…with a head full of ideas that you can’t put into words.

Words became like an aging body for you. Once they were a performance vehicle that was clearly taking you to the big show. Then one day, you found your head moving back toward that nonverbal space occupied by angels, babies, druggies and the aged. Your daily pot of coffee, once the great performance-enhancing drug of choice, now just kept you from slipping back into a dreamy fog. Words were little space invaders that you had to dodge to get to the real meaning in the sentence. People around you were chattering, babbling, filling the office with noise, and from that noise, only 10% of it came forth as useful information.

Writing became impossible.

Nobody reads what you write, so you could certainly continue to crank out endless musings, these navel-gazing offerings of why your life didn’t end up perfect.

The past became an empty mineshaft. You’ve dragged all the gems and precious metals and rare earth elements to the surface and exploited them. Now, you are pumping out sludge and combing through it for flecks of next to nothing. The past, happy to be a well-healed scar, should stay that way. You aren’t brilliant enough to invent a time machine.

You watch this movie about a guy who stumbles upon a drug that makes him really sharp. He’s able to use all of his brain–all of the neuron passageways connect and fire correctly, and like a perfect tool, he plays the stock market and goes into politics. Who’s to say that someone wouldn’t just set about trying to solve all of the world’s knottiest mathematical problems and forget to bathe and feed himself?

You realize that your precious metal mine consisted of: the past, and ways to dredge up anew old aches and wax philosophical about them; the fantastical future, the future where you win Olympic marathons after consistently running five miles a day for a few weeks, or where you become President because you volunteered one summer for a nowhere political campaign. Old aches and fantasies removed, and your head became an empty place with nothing but the present and all these nonverbal ideas swimming around inside it.

Perhaps this is the zen-like state that new-agey people seek to attain. You suspect not. You can still feel every ache in your aging body, and are more than a little aware of every penny you still owe creditors and every way in which your jobs keep deadending and refusing to become careers.

brief impressions

At the zoo — a collection of artificial environments designed to mimic environments most people who are at the zoo will never see in real life.

Yet, it has its own vibe. People who never mix in other public spaces are there together. The redneck families, the black families all decked out in hip hop attire, the Latino families, the upper middle class white families who clearly eat well and dress well, and probably are the only ones who could afford vacations to the environments the zoo seeks to mimic.

A return to childhood. An increasing desire to have kids of my own. I’ve never understood the concept of people wanting to have kids. I thought you either had them by accident, or had them because you accepted it as a milestone, a course to take in life. But, an actual present feeling that is all its own–increases each year that I go to places like this.

At church–a church with no person coming up to me and putting on that fake “we’re so happy you’re here” bs attitude that goes away after you attend for a few months. A nice feeling. But, does it feel like a church where I would really grow spiritually and find my lifelong “community” I’ve yearned for ever since I arrived in S and failed to fit in?

What a strange town Waco is! It’s full of all the big town businesses you might need, has a zoo that rivals San Antonio’s or Ft. Worth’s, but there are no jobs here. Not the kind of jobs that I qualify for, anyway.

It appears to be more segregated than Austin. People at the Mexican restaurant we went to on Friday night all looked like us. Lots of white guys my age with guts hanging over their belts, wearing polo shirts and jeans. Younger white guys probably still in college or high school wearing athletic apparel and t-shirts supporting Baylor.

There’s a distinct kind of flavor or culture one apprehends sitting among these folks who all probably vote Republican, listen to C&W or Classic Rock, like to hunt and fish, and probably don’t read much or pay attention to the news outside of what Fox tells them. Mostly, they probably pay attention to sports, their lawns, barbecue. They vacation on cruises or go to Disney World. It’s the other bubble of America. Having lived in Austin for so long, I came to expect certain attitudes from people, certain shows like The Daily Show and favorite NPR shows that everyone paid attention to. I knew how to be PC, and that for the most part, talking about God was verboten (unless you were going to talk about how little you believed in his existence). I knew it was a bubble, but I couldn’t help but think that since these people in Austin saw the same television network shows, or at least were aware of them, got the same news, and generally had reality presented to them in a similar, mass consumer fashion, that the differences between the Austin Liberal Bubble and the Waco Conservative Bubble were by degree, or consisted of primarily a few key religious and political differences, rather than any sort of distinct forking of two cultures that one day may be completely incapable of recognizing each other as being American.

But, it’s true.

