An intense love of pieces of things

An intense love of pieces of things. Take the moment and break it up infinitesimally until it gleams from all the tiny shards of reflected existence. Can you build more from a thing that has been broken up into many other things?

Dissecting, disassembling, deconstructing–this is what has made us great while other parts of the world fall behind. We have created wonderful things from having the relentless drive to atomize something and rebuild something new from the ground up. These days, though, we mostly just tear things apart, and create a lot of garbage.

You might think that the better approach would be to try to make something whole again, but can you ever turn a broken thing back into what it once was? You are the product of five hundred years of deconstructing, DeCartes-ing, destroying native habitats and Native Peoples. You can’t just go pull your favorite brand of Eastern mysticism off the shelf and get busy re-building until one day the Earth looks like what God intended it to be.

You can’t do the same with yourself, either. You are a broken soul, cracked open with the hopes that this means you can now let the light in, but maybe that kind of thinking hasn’t resonated with you enough. You want to lose your pieces of self inside various important projects, grand activities, and escapist places–to pull yourself out of this time and place and reside temporarily in a happy time and place far removed.

This tends to bring a 1-1 input/output of satisfaction. The amount of happiness and enjoyment you get out of vacationing and reading light fare seems to be close to what you put into it. The work and money involved to get you to your destination so you can relax, and then a few days later start worrying about making all of the connecting flights for the return trip back–not to mention any inconveniences you endure while you are there–it ends up yielding you about as much joy and happiness as it costs you discomfort and misery. Of course, you also work overtime to try to rationalize away all of the cost involved, telling yourself that it is worth it. Of course it’s worth it, but is it JUST worth it–or more than worth it?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was an activity that brought you exponentially more joy and peace and happiness than the sorrow and pain you invest to make it happen? A true investment in happiness, a righteous fulcrum that yields great fruits for your tiny labors. That, of course, is subjective. Some people say that they get this already from church, socializing with friends, sex, etc.

But do they really get something bigger and more intensely wonderful out of their investment than what they invested? Or, is the yield ever-so-slight, and like money in a mutual fund, you have to wait for decades before it starts to make sense for why you delayed your gratification? Is there no instant gratification that comes in great abundance? Probably not. At least not for most of us. Sure, there are the lucky few Lotto winners who get much more out of something right away than what they ever put into it, but most of us are not life’s Lotto winners.

Even seeds you plant require constant watering, care and attention. Too much water and the plant dies, not enough, the same. Too much sunlight or not enough can kill it. The wrong kind of food in the soil will kill it. A disruption like a transplanting will kill it. Fifty years later, you have a fruit-bearing tree, or five years later, you get something like a strawberry plant. After many years of hard work and little to show for it, you get a few years of great yield that you can somewhat enjoy before you die.

Such is the world, at least the world we’ve been led to believe is so. Or, it could be, that we have created the world to be this way, because infinite abundance from slight investment seems to be evil or simply impossible.

But, what if it is possible for those who begin to believe that it is? The ones who have the mindset that they will reap and yield much great fruit from their modest investments? Then what? What if believing that you are a Lotto winner is the first step to winning the lotery? That starts to sound like a lot of New Age programs–but maybe there is some hard truth to this, some kind of intense practicality about it that isn’t just fluffy, magical thinking.

Dream last night — another dream that included floppy disks

Dream last night — another dream that included floppy disks. Weird to have the same theme/item in dreams two nights in a row. My dad was telling me about how he’d repurposed my old computer from college for various things, and about how important/and valuable it was to hang onto the electronic help information for using Windows 3.1, which was the OS for that computer. In the dream, somehow, my dad was able to extract a hardcopy Windows 3.1 manual from the computer, as if it were inside the shell along with the hard drive. I asked about the floppy disk drive, knowing that this computer didn’t have the older kind of floppy disk drive, and my dad went into some kind of convoluted explanation for how I could obtain such a drive to read all of my old floppy disks.

Again, I haven’t put a whole lot of thought into old computer storage media in the recent past. I am not exactly sure what kind of “old thing” these dreams are trying to represent in my dream quests to find old floppy disks and extract some kind of long-lost information from them. Are the dreams saying my special focus on OT texts right now is misguided? Are they saying that my renewed effort to explore returning to my old career is misguided? Is my effort to find a more authentic form of worship and a church whose rituals resonate with me deeply the misguided thing? Or, just my general tendency to spend a lot of time analyzing past memories and actions the thing that is misguided? Of course, answering yes to any one of these could lead me down a completely different path.

