Today is June 30, 2013

Today is June 30, 2013. I am sitting on the back deck of my new home in Waco. In spite of the temperatures now reaching 100 deg on a daily basis, the mornings are cool, and it’s actually slightly cooler out here than in the den. I made a significant decision yesterday, and it was the culmination of the keeping of a promise. I’d made the promise to myself some three years ago, when I started my final blog, an experiment in mostly prose writing that consisted of me developing a mixture of fictional characters and myself, all written in the second person, mostly present tense. I put the blog directly on wordpress.com, somehow thinking I would get more visibility for it that way. Unless I tagged and categorized my entries heavily, and wrote frequently–like three times a day–I simply saw no traffic come my way. I know I wasn’t doing everything I could do to get traffic, but I expected there to be a spark of some kind.

In the past three years, I’ve switched jobs three times, gotten engaged and married, moved to Waco, traveled to Rome, San Francisco, New York, Mexico and Orlando–and spent the better part of the year commuting to Austin part time. The amount of change that has taken place over this period of time is probably the most significant amount of change leading to personal growth and development that I’ve witnessed since I was a child–and maybe the most ever.

I certainly didn’t want yesterday to be the end of me writing. I don’t think that could ever happen completely. I benefit too much from being able to collect my thoughts and see them in front of me in ways that give me the opportunity to parse the truth from the bullshit. But one thing is for certain: my inherent belief that I would make a career out of writing is dead. I will probably never write personally or creatively for public consumption again.

How long will my three years’ worth of writing stay online before I take it down? Assuming I do have a say in the matter, and WordPress doesn’t remove me due to inactivity, I expect I will probably leave it up there for three more years. That will give archival robots plenty of time to do their thing, and maybe one day some data archaeologist who is sifting through the mess of content we’ve created during these decades might proclaim some of my work to be worth reading by humans.

I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not I am being a responsible Christian by leaving some of the passages up there. Do I still want people to believe in reincarnation? Do I?

I don’t know. I kind of put all of my more mystical tendencies into the same category as my creative writing–a lot of activity to make me feel good with nothing there to really shape or grow me into something better.

I am also certainly not the least bit naive to think that just because I’ve made this significant decision to no longer see myself as having potential to become a professional writer, I am also going to be successful in abandoning some of my lingering vices and habits that I’ve never been proud of and never really shared with anyone. The best I can hope for is that I will have more time to stay focused on the goals I’m setting for myself to get a math degree and start and raise a family.

I think that there will always be this longing for life to be more than it really is, because I want to believe that when I wake up and see what is my own, that there can be more to it all than this. I don’t exactly know what more should be. More travel? More intelligence? More of a relationship with God?

I can only say that I’m not satisfied with where I see the world headed, at least the world I know. I do think that we as a nation, and our western culture in general, are getting dumber in a lot of ways. We’re more sophisticated and intelligent when it comes to accepting certain technologies in our lives, but they are really black boxes to most of us. Those of us with parents who understood the inner workings of computers and radios when they had vacuum tubes can explain how the same principles have been reduced to the nanoscale. And, we can always go on Wikipedia to derive a theoretical understanding of how our technologies work, but how many of us do that?

For me, it’s really just a matter of wishing more people spent less time with sports and reality television–all things pop culture in general. Even if you are just turning off the tv to read a spy novel–that’s probably more than what most people end up doing. I can’t tell you how many times I find myself sitting at tables with pretty intelligent-seeming people who end up confessing a love of sports or reality tv. The ones that don’t inevitably reveal an obsession with some band that is playing music no more innovative than what the Beatles and Stones had derived from American blues and R&B.

For me, the idea of wasting at least one night a week watching giant men run up and down a wood-floor trying to steal a ball away from each other to put it into a tall ring and net–it’s ludicrous. And, why the obsession over something you can never be a part of, except as a fan? At least with all my math and physics books for the layman I obtain some new information about the way the universe works. What does the game and sport in general actually provide for you?

It’s frightening to me, because it almost seems as if some invisible, evil ruler is warping us and controlling us to become like the society of Idiocracy. Even those of us who try to break away from it and rise above it or at least stay on the outside of it find ourselves struggling to keep our minds from turning to mush or having our atttention spans seek out quick, cheap entertainment of some kind.

I am of the opinion that 95% of our population can improve their minds–they can increase their intellectual curiosity, they can improve their reading and math skills, and they can develop basic computer skills that are in demand so that they don’t ever have to be unemployed. I think that only probably 15-20% of us continue to learn for its own sake. There are probably twice than many of us who learn new things to show off the fact that they are learning new things, or they are trying to stay competitive in their jobs. But, without those driving factors, chances are, you are not going to open a book or attempt to learn a new skill.

