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…


Pacifism: My Passing Fancy

"Kitten Thinks Of Nothing But Murder All Day" --Headline: The Onion

“Kitten Thinks Of Nothing But Murder All Day” –Headline: The Onion

“From pacifist to terrorist, each person condemns violence–and then adds one cherished case in which it may be justified.” –Gloria Steinem

I’m a bit of a pacifist.  I can admit it.  I say I’m a bit of a pacifist because I still deal with really violent thoughts–with almost no provocation–most of the time.  The other day my family and I were sitting in a restaurant, enjoying our respective meals, when this man and his mother walk in (at least I hope it was his mother, she could’ve been a Cougar who was misinformed about the proper shelf-life of said behavior, but I digress, the “mother” wasn’t the issue, the man was).  He was a ruddy and rotund man with the fashion sense of an irony-impaired Bruce Vilanch.  But–beyond that–he walked with a swagger…the kind of swagger you might expect from a hunter who just dropped an animal large enough to feed his whole community.  This guy’s accomplishment was finding a well-promoted dining establishment.  He was so fucking proud of himself for conquering a task that could be achieved by a 5 year old with a smart phone.

I wanted to punch him as soon as I saw him…I mean really punch him…like when you think about punching someone, but instead of a solid punch after which the guy (or lady; I’m not sexist…ladies?) falls to the floor and stays there, this punch (the hypothetical punch I’m imagining in this moment) goes right through his skull…all the way through…entry wound…exit wound…the whole bit…and he’s just suspended there looking at me like: “What the fuck just happened?”  And I’m looking at him like: “I just happened…I’m what the fuck just happened…that’s me.”  Then I pull my fist back through and he just drops to the floor…and maybe seizes-out…I don’t know…the details get cloudy at this point…but in the end he’s lying on the restaurant floor with his brains marinating in a grayish-pink puddle.  I don’t know where that thinking originates…I don’t know why I was thinking that…but I do recognize, if I’m being honest, it is…decidedly…un-pacifistic…

Pacifism is not a popular life-choice…it makes people uncomfortable.  I have a friend who calls pacifism boring.  He’s, of course, right (they are rare moments, when Matt is wrong)…it is kind of boring…there is no conflict in pacifism…there is no hero’s journey in pacifism.  Nobody wants the Incredible Hulk to come out and give a quick lesson on resolving conflict with our words.  I guess the pacifist version of the Hulk is a calm and peaceful Bruce Banner, so yeah, case in point: boring!

The argument that I can’t understand–to be honest it makes me want to skull a body–is that pacifism is a utopian construct that’ll never work.  It is as popular as it is intellectually lazy, the sentiment: “Oh yeah let’s all get together and talk through our issues and get to understand one another and hug and it’ll all be okay.”  I’m not advocating unfettered hugging, but the rest is exactly what pacifists are asking we try.

All we are saying is give peace a chance (I borrowed that from somebody…either Jesus, or somebody bigger?).  Give it a chance.  Is that unreasonable?  Let’s get down to it.  We’ve tried the other way for thousands of years now…over and over again shedding blood over the most insignificant issues wrapped in the most manufactured minutia…so committed to the concept of force are we that in the U.S. we spent around half of a century in an arms race supposedly meant to aid in the peace process between two super-powers that actually nearly bankrupted one and left the other with such a hunger for war that it now goes out and manufactures reasons to pick a fight.  “Iraq aided Al Qaeda…no we meant they had terrible weapons with which they meant to harm the west…no what we meant was Saddam was an asshole.”

It’s true Saddam was an asshole, but who isn’t?

I can’t wait for the day when a President declares “open-season” on all of the asshole leaders in the world…then he (or she…ladies?) is sitting there, proud of the announcement they just made when, all of the sudden, a well-armed murder of troops storm the oval office and the president is like: “What the fuck guys, I didn’t mean all the assholes…I meant most of them.”  Then she (or he…fellas?) is carted off and hung…

Whatever–the point is: we’ve tried the non-pacifist way…we know it doesn’t work…it never has.

So why not give the other way a shot?  If it doesn’t work you guys can tell us: “We told you so!”

You guys love that shit…

Quiet Jesus Lives to Fight Another Day: A Tumblr Post

Whom Shall I Crucify?

Whom Shall I Crucify?

