Reading Buddhist texts

Reading Buddhist texts helps me to clarify my thinking and my doing — my being. But, I will spend the rest of my life needing Christ as well. I need Christ because I have come to realize the great value in having a faith practice that includes this uniquely human and divine person. Christ is the personification of great noble traits that can only be fully made manifest inside a deity or angel. Traits like the source of life–Life itself. The source of consciousness or the Logos, the Word. The source of eternal and perfect Love, which is God and which is Truth.

All human beings, ones with faith or not, seek a kind of deeply satisfying happiness that is based upon their own realization of being free, human entities. Ones who seek happiness in material, static and transitory things find that they seek happiness in Death. Ones who seek happiness by ignoring their intellect and unique self awareness that no other animals or plants possess are ones who seek to remain like beasts. Ones who seek Love by possessing and controlling others, or obtaining quick and fleeting moments of pleasure in their using up of others are ones who seek happiness in Death and a Truth that is very far from anything approaching Love.

Only Christ uniquely embodies the perfect human form that has realized immortality–and immortality in a deep, pure and sustaining well of Life that continually gives in its abundance. Trying to live an atheist life while dipping my toes in the waters of Buddhism inevitably sees me setting up imperfect models to emulate, and I fail to become the person I want to be and the person God made me to become.

However, seeking Christ through an authoritarian Christian system isn’t helpful to me. While I very much need to extend my personal relationship with Christ out into a community of other practitioners of my faith, I don’t find paternalistic models of Christianity that attempt to regulate my behavior and the behavior of others to be very helpful. They perhaps serve a purpose for the very young and those who are overwhelmed by the requirements and freedom that come with being an adult, but these models don’t work for me.

I also seek a Path of being that is free of confusion and mystery. I do not wish to join a club with echelons of initiation and secrets withheld from those who aren’t in the inner circle. What I learn and know to be true should be made freely available to anyone who wants to learn and know it as well. But, it never should be forced upon them. All secret societies that appear to be loosely or strongly affiliated with Christianity are not for me.

I do not wish to ever write or preach in language that is difficult for people to follow. This doesn’t mean that I want to remain caught up in a child’s understanding of faith and the Bible, but it does mean that I never want to purposefully try to throw out big words or sentences whose meaning is only clear to a specialized set of academics.

I believe that many societies across the earth have developed rich and important systems of wisdom, which is why I read Buddhist texts and books about Shamanistic practices. Wisdom is not something that God withheld for a few select Jews or Christians–He has freely given it to all people who seek it above merely having a clever intellect or encyclopedic head full of knowledge. I don’t have to ever “go native” in any sense of the term when I read about these other systems of wisdom. Christ is my cornerstone whom I have returned to even during my darkest nights of the soul and will continue to be so–becoming much more that shining light upon the hill for those who care to approach it.

Real transformation

Real transformation…something sustaining and clearly a departure from the old me. Has this happened yet? I don’t put enough trust in Christ yet.

Christ is the only answer to situations that seem impossible, unreal, unapproachable, out of control, etc. Pray to Christ about it.

Life started to be turned around when I went back to church for good. The people I was trying to emulate and impress suddenly fell away as being superficial, shallow, boring people. People who built their lives upon the image that they created of themselves. People who no longer believed they had souls. People who dismissed spirituality and faith as superstition. Some did this openly, others still mouthed a belief in Christ, but practiced no Christianity whatsoever. Perhaps the latter group were worse than the avowed atheists. People who said they were Christian but turned their backs upon the less fortunate around them because … personal responsibility and bootstrap Capitalism.

I don’t abide in Christ’s love enough. But, I feel that at least some of my attempts to be devotional and prayerful are shallow and unfruitful. I am not truly connecting with Christ to initiate radical change in my life, but sometimes becoming one of those who just mouth my belief on Sundays and try to live my life on my own terms the rest of the week.

At times, I have my doubts as to whether my blessed life comes from my mother’s prayers (mostly) and some of my own. Sometimes, I simply think I got lucky–luckier than most humans who have walked the earth, but not lucky enough to be simply happy. Maybe it’s my culture that trains me to look over my shoulder at the guy who is doing slightly better than me and sit down to figure out what he’s doing that I am not. Of course, that isn’t thinking in terms of luck anymore, but thinking like a bootstrap Capitalist.

So, there is this tension and confusion between what is simply random chance that has yielded a lucky life, divine grace that has provided a blessed life, and my own hard work that has delivered fruitful results in areas of my living. The last part might seem insignificant to people who claim to know me, but I certainly could have chosen to live the life of a drug addict who mooches off of the system and lives in halfway houses, or some other more parasitical lifestyle than the one I live.

