You wake up and you don’t have a solid lock on any particular identity.

You wake up and you don’t have a solid lock on any particular identity. Every time you try to land on a solid patch of ground, the ground moves. In spite of all this, you are convinced that there is a solid reality out there–that the world is not an illusion. None of your arguments for why this is would hold up if you were confronted by some mindfuck philosopher-wannabe type, but you have your set of things that you know, your things that you hang onto by faith alone, and all the other unexamined beliefs that you actually probably be convinced to let go.

You sit on a couch typing this with your young son. This alone is an area worthy of exploration. You can say things that every parent says about a child who is loved more than the child will ever know. Indeed, the parent himself had no idea how much he would love his son until his son came along. Then, there is the whole matter of being 41 with a 3 year old son. For sure, you live in a culture where parents are having kids at older ages, and your own father and grandfather did not produce their first biological male offspring until the respective ancestors were almost in their 40s.

Then, there is the old and lingering ache for your first nuclear family. Your older, adopted brothers abandoned you. Your little, biological brother, whom you spend ten years tormenting and ignoring in emulation of your older brothers, died in a car wreck at the age of 16. Your mom left the world at 61 after fighting cancer since her 40s. Your dad is more interested in hanging out with old ladies he meets online than talking to you or his grandson. Your surviving older brother is all but completely estranged from you and your father. When you see your little boy, you see the tiny start of a new, precious flame that requires constant monitoring so that it isn’t snuffed out.

You aren’t even sure what the flame consists of. You have this sense of there being something important about retaining your humanity and dignity as it is connected to the earth. How disconnected are you today? You abandoned the seminary to return to the world of the office, technology, and people who are happy to avoid nature as much as possible. But, the flame is more about something else than becoming a tree hugger or a luddite.

Is the flame about retaining and maintaining a belief in the Christian God, in spite of how little you are like a true disciple of Christ, and how little most Christians really are, either? Perhaps, but it’s not completely a religious thing.

Is the flame your very soul? Are you, at the end of the day, hoping to build up some good karma by raising a child as well as you can? Are you considered about the corporate world and the suburban life consuming you to the point where your entire identity is swallowed up in the same bullshit preoccupations of most everyone else your generation seems happy to obsess over?

Is the flame the dreams that your parents had for you, that you had for yourself, that you now must pass on with the desperate hope that your own son won’t much up his adolescence and early adulthood the way that you did? But then–what are these dreams? A better life? Becoming famous, rich, etc.? Those are shallow dreams to have, and you know that this isn’t quite it, either.

Whatever the case may be, the fight every single day is against becoming so lacking in any hope that your professional life will get any better, will amount to anything more than just being a random office schlub of no account–one that nobody ever sees as being worthy of anything other than taking orders and carrying out their orders. Surely, there is still the grand possibility of waking up one morning and realizing that you are part of something much grander than an average career.

What are we talking about? Can we get more specific than: you’ll know it when you see it? Are all these human attempts at fame and fortune nothing but striving to keep a flame alive, as misguided as most of them appear to be?

The flame is the burning quest to know the Truth, and to know it with all bullshit pretension removed. You know in your heart of hearts that there is some type of objective reality that is more than what is out there or in here, but you aren’t sure of what it is. You know that most people give up, cash out, and gladly accept flame substitutes for the rest of their lives. Maybe the reason the movie the Secret has its appeal is that you know there must be a Secret of some kind, though you are yet left with skepticism that some kind of Law of Attraction is the ultimate Truth of what the Universe has to offer. After all, what if everyone woke up and started living according to the principles of the Law of Attraction? Would the Universe melt away into nothing at all? Would we all get to be billionaires? Or, would we all be billionaires, except, people like Gates and Buffet get to be worth a hundred billion times more than us, just like they are today?

The problem starts with expecting Truth to align with your own expectations of who you are. Truth is Truth, no matter what. How, who or what you identify with is part of a process you have started, and may or may not have much to do with who you ultimately are. To negate yourself, and say, “I’m enlightened because there really is no ego after all,” is merely another choice you have made to identify yourself with non-identity.

First, you have to clear any and all pieces of yourself which were made throughout this life in an effort to discover and/or form your true identity. You can’t declare, “I’m going to stop trying to force myself to be this or that, and just be,” only to find yourself just being someone or something you had previously tried to force yourself to be.