I really don’t know what the answer to changing this is, except maybe to continue to try to not fall into that category of being a reactive, un-self-motivated learner.

In the short time that I’ve regularly had cable television, I can say with a lot of confidence that the quality of programming has gone downhill. The channels like Discovery, National Geographic, TLC, History, Animal Planet–at one time, they seemed to have mostly shows that provided science and history education for the average dumb American with maybe a few semesters of college. But, I guess they had too much success with their octomoms and fat bratty kid reality shows, that they decided to milk that for all it’s worth. This would seem to indicate that people really do want moronic television, and not education television, but I’m not so sure. I think people want to escape and have their pleasure centers hit. We all do.

The problem then becomes one of trying to develop an ability to delay gratification and work for a bigger, yet-unseen payoff. That takes a lot of effort. If you aren’t willing to mentally stand up on your own two feet and try to be a grownup, then the people who make money off of you are more than happy to let you stay lying down, taking it.

…and it’s the first day of summer for your mortality.

You slept in late this morning, all the way to 6:30 AM. That’s late for you these days, because for whatever reason, you’ve been getting up earlier and earlier as each weekday progresses. Then, Saturday comes, and it’s 6:30 AM before your bladder drives you out of bed. Yesterday morning, you were up at 3:30 AM, and tried to get back to sleep, but you knew it was going to be a wasted effort.

You feel as if you’d been up half the night drinking beer, writing songs, but you weren’t. You didn’t have a drop of alcohol last night, though you’re not afraid to drink when you want to, within reason. You never believed all the bull about alcoholism, and how often it was rammed down your throat by well-meaning girlfriends, parents and therapists.

If you were inclined to be the kind of man you were throughout these past years, you’d spend a fair amount of time meditating on how you wasted some of your best years stuck in Austin drinking and writing nonsense in the hopes that you’d have a breakthrough in writing style that would become the definitive American novel for your generation the way that Jack Kerouac’s was for his. You’d talk about how those better years could have been spent doing math or physics or at least engineering or chemistry.

You might draw upon the sight you see in the mirror: your white hairs doing battle with your bald patch, in a race to see who gets to cover your head first. Every single one of those white hairs represents a shock that the world or you put to your system. Each one is a reminder to you that you were given a gift, and the gift is rare and small. Before you know it, it will all be over.

Today marks a day of anniversaries, and you know that anniversaries happen all the time, but a lot of them happen in the month of June for you. Three years ago, you started this quest to write obsessively in the second person, mostly present tense, and write while speaking the voices of an endless string of characters. Of course, it’s easier to thinly veil yourself with pseudo-fiction than to continue to develop people who never existed but are completely believable. Writing real fiction takes an enormous effort. You can’t just say whatever pops into your head. You can’t just step into a story journey, and let it lead you where it will, thinking you will be able to keep track of all the characters you create along the way. Before you know it, you are thinking Kelly was Rachel, and Kevin was Koheleth, but you are too lazy to go back and fix any of it.

Fourteen years ago, you began your first real job outside of college at Ahmis, driving the old family Tempo up and down Mopac or Manchaca in the sweltering Austin heat, back and forth from downtown to your happy little duplex nestled in a part of Austin that is now just as overgrown with chain restaurants and houses as Northwest Austin was at the time. You were going to have an epic life, but first, one more round of drinks into the blender. One more night of booze and experimentation with any substances you could get your hands on. Then, you’d quit smoking and drinking and start a vicious exercise regime that included dragging the poor sad Husky dog out to run with you every single morning and evening, and hitting Barton Springs pool every day, too.

Even then, you knew you still loved math. You were still excited about all of the strange new ideas Professor Thatcher had provided in a late PoliSci class—chaos theory, artificial life, game theory. You’d attended the movie Pi in an arthouse while still living in Kansas City not even a year before. You watched a show about the solving of Fermat’s Last Theorem. So, because you went into Book People almost every day when buying your turbo hummus wrap at Whole Foods, you began to obsess over math books and books on the Kabbalah. You thought that you could find some magical entrance point to understanding math that would not require you to have to pick up where you left off: a D in freshman pre-calc that you decided was the sign you weren’t meant to study the hard sciences.

You bought giant tomes that were supposed to give the layman a survey of all the math branches. You read as many popular books as you could about Euler, Fermat, Riemann, Gauss. You were blown away by the Cryptonomican, and bought books on Cryptography for dummies. You read a book about Erdos and loved it, thinking it would be awesome to be this monkish sort of professor dude who does nothing but thinks about numbers, leaving care and maintenance of himself to others.