“But the chief priests and the leaders convinced the crowds to ask for Barabbas to be set free and for Jesus to be killed. Pilate asked the crowd again, ‘Which of these two men do you want me to set free?'” –Matt. 27:20-21

Originally I planned on calling this post: “Rome Wasn’t Built with Good Intentions”.  My friend Phil Burgess posted that gem on The Face.  He first posted: “The Road to Hell Wasn’t Paved in a Day”.  I found that line relatively humorous…but the Rome line…genius.  I had a pretty busy week so I never got around to asking permission to use it.  But the sentiment is apt for this post.

The crucifixion of Jesus was not the most violent thing that Rome did to Christianity.

That came much later under the reign of Constantine.  The greatest violence Rome did to Christianity was co-opting it as the state religion.  Constantine then parlayed that move into a bloody war that, in all reality, never ended.  This Tumblr post deals with the Jesus who caused a revolution, and the cradle of western thought who wouldn’t rest until it was quashed or rendered ineffective.

That western machine is still at it to this day.

From Constantine to Cruz, beware those in power who claim to be motivated by Christ…disappointment bobs in their wake…

On a lighter note, click here to see my latest Tumblr post…

Faux Rage

I'm Green with Rage!!!

I’m Green with Rage!!! 

“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” –Aristotle

I don’t have a lot to say this week…or I have too much to say and I’m having trouble figuring out how to say it all…or I don’t have much to say.  At any rate, this will be short.  I’m really not in the mood to say anything important.  It has not been a good week for communication.  Maybe it has been two weeks now.  But two very talented writers whom I admire have been victims of America’s new favorite past-time, celebrated by conservatives and liberals alike: Faux-Outrage.  Faux-Outrage is a side-effect caused by watching news programs where-in puffy white-turned-red faced men yell the things about which you should be concerned at you. 

My first example is Rolling Stone contributor Janet Reitman’s compelling and articulate piece about the Boston Bomber which was chosen for the cover story of  Rolling Stone Magazine (allegedly after a last minute cancellation by Kanye West–Yeezus H. West, who was originally set to grace the cover) which caught the ire of the lead-singer of a band named Disturbed (a man with a similarly forgettable name).  Then all hell broke loose.  There were many angry people…people who claimed that Rolling Stone was trying to glorify this kid turned “terrorist”…people who clearly hadn’t read the article.  When people did finally get around to reading the article, the outrage was hastily aimed at the photo…a photo that was used in the bombing coverage by the New York Times within days of the bombings.  Lastly came the claim that Rolling Stone lacked the journalistic integrity needed to print pictures like the one in question on the cover of their publication without incurring the wrath of roided-out Nu-Metal heads, pundit peddlers of vapidity, and doughy cake-filled bloggers alike.  By then everyone had gotten so bent out of shape they were all ready for a collective rage-baby nap, and this final claim petered out.  Life is hard in America…always having to invent things about which to be angry…thanks a lot, clean water and small-pox vaccinations!

The other example, one I’ve been reading a lot about the last couple of days, is the book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth written by Reza Aslan.  It is a book written by a scholar in which he discusses his educated view on the historical Jesus.  Perfectly reasonable, right?  Not according to Right-Wing Evangelicals who have taken the time out of their busy days to sleuth out this factoid for our shared safety: Reza Aslan is a Muslim…gasp…(says C.S. Lewis: “What a delightful name.”).  How dare an educated Muslim write an historical piece about an historical figure…where does this guy think he lives, America?!?  This book has upset a lot of people.  If you are aware of this book and are wondering why so many people are so angered by it, join the club.  I’ve been scouring the internets and World Webs to find a reasonable opinion or coherent argument against this book…so far, no luck.  If you are aware of this book and you do not wonder why so many people are so angry about it, I suspect you’ve already joined a club…here’s a short video to illustrate the ridiculous dogmatic din…

In other news I went to a barbeque at my full-time friend, and sometime-guest-editor of this blog, Matt’s house and we came up with a book idea that’ll make us rich…or if not rich at least a little more infamous, which is worth its weight in gold if you ask Matt and I…but I wouldn’t if I were you.  We are going to write the cliff-notes for every book about Hitler ever written.  They will be short books; the main contents of which being the simple line, and I really shouldn’t be telling you this before we get our book deal, “Hitler was a dick.”

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…


FAQ Pt. 1 Yoga and Coffee

Have you ever had a friend who was more photogenic than yourself...Pink Jesus is that friend to me...

