…humbled yet again.

For you, pride always does go before a fall. Every single time. No exceptions.

For you, the lusting after the slightest praise or flattery comes naturally. You have to be on guard against it at all times. The kneejerk comparison to anyone and everyone — am I doing better or worse than he or she? At least I’m not that person. That person over there probably cheated to get where she is. At least I didn’t cheat.

Every job has this arc about it, and little micro-arcs within each workweek that mirror the bigger arc. You arrive terrified that you’ve gotten in way over your head, that you will sink long before you can start to swim. Then, you start making some progress, and scoring some big wins for your big head. You begin to think you could and should be doing the job everyone around you, because you could clearly do it better. Doesn’t matter if it’s an administrative assistant manning a phone and entering data into a spreadsheet, or the CEO–you have better ideas and better approaches to do their jobs better than they do.

Then, you screw something up. You are shown up by someone in the room who is smarter than you. You are made to realize that the slight praise and flattery from last week was simply fodder to keep you happily schlepping away in the trenches, and keep your nose out of the business of the big dogs. This makes you very depressed. You begin to tell yourself that you can do absolutely nothing right, that even the lowliest mailroom clerk could do your job better than you. You start to think every whispery conversation in the office taking place out of earshot is a conversation among people bent on coming up with enough ammo to fire you.

Then, you snap out of it, and realize that everyone around you is doing something wonderful, is contributing, and that people who climb up the ladder actually want with all their hearts and think about every day the ways they can move up in the system by playing the rules and knowing when to break them. Some of these people are perfectly legitimate, and there’s nothing unethical or immoral about their quests, and some really are cheats. But, most of the time, you can’t tell the difference unless you get to know them intimately.

…but, where did your appetites go?

You took everything that is good about life and dismissed it, because you were certain that you were worshipping false idols. But, little pieces remained. These grew and concentrated in the form of licentious behavior. Pockets of anger welled up at the slightest provocation. It was as if, instead of getting rid of lust, you simply compacted it into a narrow, laser focus of utter filth.

If you’d come from a rich dynasty, you might have found the resources to recover and go into politics. As hard as it is to believe, your life story and the life stories of so many of your contemporaries, is more like the story of Bush II than the other presidents you so admire.

At 30, Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas. He was full of adulterous sin, but he hewed to a steady course of seeking out and obtaining ever-expanding roles of importance. At 30, Bush II was finally ceasing the party life, finding Jesus, and getting married. Now, again, which President are you more like?

But, where did all your appetites go? Why don’t you want to read new novels, discover new music, and travel?

Maybe it’s because so many times, you thought such appetities must be part of some great path in which you would become a kind of Kung Fu Warrior of Culture.

…with no responsibilities today.

The dog is at the ex’s. Fortunately, you never had any kids with her. You’ve called in sick to work. You are free to do as you choose, at least with a few hundred dollars in the checking account, and about as much available on your credit cards. You could spend the day in quiet contemplation, fasting throughout the morning and afternoon, and then have a light supper of bread, tea and fruit. You could really get focused on what you need to do to change yourself to become the kind of person you’ve always wanted to be.

In your fantasies you always know what to say in any social situation. You have learned two other foreign languages, and finally got around to mastering the piano. You read GQ and Maxim, and follow the guidelines and tips they offer to men. You own a motorcycle and often rent a boat on the lake, inviting friends you met last night at the club out to get naked and drunk on the water. You travel to large, global cities and appreciate good art, food, music and wine. Your job is vaguely sales-related, but you are mostly charged with putting on dog and Powerpoint pony shows for admiring boardrooms, then waltzing away after they’ve cut you a check.

You have a robust selection of self help books and DVDs that you purchased from Half Price Books. You like the idea of reading The Art of War and The Prince to get wisdom for getting ahead–though you can’t really seem to get past the first few pages of these kinds of books, or even really sugary, motivational-speaker books written with tons of blockquotes and bullet points.

You put a guy’s movie into your desktop computer’s DVD player. You’ve been meaning to upgrade the CRT monitor, or buy a laptop, but you can’t afford these things yet. You certainly can’t afford a nice, flatscreen television, since you’ve ran up a lot of debt at clubs and restaurants. It’s 2002, so these nicer technologies are very expensive. You decide to watch a Mel Gibson buddy cop movie. After about 30 minutes, you go online to look at Ducati motorcycles and fantasize about operating a nice yellow one while wearing matching Italian racing leathers with some skinny model you met at a club. Then you masturbate.

After spending two hours cleaning all of the viruses and spyware off of your hard drive, you take a nap. Then, you call your friend Dean.

“Dean, let’s go downtown.”

“Okay, where are we going?”

“We could go get some wings.”

“We always go get wings, let’s go to a bar where we can drink beer and scotch, and shoot pool.”

“Or do karaoke.”