But, instead of pausing to ask yourself that if given the right amount of self-discipline you could return to school and learn math properly, you continued to cherish the notion that God put you on this earth to write. And, your writing got a little better. You can survey what you wrote in 1998, 2003, or even 2010, and see some margin of improvement. But, any flashes of brilliance you were going to have to make you the next Jack Kerouac had come and gone by the time you were 34.

So, you’ve read all the stories of mathematicians doing their greatest work before they turned 22. You have no designs to ever accomplish anything in this life that will gain wide notice, with the exception of maybe producing children that aren’t as foolish and stupid as you were–children who will apply themselves and study during the years they need to the most. But, you aren’t counting on it. If they inherit your wife’s genetic predilection for studying, maybe. You have no great ambition to prove a great theorem or discover a whole new area of research. You just want to be able to appreciate math more than a superfan–like some guy who’s like all the short, fat dudes out there who love to watch hours of college and NBA hoops, but can barely make a basket.

You already find yourself thinking more crisply and putting forth better constructed arguments in the workplace that seem to be to your ears more persuasive because of their logical richness rather than their emotional content. You don’t waste your time much anymore in endless, insane marketing discussions where personalities and feeling run rampant, and common sense and hard data are innocent bystanders to be sacrificed if they get in the way.

You know that you will benefit from this new journey, no matter where it leads you. You’ve been trained to accept the usual head-scratching of people who don’t get it when you zig while they were expecting a zag. You’ve thoroughly vetted the quest to be the next Gandhi or MLK–it’s just not in you. You’re going to be lucky to die a thoroughly decent man without all the lingering habits and vices that persist within you.

You could say that you began this blog in the springtime of your mortality. Some people never have much of a mortality, and some people are practically born with one.

Your mortality comes that day that you cross this event horizon where you go from understanding death in some abstract, theoretical way, and thinking you are going to be the one who cheats it and lives forever–to being one who knows for certain that your life is finite.

The best example we have today of people denying their mortality are these hipster kids who continue to live as if they are still in college well into their forties. Some of them live this way until they find they have no twentysomething friends who return their calls to party with them. Some people live the spring, summer, fall and winter of their mortality all within the span of a few short years.

People who have children are often spared from getting stuck in that arrested stage of development that sociologists will eventually come up with a name for. (Since these adult-children surely aren’t full grown-ups, but they aren’t teenagers, either.) Of course, people who fight in wars or go through some other extremely difficult, traumatic series of experiences are almost always prone to rapidly lose any lingering will to keep believing they’ll live forever.

The rest of us kill our false immortalities by way of a million little cuts, occasionally getting a rather big one to help us along, but never seeing much in life that could be described as truly brutal and evil, unless it’s on television.

Your theory on why there seems sometimes to have been so many more giant minds come forth in our past history has nothing to do with men like Gauss having been endowed with genetically more intelligence than us–but, it has everything to do with these individuals being born into much more brutal environments, where the sense of urgency to accomplish something young was ever-present. You have to have the right combination of wanting to accomplish something great with the mind and knowing that you will die sooner than later, in order for the work of a great genius to happen. If you get this combination too late in life (as you have), chances are, your mind is no longer pliant enough to welcome and foster new ideas, and you will be relegated to the role of records keeper or teacher. Which, is still an infinitely better role to play than that of Peter Pan.

Songs where the singer sings about the the night closing in, or autumn closing in are the kinds of songs that reach down deep into a well inside of you that could be described as your own personal sense of hell. One day, the lights will all shut off. They’ve already started to dim in ever-subtle ways–ways you only come upon as if rounding the corner in a strange new neighborhood and unexpectedly seeing stark poverty. You’ve used coffee to keep your mind on the sharp side since you were nineteen–drinking it almost every single day. You know its limits, and you can sense with each passing year, how it no longer makes you brilliant, it simply keeps your from being completely dull.

Once upon a time–well, for most of your life, actually–you had this tendency to run the other way when the room started to fill up with people smarter than you. Better to feel as if you were the smartest person in the room, rather than to ever attempt to leverage the brains of others to develop and grow. Now, you abhor any mention from people that gives you the impression they think you are the smartest person in the room. You know, from sticking your head back into half a dozen different college pre-calc textbooks, that you will probably be the dumbest person in the room the day you go back to school.

