when you’re only halfway up…

perhaps i’m just a product of my time–a young/old man who has been too reluctant to commit to any one thing.
why close the door when you can leave it open?
why have your cake and eat it to, when you really want to be in a quantum superimposed state of not having, having, eating and not eating–the delicious state of heightened expectation that can only end badly when the choice is made and the cat is killed?
how many times have i asserted with utter finality: this is it, this is my one and true calling…perhaps i was made to never make a firm decision about anything.
of course, that’s not completely true, either. i have made firm decisions about things–like marriage and children. i have no interest in ever getting married again…i would sooner join a monastery than try to enter a dating scene as an old man, if such a thing were to present itself.
but, when it comes to who i am, and who i’m supposed to be–that’s a different subject altogether.
should i stay or should i go? yes.
the grand old duke of york marched me only halfway up the hill.
schroedinger is happy with where he’s keeping me, his cat.
maybe making no choice at all is still making a choice, to paraphrase Rush,
but being caught in a state of endless freedom to still choose again, and again, is choosing to always have unlimited choices before me.
of course, that’s not really the state of this reality. the choices grow fewer and fewer and the years add up.
until one day, the choices will only be: die with dignity, die fighting my death, or just plain die.

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.

My dream last night saw me enter this weird electronics store

My dream last night saw me enter this weird electronics store that was like a Half Price Books for all things electronic and electronic storage media. In the dream, I was apparently a big collector of old floppy disks–the larger kind that really were floppy. I found a stash of them in one area of the store that had much older computers and a variety of old sporting good gadgets–fishing depth gauges, game cameras, etc. I then walked over to the store that had the more recently-retired electronics and like new goods, and found another stash of floppies, opting to not pick up the later, smaller kind of floppies that really weren’t floppy. One of them clearly had printed in handwriting the name of some guy’s biology homework or thesis. I wasn’t interested. Then, I discovered a used Canon digital video camera that was only five to ten years old–probably an SD one. There were plenty of Mini-DV tapes available for it, and I started to play around with it. Some guy was trying to sell back his DV tapes that the store didn’t want, and he was reprimanded for trying to place them directly on the shelves. I woke up while fooling around with the features of the camera, which seemed to keep increasing the more I played around with it.

Since I don’t hang on to a lot of old things or technology in real life, I am not sure what the dream was trying to say to me. Perhaps it was just supposed to be an entertaining dream, though I am not so sure, since the layout of the store and the features on the camera were very vivid and detailed. Maybe the store was meant to be a metaphor for my old writings or perhaps old ideas that I tend to collect. My tendency to appraise an idea and its worth or value isn’t based on its inherent value to others–ie, like collecting a bunch of worthless floppy disks when I don’t even have the proper disk drive to access them or use them. Something might be really cool to me and a lot of fun to play around with, but it is no longer seen as having any usefulness to most people–like an SD digital video camera that writes to mini-DV tapes.

But, what’s the lesson? I need choose between seeking out older, more traditionally pure ways of thinking and being or embracing the utter newness and popularly-lauded forms of human thought and activity? Or, that my so-called attempts to seek out a more classical mode of being by going to seminary and learning about church history, the Bible, liturgical practices and the like is nothing more or less than thinking I am getting into ancient human ways of being when I really am just regressing to the 80s and 90s?

Or, perhaps a more useful interpretation of the dream could be that it is a cautionary tale around what might happen if I take my nascent career arc in a direction that is akin to collecting technology from the 80s–seeking out ways of thinking and being that are neither especially old and tried nor new and considered to be highly relevant. What I need to pay close attention to are the things of this world that are clearly tried and true–be they in life, thought or spirituality–and ignore all of the fads of the present and similarly faddish attempts to reclaim a past that came and went rather quickly.

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.

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.

