…and it’s time to pick up where you left off.

Your life is a wreckage of abandoned projects. Some of them were novels and some of them were relationships. Many of them were intended to become careers. You are scared to death of God, because if you are merely one of His projects, He will probably abandon you the way you’ve left so many virtuous and ambitious activities behind.

Remember in 2006, how you took a tour of the homeless shelter, researched economics classes at the local community college, and began thinking about how you would get into an elite foreign policy grad school? This was going to be the year you turned it all around. Thanks to making it halfway through Bill Clinton’s autobiography, you were handed a whole new mission in life: to become one of the game changers in Washington. Maybe you’d messed around for too many years to become President, but surely you could get a high-level post in the State Department after riding the coattails of some equally ambitious candidate.

Remember how you abandoned the nice lady and her ESL non-profit so that you could join the political campaign? Then, you found yourself “working at home” while you made calls to potential volunteers and donors all day long. You were somebody important for all of three months, and you made sure that the world knew it. Every night, you descended into a torpor, continuing to make phone calls while you got drunker and drunker.

The cherished myth you’ve carried with you to this day is that you were “this close” to becoming somebody of note, and every single team you’ve had to work with since then has seen you lapse into great silences of indifference to whatever oh-so-important fires need to be put out. You’ve sulked in the childish silence of deep resentment toward bosses who are dumber than you, and have had less experience doing truly great things.

In your cloistered world of working at home, making phone calls, and traveling infrequently, you developed this notion that you were just as socially well-adjusted and mature as anyone else your age. Whatever gains you’d made in growing up socially and emotionally came while being in a constant state of recovering from being drunk or getting drunk. And when you turned all of that off after she walked out of your life for the last time, you discovered that you were probably about as mature on the inside as a fifteen year-old boy.

And unfortunately for you, you also quickly learned that your body did not in any way resemble a youth’s–your head, now fully relieved of years of dyeing out the premature gray, was a horror of middle age. Your chest was now half-covered in white hair, and your sex drive only flared up every few days.

So, where exactly did you “leave off”? Was it that summer six years ago when you started off down one path, but ended up running up and down so many others? Or, perhaps it was that summer twelve years ago, when you had the foundations of a solid career and family life laid in place, owning a home, living with a pretty lady who would say “yes” the minute you asked her, and starting a job that held some degree of importance at the state capitol. Maybe you left off eighteen years ago, when you decided to let your mullet grow, date a redneck girl and work at McDonald’s. Or, twenty-four years ago, when you chose to forego playing all the sports the other boys were playing and stay home every night they had a school dance? Perhaps you left off thirty years ago, when you were asked to join the White Wolf gang on the recess playground, play soccer with other boys, and you knew the girl you liked liked you too but you were afraid to talk to her? Maybe you “left off” thirty-six years ago, when you chose to return to this earth to live again and work out all of your issues?

Or, is it more of a case that you keep leaving off every single day–leaving off from anything and everything that smacks of growing as a human being, as a spirit being, as the kind of project that God would want to keep going and not abandon?

You think that there must have been a lot that was right about your soul when you came back into this world–it wasn’t all wrong and full of “issues.” As a child, you took joy in saving money, not spending it. You loved math and computers, and more importantly, you loved the Lord. Your attempts to “become cool” were always not very well met. You got sick when you tried to smoke, when you drank a beer, when you stayed out too late with friends who were up to no good. Every part of your physical self rebelled against the punishment you threw at it in your quest to become cool like your older brothers. Until one day, all of the bad, terrible habits more or less took.

You never completely gave up the notion that God exists–you experienced more than the simple, flesh-loving souls around you. You never completely abandoned your family–the more time you stayed at home with them, the more you returned to loving them and cooperating with them, and preferring to spend time with them over errant friends. You always saw programs of clean living, self-improvement, Bible-reading, and clear-thinking, as programs to incorporate into your life–and launched every new year with new projects that sought to cram as many of these kinds of activities as possible into your daily schedule, while minimizing all of the bad stuff.

Inevitably, your conditioned flesh would rebel against such things, and you would use any sort of mildly unpleasant event as an excuse to return to booze and cigarettes and living like you couldn’t care any less about tomorrow or the afterlife.

You wish that you could report that it was through your own incredible self-determination, self-discipline and heroic will that you finally conquered cigarettes for good, and haven’t gotten drunk in two years. You’d like to say that one of your programs or projects at the start of a new year helped you end one set or another of your endless self-defeating thought patterns. But, it wasn’t you that made you better.

You modeled yourself after rebels and losers for almost twenty years, and when it stopped being cool to be like them, so did much of your bullshit self destructive behavior cease to exist. You quit things because you took a few days to fully understand that these activities delivered zero positive benefits to you. Nobody does anything because they are convinced it can only harm them. They do harmful things because they are deluded into thinking that these bad things will ultimately benefit them in some way–that one day, an elite group of ultra-hip, ultra-cool individuals will spring into their lives and admire all of the wretchedness as a sign of possessing depth and authenticity.

…to the sounds of an office.