One day, when you are very old and have been given the gift of an extended life you don’t deserve, you might go back and trawl through everything you’ve written–from your first poem about the Challenger disaster, to today’s entry. You might have the presence of mind to judge your work so much more objectively than you’ve ever been able to. Depending on your state of mind, you’ve always declared everything you’ve written to be utter garbage or sheer genius, with little room in between. You know that in-between is exactly where you should land on the quality of your writing, but for whatever reason, you just can’t bring yourself to see it.

It’s funny, nobody knows how huge this day is but you.

For some reason, your mind keeps landing on a day in summer when you were probably 21 or 22, and you were home from college. Maybe today is the fifteenth anniversary of that day. Your family had gone mad for garage sale deals, and you were actually getting along with your family reasonably well. You came upon a house that was selling a box of sci-fi books, a box of records, steel-toed combat boots that were your size, and a full Brooks Brother’s suit. You have a clear memory of pulling Stephenson’s Snow Crash out of the sci-fi box. This was prior to his publishing of the Cryptonomicon, and you’d never heard of Stephenson. You can remember thinking that Snow Crash was a lame name for a sci-fi book, and pictured it to be an adventure on a snowy planet, badly ripping off scenes from Empire with Wampas. The man selling his junk could see that you were about his size, and tried to sell you the boots and the suit. You walked away with his records, and a record player he was selling, and left the books, the boots and the suit behind. Your dad bought the books, and you would read Snowcrash five years later.

Because you couldn’t find the right pre-amp technology to make the records play correctly on your speakers, you let them sit in their box and toted them around until a used record store proprietor told you that they were all junk. They were a bunch of poppy, sappy records from the seventies–that man’s connection to a bigger world that was more than just the tiny town north of Kansas City that he’d ended up in with a mortgage and a family.

Such are the choices you’ve made in life. You lay around in bed all day on a Saturday begging for God to show you some kind of a sign for what you’re supposed to do next, and then you ignore a million signs being flashed in your face for the sake of self-willing your soul down a path that really isn’t yours to take. You had a vision of one day living in Manhattan or Brooklyn with many more boxes of records like that one, along with thrift store clothing finds, doing drugs and making art, writing novels and schmoozing with Bohemian people. But, even a false vision of purpose requires a fair amount of work to bring to fruition–and that’s work you weren’t prepared to do.

You think today should require some kind of celebration, but you aren’t sure what that is. It could be a day where you go re-read your Tony Robbins and NLP books with an eye to developing your brain to be more receptive to math. Or, it could be a day where you finally finish Infinite Jest. Maybe the library has that book by Stephenson called Anathem you’ve been wanting to read. There’s still the biography of Feynman sitting on the shelf. Or, perhaps you need to get grounded again with God before embarking on your quest to reset your brain to being completely free of its free spirit.

At any rate, there’s still a lot of life left to be lived, or so you hope. The years of living through your immortality will never be described as quality time. Perhaps the summer of your mortality will be such time well spent, that the entire notion of living forever will be rendered completely absurd, but for good.

…on the eve of your persona shift.

There was this nerdy dude in your freshman pre-calc class named Wilson who had atrocious gingivitis. He thought the story of a fellow who programmed his TI-85 to play Tetris was very cool. He thought meeting girls in a chat room was cool. Wilson went to the math lab to get tutored when he struggled in class. You and your friends mocked Wilson, and thought he was the biggest dork. Wilson probably would have been your best college buddy, if you’d known yourself back then.

There was this girl, tall and scrawny with a red shock of hair. She knew your roommate’s best friend that first semester, and seemed to kind of like you. But, she looked more like a gangling boy than a girl. You figured as she was at least eighteen, she’d had plenty of time to grow out of whatever puberty had done to make her unattractive, and she was bound to look that way for life. She would have been a pretty cool chick to get to know, if you had taken the time to look past a few superficial things (that were no weirder than your odd-looking big head). You don’t remember her name, because you and your dorm buddies mocked her with a nickname you don’t care to repeat or remember, though you’ll remember her crude nickname until you die.

Eventually, you began to date girls who were in your league, and some of them were probably less attractive than the first semester redhead. But, it would take you over another decade to realize that you had zero cache as one of the cool kids. You don’t make people laugh when you are sitting at a table with coworkers. Your attempts at humor are met with silence. Nobody is ever sure if you are being serious or not, and most people probably think you are acting way too immature for your age, due to your premature gray hair and your Central Texas sun-dried face.

On the eve of your persona shift you are thinking about what it means to completely kill the jester and the magician inside of you. The clown will only come forth in the form of a weary, frayed mask that doesn’t last before your true persona comes blasting forth again. Your true persona is so far from anything that people of this generation could call lovable, that there’s not really any way to describe what it is. It isn’t the persona of an accountant or a soldier, but your old college buddies might think to compare it to one of these archetypes.

