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.”

Something starts to become clear to me

Something starts to become clear to me, and so I have the urge to write it down. I write it down and once it is in place in front of me in the form of clean, digital type, I start to believe that I have stated an absolute truth or received a few words that surely came from God.

Inevitably, life presents me with odd angles and curveballs that prevent me from moving forward with all of the neat straight lines and boxes I made for myself, and I become frustrated and confused. And so, I turn to writing as a form of catharsis, and to sort things out. I don’t sit down with the expectation that I have all or any of the answers, but that they will surely come to me as I continue to chug along with my typing and thinking.

From this, I either get clarity, or simply more of the exact same writing I’ve been producing for decades. If I get clarity, then I start to let those clear insights stew in me for awhile, and return to write them down in as pristine a form as possible.

You can see how the cycle repeats endlessly from there.

What problem am I trying to solve? The primary one is, of course, my sense of what my place is in this world. Where/how do I belong? What are my strengths/weaknesses? Inevitably, I come back to writing, since I’ve done so much of it. I crawl through some random entry from a decade ago or more. I read how much or how little I’ve changed. I see myself in the writing, but I also reject much of who I was when I wrote down something deeply offensive.

Nobody else reads my writing and so it becomes exceptionally difficult for me to see how my writing is my mission for this life. I look for other things to do in this life. I insist upon doing something exceptional, because I have been convinced for too long by lingering ideas of my mother that I was somehow gifted where most other kids were not. No amount of life getting in the way of demonstrating how exceptionally unexceptional I am can keep me from returning to an urge to do something more than be happy working in an office job that never quite amounts to being a career, and certainly isn’t ever going to become a passion, vocation or calling.

I can’t bear to accept that I am just like my dad, or just like most other men and women who don’t get to be actors, models, firefighters, soldiers, heroes and villains. I am normal and average. My writing isn’t above average. I can’t find a single thing in all of my writing that wasn’t said by some philosopher, poet or writer of fiction, only better and with a bigger vocabulary. Of course, my writing is my own, especially in the sense that I am telling a story, more or less, of my own unique life. I can still hope to be like Proust or Thomas Wolfe or some other writer whose literary material was their own life stories.

But, of course, the hope doesn’t last for very long. If I go and bother to read Proust again, I can understand why he was established among the great literary authors of all time and why I will never be. So, why don’t I just completely stop writing altogether? I’ve certainly tried that as well. I’ve spent many periods in my life of several months where I wrote next to nothing, and did so intentionally.

I wouldn’t exactly call this an addiction like other vices and hard-to-put-down activities I’ve known and loved and hated. It is more like a mental bowel movement–an intense need to release blockage. Only, because it is the byproduct of mental activity or on my better days a reflection of mental activity, I somehow continue to keep and sometimes cherish my writing as if it were on par with great literary works.

If anything, I am able to convince myself that I have at the very least offered a kind of historical record of someone who grew up in the time and place that I did–and if society/civilization happens to veer off into an apocalyptic direction, perhaps my writing, salvaged from a hard drive, may be the primary text of record for how people lived and thought during this time period. Even this is laughable, given the sheer and enormous output of people of my time and the generations younger than mine, and their much more faithful record collecting in the form of video and photos of their lives.

None of this has stopped me from moving forward. I ultimately end up doing it just because I do it. I prefer to pause and reflect by moving my fingers and connecting my thoughts, fingers and their visual symbols together in a way that becomes pleasing as a continual feedback loop. At times, I veer off into obsessing over people who have slighted me, and at other times I magnify my ego more than I should. But, for the most part, I really do make the effort to just plainly write out what is on my mind during the time period that I am writing.

why don’t you want to go through with it and take the leap forward

why don’t you want to go through with it and take the leap forward into the space where it will be like suspended animation? you drew lines and counted costs, but that’s not you.

imagine a locus that is stationary, like something inside, outside, above, below, beyond…now remove those directions…imagine a non-locus that is always dynamic, always moving. how you describe the movement is what your world becomes.

if the movement is happy movement, joyous rhythms, danceable tunes, then so becomes your movement. but, if you try to grab the movement, and pin it down, make it motionless and draw a box around it, then the world you started to create goes away.

basic movement = taking something or making something. breathing. thinking about taking in positive energies while breathing in, but turning around and producing more positive energies when breathing out.