“Or do karaoke.”

You meet Dean at a bar where he used to work, and he carries on a conversation with the bartender, completely ignoring you.

You believe a girl is smiling at you from three stools over. You smile at her, and she smirks, then her boyfriend returns from the men’s room to drape himself over her with his back to you.

That’s when you realize that you’ve traveled back in time, and you are repeating a night that already happened. This was ten years ago. You tell Dean that you need to go home because you have a headache, and he makes fun of you, inviting the bartender to join in the derision.

“Drink more!” cries the bartender.

You turn and walk out the door. You find an ATM, then flag a cab, and find yourself back at your tiny studio with the leaky gas. You call your mom because it’s not that late, only about eight PM, and tell her how much you love her. She seems confused and worried that you might be mixed up in something terrible. Well, you are, but it isn’t anything that a grown man shouldn’t be able to get himself out of. If you were a little less drunk, you’d hop in your car and drive the fifty miles to see her, but think better of it.

You go online and find a nice little chapel nearby that is having a quiet, contemplative retreat this evening and walk over to this church. Nobody seems to mind that you’re there, but they don’t seem to really care, either.

As you join the others in reflecting on the awesomeness and wonderful holiness of Jesus, you drift out of this environment.

You wake up, and it is 2012 again.

You have a strange woman in your bed and you live in a strange home. A baby cries in the other room; and the woman, who knows your name, tells you that it’s your turn to go check on it. There is an iPhone on your nightstand that tells you where you are. You are in a large city in the Midwest. A trail of emails tells you that you are an Account Manager for a large, advertising agency.

The baby is a girl.

You have more of your hair than when you left 2012, and less of it is gray. You dive into the bathroom cabinets and drawers to see if your improved follicle condition is mostly due to artificial medicines and dyes, or if your slight change to the timeline caused you to stress less, and retain more rich, black hair. The former seems to be the case.

Reading through a series of journals on your laptop, you see that your mother still died about the same time, though she lived a little longer. Perhaps having a cleaner, more caring son gave her just a little more something to live for. Your dad still lives in Texas, and the dog you owned with your ex died about the same time.

The woman who was your wife when you first left 2012 became a stranger. After all, you would never have met her, having begun to clean your life up much sooner, and having become a member of a different church where you met the woman you are now married to. You look your
“first wife” up online, and see that she is doing the same work she was doing when you left her, and engaged to a different man that she met at your church.

You go back to sleep after calming the baby down, and your new wife puts her arm around you.

You wake up, and it’s 1993. Mickey Travinski is going to commit suicide today, and you will discover this when you show up at high school in your black, Chevy S-10 pickup truck. Priscilla Chernier, your first crush ever, is scheduled to work with you at Subway tonight. The small town of Murphy’s Falls feels like a pair of pants that are five sizes too small.

…afraid that you are completely helpless to change things, and you are right.

You do not change the world, and you never will. There is no precious combination of meeting the right people, studying the right texts, working the correct number of hours, living in the right cities. You are thinking of a path to prop your ego up in the eyes of man for a few decades before you are forgotten–such is Satan’s seductive song for how to obtain immortality.

You don’t make the world a better place. You might want to cease this kind of thinking, and let God take over. God, working through you, will change things.

You can’t allow yourself to become frustrated about current events. Your own country refuses to help Syria, for fear of political retaliation from Russia and fear of inciting Iran. Your own country has been largely ineffective at keeping its southern neighbor from turning into a complete, drug lord-controlled state, allowing countless drugs and gangs to overrun its borders. In short, people who wield the most power on this earth are pretty ineffectual–what makes you think you can write some politician a letter or cast a vote to get things changed?

You can, however, learn to pray more consistently and effectively. After all, if you are going to count yourself among the faithful, you should be doing a better job of learning to have faith in the power of prayer. Which, you still don’t, really. You can, with little hesitation these days, conceptualize the existence of and need for a personal savior, which is great, but you haven’t gotten much past that.

You stopped reading the news with the same voracity as before. You felt like such activity was a waste of time. You also felt a little guilty for being this tourist of human suffering, allowing your heart to ache a little bit, and say “that’s terrible, but thank God it’s not me, I’m counting my own blessings in a self-congratulatory sort of way.”

The sad irony of human endeavor is that you are provided this life as a gift to spend a lot of time (if it is time used wisely) working through all of the things that are mucked up about your soul, but you use the time the same way you consume everything else–skim it, gobble it down, spit it out, toss it. Your will toward an illusory immortality sees you spending microbursts of time on this or that project before abandoning it for fear that it simply won’t be enough to secure your name for history.

In short, you go through life throwing away your gift of life in a fruitless search for what you think will be a much better gift.

You say “I would have time for activities like prayer and contemplation if I had a much longer life. If I can only obtain immortality, or at least hold out until science enables life to be prolonged for 100s of years longer, then I will sit down and discipline myself to do those kinds of things.”