To declare “I am really and truly a woman” because there are so many culturally-defined stereotypes of who or what a man should be is to simply declare that you favor experience a series of culturally-defined stereotypes of who and what a woman should be. The same mistake is made with any other binary sort of approach to identity, where you declare that the only ways of being are this vs. that and you must be that since you don’t fit in with this. But, there may be binary realities or archetypes around the feminine and masculine, the materialistic and the spiritual, the lover of good vs. the lover of evil–however, when you try to impose poorly-formed culturally identities on top of these binary archetypes, you are simply shoehorning something that can never perfectly fit, and you end up never perfectly happy.

Of course, you could simply declare that you believe reality to be simply whatever you make of it…or, if it is actually more, then let reality show its True Self, and if it won’t, then why bother pursuing it? Why not simply declare who or what you shall be the rest of your life, and force yourself to be that individual no matter what? After all, what feels right may again be simply an older, learned pattern of behavior and no more “you” than some new “you” that you could strive to be.

We all know that you have attempted these things. You have tried to force yourself into a hippie-liberal box and a manly man box and an uber geek box. We know how far this has gotten you. You wake up one morning realizing that if you were going to live in one of these boxes, you should have started your box life a long time ago.

Friday morning at the end of another bland, safe workweek in a random office environment

Friday morning at the end of another bland, safe workweek in a random office environment among people who thrive in the downtown office of a small city. These people love the food trucks and the parking garages and the sense of being busy and important, the sense of going places. This place was my dream job ten and twenty years ago. Now, it is like a prison. I’ve been placed in some kind of neverending holding tank because I haven’t figured out the right doors to unlock, stones to lift and other magical tasks required to get me out of here. I am not talking about this specific office in this specific town, or maybe I am. I am definitely convinced that this town has put some kind of hold on me and won’t let me leave.

I was made to stay here for some reason, though I thought I’d lived out the seven year curse long ago for having cut off my nose to spite my face, ending my first real relationship and leaving me twisting in the wind with a bunch of alcoholic friends.

Who doesn’t wish that they had some kind of secret talent that suddenly manifests itself and transports the individual out of their doldrums onto a grand stage doing something truly worthy of mention? Who can’t possibly not hope that the next time they pick up painting, playing the guitar, singing karaoke, writing a novel, etc. that this time everything will click and a masterpiece will be unveiled–or at the very least a hidden genius that will give them fifteen minutes of fame to make enough money to go live on an island somewhere drinking mai-tais and reading mystery novels?

The shock of adulthood is not the discovery that you have a dark side–that’s the joys of misspent youth. The shock of adulthood is the discovery that the dark side is fake and that you are average and normal. You are as average and as plain and much the same as all of the other losers in High School you despised so much and swore you’d show up within ten years with a trajectory akin to Bill Gates.

The middle-class life of white, American privilege isn’t bad. It’s what many people through history have fought and died and bled and sweated in factories to achieve for their children or grandchildren. For me, though, it’s identical to the life my dad earned for himself and set up for me by paying for my college education. My dad almost never bothered me about my homework or my social life at school–he just made it clear he would kill me if I didn’t attend and finish college on his dime. So, I never had to work on the service ramp of an airport terminal or work in a factory or stock groceries–I went straight to the office after college and aside from a few hiccups, I’ve been there ever since.

It’s like I was born and bred to sit in traffic for an hour, park in a fume-filled garage underground, and go up and sit at a tiny desk and stare at a computer screen for hours while the highlight of the day is determining what to eat for lunch. This is what I was made for, not the big stage of arena rock or the decadent life of the novelist. I was made to stare at data and spreadsheets and content and code, and pretend like I care about the organization that pays me to pretend to care.

Now, it is Friday morning, and I feel so spent this week because no night has ever completely recharged me, caught me up, gotten me fully refreshed. So, after twenty cups of coffe I simply manage to chug along until about 4 PM, and then if my boss has left early like everyone else, then I get in my car, stop at the gas station for some Budweiser and consume it in the evening while watching bad Amazon Prime programming.

I should be going home to learn Linux and Python and SQL and becoming a true nerd instead a half-assed geek/marketing schlub. I should be setting myself up for immersing myself totally in being identical to my dad, who left the airport service ramp to program computers for the last twenty-five years of his professional life. I am ready to live out the rest of my life staring at a computer screen, but doing stuff like rebooting servers and not talking to anyone all day.