Right now, the idea of going back to work for a random technology company as a straight-up 8-5 office schmuck who pushes buttons inside software for a group of marketing people is very appealing to me. WYSIWYG — no surprises. A cookie-cutter house in the suburbs. Reading science fiction books on the weekends. Taking drips to Disneyworld. Getting fat and happy. Is it a sellout, a copout, an abandoning of God’s plan? Or did God even want me down here doing this in the first place?

Right now, selling out seems so right. The past six months have been incessantly awkward, uncomfortable and ill-fitting for me. I don’t have the backing of anyone, really, saying “yes, you should be here.” Oh sure, someone occasionally drops a word of encouragement in a class–people who mean well and want to say and act pastorally. But the tests have all shown me to be hopelessly self-centered and lacking in leadership qualities. I have witnessed myself just completely not caring about doing the Christian thing with my neighbors, but wanting to just be a regular man with all the warts.

I think the floppy disks represent more the quest to return to an idyllic childhood moment–the moment is gone, if it ever was idyllic to begin with–and it is no longer applicable to the present situation. There is nothing useful about an old floppy disk, unless, perhaps it contains some information that was never saved anywhere else. Once the information is extracted, the disk is worthless to people in the present world. What’s more, the disks represent a fluid time in information technology–they were a relevant and useful storage medium for at most a decade. Even cassette tapes had a longer life of usefulness. My search for the authentic within what is old and traditional is a shallow one–one that has gotten me back to the 1980s rather than the 80s or earlier in human history. My search should be for a way of living and being that has been tested throughout many variants on human civilizations…the focus should amount to me being the kind of person who is an exemplar in just about any era of Western Civilization–or even more of a core, basic human exemplar.

If something I am doing or saying is essentially a product of my time and place, then it really isn’t approaching the right kind of value a tried and true human truth holds. If I am only capable of swimming in the shallow end of truth when I write, then my writing should become restricted to being purely journalistic–I did this, this and this–and not quasi-philosophical in nature.

I tend not to think of myself as a fragile person, but I do have my limits

I tend not to think of myself as a fragile person, but I do have my limits. If I feel like the entire world is trying to tell me something, I am going to sit up and listen. I don’t believe in only doing things that please everyone or even most everyone you care about, but I also don’t believe that most everyone you care about is going to be completely incorrect when they seem to mutually assess something about you.

I came down here because I was certain that God wouldn’t leave me high and dry with my only life purpose being to pass on my DNA, or even leave me with no life purpose at all. I have been convinced from before I even left my undergrad years that I could find the perfect thing that I was supposed to be doing, a thing that fit me like a glove; and when I found it, I would give up a lot to go back to grad school in order to do it for the rest of my life.

I took the LSAT while still in school. I thought of continuing my English studies–of course, you get asked that: so you want to teach? question as if teaching were like scrubbing toilets with your tongue or something–surely you don’t want to JUST teach!? I got into computers. Of course, I loved the idea of going back and forcing myself to learn mathematics and computer stuff. I started down the road toward getting a master’s degree in international relations–because Bill Clinton did in My Life, if I remember right. There was the whole non-profit thing–and the political campaign, and going back to be an EMT, and my getting accepted to start school to get my BS in Math, and then this… why this? My dad was perplexed, so was my wife–my pastor seemed to be, too. You, really, a pastor? Are you sure?

Of course, the admissions people wanted me to come down here, that’s what they are paid to do. Then you get this “we don’t accept just anyone, no matter what their academic credentials are,” and you also hear “think of all of the people in your life who have been affirming your call…” um….yeah, crickets. Even my own mother was convinced that God told her my little brother was going to be a preacher and I would be somehow involved in government. Well, I did volunteer in politics for a summer. Maybe my little brother is preaching up in heaven. He’s been up there for a while.

What’s really strange, is that I actually have grown to love church the way I have at times loved Austin. But, like Austin, I don’t feel like it has especially loved me back. Church, at least in my denomination, is for lifelong members of the denomination and marginalized people. Why am I bothering with even wanting to be an X,Y,Z mainline Protestant–surely, I should be going for a nice, bland evangelical church with a rock band or a motivational speaker pastor, or getting mixed up in something like the Landmark Forum.

Am I just trying to design a fantasy based on a cobbling together of the best that childhood, books, movies and personal cooked-up expectations have to offer? Will every community inevitably disappoint in some fashion, every church fall short of expectations, and any given attempt to pursue further formal education result in this kind of directionless malaise? Probably, the answer is “yes” to both questions.

On the other hand, by giving up on a lot of preconceived notions and expectations of what being down here would be like, I have been able to move through my days more freely, and have started to have more interesting conversations (for me, probably not for the other person). Who really cares where I end up? As long as I don’t put my family in a situation that sees us out in the streets, I think things will work out to be okay. Who cares if I end up a Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, or nothing/everything sort of spiritual person at the end of the day? Probably not even God.