there is certainly a world out there. don’t be like those who would claim they are responsible for all of the world. solipsism doesn’t cut it. but, you are connected with the world in ways you don’t see. if you approach the world with the basic attitude that you are cut off from it and distinctly an island unto yourself, the world treats you that way. you are not of this world, then, but you are also not of anyone else. in order for you to be successful at such an endeavor, you must strive to make your individualism so perfectly distinct that it becomes abhorrent to all.

if you approach the world correctly, with the notion that you are connected to it in some way, then you will contend with the fact that you are going to be shaped and molded every single day. you can’t get away from people who will change you. for you, growth may not look like a neat linear trajectory. it might not even hold any spatial dimensions at all.

imagine a mind that is just as comfortable working with large numbers on the order of hundreds of digits as your mind is comfortable working with single digit numbers. such a mind holds no reservations about being able to add, subtract, multiply, divide large numbers, as you do with single digit numbers. such a mind could not be located, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t exist.

your insistence upon finding reality with your senses means that you have predicated an attitude or approach or preconceived notion of one where you toss aside anything that doesn’t arrive in via your senses and become a kind of object in your mind that you can dissect and control.

the first step, then, is to blast away your insistence upon being a separate individual and your insistence upon only claiming to know something if you can apprehend it with your senses.

your attitude or approach or pre-conceived notion that you use to begin your quest will include one of being present with your mind without grabbing onto anything with your mind. further, you will no longer see the phrase “your mind” as being somehow equivalent with something like “your house” or “your car.” your mind becomes “the mind.”

the mind. think about the mind for awhile. consider the mind as being a non-thing or stateless thing where the word thing is merely a placeholder to describe a generic entity, and the mind has no location. it is stateless, non-local, and the mind minds…it exists in its mindfulness. it doesn’t exist while it is still someone’s static mental image. it begins to exist for the user when the user accepts that the mind simply abides in a mindful state.

I’ve been sitting and laying around a lot the past few days

I’ve been sitting and laying around a lot the past few days, picking away at a paper that’s due next Tuesday, and trying to put something together in my mind that resembles a clear sense of purpose for moving forward. I’m afraid I lost that pristine sense of a call some months ago when it became abundantly clear that no one outside of my own head was really convinced that I was called to be a pastor, especially within my particular denomination. They are looking for women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and perhaps a handful of young men who have been with the denomination their entire lives. I thought perhaps the more rural churches were eagerly awaiting someone like myself but I suppose I could have been wrong about that as well. My conversation with the current pastor of my church sent me into a tailspin, and the way I’ve been passed around like a hot potato from one church to another and mostly ignored by the committee one level above the church has all contributed to me feeling mostly like I don’t really belong here.

After so many conversations with people in my classes, this became all the more clear to me–my voice, experience, and eagerness to dive in and help where I might be needed are not enough–I am simply not what this denomination wants or needs right now. I get the impression that many folks who have “gotten theirs” and now have voices that matter, are of a mind that the older, rural churches of a more traditional demographic should all either die out or schism off and become part of a more conservative version of the denomination. Those who are to be a part of the ministry moving forward are the young (millennials and younger), women, people of color and LGBTQ people. For someone who is too old to be a millennial and too young to be a baby boomer, there just isn’t much of anything here for me.

As far as the broader sense of calling and purpose goes–that too has become difficult to ascertain and revive as being something crystal clear and clearly from God. What is God’s purpose for me in the next several decades, as a husband and father who is trying to raise a young son and perhaps another young child–when our country is about to be beset with so many difficult challenges that will likely bring about conflict like we haven’t seen since the Civil War? Why would God allow someone like Donald Trump to win, and allow so many so-called Christian conservatives to be blinded by the kind of man that Trump is? Am I just completely duped by a mainstream, liberal media bubble, and we are on the verge of seeing a deeply flawed man in the tradition of a Churchill do great things for this country? God, I really hope that I am wrong about Trump, and he turns out to be okay–but, none of me is feeling that great about it.

And, what of it? If I am right about Trump, then it changes everything about what the future means for me and my family. If I am wrong about Trump, then it means I probably haven’t been nearly as close to God as I’d hoped, and all of my so-called sense of having a calling to ministry has simply been my own misguided pride. I would much rather be wrong about Trump, and he turn out to be an okay president, no better or worse than the last few we’ve had.

Except, what that ends up meaning for me is that there is no special calling, no purpose, no mission, no vision. I would have done just as well to have stayed at C/B after they merged, and kept my head down and worked from home as long as I could, and then gone back to Austin or gone to Charleston to work, if they determined I needed to be in an office working for them. It means that I was full of so much ego and pride over how much more I could do for a company or an organization, when really, my fullest and true capabilities were just in the area of putting my head down, doing what I was told, and socking away money into a 401K.