I should be riding my bike or running or going to the workout room every single day so that I can maintain some semblance of a healthy self, but I manage to get in a bike ride or two on the weekend along with a hefty walk, and that’s about it.

I could be starting another novel about some guy who is trapped inside of a realm where there are really only five or six separate/distinct souls and the rest of the people out there are just automatons, including the ones he thinks he knows…after all, how many people can you really actively know at one time? You can’t possibly actively access every single soul you think you know at once–you certainly arent’ actively accessing people you knew in the past, so what really happened to them? But, instead of being caught up in a cool Matrix or a somewhat humorous Truman Show, this guy is simply caught up in a random experiment conducted by an AI that couldn’t explain to him why the experiment is being conducted, because the intelligent beings who developed the algorithms that eventually created the sentient AI have long since stepped away from whatever environment the AI and the guy are stuck in. The AI was created with the ability to read some but not all of the source code that generated it, and most of the source code was written by proto-sentient iterations of algorithms–so even the original creator wouldn’t be able to read the code. The poor guy trapped in his artificial world realizes that the five or six distinct souls or sentient beings who are humanoids like him are just as clueless, and what’s more, they have been more or less programmed to forget how/when they were told to perform their mission, and also programmed to deny everything when the poor guy confronts them.

In other words, it’s like the Truman Show, except the people who are “in on it” don’t even know why they are in on it, other than the fact that they are. They are really souls or personas that hop from body to body to act like real human beings when the guy is directly interfacing with them. When the guy walks into a bar or restaurant alone, he is serviced by automaton AIs that inhabit all of the human forms in the area. If he tries to strike up a conversation with any of them, he is generally met with indifference or platitudes or banal politeness. In the rare case where the protagonist feels especially compelled to try to dig deeper into a person’s life and actually gets past the wall and shell, he encounters one of the 5-6 personalities/souls that he has encountered his entire life.

There is no way out of this hellish virtual reality life, either. If the guy decides to go postal or kill only himself, he is immediately dropped back into the world again, at the start of the exact same life in the body of the same baby, raised by the same parents. In this sense, the story is like Groundhog Day, except the guy is reliving an entire life instead of one day.

He experiences deep love for others, and he occasionally has girlfriends and wives, but they are the same souls he keeps encountering, and he never completely feels as if any of these souls are totally reciprocating the same love that he is feeling. Most of the time, the kinds of responses he gets from other people are like the way people reacted in the movie Inception when you went into someone else’s head–they see you as a foreign antibody, and interloper, and they want to reject you. The poor fellow believes that he is seeing deep love taking place between two people all around him, but it is all just routine algorithms running for the automatons, or playacting on the part of the true souls in his world when he happens to be in the presence of more than one of them at once–such as his parents and a few close friends.

So, how does our protagonist ultimate resolve the situation? Does he give up and accept that he’s stuck, and cash out, and immerse himself in books and other forms of escapism? Does he go mad–either nice crazy or angry, violent crazy? Or, does he just wander off in the wilderness? But, of course, he can’t get out of his town, because something holds him down, so in that sense, it’s like the Truman Show or one of those Stephen King novels where no one can get out of the town.

We have no idea how it all ends for our poor protagonist.

I am going to die never knowing anything at all about why I was put here on this earth

I am going to die never knowing anything at all about why I was put here on this earth. I am going to die with a firm and certain knowledge that there is more to reality than this physical plane of being, but a frustrating impasse that really hasn’t been breached since my little brother died. I don’t ride my bike in the old neighborhood to remember the girl who moved down here with me. I am more than happy to forget her completely. I ride my bike down that way to piggy-back on old memories back to the year my little brother died. To try to access something of the fading, fleeting fire that once burned so brightly–a sure crusade to get in touch with him, to reclaim the past, to repair the fork in reality that sent me to this alternate universe.

Now, things are most complicated. I would never want to leave behind my little son, even if I were assured that his sweet soul would still be made manifest in a happy, healthy child who got to live a long, lovely life with perfect parents. My son is the source of a great, surprising love that seems to be the only bright light that might outshine the darkness that came to stay in 1999.

However, it’s certainly not a case of my little son taking the place of my little brother. It’s a matter of a great love trying to outshine the darkness of an endless-seeming sorrow. Which means, I still miss my little brother every single day.