Dream last night

Dream last night: it was interesting because the time I experienced in the dream seemed to happen over the course of an entire day. I have plenty of dreams where 24 hrs lapses between the start and finish of the dream, but the actual time experienced in the dream is only within the hour or less that I am actually having the dream in real life. Occasionally, I have one of those Inception-type dreams, where the time experienced actually seems to be so much longer than the time I am living in real life. This was one such dream.

I forget most of the beginning of it now, other than some turn of events in my life had led me to become a wandering homeless man. As I wandered far from my home, I came upon a vast estate of a wealthy older couple who liked to throw extravagant outdoor parties at night and had a golf course, large dam with a popular fishing spillway, and a huge botanical garden among other things on their estate. At some point, my uncle, who died seven years ago, started chasing me through some of the woods of the estate and he wanted to kill me. In the dream, I could recognize him as being a familiar face, and I even sort of knew his name, though I applied his son’s (in real life) middle name to him at one point in the dream, getting the rest of his name from real life correct.

In the dream, he was also not really represented as my uncle or former uncle, but simply another homeless wanderer like myself who wanted to kill me for some reason. I stepped into the limelight of the evening outdoor party to get away from him and be seen around other people, thinking he wouldn’t try to kill me if others were watching. He didn’t. I soon saw where they were keeping the wine, and wanted to distract the entertainers and hosts long enough to sneak over and steal a bottle of wine, but I didn’t get to. As the party wound down, I realized I had to go on the run again to get away from my killer uncle.

I ran down a hillside as day broke, and realized that I was just not going to get any sleep as long as I was on the run. This is when I encountered the golf course and fishing spillway that the rich couple had opened up to the public. I ran past them and found myself walking through an area where people disposed of massive amounts of junk of various kinds, and then walked back up the other side of the hill into the botanical gardens and into a special house the rich couple had created for homeless people to bathe and change clothes. My killer uncle entered the house as well, and began trying to entertain everyone in there with all of the different voices he could do (he never did such a thing in real life). Then, he said “you can call me Hillbilly from now on.” This is when I started shouting to everyone that this wasn’t his real name and his real name was — then I shouted his full name from real life, except I inserted his son from real life’s middle name in here instead. Finally, he looked at me and said “at 12:30 PM today you and I are going to meet here and settle this.”

I said, “Fine,” except, I really intended to run again. A woman approached me and said that she would pay me $500 if I could find some kind of special item of junk for her–it was something like the engine on a specific make and model of car, or a similar strange request. Remembering the junk near the bottom of the hill and the spillway, I told her that I didn’t recall seeing anything like what she was asking, but I would happily find her some other junk that she would probably like. She agreed to this proposal and offered to drive me back down there to the junk. I woke up after this.

I just remembered that I’d had another dream about my uncle about two weeks ago, and had recorded it. I don’t know what exactly he represents. I know that I did hold some resentment toward him even after he died. Perhaps my subconscious is prompting me as this is someone whom I haven’t completely forgiven and let go yet, although I do think that I have. Perhaps as someone who kind of represents an authoritarian male figure for me, he is acting sometimes as a stand-in for Donald Trump, who is kind of the ultimate male authoritarian figure of the present whom I do clearly resent and despise. Generally speaking, I can’t stand the male or the female ego at their worst. Anyone on a high horse who thinks they have been given some special authority to tell me how to conduct my life is generally likely to get a bucket of bile from me in my journal unless I happen to have solicited their advice or wisdom.

After I stopped dyeing my hair (which was already pretty gray by my early thirties), I suddenly stopped having a lot of those high-horse men and women take it upon themselves to offer unsolicited advice into how I should conduct myself in social settings. It was kind of nice, but then I also suddenly had a lot of younger folks seem to resent me as being automatically the douchey older dude in the workforce who was going to pooh-pooh their foozeball tables and other millennial fun. I never really could decide if the worklife was better when people thought I was a twentysomething when I was really thirty-four or when people thought I was a fortysomething when I was really thirty-five. Of course, I am descending into utter navel-gazing, and I’ve lost any thread of being able to interpret last night’s dream.