Nobody smiles in the office. Each individual is here to extract a paycheck from the office. You ask any one of them what her passion is, and she’ll say something about travel, shopping, baking, watching the fights or working on old cars. The office might be a publicly traded company or a non-profit. It doesn’t matter. Everyone wants to be someplace else.

Each individual had dreams of easy fortune that came to him because he was special, touched by the universe, smiled upon by God or genetics. Just a few more years, and that novel, rock gig, audition, lottery ticket, etc. would come along and snatch him out of the office. There was no need to go back to school and get a real degree. The BA in BS was sufficient to keep him from having to wear a hairnet.

Nobody smiles in the office because each individual thinks she’s better than the other one. Each individual believes that he could/should be three levels up in the organization, and that anyone above him probably got there because she had no scruples, got lucky or simply knew somebody.

But not smiling isn’t the only thing everyone does to help transport them from their humanity. People in the office don’t share with others unless they expect to get something in return. They don’t help each other. They don’t open up and take an interest in the human beings around them. They avert eyes when passing in the hall or waiting for the microwave in the breakroom.

You are more likely to make friends with: a random person walking down the street, or a merchant in a nearby shop, or a fellow visitor in a hospital, or someone standing in the line with you at the post office.

People in an office treat each other in strange ways because they all believe that they are in competition with each other, even when they are not. Even when cooperating with each other would actually better serve each person’s own self-interests people tend to act competitively.

The sounds of an office are the muted noises of humanity dying slowly in a daily, drawn-out fashion.

You will never get away from the office. You are stuck here until the day the office buries you.

…really just wanting it to be the 1950s again.

You pause to peruse some old Time magazines from that era. You love the clean lines drawn around who was who back then. The enemy was clearly the Communists. Americans were clearly WASPs. Men went to work at drafting tables to build spaceships, not useless social media software. Men wore jackets and ties unless they were on the road in their convertibles for the family vacation. Then, they wore what we call “corporate casual” outfits. Women wore skirts, dresses, hosiery, heels, hats, gloves and lots of makeup unless they were on a picnic in the back country or at the beach. Then, they might wear pants or bathing suits–but, nothing they wore was sexually charged.

You feel that your entire childhood and early adulthood have been nothing but lies. Lies told by baby boomer parents and their older children. Promises that you can get rich quickly off of attention-getting schemes. That it’s okay to dress, look and think a little differently than everyone else. Well, now you know that it’s not.

You’ve spent the last five years trying to erase the sloppy mess that a simple faith in the power of rock n’ roll to make you famous brought you. You contrast the crisp, steel-postured naval officer with his dilettante son who lived for only 27 short years and became the icon for so many youth who followed him. Youth of your generation put up enormous posters of the rock star who died young and full of drugs and worshiped him. They rarely put up posters of naval warships.

The wars following the 1950s were as sloppy as the generation of petulant children who stayed home and refused to fight in them. They brought home deeply haunted, bearded men who left behind all the best they could offer the world in the jungle. That’s why this country keeps electing men who never wore a military uniform a day in their lives. Some of the more recent wars haven’t been as sloppy, but this generation doesn’t care about the awesome feats of engineering taking place to develop better fighting tools unless they are fantastical and comic book-like.

Clearly, you will vote Republican this year, as you vote most years, because that’s what the Republican party is all about: striving to make it the 1950s again. The Democratic party is all about striving to make it the 1970s again–a decade that saw the culmination of communists infiltrating our public school systems and stunting our nation’s scientific progress while converting more children to their devil worshiping ways.

You say a little prayer to God to help you become more like the Rear Admiral each day, and less like his rock star son.

…demanding to be made useful.

Who wants to remain a child, living in a child’s paradise of letting others wait on him, serve him, drive him from place to place? Who wants to remain a mere consumer, a passive tourist, a man who only does a bit of work when the cameras are rolling? Who wants to live life letting it happen to him, and do most of his living inside the dreams of bigger men?

You do.

Or, you did for the past thirty-five years. You did the bare minimum required so that you could live off of the streets without too much help from Daddy.

But, then one day it became too much. You began to feel like a high-tuned sports car collecting dust in someone’s garage, year after year. Perhaps your selling price was appreciating as your knowledge accrued, but your value was rapidly diminishing.

For, you knew that you held some great intangible value that was made to be utilized by the kings of the land, not the random, average gentry.

You tired of sitting in meetings with average bosses who had small dreams and weak ideas that they were so proud of. You were made to sit among men who build cities and shift empires around on maps, not made to move data from one department to another.

You have big, bold visions for mining the moons of distant planets, and grand ideas for zapping warring peoples with peaceful electromagnetic waves. You want to wake up next year on Mars, traversing its peaks and rappelling down its chasms.

Make an oath to yourself henceforth to keep your mind focused on moving forward, creating, being positive, being grand. Flatly refuse to let yourself be ensnared by the petty small dreams of common men, which are the dreams of anonymity and death.

…inside a memory black hole.