There are two visions: helping others and helping myself. They can seem to be like oil and water, and yet each of them depends on the other. I can’t help others until I’ve removed the beam from my own eye. Once I become immersed in trying to do so many things to make myself better physically, intellectually and spiritually, I become more compelled to give of myself and help others benefit from the good things that I’ve obtained.

However, there is the simple fact that a life must be lived with an emphasis on one or the other. As much as you might like to be a perfected being in some classical sense of the word–all full of culture and smarts about a lot of things and really healthy as well–and also be the consummate philanthropist and community volunteer, you really have to reach a point in your assessment of self where you allow yourself to obtain a realistic picture of your talents. I may simply not be capable of being the kind of man I’d like to become. On my death bed, I probably won’t have an entire community gathered around me weeping.

Right now, I am just trying to remember how to pray. I think that I was walking on water for a little bit, and then suddenly remembered that I couldn’t–and I had also forgotten about my faith. I have to keep my faith or the darkness is too much. I may not be able to do a whole lot right now, but I can certainly cry out to God in prayer–prayer for peace in this land and illumination for myself. I need some light to put my next foot in front of me.

I realize that I am not the one who is creating the future. What’s more, I recognize that my idea of what I think would make for a perfect future isn’t necessarily God’s. However, I am with some hope that God is still with me, in spite of how many times I have taken the opportunity to wander off and do my own thing and assert my voice in such a way as to drown out God’s. I also hope that God is still with my country, in spite of how terrible things look from where I sit. The potential terror that could come with a madman declaring martial law for some petty reason is almost unthinkable but still very much within the bounds of being a probable outcome over the next 4-8 years.

When your mind starts creating these scenarios of how bad the world could get to the point where you are envisioning yourself in a post-apocalyptic world, you become reminded again that you are not really in charge of as many things as you’d like to be. You are not in charge of when you die. People get cancer all the time at any given age, and so could you. You could have an undetected heart problem, or some deadly hibernating virus hanging out in your gut. A car could come out of nowhere tomorrow when you are crossing the street. Or, anything else you want to think of. The point is that comfort and satisfaction need to reside in something bigger, or you will walk through this life always skating over a chasm of terror. If you are capable of having great peace of mind about what happens when you die without needing a higher power, then you obviously draw on resources I can’t.

I have to return again and again to the resource of a higher power, and I have to have some hope in the fact that even though I haven’t done everything Jesus asked me to do, I did believe in him in a more fundamental way than merely believing in his existence. I realize that I have been for the most part a self-centered, selfish individual and that I have mostly myself to blame for this. I could blame my culture or the way I was brought up, or others who acted as influences during my formative years, but at the age of 40, I can’t really blame them for more than a fraction of a percentage of my present actions.

It is simply more comfortable to return to a state of adding more to myself–more knowledge, wisdom, food, drink, experiences, etc.–instead of being in a state of giving of myself. It is my default mode, my comfort zone. I have to make myself quite uncomfortable to go out and give of myself to others. Much of my anti-social tendencies and introversion comes from simple selfishness. I feel better about doing something that adds to myself instead of gives of myself, in the short term. Of course, when I get out of my comfort zone and give of myself, and devote blocks of time to doing this, it feels awkward and not quite right in the short term, but makes me feel much better in the long term.

I realize that as a father and a husband I can’t just sell all of my possessions and give the money to the poor and then go live a life of being a mendicant preacher. I must fulfill my obligations as a householder, and find ways within this construct to give of myself. At the end of the day, my family is doing for me what I never seemed to be capable of doing for myself–they make me give of myself all the time. Though, I do recognize that this probably isn’t enough in Jesus’ eyes. Jesus expects me to give of myself to the ones I love as a matter of course–he has asked me to love enemies and neighbors and strangers and pray for those who mistreat me.

And, maybe that’s all I can do right now–pray for those who seem to see the state of things in such a radically different way than I do. They may not necessarily be my enemies, but they are certainly opposed to me in many ways politically and intellectually, whether they know it or not. All I can do is pray for them–not to pray that they come to think like I do, but pray that they receive vision, guidance and clarity from God as much as I hope to. And in the end, we will hopefully come around to having a clearer picture of the world to come that we can agree upon and look forward to together in a peaceful way. This may be asking for a lot, but I still do believe that with God, all things are possible.

There will come a day when most of what you are witnessing

There will come a day when most of what you are witnessing will be dismissed as being frivolous and of little consequence.