We Americans will likely one day evolve to be as bitterly divided as we were during the Civil War era. There will be those of us who embrace new technology and accept that rural ways are dead, living like people in any international city–citizens of the world. And, there will be Americans rooted fiercely in the land, even if it’s only in their heads.

———–

I had this brief impression this morning before church that I’ve been living a life of guilt and shame, and punishing myself for things without even knowing it. Some subconscious part of me remains locked in guilt for having crashed the party, so to speak, when I was born and R and R were no longer the sole objects of my parents’ attention. So much of my irrational, rebellious behavior, my acting out, was nothing but an attempt to hurt myself and prove to my brothers that I wasn’t responsible for coming on to this earth and messing up their lives.

There’s been guilt around this that continues through the passing of R. Would he have finally adjusted to living as an adopted child had two biological children not come along to disrupt the focus and attention my parents were giving toward his development?

I made a conscious decision at the end of the seventh grade to start doing poorly in school. This decision has long been accepted in my storytelling as a desire to fit in, be cool, be a part of the kids who I thought mattered, kids who reminded me of my older brothers. But, perhaps there was something deeper–a decision to fuck up my future so that my brothers would never think that I had it any easier, or had in any way achieved something special as a result of preferential treatment.

At our heart of hearts, each member of my family knew that my parents couldn’t help but treat children made in their image, from their DNA, differently. It certainly didn’t help that from the time my brother R left home my dad’s career saw an arc of ever-increasing salary, meaning that more toys filled the house year after year that my brothers were never allowed to have.

The years following my little brother’s death could certainly be described with ease as years of guilt and self punishment. While years leading up to college might have been more subconscious in what drove my behavior, the years following H’s death were nothing short of a prolonged attempt by me to kill myself out of a sense of utter responsibility for his death. After all, he died in an unsafe truck that was the truck I forfeited the night I got my DWI during my sophomore year in college.

The drinking in college was, of course, part and parcel of what’s already been described above. The kinds of friends I sought out, and thought of as being authentic, legit, cool, etc. were friends who quickly dropped out of college and got jobs in Columbia. They found friends among the working class people there, and these became my friends. I rationalized that I gravitated toward these kinds of people because my own father was a blue collar worker when I was a kid, and that his paying for my college only got me there and educated and fed–I could never fit in with the rich preppy kids whose parents paid for not only their college educations, but spring break trips and summers overseas, along with any number of vacations to New York and activities like skydiving and high-end partying.

Of course, this was really crappy rationalization and generalization of a huge number of various groups of people–some were surely like that, but there were many more, like G’s Catholic friends, who were just normal, Midwestern college kids.

The truth of it all still lies half-buried, I think, no matter how much I’ve tried to examine this. The truth is that I dismissed getting involved in church youth groups and other college groups because these people were clearly on paths that, were I to join them, would forever mark me as a child of privilege.

The really sad part of this is that I know for a fact that R saw no difference between a kid who sought out working class friends to party with while at college and sought out to barely do the work required to get the degree, and a kid who might have done so much more with so many better people who could have truly helped him get to places far beyond such aspirations as finding a schleppy office job while he figured out what to do with the rest of his life.

I continued to seek out the same kind of people after college, rejecting the friends G made when we moved down here. They were clearly not legit, authentic, and were the same kind of people who had been unapologetically collegiate when they were in college.

So, it should have hardly came as any sort of a shock that I made zero lasting friendships at UW, when I finally decided that I wanted these kinds of people to be my friends. They had long since amassed a series of international travel experiences and socially matured in ways I was just beginning to attempt to figure out. I did continue to find ways to lash out–with creditors, neighbors, telemarketers, even volunteers at United Way (misguided and terrible as some of them were), because I craved the punishment, even if it was to be mostly self-inflicted over beer and a lot of soul-searching writing asking “why?”

Then, I perpetuated this approach at C, though by now, it has become less and less of an acceptable vehicle to even make imaginary progress in life.

The entire cycle of acting up, befriending the black sheep, rebelling, refusing to take life and work seriously, then wallowing in self pity and drink when both the black sheep and preppy kids leave you behind–it’s all born out of this sense of guilt over having come into this world being handed things I don’t deserve, and unconsciously (because it truly is absurd once it’s verbalized) believing that by beating up on myself and making myself a bit of a loser when I could actually when and achieve success, that I’m somehow making a repayment for this initial theft (and any subsequent ones).