I am angry and frustrated that we don’t get more of an understanding of what happens to us when we die. I am most contemptuous of those who would accept any pat answer unquestioningly, be they an atheist or a Christian. If we are reincarnated, then this, too, is an atrocious thing–to be forced back into a world where we don’t have any specific memories of our past lives, of our greater existence. We’re just sent back again and again to repeat the same damn mistakes, if reincarnation is a thing.

I’m not mad at God. I don’t even know what that means. If God is who God is, then being mad at God would be like being mad at the sun for shining so bright, being so hot–what are you going to do about it? Or, being mad at death–yes, it’s not fair and it’s no fun, but what can you, a helpless soul, do about it? What I’m frustrated and weary about is the fact that I have been unable to find the kind of peace, friendship and community I so desperately long to have. There are 7 billion people on this earth, and I can’t seem to make friends. Sure, my wife and my son and extended family are people I call my friends, but I’m talking about a person I can call up and go have a beer with, or watch a football game, or go camping with our families, or just sit out on the back porch and talk about what it all means.

There are too many days where this so-called reality seems most unreal for this very reason.

You would probably not understand the weird flashes of memory

You would probably not understand the weird flashes of memory that come rising up on a daily basis. See, I’m living in the same area I lived some eighteen years ago, for the first time in about sixteen years. So, the memories I am having are the ones from my early days here. If I made the effort, I could fire up my dad’s Mini-DV camera and watch a few of the tapes I made from 1999-2000. I would have to be careful not to spook my wife too much with the scenes of me and my ex. I mean to say, we didn’t ever do anything on those tapes–other than behave as a couple in love which I could see would make a present day love a bit touchy.

As much as it has changed down here, with all of the chain restaurant and strip mall love one can handle, I sense a lot of non-change and not much being different. This side of the tracks, near S 1st St and Slaughter, is mostly a rather impoverished area outside of the fancy Southpark Meadows, and a few cookie-cutter developments, and my apt complex. I could get on my bike right now and be at the duplex I first lived in within fifteen minutes. It’s just a bit of a run down Slaughter past Manchaca.

I suppose you could say much the same about me. I’ve changed similarly. Yes, there are superficial and obvious outward differences between the me of 1999 and the me of 2017, but the gray, thinning hair and lines on the face are hardly the complete story. Much of me is still unmoved. I feel sometimes like Time itself is trying its damnedest to fuck with my mind, and my mind keeps resetting itself, and saying, wait, the underlying reality doesn’t behave the way the physical (or manmade physical) universe manifests itself.

I bought a bicycle. I don’t know why

I bought a bicycle. I don’t know why. I already have one. I don’t understand why I needed to make a medium-sized expensive purchase to make me feel happy. For a long time, browsing and buying new books made me happy, but I couldn’t keep up with all the books I bought. There is enough content available for free to consume until the end of time and then some–so, I needed something else. I’m not making enough money to buy a fancy sports car.

I’d like to buy a big house down in the far south suburbs of Austin–I mean, like Kyle or Buda. I want to buy the last place I will ever live, and sit on my back porch looking out at my tiny, treeless yard surrounded by a semi-private privacy fence and listen to the neighborhood and read bad science fiction from the public library.

I’d like to move on to work at some big company and man a desk in an office that people have forgotten about–where I can draw a paycheck, draw up lists of projects nobody will ever touch, and read bad science fiction from the public library.

I’d like to get old and fat and let the next generation take care of me. I’ve done little with my life so far, and I can feel myself slowing down both mentally and physically. There will be no great startup ideas, or pushes to reinvent the way Americans consume slop.

Is Kyle or Buda the best place to live out the last half of one’s life? Surely, a cooler climate would be better–by the time I die, summers will routinely stay in the 120s throughout July and August. Maybe it’s not the best place, but I’m tired of picking up and moving. If we move to Portland or Denver or Ann Arbor, we will have to rent again for a year, survey the market, replenish our savings, and then move again into the final resting home. Then, will my old bones be able to handle the winters up in these places after having spent the last twenty years down here? Most likely not.

Plus, my old dad will probably die in the next twenty years. I’d like to be near him, even if he doesn’t seem to care much about whether I’m near him or not. My wife’s parents are up in Dallas, and they aren’t going to live anywhere else the rest of their lives. I suppose I have to think about others sometimes, and not just my own damn selfish self. Eventually, some little money will be socked away for a motorcycle, sports car, pickup truck, boat, children’s college education and maybe a few dollars remaining in the bank for retirement. If not, I can always sell the large, cookie cutter home and use the proceeds to fund our remaining time in an assisted living center.