Sometimes, the memories are crystal clear of places and times you’ve never visited. Other times, you find yourself inside three years ago, but the world is one-dimensional, black and white, devoid of promise or meaning. Then, there are moments like this, where you know that if you remain here, all memories you have will begin to be erased by this vortex of anti-memories.

There may be some kind of light at the end of the tunnel, if you are brave and strong enough to stay the course in that hellish direction. But, you always race back to the light from where you came, and wake up in the present.

That potential light at the other end of the memory black hole tunnel might be the light of a million possible lives, each one yours to live for the choosing. You might then wake up inside the life of a successful electrical engineer living in Boston, or a writer in Miami, or an artist in Chicago, or a director in Los Angeles, or a chef in San Francisco, or a broker in New York, or a meth addict in Kansas City.

You can feel your identity being sucked away with your memories, for you don’t have much else to stand upon once both identity and memories are gone. You cry out for Jesus, and sense that it would be too late to receive his help if you keep moving in this direction.

Back on this side of the black hole, you wake up again in the same way everyone else appears to wake up–routinely and without event. There might be mention from your spouse of something you said while sleeping, or a night terror that sent you screaming and thrashing about the room. But, more than likely, there won’t be anything but a flood of reminders of everything that clings to your existence like barnacles on an old ship.

…from a dream about the future where nothing bad was happening.

It’s you, twenty-five years from now. You are getting off a plane with your wife, the same wife you’re currently married to. You have two kids, a boy and a girl. They are normal. You are normal. You all are returning from a nice cultural vacation somewhere like Paris, NYC, SF, or Orlando.

Your kids are well-adjusted, God-fearing, God-loving kids. They get along with people, and communicate with them fearlessly. All of your fears and idiosyncrasies are not in them.

You aren’t wealthy or destitute, you’re middle class.

No mention is made of your dad. Maybe he’s dead, maybe not. But, none of the bad stuff remains.

You know in this dream that you will die soon after. You won’t live much past the same age your mom was when she died. But, you’re okay with this. You receive a vision where in death, there are ushers standing by at the bottom of a long chute, much like the emergency ones that open up from planes. These ushers are there to catch your formless self as you pop out of your mortal coil, so that you do not go flitting off into the Void, or return to haunt some home you once lived in.

And, this is good, too. Nobody is standing around to judge and condemn you. They are there to congratulate you for a job well done in raising a family of decent, normal children.

The only thing that does go off into the Void is the past, or all of it that was of no value. Like the head householder carving the Christmas bird, you carefully trim off the choicest cuts: the happy memories of growing up with your little brother, and the reconciliation that had started right before he died. Memories of visiting Mom almost every weekend down here, instead of going off to some other city to try to prove yourself among a crush of fellow Gen-Xer’s. Many happy memories of being alone in nature, or in nature with your dog. Happy memories of being with your family–every holiday and summer you’d grow less of a teenage prick and more of a good son (before heading back to that awful business they call the modern American education). All the memories where you came upon a group of humans and they just accepted you for who you are and let you join in their fun without some stupid need to prove yourself through booze and folly or fisticuffs.

And all of the other parts of the bird you carve–the tragedies, violence, horror, terror, and sinful thoughts, words, deeds–they are sent off into the Void because they are not you you, and when you wake up you will not need to carry them around with you anymore.

…in a world where all of your audience is dead.

You are an analog broadcaster, and everyone you meet has flipped the switch to become digital. They process faces digitally, and access music digitally. Your face might have been gorgeous in an analog world, but in this world, it gets recomposed from algorithms none too kind. Your voice might have won over millions in an analog world, but in this world it isn’t even heard.

Nobody carries with them the ability to tune into an analog man.

You could resample yourself with great care, or attempt to send out a weak digital signal.

You decide, instead, to communicate with your dead, analog audience.

They are listening, you know, all of those who were at the height of fashion and setting trends some five to ten decades ago.

It’s hard to hear them through the noise–the EM waves from fanboy toys and all the sonic pollution from people getting their pleasure centers jabbed by the sugary, goopy melodies.

They live in dust and lace, ancient oak trunks and giant animal skins. They are sharply dressed, wearing their silk ties and stockings as astral extensions of their forlorn spirits.

These dead yearn to be brought back again into this universe, but not into this time period. They couldn’t survive, being such analog souls in a now almost entirely digital world.

You are the oddball, the one out of sync with the other generations. You should be dead right now, too, waiting for a chance when the world blows itself to bits from playing with its fanboy toys. Then, there might be a small opening, where the remaining survivors regenerate the race, and forget how to digitize everything their senses apprehend.

Some crazy fools are looking for the Truth by taking it and smashing it into smaller and smaller fragments, and claiming they are finding something even closer to the Truth. One day, they will blow a hole entirely through the remaining foundations of the analog world, and all of the digital demons waiting in the wings will come streaming through.

Today, these demons might only make it in through the souls and skulls and skin of the women and men who are purely digital. But, once that hole is blown, and Lucifer’s light is shone on all the land, overpowering every last analog woman and man, then you will wake up in this world no more.

For you will will either wake up upon the New Earth, the New Heaven, or the ancient Hell, depending on how your awkward analog chips fell.