Who knows how many choices I’ve made out of an utter habit that now permeates my entire thinking? Choices where I might have stood up to a supervisor or other person up the management food chain and said “why yes, I would like to have a career that goes far beyond this menial, ‘web bitch’ bullshit I’ve been doing for years.” Choices where I would have turned down invitations (real or imagined) to party, get drunk, waste time watching TV and surfing the internet, and buckle down on whatever project might have helped me gain more influence at work, or get me further with opportunities to network.

… clinging to womb-bred notions of what safety and comfort must be.

You weren’t safe before you entered the womb. It was highly probable that you would end up never being born inside a human womb again. You didn’t experience the grace of God with this opportunity, nor did you win this womb by your own merits. Rather, you were simply lucky. You had the winning lottery number, happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Then, in this universe, the odds of being born into a womb that wasn’t living in poverty were very slim. Most any womb available in this time and place is carefully monitored for any sort of procreative activity. All manner and form of chemicals and devices are placed around the doorway of these wombs of wealth, and oftentimes when a life is created and the opportunity to be born again comes up, the life is destroyed, intentionally sometimes, often unintentionally, unknowingly by the one who possesses the womb.

The odds of being among the flotsam and jetsam of the trillions of lost souls flitting about, waiting for a womb and chance to be born again to accept the Christ as the one True Lord–the odds are next to zero. And in this bardo space, this meantime passage where much waiting takes place, there is much hardship–more terror and violence than anything imaginable here on earth. Souls bearing the slightest enhancements from dealing with Lucifer are so vastly more powerful and superior to the other souls flitting about. These are the souls that tend to bully and push the weaker souls out of the way for the more favorable wombs.

Of course, the goal is that when you are born you will completely forget all this, be cleansed anew, and have the opportunity to seek the Wisdom of the Lord as a pure, untrammelled babe. But, the very mind-enhancing activities that souls take to gain power over other souls are the very exercises that will taint a newborn babe’s soul with memories of past life debts accrued.

And naturally, a soul who gained passage by dealing with the devil will almost never seek to change its ways when given the opportunity to fall down on its knees and embrace the Christ. Instead, it will seek out evermore clever mental strategies to accrue power and dominion over others, thinking that it is storing up treasure for some future kingdom of Baal in which the soul will be nobility.

Such souls are less likely to cry out for the comfort of Mother, and show compassion toward living creatures who are in pain from being unfairly treated by humans, or in pain from being endlessly tormented by demons.

You dabbled a bit with the ways of the devil in your past life, before leaving off with it, and seeking to purify and cleanse your mind of the Evil that tainted it. Like a former gang member trying to get away from all that kept you in chains and beholden to a dark master, you were hunted by Lucifer’s henchman and dogged in your last days, even as you sought to keep your mind pristine with meditative techniques practiced by both Buddhists and Christian mystics.

You were chased through the bardo passage, screaming in terror, occasionally grabbed by their long tentacles of consciousness. At some point, the opening, the chance to fly into a good, Christian womb came up, and you were more lucky than you will ever know.

But, you were safe only for awhile. For as the seed of consciousness grew again inside of you, so did your moments of flashback to the past bardo and past lives, and you were touched and tempted by all of the pleasures you sought to run away from. Once you unwittingly let one of them in (for you were but a child not knowing any of this that I tell you), you became again a prisoner to wicked ways, and sought company among friends of Lucifer on this earth.

If it was not for the grace of God (for it becomes fully manifest again when you are born anew), and the love of your mother, you would surely be a lost soul, now and forever.

Are you out of the proverbial woods? Not by a long stretch.

We estimate that it will take decades of deep devotion of true faith, prayer for souls in agony, Bible reading, churchgoing, and good deeds to change the way you are crippled, the way you are configured to hop on the express train to eternal damnation.

You still read news articles about those who suffer, both the victims and the criminals (for the criminals are surely suffering from the plague of the demonic), and you breathe another sigh of relief that you aren’t one of them. But, this life wasn’t meant to be just getting by, and exclaiming with satisfaction how you barely missed another opportunity to become one of the damned. This life was meant for you to open your heart and release your compassion for both the victims and their persecutors, to never love the evil that swirls about such crimes, but love the lost souls and their grieving families.

For, the world has never been more full of evil as it is today.