Your persona has been burned more than a little by playing the fool, and what’s more, you’ve come to recognize the fool in everyone around you–and just how badly everyone on television wants to remain an adolescent in some way or another. People in the real world seem to be more inclined to never grow up as well, though they seem to despise a man who overdoes it–perhaps because he illuminates the very thing they really are that they don’t want to face. Nobody wants to be told that they are to blame for why they can’t get ahead in life, for why they continually get screwed over and treated like a child. Nobody wants to be told that play time is over, and so the notion of being a grownup becomes an artful charade itself–a well-fitting mask that hides someone clinging to childhood things who is clinging because they are covering up their true nature–their core self’s will to evolve and become realized as the man or woman they were born to be.

With so many layers of deceit–and many more for some of us–it’s no wonder that so many people can’t figure out what they are supposed to be doing with their lives, and why they spend so much time in escapist activities, and time with therapists and prescription drugs.

You consider yourself lucky to have fought the good fight, no matter how painful it was to leave behind all the people you once called your friends–no matter how painful it now is to be so terrible at making new friends. Because, tomorrow, on the fourteenth anniversary of your first day at Ahmis, you will leave behind for good that persona you began to develop some twenty-five years ago in hopes of gaining a little cred with the so-called cool kids.

…still frightened by the world, but no longer moved by your fear.

You were frightened by the world, when you first learned about it. You didn’t want to admit this to anyone, because you saw what happened in high school to the boys who acted afraid of things. You would tell people that you were going to study abroad in a year or two, but you were still experiencing the culture shock of moving from a town of 2500 white people, to a college town of 35,000 people of mixed and diverse backgrounds. It was only a couple of years ago that you were given the freedom to drive your car to a movie theater and see whatever movie you wanted to. Prior to this, unless you were over at a friend’s house, you weren’t allowed to watch any movies made after 1962.

The frank, burgeoning sexuality of girls becoming women scared you. You’d somehow assumed that because you’d managed to successfully hang out with both boys and girls during your last two years of high school (and even got a girl to third base!), that you understood most of the protocol involved in moving the needle in the right direction toward the loss of your virginity. Almost every girl you met and liked seemed to be about ten years more mature than you, and she probably was.

How could you possibly expect to get from being in this state to getting up the nerve to get on a plane and fly to another country to engage with their culture? Your senses were overwhelmed when you and your best friend Jerry flew to New York City for a week. That might as well have been a trip to the moon.

Unfortunately, you never completely pulled yourself out of this state of allowing yourself to be cowed and overwhelmed by anything in your environment outside of your comfort zone. It wasn’t as if you tried to go back to living in a small town, and you certainly never wanted to go back and live in your own home town, but once you’d settled in somewhere, you were more inclined to stay within a five-mile radius of work, home, and your favorite four restaurants for Chinese, Mexican, Italian and American dining.

At one point in the history of your life, circa 2003, it got so bad that you were proud to have taken the dog up to a park in Northwest Austin, some eight miles away from your apartment in South Austin. You were know doubt in this state after having received a culture shock treatment from Karen Winthrop and the country of Jamaica some two years before. After that, and your smothering relationship with Vera, you were terrified of all people. At that park in Northwest Austin, you passed a homeless man suffering from a mental disorder, and he kept putting his hands up in a childlike defense of self when you walked by him. You could kind of relate. Your mind screamed to the world: please don’t hurt me, anymore.

Of course, the world was going to go on to hurt you many more times, and that’s what the world does. You can (and should) remove negative variables–those unnecessarily soul-sucking individuals and activities that don’t help you bear fruit. But, at the end of the day, you will always encounter new situations where you find yourself under attack by someone–no matter how invisible you hope to make yourself throughout the workday.

You haven’t derived any great coping mechanisms for this, yet, either. You’ve tended to just let your temper get the better of you, and put your fist through a wall, or chuck something across the room, when you come home from having dealt with someone in the office whose face you wanted to smash. You’ve tended to avoid people whose force fields you know will suck you in and try to change and control you, to get you off down a misguided path doing something you hate as a favor for them.

But, you’ve graduated from these natural, 12-year-old boy or Neanderthal kinds of reactions. You’ve learned how to make your personality as forceful as you can make it back at someone while staying in the bounds of being professional. You’ve learned how to pretend that you give a damn when your charismatic boss is putting out his force field, and wanting you to respond with enthusiasm.