But the truth is, activities like prayer and contemplation bore you. When you are blessed with a block of time to do these things and nothing else, you probably end up watching television, reading a book, or taking a nap.

You do have some small hope for yourself, though. You are finally starting to understand the potency of the Cross. The Cross is not just a tool to ward off vampires and wear as an accessory. When those demons of vice and anger rise up in your head, you imagine a cross of coals burning with the Holy Spirit purging those unwanted thought patterns. When you feel illness coming on, you apply the Cross in much the same way. When you read about Evil running rampant in the world, you imagine your burning cross coming to those sites of despair.

…from yet another dream where you had yet to graduate.

Buried in the darkest memories of your schooldays are some truths that run even deeper than any lesson life among classmates might have taught you. You need these truths to be brought forth to the light, but you are not exactly sure how to accomplish this, or even what these truths are. There used to be this aching sense that most of your classmates knew things that you didn’t, from being raised by parents who let them watch movies like Rambo and Poltergeist. You were pretty certain that the truths were all about becoming a social being that you were not. If you simply rented enough movies that were forbidden in childhood then you might become every bit as adjusted to modern society as anyone else.

These dreams seem to be telling you something else, though. You are generally in a situation where you’ve either slept through most of your classes, and have to pass a final exam, or you’ve been forced to go back to school as an older man who hadn’t actually qualified to graduate. Of course, there must be some deeper metaphor here, beyond anything literal you could think of. Even today, you are certain you could take a GED and a GRE exam, and do well enough at both to convince the world that you know as much as the next fellow. And, now, you no longer belief that the piece of knowledge or wisdom that is missing has to do with a lack of social skills, though that may be part of it.

You have yet to graduate from the state of being sub- or proto-human.

A fully realized human being must know death keenly, which you do. He should also have successfully raised a family, which you haven’t. What’s more, he should have reached a place of deeply abiding empathy and compassion for others, and work long and hard to understand what it’s like to walk in the shoes of the offending party before jumping to any conclusions and reacting with judgement and vengeance.

As long as you stand outside the realm of this humanity that is immersed completely in its sorrows and hopelessness, you remain a proto-human, a sprite, a nymph if you well–just a Peter Pan, fairy spirit dancing on the heads of those who are continually dying.

In a moment of profound shock, you realized that in spite of having re-invited Jesus into your heart, and begging for forgiveness of your sins, you have never given your soul completely over to him. You’ve clung greedily to your soul, which is a good thing in many respects, as this approach kept you from handing your soul over to mammon and the world. But, you forgot to stop clutching once you were in a safe place, and all of your latent sinful nature naturally continued to spin your soul off into moments of rebelliousness even as you sought to walk the straight and narrow.

But there was more that you had left to do in order for you to graduate and become a fully realized human being. You still wanted badly to believe that even though you were human like everyone else, you were still extra-special–annointed and appointed before birth to lead a chosen people and hand out decrees and prophecies like Moses or Jeremiah. Believing such, you put your head down and fought to avoid making eye contact with the common masses that you passed inside the grocery store. Maybe some of these people were ones who would one day call you their leader, but instead of making you more desirous of getting on their wavelength and sending them radiant love, it caused you to place yourself above them and outside of them–continually smirking at their slowness and uninteresting lives.

You’ve long had this notion of returning to school to get an advanced degree. This has been there inside of you pretty much since the day you left college with your Bachelor of Arts in English. But, inherently you knew that it wasn’t so much the need for an advanced degree, as the need to grab a hold of whatever is missing and master it–that need is what keeps you thinking about going back to school. Of course, no law degree or MBA is likely to give you the kind of satisfaction you are looking for. What you are really craving is for God and life to teach you your next lesson–and, for it to come bittersweetly like the plot of a good movie. You want it to make you cry, and propel you into stratospheres of people who speak quickly and travel internationally a lot. Because you’ve never taken the time to set a definite goal about who you would be in a myriad of complex social situations, and what you would actually be learning, you haven’t done much growing and haven’t seen many opportunities that would get you there.

Having just this vague idea of living in a big city doing someting important among the elites of the world, and traveling a lot from this big city to other big cities around the world–that’s quite obviously not enough, even though it seems to always be enough when you are drifting off to sleep. So, you’ve never asked yourself in concrete, practical terms what it would take to change your behavior to see radically different outcomes when speaking to others, and most importantly, you’ve never asked what exactly should you aspire to be doing that you could commence the requisite schoolwork and/or schmoozing to achieve it?

Having a vision of who you are–a vision that sets you apart from all the ways in which you fall short of becoming someone great–this is a great thing to have. Having a crystal clear vision of being someone other than just another office schmuck who grows fat and old in an average town with his quiet, little family–this is important. But, the vision is never enough. If you can’t work for even one hour on a weekend day to move yourself closer to the vision, how can you possibly ever change?