With each passing generation, another crop of souls say, “We don’t need the love light of the Lord, we can shine just as brightly on our own!” Which is exactly what Lucifer said right before he fell forever. Fortunately for us, and our souls, we are given opportunity after opportunity to revise this statement, and come to the realization of just how puny our love lights are when we stop accepting the love light of the Lord to shine from us.

Look at the works of the great masters, and the inestimable beauty that comes forth from their paintings and musical compositions. See how vastly superior such art is when it was inspired by the beauty of the stories of the Lord. Now, review all that is called modern and post-modern. Scrawls, scratches, and angry, cold jabs of bitterness spew from each attempt by an artist who seeks to create something while freed from the fetters of Christian inspiration.

Who, in their right mind, would honestly declare that a few black lines splattered across a canvas can measure up to a great mural painted on the ceiling of a chapel?

Only the most deluded, who in their pride believe that years of learning “theory” and “technique” has merited them a window into something more important, something worthy of timeless admiration by millions of souls.

What you and so many others do is inevitably fall into the trap of believing that this universe of time and space is the ultimate place of being, and seek to imprint all that you cherish in your identity upon this landscape. In the blink of an eye, the Lord could wipe it all away and start over with something new, and the things that are His, that are truly timeless will be yours to have if you’ve been busy storing up your treasures there instead of here.

All that has form and breath will surely meet its destruction, in spite of the most intense efforts to preserve it. All souls who were made to be immortal will be placed in one tiny black, fiery box if they do not carry with them enough heavenly treasures to be deemed worthy of keeping.

Asking Jesus to save you is just the start. Being saved, the pinnacle for so many Christians, is really just the first step on the path. You are saved, but what kind of Christian footprint are you leaving behind you on this earth? Are you joining all of those warring Christians who seek vengeance upon their Muslim brothers? Do you harbor hatred for those who look different than you, speak differently than you do, and do not agree with your idea of what being a Christian should be? Are you spending your days lost in judgment of others, finding this easier than forgiveness?

Can you even tell the difference between how your heart feels when you judge a man for sinning than when you love him in spite of his sins and pray for him?

You can tell the difference, and yet you continue to return to your petty ways that approach wickedness itself.

There is, in fact, no womb for you now, no place of safety. Your only refuge is in the comfort of continuing to seek out the Love of Jesus that is supposed to reign in your heart.

…fully convinced that you haven’t woken up yet.

What is this? This can’t really be the life you planned for yourself after reading about the adventurer who lashed together a boat made of papyrus, and sailed around the world. What about all of the stories of space travel to distant worlds, where families boarded ships and arrived on exotic planet playgrounds as if they were hopping a plane to Mexico?

You work in an office.

You’ve worked in the office for almost fifteen years of your life, and every year that goes by, you imagine will be the year that you land a job where you can travel internationally every other month, spending almost all of your time outside of the office, meeting with prospects or clients, making deals, solving problems.

Then, you’re back into another rut, nowhere kind of job, stunning your colleagues with your epic silence and shyness.

You surely must be sleeping, even still, after almost fifteen years of being out of school. This is like a dream within a dream, like in that movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. You age, time passes, but then one morning you wake up young again, refreshed, ready to stop daydreaming through the daily office crush.

…in isolation, on a cold floor or in a warm bed.

You don’t fully understand much of anything that has happened to you. You don’t grasp where you came from, or where you’re headed. You don’t even have an inkling of why you were put on this earth. Life is simple and clear when you are away from others. Elders in your life love to complicate things for you. They insinuate that there must be something wrong with you for not having found a mate yet, but then they are quick to say that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you–you’re perfectly fine and should be perfectly capable of finding a mate, so what’s wrong with you?

You find utter peace among literature and jazz music on these Christmas holiday breaks up in your room where you used to plunk away at the guitar and listen to heavy metal. The world of pressure to figure out why you’re still a virgin, and why you aren’t amassing large collections of alternative friends who fly to Europe every chance they get–this pressure is immense. Your parents wonder why you aren’t hitting milestones, your friends ask the same of you. You know something is wrong with you, but you are terrified to go to therapy. “Go get help, then if there’s something wrong with you,” your dad snarls.

Your parents send you down to your Aunt and Uncle’s house in Austin. The three of you take a road trip to South Padre Island in the dead of winter, on the coldest day of the year there, where it is 180 degrees away from being a beach babe kind of place. You are harped on constantly. Every word that comes out of your mouth is critiqued for being inappropriate. When you stop talking, your silent behavior is critiqued, because you aren’t participating in the conversation and showing how much you are enjoying their largess. Then, you are hammered for not thanking them enough. For every mile that they drive you up and down the coast, you are supposed to verbally give them thanks for the extra money they are spending on gas to pull your weight. They insist on paying for all of your meals, but you need to thank them profusely–once or twice is not enough.