In spite of this, the world still frightens you. You’ve removed those blinders on your eyes that used to make you believe that if you actually did ever make it out to LA or NYC to live, you’d fit right in with all of the celebrities on television. What you’ve come to accept is that most of the people on television are either normal, boring people, or they are mind-numbingly stupid people who are adored by virtue of looks/riches, and carry about force fields ten times as large as any you’ve known in your tiny little world.

The time has come, though, to stop hiding behind a wall of words–a warm, safe little nook of the private journal that nobody reads, but makes you feel better. The time has come to stop delivering every last little detail of how this or that person offended you today to your poor wife, and just let those things go, like a normal man should. The time has come to say goodbye to that right-brained, whiny boy inside of you who leaves his heart wide gaping open to whatever forces want to get in or out.

…with nothing but gratitude for being who you are, where you are, when you are.

You know that the feeling will fade once the day gets underway. Once you check your inbox, get in your car, and feel the first blast of summer heat while walking into the office. Then, you will be more inclined to wish you were more wealthy and better looking, so you can loaf and shop and completely do as you please throughout the day.

But, for now, the early summer morning air makes you delighted simply to be alive. You’ve survived a lot of moments in your life where you were not making any footprints of your own in the sand. Moments where you ingested as many chemicals as any celebrity in the past forty years who didn’t wake up from said chemical ingestion. Moments of letting your anger reach a pitch just beyond your control that could have seen you hurting someone or having someone hurt you irreparably.

You were born in a time and place where most diseases that have plagued mankind have been eradicated. The ones that haven’t been removed are mostly ones you’ve managed to avoid by being such a social misfit that you were unable to get some stranger to sleep with you. You can’t stand your culture, but you can live with it. You would have probably been better fit to live and thrive in the 1950s, that magical era following the Great Depression and WWII, but prior to Vietnam and all the chaotic Baby Boomer noise.

But, it’s not as if anyone is forcing you to watch mindless television in all its flavors. Nobody is making you become a sports or pop culture zombie, slipping into some sub-human state of consciousness to blather about the game or a new song or movie. You can read books on aerospace engineering any time you like, just like everyone else in this town. The local university library is open all the time for most anyone to walk through the doors and browse the stacks. Granted, if you look like you’re going to defecate on the floor or cook meth inside the building when you walk in, they will probably escort you out–but, there are plenty of normal-looking average joes and janes running around who are probably at the Little League park or getting on a motorboat this morning, but would be welcome here if they decided to explore all that Shelley and Keats have to offer.

The morning is crisp, cool and pregnant with the kind of heat that only someone under the age of 25 can really love. Which is why if you see anyone over 25 out in this heat after 10 AM, they will be getting paid to be out here, or standing in or near water with a drink in their hands. The morning brings back hints of memories of a time when summer meant something more than the hottest time of year. It makes you want with all of your soul to have little ones around who can be the unwitting recipients of all the attempts you’ll make to pass on what you like about being alive and human.

To be 37 and have your health, and not be so grossly overweight that you’ll be fighting a gut the rest of your life–that is something to be thankful for. To have survived all of these brutal decades where you struggled against God and your own true nature–this isn’t a thing to be taken lightly. To see that you can still move about in America, traveling and camping without worrying about police checkpoints or moving through zones devastated by bombs or disease–this could be described as a miracle.

In many ways, you have it better than a man your age living in the fifties did. He was probably a survivor of WWII, polio, smallpox, the Great Depression, etc. A man your age in the fifties likely felt more compelled to be roped in to whatever local club of unthinking men there happened to be. A man back then had to act and dress a certain way, because the Baby Boomers hadn’t come along and liberated us all from having such tight standards over how and who we were supposed to be in our neatly drawn lines of gender roles. A man your age in the fifties, with your dim eyesight and lack of mechanical aptitude, was probably an insurance salesman or high school English teacher, without any more specific college education than a BA in English. Of course, there were exceptions to the average, but you don’t seem to be much of an exception–your arc of existence seems to be one of God trying with all of his might to keep you focused on a path of just being a good man.

Perhaps the next thing you are going to attempt to write after this blog is finished, if you bother to write at all, will be a kind of manifesto of sorts for how you would like a perfect world to look. After all, the American man who inherited the world in 1945 didn’t leave his kids with all of the answers, and they surely haven’t left their children with a perfect way of being. Somewhere between the archetype of the Navy Admiral and his iconic rock n’ roll burnout of a son, there is a way of being that could make sense for most of us who are ready to be better than what our endless parade of bad reality television says we can be.

…all achy and burnt.

