptilian parts of my, still evolving, brain.  There was also a strange idea in me that I was not going to live to see Thirty…even well into my Thirties; hell I’m Thirty-Nine (in June), and I still think this at times.  Those who know me know that my math skills are sub-par, but this is a new low.  Maybe it was because I was so drunk on my Thirtieth birthday that I don’t believe it happened, or I believe I’m living out some Swayzian reality…though I’ve never been near a potter’s wheel.  Well I’ve been on one for some time now, and I guess that’s the point of this post.  Isn’t it?  Sorry, stupid question.  How would you know, unless you’ve read ahead?  (I’m starting to think that I sometimes write things just to make it easier to get to 1000 words…)

Anyhow, I was going along my merry way having many relationships the likes of which I thought were normal.  I was treating people as though they were expendable.  Not in the eighties movie-villain school of dismissiveness (no it’s not a word).  My cruelty was more passive.  I was just a dumb-ass who never considered that the relationships in my life were to be treasured—that they had value.

Then a funny thing happened on the road to dumbassness (I know, I know), I was blinded by the light of true love.  True love is a real mother-fucker (I don’t mean mother-fucker in an offensive, shocking way.  I mean it in the “first thing that comes to mind when you break your toe on a chair leg” way.  It’s the point when your life changes painfully and instantly, when having a cavalier attitude as you walk through the dinning room will never happen again).  I’m not talking about the love where you have to “love yourself, before you love others”…or the love where you “put others before yourself” because it’s the right thing to do.  I’m talking about the love that grabs your head…holds it firmly in front of a mirror…long enough for you to get over yourself and really look at the reflection that confronts you…and once you’ve met the dirty reflection’s gaze, this love tells you that it is real regardless of all the reflection tells you.  Like revolutionary love.

I’ve been married for nearly eighteen years now, and it is amazing to me that my wife has stuck it out for this long.  I am so aware of this inequitable transaction, the fact that I married way up, that there are times, when it’s dark and quiet, when I will wander around my own house and think, “I don’t know who owns this place, whose life this is, but when he finds out I’ve been here, he’s gonna be pissed.”  It is a strange thought.  I just don’t feel like I belong, on some level.  I’m learning, after nearly twenty years of relationship with Kristy, that she really loves me, I mean really.  It is a love that is undeserved and impossible to shirk; God knows I’ve tried.  The rate at which I’m learning this, however, is painfully slow.  There is a possibility that I am worse at relationships than math…though it seems improbable.

Another example of love, that stopped me in my tracks and made me take notice of its presence, is the love that I’ve received from my friends that I’ve met through the church that I attend.  Over the seven, or so, years that I’ve been at Seaside Church I’ve learned many things about love that have been able to inform me about relationships, not only present and future, but past as well.  The evolution of Seaside as a body is the story of my own evolution, my understanding love.  Through pain and heartache, both of my doing and the doing of some other imperfect person, I’ve been able to see what love actually looks like…true love, the revolution, the mother-fucker.

All of this love was motivated by one thing.  God’s love, not the distortion that informs Greg Graffin’s “God’s Love” (a beautiful critique on man’s understanding of God in the midst of suffering) (though not intentionally), but God’s love as demonstrated by the sending of a sacrificial offering, while we still hated Him, to heal the relationship that He longs to share with us.  A love that exposes all the lies we believe about ourselves (even the ones we like), a love that changes you in a way that cannot be explained by chemistry, or through empty platitudes, a love that endures.  This is the love that is the gift of Christ.  This is the love which my wife offers me…which my friends offer me…which I am learning to share…which we are all learning to share.  It is the answer.  It is what heals us from self-loathing, and selfish indifference.  The cowboy was right; the more we move, the less we lose.  If we never have deep relationships, we will never be hurt by them.  On a related topic, if you find you can’t quit pissing the bed, you could always just abstain from liquids.