I am no prophet. I sit and try with my best intentions to gaze out into the future. The future in 1999 was just as black as it is today. As much as I thought all of the lights would go out, I didn’t quite believe it enough to do anything about it. The only lights going out in the future that I can be sure about are my own.

I wish I could find the face that I am speaking to. I will never know you, at least I think that’s true. Maybe we will come to know each other on some distant, timeless plain.

The isolation required by this human form is maddening. People treasure their privacy like nothing else. After all of the layers are stripped away, you are left wondering what someone was so carefully hanging onto. It is easy to see a future kingdom of heaven on earth as being highly social and communal, but it is hard to immerse myself in social things. The more fragmented the conversation becomes, the higher the noise to signal ratio. Of course, some signals are hiding behind coherence brought about by the right overlapping noise waves. If you are always focused on seeking out the signal, you might only catch a few trivial signals and miss many more significant ones gleaned by those who toughed it out in the arenas of conversation.

Or, you might perfect the only few signals you ever really needed to know.

There is an instinct to get home. There is no home, but simply shards of what home used to be. I could go visit the places I once called home, and I could attempt to return myself to the state I was in when I metaphysically left home, but it only does some good. It does good in that there are little pieces to be found that I’d forgotten and can’t describe succinctly.

If life was a jigsaw puzzle, it would be a jigsaw puzzle numbering in pieces approaching the hundreds of thousands. The picture on the box would be blacked out, and too many of the areas of the puzzle would look similar and unvaried. I’ve gotten the edge pieces all in place, and I’ve more or less grouped everything by color, but I am still trying to figure out how these different areas of similar pattern and color go together. If life was a jigsaw puzzle, for all I know, I could be about to put in the last piece or I could still have tens of thousands of pieces to go. I just don’t know. Of course, I could run the metaphor into the ground, and talk about how I should be getting more help putting the pieces together while helping others put their pieces together. I could even assert that all of the pieces are already in place, or that the picture on the box has always been there, and it’s simply my own stupid desire to be putting fragments back together that enables the picture to look fragmented.

The urge has been to find a talisman–something to touch and hold that would set off a million memories and insights. But then, the will is also to get away from things, as things tend to clog everything up and make it hard to breathe and do something new.

When trying to jump spontaneously into just any memory, or remembering a random dream, I find myself in the backyard of the house in which I did most of my growing up. Sometimes it’s dark, sometimes light. Sometimes I am young, or my present age. Other times it’s winter, fall, spring, summer…or the backyard has become mostly unrecognizable as a dream place.

Perhaps I assigned some kind of psychic ownership to this place. I wandered around in it more than anyone else in my family did, as far as I know. I longed to uncover something magical about it–an old Civil War relic, a Native American artifact, a precious gem, a portal to another world. Alas, the back yard yielded only what its previous owners had left in it–garbage buried everywhere, a shack we eventually tore down, the remains of fry daddies, salon equipment, an engine block from a ‘74 Plymouth, tons of old boards covered in wire from the electric fences they had tacked up for their horses. There was nothing magical there–only the remains of a marriage and business partnership that had gone south.

But, it was also my retreat from the horrors of junior high and high school. It was a place to dream and pretend that I was going to be transformed in a few short months. My older brother had rarely gone back there, and only went back there to smoke when he returned home from boot camp. My little brother had yet to develop a curiosity about the outdoors. My parents worked and went about their adult lives, only occasionally going back there to tend to the garden, mow, trim brush and tear down the old shack.

While I never consciously claimed it as my own particular place, that’s what it became for me. It was a place that belonged primarily to me. Others were allowed to venture there, but they never went during my prime time hours of before/after school and summer weekdays. My neighbor friend across the street generally insisted on doing something when he hung out with me, and so wandering around a trashy, weedy back yard wasn’t really his idea of fun.

Maybe this is what every human needs: an acre patch on earth that he or she can all their own. It doesn’t have to hold any intrinsic worth–the mineral rights can be possessed by others, but that might defeat some of the purpose of getting to have full ownership. If each person was guaranteed a single acre to live and die and be buried, then they might not be as inclined to fight for particular patches of dirt in the Middle East. What makes a patch of dirt so special is the psychic shine you put into it.

I don’t mean anything terribly mystical or voodoolike, either. Just psychic shine in the sense of how you spend so many hours there, focused on it as your land and nobody else’s, during various seasons. You become attached to it not because it is beautiful or yields rare gems and treasures–you become attached to it because it is a significant enough amount of physical space you can claim as your own and nobody else’s. In your mind, you can erect anything you want to on this land.

