An alien presence that mimics my voice, and convinces me that I am speaking from the bottom of my heart–that’s what it felt like. Looking back on years of living with something else in my head that wasn’t quite me, I can hardly begin to ascertain how it all happened.
Unfortunately, I have to take responsibility for my words and deeds. Those words came out of my mouth, and those were things that my legal, physical self did in this particular world.
This doesn’t stop me from sitting here amazed at how different my so-called self really was from the self I call my own today.
Playing the fool brought a certain kind of reward–a steady stream of friends who felt disarmed by my willingness to be a sideshow dog to gain their trust and laughs.
Like a dog, I would slink away after playing the fool all drunk and lick all of the wounds I received from getting kicked around.
The friends I would have made with the self I call my own today are completely different kinds of friends.
I continued to try to grow up long after the party was over, and everyone else accepted that they were who they were from that point onward.
So, I come to you as someone new, who wouldn’t know my past self were he to walk through the door today and sit down to talk to me. You might wonder why people from my past have such perplexed looks upon their faces, when we see them in a chance encounter.
Each of us has a piece of self that will always be alone and never met with any affirmation, validation or recognition from an other. This is how we have to stand on our own two feet as adults in this world. This is how we are born alone, live alone and die alone, no matter how many people we let get near to us.
I would like to connect that piece of self (my piece) with your piece, here, within these words. Inside these words I shall no longer be anything but the best person I can possibly be. Here I am, at my best, don’t worry about the rest of me you’ve known or read about.
You too, are here at your best, casting aside whatever there is about you that is strange and awkward in the world.
The world disappears and here we two stand together, having a heart-to-heart conversation.
We do not pause to create precise definitions for things, because the heart knows the Truth when it is finally freed to beat in its most solid box.
What things have I left behind? I left behind my mother’s Christ, and I left behind the Christ of my small hometown. I kept running from Christ, but Christ remained by my side. One day I woke up and knew that Christ was with me–He was nobody’s Christ but God’s own. I certainly claimed no ownership upon him, how could I?
I grew tired of trying to prove my self and be a certain kind of self for those who would exclaim and say “A Ha! He knows a thing or two about being.”
What mattered most to me was discovering the few remaining things that really did matter.
Listening to my breath and seeing my torso rise and fall, I thought of my coming death. There was nothing I wanted less than to taste death, but I also didn’t want a false sense of immortality. Immortality provided by Science–it’s just around the corner, ten years out according to the top researchers–so they said throughout my entire life.
There were too many things to count–all the things that everyone was doing, everyone had to try. The kinds of things that would alienate you from large numbers of would-be friends if you had never heard of them. You had to know how to dance the Macarena or what the statuses were of the relationships of fictional TV characters.
You were simply not living if you weren’t trying the things and experiencing the experiences that everyone around you was. You had to see so-and-so, a great legend of music, before he died.
Oh, but this was all complete bullshit.
What does an individual really need to have to live?
In these years, I find myself believing I need to read this book or that book before I die. I have let go of dreams of traveling to exotic places based on my disposition and financial situation–it’s too painful to say I want to visit such-and-such place before death when I know I probably never will. But, all of these books become like a Hoarder’s cluttered house inside my brain.
I wake up some mornings wanting to be emptied of all the ideas and words. But, it isn’t the empty-headedness of the anti-intellectual populist. There is plenty of wisdom and knowledge flowing from that deep bottomless well within my heart. There are not words invented yet to describe the stuff that washes over me.
Christ, for me, was a real man–dirty, sweaty, unattractive to women. He was full of love for the people who were suffering inside a human system that was made to make most people suffer. He had no interest in fighting the social evils by throwing thunderbolts and slaying dragons, because he knew that Satan would just make bigger, badder forms of human misery to replace the ones Christ overthrew.
The genius of Christ was that he didn’t turn the other cheek or seek to be yanked out of his mortal coil via superhuman meditation. He sought to die as a man and be resurrected as the deity that he was. Other religous figures espoused vengence, always bloody vengence. They simply couldn’t see that vengence is the easy path, the mindless, beastly path to winning a battle or two before losing the war of life. Even today, we Christians still seek vengence on our terms when we are attacked. We don’t understand the genius of Christ as fully as we could.
If you believe in life after death, and are certain that you have a place in heaven through your relationship with Jesus, then why do you fear death so much as to purchase weapons and learn systems of self defense to annhilate your enemies? Either you don’t fully understand what it means to die for Christ, or your are afraid to see what this means.
That’s okay, I am not judging you. I live inside a tenuous system of security and repression of others myself. Someone did bleed and receive a boot in their back for the clothes I wear, food I eat, gadgets I use. There is no getting around it.
I try to minimize these things and work toward having a life where I only eat things grown locally and cruelty-free. I wear secondhand clothes and buy secondhand gadgets. I try to walk or bike everywhere. But, I am still not there yet. Surely, many things that I consume–perhaps even my freedoms I take for granted–are bought and paid for with the misery or others who have no voice to rise up against their masters.