What really matters is what is happening in the dynamic with me and others (especially my son) in the straight up here and now–not the “some day.”

Go now, you who would not be tamed

Go now, you who would not be tamed. Stop trying to seek a life that wasn’t made for you. You don’t need to live out the life of someone else who was supposed to have lived that life, but died before he even made it to college. You don’t need to live the life of your mother, father or older brothers, or imaginary forms of who you might have been if only you had been a better young man. If you were made to be tamed the way you keep trying and failing to be tamed, would you not have been tamed from the beginning? But, yours is not the path of the tamed, the disciplined, the rigorous. You don’t need to develop systematic philosophies and theologies from first principles, and then prove magnificent houses of cards from these first things.

It’s like this. You know who you are the moment you stop asking who you are and enter the flow of who you are. On days like today, you are dreaming of business conferences held in places like San Francisco, where you can wander about the city at your ease in between the sessions. Of course, you are an attendee and not a presenter or a vendor, and so that means that you have the red carpet rolled out for you. You have your choice of the biggest bagels slathered in sumptuous cream cheese (not the lite variety, please). You have the finest coffees poured into endless recyclable cups that you can toss in the trash half consumed when they grow cold. And then, of course, there is the eye-candy–young people dressed in their business best, shining and full of dreams of launching their own unicorn start-ups.

Evenings see you at the social mixers sponsored by the host of the event. You get a few free drink tickets, and ask the bartender to mix up something strong, like a Maker’s on the rocks, or just a spritz of vermouth to make it a respectable Manhattan. Your tongue loosens, and you talk with random people endlessly about how the marketing world is on the verge of becoming capable of predicting the future long before the future arrives, using data science and magic trickery of only the finest, wizarding minds.

There is nothing better than stretching out across a king-sized bed that you have all to yourself, and grabbing all of the pillows, including the throw pillows off the love seat and easy chair, and piling them around you, and sipping on your fourth drink of the night–a house bourbon neat–while you slide into a fuzzy, lovely haze of feeling like an important high-tech business traveler in the middle of a big city.

Get up early the next morning when light is just pushing through the cracks of buildings. Your night has been restless and full of that jittery, achy feeling that comes from having had too much booze. You throw up a little bit after the first tiny pot of warm water flavored by coffee compliments of the hotel coffee maker that brews two small cups per thin filtered-wafer package. You head down to the Starbuck’s in the lobby, and get an orange juice to replenish the vitamin C, a greasy sausage breakfast sandwich to coat your stomach and a strong Americano with multiple extra shots of espresso in it to jolt you awake enough to stumble through some conference sessions. By mid-day, you need a nap, which causes you to sleep through the second half of the first full day of the conference, and wake up just in time to wander the streets of San Francisco for an hour or so before sunset.

There is nothing better than being in a big and popular tourist-attraction city while on the company dime. Knowing that everything you eat and drink will be paid for by the rich owner of the company, you can toss away a stale Starbuck’s cup of coffee for another one, or leave a beer half-full in pursuit of a glass of wine or more whiskey. You can wander up and down the hills through Chinatown to the Wharf, and have those weird guys from the other side of the world call out to you and try to sell you tours, because you look like a young schmuck who doesn’t know any better. Sometimes they plant beautiful young ladies down there to try to get you to give up some of your money as a response to being flattered. Usually, you ignore all of this, and wander around until your legs ache, stopping to order a large seafood pizza and a pitcher of beer to wash it down. You turn your nose up at any panhandlers, because you are an important businessman on an important business trip.

But, what were we talking about when we launched this tale? Ah yes, a tale about you who would not be tamed. Stop trying to make your life into a telos of great meaning, ultimate truth, big stories, grand meta-narratives, heroic efforts spent on attaining perfect righteousness. You are just a man, a small piece of creation, designed to do and be and reproduce and launch a copy of yourself into the adult world, and then die. Enjoy television shows, fiction, booze, art, sports, music. Stop trying to purify yourself because you are killing yourself to become someone you are not. You are hating things you love in hopes that God will love you a little more than you think He already does. You are going about seeking God’s love all wrong–love the Lord with all of your heart, soul and might, and then let everything else follow from that. Love your neighbor as yourself. Pray for those who mistreat you. But, don’t sell all of your stuff and become a wandering, homeless monk if it means that it will turn you into a murderous, ravening monster.