Maybe it’s not for everyone. Some people have done amazing things while living out entire lives in cramped, urban spaces. Many people have done nothing with millions of acres of land. But, if you were given one unremarkable acre of land, what would you do with it? Would you try to farm it? Build on it? Put in a swimming area and create a fake beach? Start a business? Make a parking lot? Find as much native vegetation as possible to fill all but a tiny middle patch of it where a little green lawn and gazebo sit?

Obviously, the mind wants to turn this into a metaphor for the physical self. If you are given such-and-such body and brain–not terribly smart, sexy or strong but not especially stupid, unattractive and weak, either–what do you do with it? Most people abuse their little acres for the first part of their adult lives, and then become hyper-conscious of how little time they have left to maintain their acre and therefore begin obsessing about perfecting the acre: it gets it all–a garden, a business, a parking lot, a swimming pool, a home, a chapel. But, none of these are cultivated especially well, and the owner of the acre spends only so much time developing each one. No one is there to help them, because each of us have our own little acre we are working on. Perhaps two of us join our acres together, and attempt to bring forth another acre or two from the joining–and we quickly realize that we don’t own any of the other acres but the original one that was assigned to us.

And really, what is there you can do with one acre of land that would impact the rest of the world when you die? You could plant a bunch of trees, but they might get cut down for timber. You could erect a library and fill it with uplifting books, but what if no one comes to read them? You might install a windmill or two, or some solar panels and generate a few kilowatts of electricity–drops in the bucket.

Or, you can do what any younger person would wish to do, as they pay no heed to buried power and gas lines or mounds of dirt falling in upon them–they start to dig.

You dig, and you dig and you dig. Occasionally, you come back to the top to see just how far you’ve dug, and to make a note of how the soil looks much the same at 30m as it does at 330m. Sometimes you hit water, sometimes oil. But, you insist on digging until you can dig no more. Someone says you’ll get to the earth’s molten core, others claim that you’ll run into Indonesia, and a few think that you’ll reach the weird land of the hollow earth people who see down as up and up as down and get their light from an unknown source near the center of the earth.

Too many people to count have urged you to stop digging, as your hole runs so deep that the earth will surely collapse in upon you and crush you during your efforts. But for you, the only way to obtain anything approaching a happy ending is to keep digging until you can dig no more.

I wish that I could report on my present condition

I wish that I could report on my present condition as being one where I am full of great certitude about being on a path. I love the idea of being on a great path guided by God, and having it be the perfect path for me–a unique one that was custom tailored for my special self. I would really like to report to you that every single day sees me waking up feeling like I am part of something epic, real and perfect for a future biopic about a really interesting fellow.

But, most days of the week, I see only my own peculiar face looking back at me in the mirror, and I feel more inclined to stay in bed reading books and writing random thoughts then getting up and pretending that the life I am living is part of a miraculous plan. I am particularly defeated when I hear that there are people attending this school with me who have already been doing what it is that I came here to do, but for whatever reason the need for an MDiv and ordination was terribly important for them. It’s not for me. If I had found the opportunity to serve at a given church in a way where I really felt like I belonged and was needed by the people of that church, I don’t think I would have felt the need to go any further with my so-called calling.

I don’t need to have an acronym for a Master’s Degree after my name. I don’t need to be a Reverend or be ordained to administer sacraments. I felt the need to serve and wanted very much to do so much more than any church I’ve been to in the past six years has asked me to do. I wanted to be part of those folks who go on retreats, both in and out of state. I wanted the t-shirt or ballcap from the event. I wanted to be a part of some warm and fuzzy Jesus-y thing that included a conference center and outdoor retreat and lots of discussion about the future this or that in the church. Most of the time, I was invited to help a little bit here, a little there. Nothing much. Nothing particularly more than anyone else who happened to raise their hand and remind their church that they have a pulse. Fetching ice for a meeting. Standing at a station on the last day of VBS. Sitting in another Bible class. A lot of times, I had to invite myself. Really, that’s how I ended up here. I was always a little puzzled by the request from the school and others to talk about how much others recognized the calling in me–well, nobody ever did. Not even my mom. She thought my little brother was going to be the pastor, and I was going to be the politician.