But we are more than flesh and blood, though we should never forget how much our flesh and blood plays a role in determining how we are and who we are.
Christ is the Word made flesh. Without God, none of us have access to the gift of composing words symbolically to represent our realities. But, Christ is the True and Special instance of the Word Itself. All of our words fall like insignificant piles of dust throughout our lives, and will never come close to adding up to being the Word.
You can set out as your ultimate goal to compose the most perfect novel or poem, paying meticulous attention to vocabulary, grammar and nuances of meaning, and you will arrive at best at a worthy human composition. Perhaps, if you allow yourself to be guided by the Spirit, you will compose something that will be valued by more generations than a few.
But, since you are not God you cannot produce the Word. You are the recipient of the gift of the Spirit in the general sense, as a living, breathing sentient being, and when you discover your salvation in Christ, you become the recipient of a special instance of the Spirit, or the Word. Of course, you can share your gift with others, as you should. But, you should never find yourself suddenly possessed with the notion that you have now become God or a god, due to your sharing of God’s gift.
When you truly start to access all about you that is human, all that God sought you to be before the fall of Adam, you begin to see that you are abundantly blessed with gifts no other beings in the Universe can claim. The angels and the animals may seem to have superior gifts to you at times, but they ultimately act as dependants upon the Will of God. You, on the other hand, have free will to decide to follow Christ or not.
When you start following Christ, you expect the burden to be heavy, based on what following Christ meant to your childhood Sunday school teachers. But, Jesus was correct, the burden is actually quite light. You are no longer trying to serve the masters you once were–these masters who were comprised of all the friends and professional peer groups, as well as all of the magazine articles that told you who you should be and how you should think and what you should be doing with your time. You no longer need to consult your social media fan base to decide what to wear or what to eat or whether to grow or cut your hair. Wasn’t it getting so difficult to keep up with what the cool kids were doing — and make it look like you weren’t trying too hard, but that you were interested in being noticed?
When you start following Christ as a grown-up, you discover that there are many grownups who have written about following Christ in ways that don’t look like your average Bible-thumping fundamentalist scold.
Instead of radically changing your behavior for a week before returning to all of your bad, sinful patterns of behavior, you find yourself gradually getting a little better about living an ordered, right kind of life. Maybe you have some slip-ups and falls off the wagon some weeks, but year-to-year, you are trending toward being much more of a whole, decent human being than you ever thought that you could be. So many of the tendencies toward anger and lust that you thought were simply part of your biological organism and there to stay with you the rest of your life–so many of these are starting to lose their potency in the face of your progress.
To be for sure, you are taking prescription drugs to ease the burden of the transition, and talking to a therapist along with the people you are meeting at your church. You are approaching this pragmatically, with eyes wide open realizing that your brain needs all the help it can get.
You are different than many others, however, in that you have accepted Christ’s invitation to begin a new thing. You are following Jesus to see what Christianity is all about. You are interested in Christianity as it truly universally permeates the world through time and space. Leaving out Orthodox Christians in Russia, for example, will cause unbalance and something will remain lacking. At a fundamental level, what do you and all who call themselves “Christian” share?
Jesus, of course!
Your differences, while they may seem to be too many to reconcile, are actually quite ephemeral and sit only on the tip of the iceberg that is the right relationship with God and other humans.
The alien presence was like a big oppressive mother ship resting on my tiny planet, or hovering closely over it, if you will. All manner of sinful thought and behavior, in addition to my constant anxiety over people not abiding by some perfect, hidden code of being–it was all rolled up in this thing, and I was constantly combatting a potential outburst or destructive action.
I imagined myself to be extra special, chosen. I imagined my causes to be especially righteous and in need of greater attention. I imagined my opinions and thoughts to be extra worthy of consideration from any and every person or group I encountered. I kicked hard against the reality that tried to show me how little I matter to others, how unworthy I am of being a great, historical figure. My exalted destiny was exalted only by me and held up by this demon, who reveled in seeing me continually get battered and fail in the face of the real indifference and sometime scorn of others.
To place yourself on a pedestal above anyone, even if ever so briefly, is an invitation to seeing others and other entities try to knock you down or hold you up so that you can be knocked around and continually delude yourself into thinking you are something better than yourself.
In all truth, I possess no great genius, capable of creating or doing something that will leave a mark in much the same way as a Homer, Shakespeare, DaVinci, Einstein, etc. I am not an especially saintly man. There will be no masses of people that state my name in the same breath as Gandhi, Jesus and MLK.
It is truly a blessing to be finally relieved of the burden which had turned you into a monster who simply couldn’t see straight. The people that are beautiful to me are not the ones my culture sees as beautiful. The ones whose voices are worth hearing aren’t the loudest or the wealthiest. History can go on being made and unmade by those who were designed to fill roles that accomplish such grand things.
For me, the equation and mission are much simpler. I am here to follow Jesus and hopefully get my young son off to a proper start in life. I am ready to die when Jesus says it’s time for me to go.