The other retirement dream, of course, is that one of my children is smarter than I am about money, and makes enough to send their parents a check every month so we can continue to pay the taxes on the oversize home and fill it with more junk picked up from garage sales, flea markets and off of Craig’s List. I mean, I want to be able to go on the main Craig’s List stuff page and just buy random shit that I may or may not need.

Here’s the thing…I don’t understand myself and the world anymore. The world doesn’t make sense to me, probably because I never paid much attention to it during my adolescence and young adult years. I had no idea what was going on with Bill Clinton until the end of his presidency. I didn’t care about poor people or people of color. But, I did think that I knew all there was to know about everything because I tried to read the NYT in the school library every week and read the KC Star most every day. You can expose yourself to large amounts of news and still never comprehend what’s going on–absorb the information and figure out ways to act on it, especially if you are actively and aggressively desirous of burying your head in the sand.

Now that I’ve been exposed to all kinds of people who don’t really think like I do–rabid folks on both the right and left–I feel like an entity who is just passing through this time and place. I’m like a spaceship orbiting a planet, trying to figure out how to enter its atmosphere without blowing up. Every time I try a new angle of approach, I start to catch on fire and become obviously an outsider and ill-fitting, and I have to pull back and try again for re-entry. Maybe one day I will land on this planet and find my perfect world, living someplace like Michigan near a lake with a family that is well-established and highly connected and privileged, and I will never question at all why life is the way that it is.

I mean, it’s not as if my life has gone terribly. It’s gone pretty well by most standards that aren’t standards of high success, fame and greatness. Except, the older I get, the more I feel as if I belong nowhere among any group of people. I am, by default, excluded from most invitations to social things, and I am refused friendship by all new groups I encounter. The very concept of me making a friend or friends, a buddy or buddies who hang out with me more so than any other dude–it is utterly foreign now, though for awhile it once was not. But, as I’ve stated elsewhere, I don’t know that I ever made a friend because we connected well due to similar ways of looking at the world–it was either out of convenience due to us both being the outcasts of the class or because of booze that the friendship cemented.

This weekend–Labor Day weekend, 2017

This weekend–Labor Day weekend, 2017. L turned 3 on Friday, so we took him to the zoo and toy store. We hiked at Mary Moore park on Sun, and around Town Lake today. We went to a potluck the seminary people invited us to for a little bit on Sunday. M and E and their families weren’t there, so it wasn’t as much of a reunion as I’d hoped it would be. L was getting tired quickly, so we didn’t stay there that long.

I’ve been on a rather long stretch of drinking too much beer every evening, though last week I managed to keep it down to just Sun, Fri, Sat eves…same as this week, hopefully. I need to get back into running, just a little bit each day for the sake of my own health, not necessarily for any other reason.

Still have to do some work for my new employer, plus some freelance work I promised someone I would do for them. Also, still running my hotspot instead of getting the Google Fiber kit out of the box and setting it up…new license plate still have to go on the car, boxes need to be unpacked and collapsed and put away. It’s mostly just a matter of laziness mixed with a fear of not wanting to move forward directly and surely into this new phase of life.

It’s something I haven’t prepared myself much for–this way of being that I should have accepted a long time ago as the right, grownup way of being. The true knowledge that nobody is looking over your shoulder, monitoring your every move and reacting with great disappointment or pleasure if you do something wrong or right. That if I decide to get in shape and prolong my life, or sit around drinking beer and shorten my life–it’s up to me and me only. Sure, I might make my family slightly more or less proud of me, but there are no mommy or daddy figures out there somewhere or up in the clouds waiting with great expectation for me to finally discover my true purpose on earth and fulfill it.

This is not to say that I don’t still believe in God and Jesus and cosmic stuff–it’s just that I view how God is engaged with me and others on this earth in a much-altered sort of way. God doesn’t care about the things we think he does, be we liberal or conservative minded. The reason I’ve concluded this is because God seems to favor individuals doing things for other individuals in ways that are mostly hidden to those of us who need to promote ourselves everywhere and see and be seen.

All of this to say–I have no more great expectations for myself anymore, either. I don’t think that I am embarking on a new career adventure–I am paying the bills and trying to save a little for the future. I am not getting myself back in shape so that I might be noticed by beautiful people to participate with them in doing beautiful people things. I am going to get back into running to prolong death a little bit so that I can watch my child grow up and be there for him as long as he needs me to be.