The more that you try to tame yourself, the more the untamed pieces rise up in anger and hostility at the efforts to evict them. It is as if you are trying to starve yourself so that you might become pure and uncontaminated of anything in your bowells, but in the process you simply wreck you liver, kidneys, blood pressure, heart, etc. Your self needs a certain this and that to maintain equilibrium, and you should know by now that you were not made to be an ascetic warrior of infinite discipline and a cold, unremitting marcher toward a pristine, perfect Truth. You were made to be a sloppy, ravenous lover with a great big appetite and no real sense of a telos or a linear path in life, wandering aimlessly in the arms of a Truth that never departed from you.

You were made for these times, this place, your body, your gender, your face. Stop feeling guilty about having too much privilege or angry about not having enough brains or opportunities. When you were silent, they constantly urged you to speak your mind. When you spoke your mind, they told you to be quiet, because people like you had said enough. You were derided for being just another white male, and deemed a racist if you focused too much on your whiteness and maleness, or out of touch with the plight of the oppressed if you didn’t focus on your whiteness and maleness enough. When you didn’t work hard enough and speak up enough, you were called out for such laziness and told that any success denied to you was due to you not working hard enough and speaking up enough. When you did work hard and speak up, and start to get somewhere, you were called out and told that anything good you got was merely due to your privilege and nothing else.

You wanted to follow Christ, or so you thought, but what you really wanted was to just become an average white, middle-class dude like the ones you sort of knew once upon a time. Not too into Jesus, but you go to church fairly often and read your Bible when you can. Of course, you follow sports more closely than you follow Christ. You just want to be a regular guy who knows how all of the main sports teams of his alma mater, home town and present town are doing, and generally goes down to a bar when he can to watch the game and drink light, American beer, but not too much unless everyone is drinking too much.

You want to be the fellow who follows a group of friends, somewhere safely in the middle, not too mighty to have to fight with other alpha males and contend for the top dog role. Nor do you want to be the clown of the group, the constant butt of their jokes, the little scrawny guy who never got as big as the rest of them, but always seemed to amicably agree to their gentle, persistent persecution. Just a middling, mild man, not too talkative, but not too quiet, either. Not too athletic and competitive, but not too bookish and cerebral, either. A real average guy’s average guy, not a man’s man or a geek’s geek.

Empty-headed and divine

Empty-headed and divine. Attached to all and all is one. Surely, if I am connected, then my words matter. If my words matter, then praying should accomplish something. It depends on who I pray to, and what I pray for, and how I pray.

I could spend my time praying for God to curse and hurt my enemies or spend my time praying for God to heal them and help them become less inclined to do things that make them my enemies. I could spend my time doing more things that make me less like my enemies.

Can you hear Jesus saying, come and follow Me?

Don’t go follow another human being who seems to have all of the answers. Don’t follow rituals or traditions. Be suspicious of Scripture in light of who you know the real Jesus to be.

Is Jesus rich? Of course, He is, His riches are unlimited. Therefore, he could afford to be utterly non-possessive of material things when he was here on earth. Can you afford to be utterly non-possessive of material things? Yes, you can. Nothing that society says that you own has to go with you the next time you move. You don’t have to play by the rules if breaking the rules just makes you seem a bit odd.

I am sitting here on a Friday in mid-February

I am sitting here on a Friday in mid-February. Ideally, I should be reading my assigned readings for classes. In truth, my brain is screaming for a break. It wants to relax with fiction and poetry, and then get up again to seek out its own will for how it will be stretched and tested again. In other words, my brain is not especially interested in performing the task of assigned reading. This is pretty typical. It was the story of my previous college years. The subject matter is not what I am averse to. I love the subject matter. I will read the subject matter until I die. It’s the notion that my brain is being asked to focus on this particular reading at this particular time, and report back that particular finding at that particular time.

I need to take a break for a couple of hours and be alone with my thoughts, and possibly God, if God cares to stop by.

This afternoon, I am having a conversational call with a recruiter about the old work I used to do.

It has been making less and less sense to me for why I would be here. I am a forty-year-old man with a very young son, and I am in a grad school program where I will at best hope to be making what I was making six years ago by the time I retire. Meanwhile, if I could, in fact, pick up my career again where I left off with it, I could very well be making a six-figure salary in the next year or so.

Believe me, I am guilty about putting so much focus on money, with the love of money being the root of all evil. I am also guilty about having made the decision to come down here in the first place and put my wife in the position of being sole breadwinner while my son still goes off to daycare full-time (as he would have anyway if I were working full-time), so I can sit, and read and contemplate and think about academic things.