To be for sure, I never would have gotten access to the jobs I’ve had and the investments I’ve made if I had been born into relentless poverty.

I don’t feel like I am getting anywhere with this, though. I am running around in circles.

A pervasive question I was preoccupied with over the past 24 hours

A pervasive question I was preoccupied with over the past 24 hours: have I really impacted the life of anyone in a significant way? Or, what does my “It’s a Wonderful Life” scenario look like–what would the world be like today if I had never lived at all? This is probably at best an exercise in vanity and at worst a hopelessly self destructive activity. Of course, I can never know what my parents’ relationships with my older brothers would have been like if I had never come along. Would they have even sought to have a child around the time H was conceived, if I hadn’t been there? So, in all likelihood, someone else would have come along shortly after the time I was born in this reality, and who knows what decisions my dad might have made regarding keeping the family in Colorado or moving us to Missouri.

A better exercise would be to ask: how can I do a better job of connecting with more people in a deep and meaningful way? How can I get past the banal formalities that often stall any future attempts at more conversation? How can I come up with interesting topics of conversation beside the weather and sports (which I don’t really follow)? Obviously, politics and religion are verboten in most casual circles. But, some of my journey into seminary and a pastoral career may alleviate some of this burden. People who are reluctant to talk about religion will continue to be so, but perhaps others may be more inclined to open up a bit when they hear that I am a pastor.

Putting aside the pointless exercise of asking what the world would be like if you had never been born, you come to a more sober analysis of the myriad of human connections that remained superficial, professional, ephemeral. You see people connecting with each other in deeper ways all around you, but you don’t know what the magic dust or secret sauce is to engaging someone in such a way that they will at least correspond with you for a few months after you or they have moved on.

I think there are probably two ways in which this problem needs to be continually addressed: the superficial mechanics of human interaction that I have simply been slow to learn due to my stunted social emotional growth–learning to better read and understand body language and verbal cues that are invitations to keep the conversation going; then, there is a deeper problem to be worked over–the fear of me losing some valuable piece of myself if I get too deeply involved with another human being. This revolves around a really primitive, unmet place of ego that carries perhaps an illusion of being an intact entity who must remain protected and isolated from most humans. In short, I am afraid of losing my soul if I become too enmired in secular human activity.

This is something more deeply felt than even a Christian sort of take on staying out of worldly affairs. It probably hearkens back to millenia of human civilizations that wreaked utter havoc on souls who chose to be a part of them. You could live on grubs out in the woods or in a cave and be free, but have no benefit of human camaraderie, or you could go down to the town or village and become a member and abide by rules that saw you giving up so many freedoms and personal preferences and characteristics. You also risked getting killed in many human civilizations that placed little value on human life, but stringent consequences for one who was even accused of some wrongdoing.

I carry this kind of mentality with me today. It is why I refused to join very many groups during my school years, and balked at trying to join the Army. Eventually, I became comfortable enough to get somewhat involved with others at work, because of the benefits that came with socializing. But, I was very slow to advance, and often found myself stranded and at home, watching my coworkers party on Facebook at events I wasn’t invited to. I think that our present culture fails to recognize the positive side of being leery of committing to group activities. Americans for centuries now have made it their pasttime to voluntarily submit themselves to any number of community, religious and professional groups.

The negative aspect of getting too involved with a group still persists, though you are more likely to be bullied or teased in some low grade way by adults who find you not conforming, rather than getting stoned or drawn and quartered.

One of the chief reasons so many of my forays into group involvement felt awkward and uncomfortable was due to the fact that I hadn’t really taken the time to get to know my own self before setting out on my quests for social involvement. Because I had no clear boundaries where I could definitively say: yes I am this and will be willing to do this, and no I am not that, and under no circumstance will I do that. So, when it came time to take a hit from a bong or jump into a mosh pit, I was full of anxious uncertainty as to whether this was really me or not, and couldn’t possibly make a comfortable decision in that split second — inevitably, I found myself caving in to peer pressure.

The problem I see with our culture is that the healthy benefit of getting involved in group activity seems to be assumed and unspoken. Of course, you should go to the school dances and join the chemistry club and the chess club–it will look good on your college application (something my parents never impressed upon me). But, these are always superficial arguments for the benefits of getting involved. Someone who has developed a modicum of self identity in their teenage years will not see “doing it for college” as a good enough reason. They will want to have a more fundamental argument for how this group involvement will develop their character and lay the groundwork for complex social negotiation later in life that means the difference between an average job and a great career.