You are dreaming about the new job now, so there’s that. It was bound to happen, with your boss being a someone who possesses a charismatic personality, and you being given over to thinking about work too much. Dreams of enthusiastically selling the company product to random strangers mix with dreams of your boss serving soft serve ice cream at a charity event.

You went and helped some people yesterday. This made you feel less like an outsider to this area. You took a rake and combed through rubble, catching toxic odors beneath the simple mask that stood between you and a certain hacking sort of death. You thought that this must be what it’s like for people in poor areas who sift through garbage. It’s like what those who cleaned up after 9/11 must have felt like on a much larger scale. The bomb that went off in this town had rendered neighborhoods into eerie nightmares of buildings that looked like toys abandoned by a giant, cruel child.

You thought about how you’d managed to participate in small ways as a volunteer in connection with the last three big disasters to hit this state–fielding calls from folks being pounded by a hurricane, helping rebuild a house destroyed by wildfires, and now this odd, unnatural disaster. In all of them, people seemed completely incapable of knowing where that line was–the line between human empowerment to do something or human responsibility for something terrible, and the moment to let God take over and help heal that which was destroyed.

You wonder if people even have it right with God at all. People who would proclaim without hesitation that some disaster was visited upon another city due to God’s punishment of immorality are the same people who now have to search their souls for why something terrible happened to them.

But, the smug humanists don’t seem to have it right, either. When the endlessly religious and superstitious stop talking and get to work, they seem to be possessed of a fervor to make things right that the sterile humanists don’t have.

There is, of course, a third way, a way that shouldn’t be offensive to anyone, no matter how idealistic and sensitive they are. And that is the way of letting what works remain in your life and removing what doesn’t work from your life. You wouldn’t call this an easy or safe way. Take your college friend Jerry, for instance. He keeps making the same mistakes he’s been making since he was 20, and now he’s pushing 40. He sounds like the same person on Facebook–a man stuck in the throes of thinking that the entire world is revolving around him, that he’s smugly superior in his approach to living life, and he constantly complains about all of the things that happen to him due to his unwillingness to change his irresponsible ways.

You are inclined to believe in reincarnation, which makes you hopelessly irreconcilable to complete Christian doctrine. You are inclined to believe in it, because you want to believe that everyone can have at least a second chance, if not many more, to get it right. You also suspect that one day, the opportunity window to come back and get it right will close. If you keep coming back to this earth to live a life of seeking self pleasure, then you will keep getting thrown back into the sea of burning souls awaiting probation.

What you’ve continually failed to see about what makes a difference, and what everyone else in the world quickly forgets to see (no matter how many times they say the word), is the state of love that comes forth when a being is open to the will of God, and how that state of love is an expression, an act, a process–something that is not a thing because a thing is static and becomes fixed and full of connotations and incoherent descriptors. Love is the best word we humans have been able to come up with, and it inevitably gets misused, overused, trampled, abstracted into meaninglessness, etc.

Which is why your journey with words is coming to an end. There is a certain truth you know to be an insight into Truth, that you get when you are committing words onto the screen. But, the moment that you push save or publish on anything you’ve written, you know that these static black characters are inaccurate representations of the truth you grasped when you were writing them. You’ve been enough of a student of history to know that anyone who’s been fortunate enough to have their words preserved and widely read will get those words re-interpreted and misused by men whose sole objective is to obtain as much power and dominion over others, be it Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Marx, Nietzsche, and so on. There is no medium invented yet to enable someone to express the truth they know–the truth we all know at times–when their head and heart are resonating exceptionally well together.

…and it is the next-to-last week of your undercover career.

The new undercover career has already begun, and you are three chapters into the pre-Calc book. You spend time thinking about the switch you are making, but not so much time that you pause to write about it throughout the week. Which is probably best, because in a lot of ways, writing has been like an addiction. The way some sad souls end up in Vegas cranking a slot machine in hopes for the big payout, so have you been one such soul many times throughout your writing career.

Your writing career began with a poem you wrote about the Challenger when you were ten. You weren’t really sure why you wrote it, but you felt compelled to express yourself in some way other than simply getting caught up in all the gory gossip in the cafeteria about the pieces of astronaut people were finding on the beach below. You loved Jesus and Ronald Reagan, and felt like the Challenger heroes needed a fitting tribute. Mrs. Ochmann loved the poem, and framed it for all the class to see near her desk. Your parents were elated that you’d written a poem–this was certain proof that their son was destined for great things. They sent a copy to your grandma in Texas, and she promptly sent you two empty journal books with a request to fill them with poetry for her by next Christmas. That part made you gulp–it sounded like a lot of work for which you kind of suspected you wouldn’t get nearly the amount of praise and recognition.