New framework

The new framework must include what was successful in the old, without bringing in what was toxic from the old.

What was successful from the old?

Good
Refusing to fight back–vengeance is mine saith the Lord
Toxic
Allowing any sense of slight remain buried under the surface

Good
Clearing the mind of attachments to both physical and psychical connections
Toxic
Having no clear path for handling what happens when stresses of daily living come flooding back in–not tying the practice to anything other than a sense of nihilism.

Good
Practicing a meditative chanting to free-associate love of any given soul.
Toxic
Not deeply understanding that all true Love comes only from the Father, and becoming demonic when the flood of Love goes away, and others do not love you back.

Good
Open to the Universe
Toxic
Being gullible

Good
Holding firm the need to stay on some type of physical conditioning program
Bad
Living for health rather than understanding that health programs are there to keep you living and living at your most mentally resourceful

Good
Maintaining a strong curiosity for the world around you
Toxic
Loving the world and forgetting God, letting love of certain things like alcohol become the paramount rather than one of many things that make it great to be alive

Good
Saving money
Toxic
Not knowing what the value is of saving money. Not understanding how to create wealth or handle credit

——————

Non-existent from the past that need to be incorporated into daily living:

Appreciating the gift of life and health that God has given you.
Setting aside large blocks of time to pray for others, pray for the healing of humanity.
Maintaining a keen and steady eye on those triggers which send you into a downward spiral of licentiousness or depression.

Always maintaining a faith that God knows what he’s doing, even when life would indicate otherwise–or at least that he’s abandoned you.

Using only prayer, meditation and physical exercise to maintain an equilibrium. Drugs to wake up, and drugs to sleep become rare and used only in exceptional cases.

Refusing to allow any semblance of ego or will toward power over others be injected into self-improvement activities.

Refusing to react to scowling, judgmental faces which are in all likelihood simply reacting to you.

Going deeper and deeper in contemplation and forming connections with the Lord for its own sake, rather than getting caught up on novel, mystical sights and sounds that appear during the practice of meditation.

…and you need a tonic, balm or salve to put upon these old wounds.

It needs to heal them completely. You must go deeper than you’ve ever gone before to find the remedy. There are demons keeping you from going deeper, but you have to get past them and keep on going. There are the ones who try to get you aroused and excited yet again by the Image, sending your mind off darting about without anything of true value to land on and take hold of. Then there are the demons who simply offer up the illusion of an abyss: there’s nothing down here, it’s all blackness and Void, you’ve gone as far as you can go. But none of them hold power and dominion over you. And now, you know better.

Past the places where your parents landed, and the resting spots you landed upon while in college. Go deeper through the myriad of tantalizing systems of belief and spinners of webs of little truths.

In your heart of hearts you’ve still not gone far enough. Go deeper.

Don’t use words just because they appear in your head, but wait until they’ve bubbled up through purifying channels–wait until you are certain of their Source.

Love the slow and the dumb first, for they are far deeper than you are, and have been waiting much longer to hear the right Truth to speak. Love the quick and the clever last, for they are in love with only things that go up in flames.

At this point you have a memory of two dreams from last night.

A group of college fraternity brothers have decided to burn one of their members on a pyre, tying him to a cross and erecting it. You have seen the future of this evil activity that got completely out of hand. There was no sense of remorse or compassion or humanity. These frat boys simply decided that one of their own wasn’t cutting it, and thought it would be fun to see the poor soul go up in flames. Since you’ve seen the future, you suddenly realize you can stop it. You insert yourself into the situation as a police officer, and begin arresting them. Your head and heart are full of anger, and you force two of the fraternity brothers who were helping build the pyre to get into a mock homosexual position a la Abu Ghraib. The ringleader, though, resists your attempts to arrest him. He seems mildly dejected that his fun has been broken up, but has no sense of guilt whatsoever.

Then, you had this dream where you kept seeing the future of a university library as it would look flooded underwater after some great climactic change. This vision kept alternating back and forth with the present, and then all of a sudden you were in the library in the present, and everyone witnesses just a snippet of the future onslaught of flood in reverse–like a reverse slow-motion film. They are for an instant neck deep in water, and then the floods immediately retreat, and the library is completely dry. Some kind of ubersoul is in the library observing what unfolds as if he, too, knows the future and is there to observe and report to some higher chain of command. He exits purposefully while the rest of the library’s population run about in panicked chaos.

In one dream, humanity was using fire to destroy humanity, completely divorced from its own conscience. In the other one, water brought on by humanity’s destruction of the global ecosystem, was destroying humanity’s own collective knowledge and wisdom. In each dream there seemed to be an opportunity to prevent the destruction, but using violence didn’t appear to be the answer.