What will become of me, I who cannot stop sinning

What will become of me, I who cannot stop sinning? Surely, I have striven to be freed from so much of this bondage. Is today a better day, when I am aware of every aching muscle, joint and bone? Was yesterday a better day, when all of my awareness of unique ego was smoothed over by drugs? Is there even such a thing as an authentic path for me to be on?

Do I dare return to childhood again, while typing these words? I wasn’t the same person I am today, not by a long shot. Who will I be tomorrow? Surely not the mess that still brings great unease to me.

Do I dare mix in the problems of the world with my own state of malaise? Are the two inextricably linked, or completely unrelated to each other?

All of the people that I meet in the future will love or hate someone that surely isn’t me. It isn’t a matter of me keeping my true self hidden from them, but a case where I am unsure of whether or not I even have a true self to present or hide to anyone: God, myself, others.

Surely we all took artificial, arbitrary marks when we came alive on this earth. We accepted the brand of name and baptism. We became aware of our personalities and let our parents dictate who we were–so, naturally, we acted out in ways that conformed to these personalities. A hopeless feedback loop rose up and defined us before we even spoke a single word.

Every attempt to alter these personalities or rebel against them seemed to result in us becoming even more ensnared in them. For, such rebelling can’t be constantly taking place, and there are times where rest is required. Inside that rest, we fall back upon the autopilot maneuvering of our pre-conceived personalities. What’s more, our peers, classmates, coworkers, etc. did everything they could to brand and define us upon a first encounter. The shy one is hopelessly shy, and all presenting of fearless, outward social engagement is conveniently ignored as being anomalous to what all have come to accept as the shy personality.

The point is that we are more plastic in our identities, but we do little to encourage this plasticity, instead, opting to reinforce whatever we initially wanted to believe about ourselves and others.

I personally believe that reincarnation also contributes to the reinforcement of the illusion of the unchangeable self. I believe that the only way you can be any different than who you have come to be across many lifetimes is to take a sure and certain stand against that past persona, and refuse to give ground to others who would attempt to keep you in a singular mold.

There is no such thing as: “I am intrinsically female, male, gay, straight, smart, dumb, violent, peaceful, active, passive, introverted, extroverted.” The identities and traits run deep, for sure, and almost no individual in our present culture is equipped with the right tools to change you if you are sick and tired of being a certain way, and are ready to be someone completely different. I believe that the guides or angels in the bardo do attempt to help us change, by giving perennial males next lives in female bodies. So many of these efforts to help us change fail because we are stuck in societies that refuse to believe in such things like reincarnation, and both progressive and conservative minds would seek to peg you as being “born that way.”

You can change, though, to be whomever you want to be. But, ultimately, if you are seeking a divine post in Heaven, Nirvana, Buddhahood, etc., you should be indifferent to who you are in the present time and place. You shouldn’t see yourself as ultimately becoming a male or female entity, gay or straight–but, abandon attachments to these local, earthly characteristics in favor of timeless, ineffable ways of being. Are the Elohim a plural set of deities, a hermaphroditic deity, or perhaps a singular God who is beyond the simple gender and sexual orientation characteristics we feel so strongly about here on earth.

Do I think that I will obtain the kind of freedom from common ego labels in this lifetime? I am not sure. I am confident that I have improved characteristics that were deeply troubling and crippling–but what are these–are they astral fragments, hangers on from a previous life? What is the way of being I should be ultimately aspiring to? I think Jesus Christ is as good of a role model as any, and in many ways even better, because he didn’t attempt to deny or short change his human aspect. However, the maleness of his human self seems to be hardly approaching the kind of ubermale that our more macho veins of cultures hold up in high regard. Jesus was a man, but he was not in any way an inauthentic caricature of manhood, like so many men aspire to become.

I want my life to have meaning

I want my life to have meaning. A life where I am simply consuming stuff and experiences, and passing on my DNA is not the life for me. I want my life to have true and right meaning. I don’t want to continue inventing meaning for its own sake.

The primary vehicle for accomplishing my goal is to do things that benefit other people more than they benefit me. If someone derives benefit from my service or donation, then I am one step closer to my goal.

The problem, though, is that I seem to be hopelessly caught up in a kind of lust for stuff, experiences and knowledge — a delusion that I will transform myself into a better person by the amount of things I consume.

I have gotten to be a better person than I used to be. The unexpected part of this is that it probably took me about ten times as long as I originally thought it would. When I was 24, I knew I was a mess. I didn’t dispute this, but I did claim on several occasions that I had perfectly removed all of the internal junk, and it came back rapidly enough.

At the rate I am going, I will become the person I always wanted to be around the time I turn 80. Knowing that I couldn’t wait any longer, I decided to push harder toward going back to school to receive a faith-based degree. Will I be a bit of a hypocrite through much of my ministry? Yes, but I couldn’t wait any longer.