There is enough guilt to spare in any decision that gets made. It is going to be shameful for me to make the decision to uproot us again and put us into the only housing we’ll be able to find down here which will be significantly farther away from my wife’s work and son’s daycare. It is shameful that I have selfishly brought us down here only to ascertain after so many conversations and psych evaluations that I will never be successful at what I am here learning to become. The alternate route of deciding to be a pure academic and go for a PhD doesn’t particularly appeal to me much, anymore, either. The prospects of getting anywhere with that before I am 50 are pretty grim.

There will be, of course, no shame once we are settle again, and I have bowed my head and accepted that I am unexceptional and need to be schlepping it up in an average 8-5 office until I can retire. There will be no shame then, because then I will be like any other average American guy–or really any man throughout history–I will be just doing what I have to do to make sure my family survives and thrives.

I don’t feel a strong sense of being pulled any particular direction, anymore. It is my nature to get excited about something for a little while and then drop it for a little while. I could stay on here, and wait for the early thrill I felt about being on a higher, mystical path to come back. Perhaps I will. But, I am not feeling especially mystical, anymore, these days, I am feeling raw and practical–just gotta do what I gotta do.

Always on the outside

Always on the outside. Groups form, people find their kindred spirits. Again, you are on the outside looking in. You might be a latecomer outsider, or you might be an old-timer outsider–doesn’t matter. If there’s a way to make you naturally bubble up to the outside of the group, this universe will find it. Of course, it’s all your fault, too. You should change. No, you should be yourself. You should try harder, no you aren’t trying hard enough. You just don’t get it. Again, it’s the universe that wins in the end. In some other universe, you are always the insider and a perennial insider from this universe becomes the outsider.

Accept it. Embrace it. Learn to love that which is you, and move on. Learn to love in spite of things.

I dreamed last night that I was in this underground space where I was permitted to talk to the dead. They came in from a tunnel. I wanted to talk to my mom, but the powers that be couldn’t bring her forth. She wasn’t there, only some of her psychic energy remained, which they tried to conjure up for me. The people who did come in through the tunnel were a mixture of young and old, all very classically dead–ashen, ghostly faces and haunted, bewildered looks of being taken somewhere they had no say about where the place was they were going. The area I was standing in next to this particular tunnel wound its way in a different direction, and I asked if anyone had ever gone off in that direction. The answer was no. I found myself walking down a much better lit corridor than the tunnel of the dead, into an area where I could descend several more levels that were all under water. But, it didn’t seem to matter that they were underwater, it was just like going into someone’s home. A young boy was with me as I re-ascended. I couldn’t tell if it was my son or my little brother. This happens a lot in dreams. We were supposed to get out soon, because the owner of this water house was coming back. I had the feeling that I had witnessed something more like Sheol than Hades or Hell.

Today, I had this overwhelming sense of there not being any grand, noble goals left for me to attempt to achieve in this life. I have been feeling thoroughly post-modern lately in the sense that I can’t wrest forth a kind of meta-narrative for myself that sees an ultimate, crowning achievement of righteousness for me–there is no one single telos, just a life to live. What does this mean in light of Jesus’ admonition to lose my life for his sake? I am not really certain.

I am certain, however, that my future must unfold more naturally, and look less like a perfect path toward the great way of being that was most unequivocally the way of being God always intended for me–especially in the sense of becoming a pastor by way of a true and concrete calling.

I don’t have a lot of faith in things that aren’t simply Jesus, God and Love in their most true forms. Further, I know that I am unable to conceive of them as such–I catch glimpses of the real Jesus filtered through a lot of heavy covering up that has taken place by my civilization. I don’t trust my dreams to be worth much of anything other than attempts to quiet or dispell something that was unstable in my psyche. I don’t necessarily feel like I have a good idea on what my future or the country’s future really look like.

I have experienced a lot of desire lately to be completely freed of this burden of needing to prove myself and become someone for good. I haven’t really made up my mind whether or not I am going to abandon this so-called calling altogether, or just have a conversation with a recruiter who recruits for the kind of work I used to do, and leave it at that.

I feel like I need a lot of rest of a certain kind of rest that I simply don’t get to have much of anymore. I need a refreshing week to mosey around trails in Austin, sit on a beach somewhere, browse the public library to my heart’s content, or just walk around another nearby town with no particular goals in mind.

Particular goals have become a burden for me. I don’t have time to watch a show or two on Netflix, I don’t have time to read a work of fiction, I don’t have time to even be sitting here doing this, except for the fact that I feel like I have to have an outlet somewhere or I will explode.

I’ve also had a lot of random memories popping up in my head as of late. They seem to be indiscriminate and might be from twenty, thirty or two years ago–there is no rhyme or reason to it other than to say that I probably am missing whatever once used to be my home. My self is in a desperate search for a home that I can be truly happy living in–and by home I mean the house and the larger community around me.