Have you ever had a friend who was more photogenic than yourself…Pink Jesus is that friend to me…

“The key is to get to know people and trust them to be who they are. Instead, we trust people to be who we want them to be- and when they’re not, we cry.” –David Duchovny

As a dirt-bag blogger with an unpopular view of reality, and a penchant for epic goat-trailed rants one might think I spend an inordinate amount of time sorting through hate e-mails and explaining myself in light of misunderstandings people have adopted about me based upon my inarticulate writing style.  One would be wrong.  People are actually quite nice to me.  I’m thankful for that.  And, seriously, an inarticulate writing style?  You’ve gone too far with that one amorphous-internet-commenting-beings trapped in my head.  There are quite a few questions that I get asked on a regular basis by blog-spammers from the comfort of their cubicles in exotic locales.  This post’s intention is to help clear up some of the confusion.

It’s really a nice and useful piece of information. I am satisfied that you shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.  Are you interested in more traffic to on your website?

Good question, Lit Parapluie; the answer is as complex as it is long.  No.  I’m not terribly interested in that.  I am quite pleased with my readers and look forward to the rate of growth to continue as I’ve experienced.  I have no use for SEO language.  I find it disingenuous.  Please leave me alone and lose 50lbs. in two weeks, following these three easy steps!

What does your morning regimen look like before you settle in and write?

Great question, I can only assume that this was not sent by a spammer.  Rather, this seems to be the question of a young hungry writer looking to climb the ladder to blogosphere mediocrity.  I’m always willing to help with this.  I think my morning starts out like most writers’;  I wake up, slam a pot of coffee, slip into my yoga outfit, and do an hour of hot-yoga in a closet next to my desk where I have an “As Seen on T.V.” Heat Dish plugged into an over-exerted wall outlet.  After that it’s off to the bathroom to make.  Generally, while in there, I hone my Sudoku skills.  Then I sort through all of the would-be distractions found on the internet…like e-mail, Facebook, twitter, and M.I.A. videos.  After the last M.I.A. video (usually Paper Planes, for the millionth and one time, if  I’m being honest…wink), I start to write using outlines that I’ve been working through.

Why does it take you so long to release new posts?

Did you not read the previous answer?  That much yoga and coffee is not a cocktail that encourages normal-sized poops.  I mean I’m in there for like one and a half Sudoku puzzles, or two hours in your time.  By the time I get through this regimen, I’m lucky to have time to eat a rack of lamb and peanut butter toast lunch and settle in for the People’s Court…I love Harvey Levin; he’s so snarky…but in a masculine way.  I get some writing done during commercial breaks, if I’m not too busy refilling my glass with Peppermint Schnapps and O.J. on the rocks…which is my favorite drink…It gives you the sensation of drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth.  All.  Day.  Long.

Who is your favorite Band, and what is your favorite dictator?

Great question!  My favorite band is, of course, The Beatles.  I would elaborate on that answer, but it’s self-explanatory, and any attempt to do so would be nothing more than a naked attempt at padding my word-count for this post, something to which I am morally opposed, that and run-on sentences.  And sentence fragments.  As for my favorite dictator, being an history buff there are many dictators for whom I’ve formed an affinity, but my favorite is probably, King Nebuchadnezzar because he wasn’t afraid to get crazy.  Either him or Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

What do you listen to while you are writing?

Oh, so many things.  I’m glad you asked this question!  It is possibly the most important part of my process.  There is a leaky faucet in the bathroom next to the room where-in I write.  So, as you can imagine, I listen to a lot of water dripping.  This is appropriate as it literally drowns out the voices in my head to which I also listen…but not if I can help it.  They generally try to interest me in setting various fires around town, or get to work on my “Enemies” list, because–as they say–“Enemies” lists don’t work on themselves…Hell, even Nixon knew that…or they sing “Fatty, Fatty, Two-by-Four” in disturbing off-key choir voices.  You know, the normal stuff.  It’s like the old adage goes, “You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick what the voices in your head are going to say next.”  So true.

Do you believe in “Absolute Truth”?

Wow!  Where did that come from?  Spammers!  I do believe that absolute truth is real.  I believe absolute truth is a lot like Bigfoot; more people claim to have encountered it than those who actually have.

Do you think Captain America was a card-carrying Communist?

No, but I do have my suspicions about the Hulk.  Well, actually, Dr. Banner (scientist, duh).  The Hulk is all-American.