Back at school, you really don’t feel like drinking anymore. But, your sidekick Jerry starts harping on you and making fun of you for reading your Buddhist books, and demands that you go with him to get beer every night. You aren’t twenty-one yet, so when you strike out at the grocery store counter, you go over to your older friend Sherry’s house, where you must smoke a bowl, and listen to Jerry and Sherry discuss bands that you could care less about, then stop and visit Sherry’s neighbor who lays into you and ridicules you for your bad grammar. Sherry’s neighbor has a clear distaste for college boys, you pick it up immediately, and endure this humiliation because you aren’t in your right mind.

Jerry leaves, and somehow you end up waking up on Sherry’s floor. You have to wait for three hours for her to get up to drive you home, and contemplate walking the ten miles or so to get back home yourself. When you finally do get back to your apartment, you grab the cheap Huffy mountain bike your landlord gave you, and take it out on the MKT trail. It’s a vastly rewarding experience in comparison to anything else you’ve done since being yanked from your happy cuccoon of boyhood bed and Charles Dickens.

You begin to master lucid dreaming, and start to feel again as if you have control over your life. This will last for some years to come, until you are finally spat out into an environment where you truly think you can have the collegiate social experiences you never had because you were so shy and socially retarded. Of course, not much has changed about you, and those people will all pretty much reject you the same way most people have done since you were quite young.

One day, you wake up married, living away from any city of fortune, and only marginally interested in literature. In fact, there really is very little that you seem capable of getting passionate about, having gotten burned so many times by dreams seeded by such passions that ended in empty, aching solitude on the floors of friends of friends, waiting for them to wake up and drive you home.

…changed, but you never changed in dreams.

Dreams, fluid and amorphous, surreal and illogical, nonlinear and full of lies. Reality, hard and straight, you wake up to the same time and place you fell asleep in, as badly as you might want to time travel like a character in a Vonnegut novel. You used to place great stock in your dreams, but now you hardly give them a minute’s notice upon waking. The faces are all wrong–even your own face changes in the mirrors of dreams.

But, you–you don’t change at all. No matter what kind of terrible thing comes at you in a dream, you are this constant, unchanging entity. Yet, you could hardly say the same thing about the you of this waking life. You get around some testosterone-charged, charismatic male who’s five inches taller than you, and you become a simpering sycophantic little boy. You open up and go nuts around people you trust, to the point of scaring most of them off. You become a monster if deprived of dinner.

No matter how badly you might want to be someone else, to escape for awhile into the life of another man (or woman, or child, or animal, or plant, or…), you really were just you in every single dream. Anyone who came upon you, no matter how much you tried to convince yourself that you were someone else, that person could easily recognize you and identify you.

While people who knew you when you were eighteen could probably easily identify you today, you suspect that total strangers catching but a quick video clip of one of you, than the other, may not be able to make the connection. And, the two of you side by side might seem no more alike than a father and son, if that.

…and it’s a day you must be out among the mess.

Life needn’t be perfect, you know. You’ve long since stopped expecting it to be so. But, does it need to be so damn messy?

Why must people constantly complicate things where no complication could possibly make things better?

A funny thing is about to happen to you. The next morning you wake up, the last of your dying urges will cease to have a pulse. All the things you sought to make you be somebody were the things that made you twisted up inside, until you couldn’t see which way the surface was. You couldn’t have held your breath much longer.

Of all the days that you woke up saying that you’d killed all of your addictions, pathologies, neuroses, vices and unsavory habits, you will know that tomorrow is the one true day.

Of course, you hardly killed them of your own volition.

Mostly, your flesh stopped being young and full of lust, eliminating well over half of the demons that used to come to life at the merest sight of a sexually charged image.

You discovered your true sense of mortality, you knew you weren’t going to die young. Most self-destructive behavior carried out in the name of easy pleasure becomes a chore once you’ve resigned to the fact that you will indeed be among the aged when you die.

These demons finally could not convincingly offer one single proof that they could provide you with something better than what you have in the real, true life, being lived by a real, true man, married to a real, true woman, reaping the benefits of a real, true faith.