The space of what is and the space of things I created with my imagination and repetitive thought loops

The space of what is and the space of things I created with my imagination and repetitive thought loops. What is the use of the imagination–the right and intended use? Visualizing a world full of echelons of demonic forces all intent upon destroying me and ensnaring me into eternal perdition is always a destructive activity. To even laughingly pretend that someone is at least partially (in their subconscious) under the spell of demonic forces that are guiding them to say or do things that thwart my ability to fully realize myself as the human being God intended me to be–is to make it so, at least for me, and to make me into a madman convinced that the outside world is hopelessly unassailable for one who would practice peace.

To be for sure, there are those who have embraced demonic entities of violence because these people are under the misguided notion that they obtain some kind of power that will sustain itself past their deaths. Or, they feel that death will end it all for them completely and utterly, and therefore, it is not so bad to invite a little bit of violent demonic power into their short, finite lives. But these individuals are focused on their own glory or power, not upon my special destruction. If I get in their way, there may be problems, but I am not being actively sought by anyone for specific, intentional harm.

It is much better to simply say: this person or thing is this way, and this one is that way, and keep an open door for those whose ways are similar to mine. My way is not a special way in the sense that I am in some way better than all other sentient beings. My way is only special in the sense that I am a unique child of God. This is meant to be a comfort, not a means of initiating a program of lording myself over others and turning my ego into a monstrosity.

My way is mostly a way of figuring out how to be a soul that is helpful to other souls who would accept some degree of help from me. And, all help that I have to give comes from the Spirit. Any help that I can offer as a man apart from the grace of God is negligible. I see no need to get up on a pedestal and say to others: you should be doing this, you shouldn’t be doing that. If there is an individual whose behavior is clearly out of line to the point of being potentially a manifestation of evil, that individual is to be taken aside in private and questioned and rebuked. If that person has no interest in changing their behavior, and it is clearly evil, then they can be handed over to the law where they are doing something unlawful and handed over to Satan, where they have sought to walk a Satanic path instead of a righteous, Christian one.

My way has no place in earthly kingdoms. I do not seek to assert myself as a holder of power in my society. There are unofficial kinds of power that are conferred to me, and these should be held lightly and rightly–such as parenthood and adulthood. I have no business getting worked up over who is President or what our government is doing. Because it is not Christ’s kingdom, our government carries with it an inevitable amount of evil. It has a legacy of evil that was necessary for it to become a legitimate source of power in the eyes of other people. If our government had chosen at its inception to abolish slavery and permit Native Americans to have entire states unto themselves, it would have likely died and been subsumed by a mightier European or Asian state. However, this doesn’t make what it did right in the eyes of Christ. We of later generations still carry some blood upon us, and we can only find atonement through Christ.

Christ would have us try to live harmoniously within the constraints of our national government unless this government becomes completely the instrument of the Antichrist, and participation in this society requires the Mark of the Beast. But, until then, I don’t believe that Christ would have us looking to government (either an existing status quo that keeps us middle class whites comfortable or a hypothetically more libertarian or socialist government that distributes power differently) to solve our problems.

At the very least, I personally have too many internal ills and maladies from a sin sick soul to be going about the business of telling my government how it should conduct its affairs. Further, it becomes a mere illusion when you actively engage in protest and this illusion fills the time you could have spent fixing your own self.

My self was broken. I couldn’t fix myself until I was willing to admit that it was broken, and only Jesus could fix it. Before this admission, I was simply pretending that I wasn’t so bad, measuring myself against a handful of cherry-picked souls who appeared to be in worse shape than me. I was broken, damaged goods. Nobody would have me as a friend or lover during those years, because the disease of the soul manifested itself in my body language and uncontrolled bursts of anger.

Jesus began to show me just how much of the broken pieces were worth repairing through his grace and healing power, and how many of the broken pieces were better left to be exorcised completely.

The only way in which the new day begins with all of your past accompanying you is from you insisting that you can’t live a single day without bringing along your past with you. You are certain that if you completely allowed your past to be put to bed for good, that you would lose some intrinsic piece of yourself. And you are probably correct. The hole created by that intrinsic piece can be filled by Christ’s Love, though, if you allow it.

My problem is that I take my hooks and try to put them into that love. I take my hooks and try to put them into others, or into a happy moment in life. I think that the appropriate way to fill myself up with something good is by psychically and spiritually grabbing onto that thing and yanking it into myself and holding onto it with all of my might. I then become caught up in a hopeless mission to dictate and control how my possessed things look and behave. I am, in effect, trying to play God by insisting on things remaining as they were when I first affixed myself to them. I cannot accept any change taking place. This becomes a demonic sort of activity: seizing a finite thing and willing it to be infinite and infinitely mine.