If you could have dinner with three of your heroes, who would they be?

Well, Jesus Christ is an obvious choice we could talk about love and loss…what happened to Him after His ascension…who was most shocked by their misconceptions about God after having met Him face to face…plus, the added bonus, a blogger’s budget is not conducive to the purchase of much wine, but we can afford all the water we want…Next would be Gandhi, because more Lobster for me…and finally, I’d round that table out with the ghost on the box of Boo-Berry cereal, because I’ve oft times found myself wondering if he takes seriously his position as a role-model for today’s youth…my notion is: he totally does.

So, wow, great questions!  I hope that my answers were satisfactory.  Keep these questions coming…let’s do this again!  I had a great time and I think we all learned a little something today.  And I am of the opinion that learning things is a great antidote for not knowing stuff.  Are we going to save the world through this back and forth?  I’m not a betting man but, if I were, I’d play the lottery.  Send your questions to my Facebook page:

The Memorial Service and the Crazy Things Christians Believe

“Under wings of gold and silver, sometimes we have to hide; for shelter from this bitter winter, at least tonight”

-Mark Salomon

Saturday the 21st of April my family and I went to celebrate the life of my wife’s late grandmother whom we lovingly referred to as Granny D.  It was a normal service…normal for Christians…which involved many stories of past loves and losses, and a strong message of hope beyond the grave.  We were all convinced of the idea that her life after her death was exponentially better than the one to which she clung immediately prior.  This caused me to realize something about the nature of Christian belief, not for the first time, I realize it in different ways everyday…for good or ill, Christians believe some crazy things.

There are many times when I am at odds with the crazy things that Christians believe, even though I am a Christian.  I will not go into this list as it is vast and is likely to land me in various debates and controversies which interest me little.  I will say that I do share some crazy beliefs held by the majority of people who identify themselves as Christian.  I believe in Heaven and Hell though, admittedly, I know very little about these “places”.  I believe that a young woman, in the town of Nazareth, was one day impregnated by God and gave birth to a Savior even while she was a virgin.  I believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ after three days being victim to the ravages of mortification.  And I believe in the craziest of all Christian beliefs: the belief that one should love one’s enemy.  I believe all of these things, which is easy for me to say…I haven’t a clue about how easy it will be for others to say this of me at my memorial service.

This was a memorial service so, of course, nobody showed up with an axe to grind…or if they did, they were intelligent enough to stow that axe.  Rather, the words that most everyone spoke about Granny D had to do with the fact that she had a loving disposition.  There were no grandiose comparisons to Mother Theresa…no calls of sainthood…no false pretense whatsoever.  There were just a bunch of people who seemed to remember this woman as a person who genuinely cared for them.  Does this mean that Granny D loved her enemies?  I don’t know.  I don’t know anyone who was a big enough asshole to make an enemy of Granny.  But, it seems to me, that it does mean that she took seriously the charge to love people without regard to their race, culture, social status, political proclivities, or education.  It was clear to me that her friends and family were nothing if not a cross-section of humanity.  She took seriously the craziest tenant of Christianity that exists…love.

When people spoke of Granny D and the way she treated people, there was a theme that ran through the entire narrative, a narrative that ran past the lips of over a dozen free-thinking people, and was not called into question by any of the many in attendance.  That theme was the ease with which she carried herself whilst showing kindness to loved ones and strangers alike.  This love seemed to come naturally to Granny D.  But I don’t think it did come naturally.  I don’t think it came easily.  I think the fact that it seemed that way was a testimony to the fact that Granny took seriously the charge to love others and also took seriously the fact that she could not do this on her own.  Granny D trusted Jesus to do that which her frail humanity could not.  Granny D knew it was important to love; love is something all Christians understand to be important (not Christians alone but it is the subject about which I am speaking, Christians).  It’s important to love…love thy neighbor…love thy enemy…love thy God…love thyself (or to thine own self be true, if you like).  But Granny also knew she couldn’t do it by herself.  She understood her weakness.  That is why this love seemed so natural, how she pulled it off with such ease.