You were an attention whore, and so you promptly set about trying to write poems about the Royals in the World Series, your dog, and a truck driver–because a girl in your class had a dad that was a truck driver, and you kind of liked her. You dashed out poem after poem, and demanded Mrs. Ochmann cease whatever she was doing (she would mostly ramble about her grandkids or the latest book she was reading, so most of the time you weren’t interrupting actual schoolwork), and let you read your poem to the class in hopes of eliciting the same amount of excitement and attention over your latest masterpiece.

Needless to say, none of your other poems were framed, and the law of diminishing returns became present. The more you wrote, the more the class would roll their eyes at the weird kid who thought he was so special. Eventually, Mrs. Ochmann decided to start teaching some math and other subjects, most likely in part to have an excuse for why there was no more time for your poetry.

You weren’t completely defeated. You decided that you actually enjoyed writing. It was a wonderful escapist mechanism. You began work on your first novel: the story of a boy whose family loves to fight for fun and has lots of brothers who love to box each other all the time. He lives in Pennsylvania, and is sick of being in such a fighting family. So, he decides to run away from home, and this is the story of his cross-country journey. Of course, you knew nothing about different places around the country, but you knew how to follow a map and make up adventures that he could have had in every town. You started a diary the next year, and oh, what a joy that was. What could be more fun than to secretly confess how you really felt about your teachers, parents and siblings? In high school, you discovered poetry again, when you found out you could get the attention of girls with a brief mention of the fact that you wrote poetry.

And on it went, with each passing year came the authoring of a new short story or novel that was instantly rejected by every publishing house you sent it to. Then came the endless series of blogs–probably over two dozen blogs attempted and failed, usually in utter frustration after seeing that you weren’t getting thousands of unique readers each day.

Finally, this strange experiment in writing a thorough mixture of fiction and non fiction in the second person, mostly present tense. The voice inside your head said to give it three years, and so that’s what you’ve done–never going more than a few weeks between posts.

But, the fire simply isn’t there anymore. Writing is tied to your “creative” side, your feminine side, your high-pitched nasally voice that shrieked with delight when Mrs. Ochmann posted your poetry on the wall, and little Frieda Anson (whose father drove a truck) told you she thought it was cool. Writing is tied to the part of you that hates to do a thing unless you are certain it will be immediately noticed and praised and rewarded. And, it’s also tied to your endless string of subpar Marketing jobs where you inevitably get shouted down by more powerful personalities in the room whose creative ideas win the day every time.

Somewhere lurking beneath your misguided notion that you were made to be a writer lies a much more quiet urge. As someone who longed for years to be counted among the cool kids, confessing a love for math and numbers was completely verboten. So, starting sometime around the age of thirteen, you decided to make it your mission to pretend you were among the elite kids who hated math because it was so hard, even though you didn’t really think it was. Eventually, you managed with enough dedicated work to give yourself a kneejerk reaction of completely not understanding any single problem thrown up on the board. You aren’t sure how many other people have managed to do this with a skill or thing they were once especially good at–to utterly sabotage their natural abilities and love for something simply for the sake of being accepted by their peers–but, it almost makes you sick to your stomach to think that you all but threw away an entire piece of your brain just to be able to nod along in understanding with a pretty girl or cool, tough guy who was confessing their hatred of math to you.

After getting your English degree, you continued to buy books on Math and Physics for the layperson–and grow frustrated at the ones that were too easy that seemed to proliferate the shelves of the local box bookstore, and frustrated at your own lack of being able to remember some basic high school Algebra when the scant few of them actually contained real math problems.

You thought perhaps your true calling was politics, then non-profit work, then maybe it was the priesthood, or being an EMT. Sometimes, you actually got a little too caught up in Sales and Marketing, and actually believed at times that God wanted you to sell or market random business software and services.

The voice of you, the writer, has always inevitably carried with it the tiniest of hints of the whiny, nasally boy. The sycophant, the people-pleaser, the one who would gladly let you throw him a pity party any day of the week–this fellow and his story are inevitably intertwined with every story he’s ever attempted to tell, be it autobiography as fiction or something completely made up.

Imagine being able to tell a story about yourself that doesn’t contain this voice. When you associate with others, you keep your problems and your worries to yourself. You go out into the world and become the man you were meant to be, the man your mother always envisioned you would become, and leave behind the little boy who always had to look back, the one who needed to milk a tragedy or a negative emotion for a little attention and praise.