When viewed with a certain light, this can seem to be simply foolish and childish–a pattern of behavior from childhood that the adult self needs to abolish. But, it shouldn’t be let off so easily. This kind of activity can become deeply destructive to the health of my soul, and it will eventually bubble over to my phsyical self and the outside world of connections that I make.

I am not the smartest person in the room, ever. I am never above the human problems that are presenting themselves to me. I will choose not to put my hooks into others’ problems, because a diseased physician isn’t helpful or wanted. But, I won’t set myself on a lofty perch above others’ problems, either.

Is the notion of falling in love with someone obsessively a misguided twentysomething romantic notion from our culture? People of the generation after mine seem like they can be at times sickeningly sentimental and other times brazen and cold when it comes to how they talk about love. I think that this generation of newly minted adults and the ones that follow it will be looked back upon by future generations as being too childlike and unwilling to grow up.

It’s the definition of what it means to be a grown-up that has to change. Nobody really likes the idea of ending up being just like their parents, and so they resist many healthy forms of growing up in the process of avoiding becoming their parents. But, they will grow old, just like every generation before them. They will wring their hands at the sight of their first white hairs and wrinkles, and many will pretend they just aren’t aging at all.

I never wanted a wisdom that was predicated upon the dictates of local societal mores and norms. In other words, I seek a timeless wisdom that can be applied to many different times and places where humans came together to try to live their lives in a decent fashion. I don’t find this type of wisdom very often. Too many people see only their own generation and perhaps one or two on either side of their generation.

Is it impossible to love many other individuals with a simple and complete sort of love? A piece of God’s eternal Love, if you will, but a piece that is pure, chaste, untainted by any sort of expectations of reciprocity. Can I love someone of the opposite sex and keep my sexuality completely out of the equation? I certainly hope I can get to this place. After all, it should come naturally that I am capable of loving all kinds of people who would never under any circumstance be appropriate sexual partners–so, then, the handful of people who our society would deem okay for me to have an affair with, independent of any particular religious or local ethics, should be people I can freely love the same way I love children, animals, the elderly, the poor, disabled, etc.

I want to finally reach the day where I utterly and completely know it in my soul (to where I no longer even dream tainted dreams) that the only person I love with sexuality attached to it is my wife. This requires hijacking my biology and years of imagining every single woman was potentially a sexual partner. Old habits die hard, but they will indeed die if I persist with my will toward an ordered, right sort of relation with members of the opposite sex.

The process of aging has allowed me to find greater amounts of empathy for many more kinds of people. The prospect of living a life where I use lots of women, or I become a woman who uses lots of men, is an immature vision kept alive by its ability to titillate and arouse me to such a degree as to help me “get off” from the madness of it all. The end result is a negative energy supply, and I am stripped of my finer emotions and ability to empathize with others. The only positive outcome of this kind of behavior is that I feel absolutely unqualified to ever judge someone’s sexual orientation or practices as if I were sinless and they were not.

My life has been an unfortunate series of terribly inaccurate models made by my imagination, where I then expect reality to conform with the imagined model because I am afraid of reality. Reality becomes a thing to escape from or attempt to violently impose my will upon. There is no reality that graciously accommodates my fantastic models where no struggle takes place. There are no humans in this reality who want to be subhuman for the sake of appeasing my horrible models. Human beings, male and female, want to be fully realized, dignified human beings who may or may not agree with anything I have to say.

I spent my childhood and young adult years refusing to allow myself to get to know girls and women, because I didn’t want to really know who they were as human beings. As sex objects and two dimensional automatons in my theater churned up by the imagination, they were there to always validate my insistence on being the grand master or king of the story. If I refused to get to know any women at all, then I could pretend that there must be some who met my evil standards out there “somewhere.”

And so it generally became the way I spent my time having non-relationships with all human beings. The less I actually knew of you, the more I could love you in a sick, codependent sort of way. The more of your will to be loved as a human being showed itself, the unhappier I grew because I had no desire to be an imperfect human being in love with another imperfect human being. Needless to say, most of my friends and lovers remained inside my head or in books and self-indulgent escapes in writing.

The woman I could claim to have had the longest crush on was not the real flesh and blood version of her that abides today somewhere in the Northeast. I simply took her name, face and body and a few superficial features of her personality, and appropriated them for my own fantasy life.

An alien presence that mimics my voice, and convinces me that I am speaking from the bottom of my heart

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.