It is easy to say that you believe in the crazy things that Christians believe.  The hardest part about it is how you think others will see you in light of saying something like: “I think Jesus literally turned a few fish and a couple of loaves of bread into a feast for Fifteen thousand or more people”.  Yeah they may think that you’re crazy, but what do you care?  I’ve seen Sarah Palin’s Facebook fan page…there are a lot of “Likes”.  Apparently, there is no inherent nobility in not caring what others think of you.  But at your memorial service belief in the fantastical will pale in comparison to the one thing anybody cares about…did you believe the crazy story about love?  You either did or you didn’t and the evidence is rarely summed up by the things that you said, it’s more of a gut thing.  How did you treat those with whom you came into contact?

How did I treat those with whom I had contact?  A lot of the time the answer is: poorly.  But this is not because I have a special deficiency in empathy or sympathy; it is because I am quite sure that I can go it alone, that I posses all I need to overcome my selfish nature and truly love people.  In short, I don’t take my need for Jesus seriously enough.  If my memorial service were to be held tomorrow, there is no doubt in my mind how well I’d fare.

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.

[[[ it all smelled like bullshit

I had this plan of writing a short story on the blog, at a rate of a thousand word chapter per post with a new chapter being published twice a week.  Sounded like a great plan, save one caveat, I don’t think that is what I am supposed to be doing with this forum.  For the past couple of weeks my friends have been encouraging me that they find this blog most compelling when I am being honest about what I am going through in my life, and what I am learning as a result.  I was resistant to this idea, because I wanted to put out content on this blog on my own predetermined terms, and as such I would be honest when I wanted to be honest and be creative when I wanted to be creative, and all else be damned.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while your initial thought might be, “He really is a slow learner”.  The answer to the question you have in your mind is, “Yes, we do share that in common”.  So I started on the story, and it was going well, and I was on pace to put out two trouble-free non-introspective chapters a week.  What a relief.  Then, while I was sitting in church this past Sunday…it all smelled like bullshit.  I’ll continue to write that story, but it’s not for here.

John chapter 9 verses one through three is a passage in the Bible and it reads like this, “And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?’  Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  Later, Jesus heals the man with some spit, and dirt and a little rinse in “the pool of Siloam” (which means, Sent).  This was a part of scripture from which my friend Jefro preached at the church I attend, Seaside, last Sunday.

This cut me to the quick.

I am the disciples.

It doesn’t matter whether I am trying to discern the reasons for someone else’s struggles, or my own; the idea that God is using tough circumstance to establish His kingdom on earth, is the last one that I entertain.  If something goes wrong in my life I automatically jump to the conclusion that either I or someone else has done something to cause my immediate consternation.  Generally, I default to someone else.  If something tragic happens to someone else I determine that it had to be a result of something that they did.  This is my starting point.  Through the grace that God has given to me and has revealed in my life, this has a tendency to give way to the truth of the situation.  The truth revealed in the preceding scripture reference.  Why is this my starting point?  Self-preservation through self-righteousness.  If I can create a narrative where-in the whole of life’s foibles are created and perpetuated by human failings, I can then reverse engineer a foible-free life.  Problem solved, NEXT!  This idea is perfect in every detail, save one, its accuracy.  Simply put, it is not true.  Save two, actually, the other problem with this thinking is it focuses too much on the concept of introspection as a path toward enlightenment.

Introspection is a great discipline in which to engage, but it is a means, not the end.  In the midst of looking within to determine why we do what we do, we must never determine that the answer lay there.  We can notice our struggles, but it is our Creator who possesses the necessary tools to make significant change, and to give that change “legs”, as it were.  As my Pastor, Jefro, says–and I’m paraphrasing– “It’s not a matter of determining that I am impatient so I need to work on my patience, build more patience, and through that I become patient.  It is a matter of realizing that I have a problem with patience, I don’t know how to fix my lack of patience, but I know that I can trust God with my lack of patience, and  His plan to make me into His likeness which will include being more patient.”  In the latter scenario it is God who receives the glory.  In my life the message translates thusly.  The idea that “I don’t like myself because I have some short-comings to button up, but in three months when I conquer those moral failings I will really like who I am”, is a lie.  The truth is, with regard to my moral short comings, I can trust God with them today, and they’ll no longer posses the power to torment me.

In light of these truths, the question of why I do the things I do becomes less important than the idea that this IS what I do, but I serve a God who can deliver me from doing it, and not only from doing it, but from wanting to do it…this is truly good news.  How does this apply to my own particular flavor of home-spun arseholery? (Note: spell-check thought the word I was shooting for was leaseholder)  What indeed.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Bakery

It is morning, in a bakery, somewhere in Las Vegas.  In the air, all of the smells one would expect from a bakery…on the menu, an exit strategy.

They say that “sex sells” but they never say why it sells…none of us do.  Sex sells because we love to objectify people.  This love is not born of a hatred for humanity per-se.  We love it because it is easy.  It’s a hard reality to face that we all have a tendency to objectify people.  We are fascinated with the concept of “objects selling objects”, maybe not so much when it is spelled out like this (it sounds crazy when articulated like this), but there is an unsettling precedent in American (or Western if you like) culture of being sold things by people we treat like things.  Recently, my Pastor, name a Jefro, challenged us as a congregation to see past the habit of treating others as objects, and digging deep to find their humanity, a place where love could triumph.  His proposal was to help support a ministry called The Cupcake Girls, the name of the ministry possesses the power to invoke innuendo, but not all is  as it seems…is it?  Or is it?  The answer is no.

The Cupcake Girls is an outreach ministry in Las Vegas, whose chief concern, in terms of those unreached by the gospel message, is women involved in the sex-trade industry…an insidiously innocuous term if ever there was one.  The reaching is accomplished through cupcakes.  The Cupcake Girls bring the cupcakes to the clubs and brothels for the girls employed there to enjoy…no strings…no bait and switch…just cupcakes and a chance for relationships to happen.  So far they are involved with 17 strip clubs and 5 brothels across Las Vegas and throughout Nevada.  They do this ministry with one of the most astonishingly low budgets I’ve ever encountered, in terms of dollars spent per people affected.  That was my pitch…you wanna help?  Go to the site (it was those red letters you read a few lines prior).  There you will learn that cupcakes are just the beginning; they also help the girls with a myriad of other things like experiencing a family environment through Christmas parties, and having spa days which allow the girls employed by the clubs and brothels to see themselves as people who deserve to be treated like people, not objects.

You see these girls aren’t just objectified by men who look at them as objects of exploitation, they’re also objectified by men and women who see them as objects to disdain, objects that deserve their judgment, as objects who need their pity…they are none of these things, they’re not things at all; they’re people.  My point is that these girls are stripped of their humanity by the nature of the work they perform.  Their vocation creates a stigma that many never see through and there they die a slow and lonely death.  This stigma can be made obsolete with a tweak of our attitudes, we can diffuse its power.

Why would we want to do that?  I guess because Jesus did.  Annoying savior ain’t he?  Whats even more annoying than his example, is the obligation to try to emulate it, especially when seen through the way he treated Mary Magdalene.  He didn’t treat her as a sexual article, as had most of the men she’d encountered.  Nor did he treat her as a taboo to be avoided at all cost, as the church had.  He simply invited her to be his friend, and that they were, and still are as far as I know.  This is not a call to married men to go out and begin friendships with sex-trade workers, there is no doubt of the propensity toward disaster that scenario would create.  Men could, however, support their wives in the building of such relationships.  Families could work together to create opportunities for interaction in healthy familial situations through dinners or Sunday brunches.  Women of the church could end the policy of “financial embargo” with concern to so-called “Sexspresso” stands, and take the opportunity to stop in and start a relationship with the people working there.  In short the church could begin to love the people who are involved in a trade which society (the churched and the unchurched)  finds convenient to forget is staffed by people.  A radical premise right?  My favorite kind.

I wonder.  What do we think as we pass by the espresso stands, strip clubs, as we see pictures, or hear of sites that sell sex at the expense of their employees humanity?  Do these thoughts honor the God you say you worship?  I know mine rarely do.  That can change.

Lastly a hypothetical.  There is a girl she has been wrapped up in the sex industry for seventeen years, it has been a long rabbit hole the end of which seems unattainable to this girl, having been disappointed time and time again in a vocation that is known for, and thrives upon disappointment.  She needs to get out…but how?  She imagines her resume and she almost laughs, it would be funny if life wasn’t so desperate at this point.  If only she had a job that looked good on paper.  This is one of the possibilities that can happen in a world where strippers are treated like people…chances are taken and lives are changed.  These ideas are not my own, like I said these were challenges that my Pastor offered to us, as a community, during a Sunday meeting.  I thought I would convey these ideas to people who read my blog who hadn’t the benefit of hearing Jefro’s message (more info about Seaside’s [the church I attend] involvement here).  These are ideas that could change lives; everyone’s life involved.

Dear diary, a funny thing happened on the way to the bakery this morning…redemption.