So, I guess it was all just another head fantasy. I suppose there really is nothing in particular that God has called me to do. God may not even really care that much about what I do, period. I may just be a passthrough dad, slightly more involved with the process of DNA transmission than Joseph, but not by much. My purpose on earth is to keep my son alive until he’s old enough to look out for himself, and make sure he’s educated enough to support himself and a family, and that’s it. Such is the purpose of most men, as it has been for all time–it is the kind of purpose that doesn’t look that much different from the perspective of Darwin or the especially patriotic or tribal-oriented.

Be a man, have a family, raise the family, keep it from being harmed by the outside elements, make sure some of the offspring can bear offspring of their own, die.

If this is truly the case, then the best thing for me to do would be to find the most pure kind of work–honest work that sees me doing something necessary, valuable, and something that doesn’t require a lot of dishonest buttkissing or time spent trying to learn too many new things. Work, I can do. For some, that might mean going to work on a construction site, hauling lumber, building things, tearing things down. For others, it’s saving lives and helping people as a first responder of some kind. For me, those things are either just not me, I am too old to do them or too old to learn them. For me, being an IT guy is the most honest work. At all of the companies and organizations I worked, the IT person was the most honest, along with the lower-level bookkeeper/accountant types. Everyone else had to sing and dance for their supper, if only during team meetings or when their reviews came up. Even the mostly technical work I did in Sales and Marketing required me to put on a show of how much work I was doing–making to-do lists of to-do lists to show how swamped and necessary I was, when I knew all-too-well that I wasn’t.

Of course, ask me how I am feeling and what I am thinking in two weeks. Maybe you will get a different response. Right now, I am of a mind to get some kind of low-level Linux certification and be a reboot monkey for a web hosting company or the IT guy for a random firm, but not the main one–just a junior-level dude who sits in the basement rebooting servers and telling users to reboot their PCs all day. Nothing exceptional or fancy, nothing that would demonstrate to anyone that I have tremendous potential to lead, manage, schmooze, advance, grow, etc. A hard worker who does what needs to get done–punch in at 8 AM sharp, punch out at 12 PM, then back in at 1 PM, and then out at 5 PM. Every weekday, except for the 2-3 weeks a year I get the vacation time to go drive to national parks and fly to Mexico. No longer do I wish to be distinguished, intellectually curious, hungry, growth-hacking, koolaid-drinking, etc. All of those true-believer characteristics that get you promoted or make people think you are going places–I’ve tried them out and tried them on–I’ve tried on many different suits though I’ve only had the one interview sport jacket that came from a thrift store in 1999. All of my suits have been metaphorical, of course, and none of them have fit quite right.

Companies love the career-minded, but I am certain that there are those places and people out there who are looking for solid, honest IT pros who only keep up with the current literature of their trade enough to do their job and not cause the company’s collection of databases to get hacked.

Am I wrong to even be thinking like this? Is this just a passing phase that will end once Spring semester begins? I don’t know. I’ve pretty much felt like I’ve been faking it until I make it since we got down here, and the faking it part has grown tremendously but the will to participate in it has shrunk to next to nothing.

I may seem like a wishy-washy, paradoxical sort of person who can’t get on board with doing much of anything. But, there is an underlying hardness and consistency. There is, more importantly, an underlying truth that I am still in the process of seeing clearly. When I remove all the times I changed jobs because other people told me I shouldn’t be happy staying in one place doing one thing that didn’t pay as much, and when I remove all of the times I stayed at jobs unhappily because people told me I should be happy or should stick with things a little longer, a different sort of picture emerges about what I really would or wouldn’t have been happy doing.

I’ve struggled from the very first job out of college to find the right accord where I am either mostly absorbed with work and spending little time doing very little outside of work or I am mostly absorbed with activities outside of work and doing just the minimal amount of work necessary to not get fired and collect a paycheck. Occasionally, I’ve even tried to do both–be very active with work and with things outside of work, but that never works.

The person who can do a solid, honest day’s work (but is never recognized beyond stock and trade employee recognition programs–no promotions, no mention in trade journals, etc.) every workday of the year except for vacation time, and cultivates a rich and varied life outside of work–that is an admirable, respectable person. So is a person who joins all of the associations, wins all of the awards, becomes the thought leader, and is seen as the top of the best in their field–and their life outside of work is pretty minimalist if not completely spartan–such a person can also be admired and respected if they are striving in a way that isn’t unethical or duplicitous.

But then, there are people like me who have tried to do both or none or one or the other, and have found ourselves always unhappy with whatever we’ve tried.

However, I must say that the real difference in how I am feeling right now from how I’ve felt many times in the past is that I no longer believe that there is one special and important thing I was made to do, that I am not on a path that is significantly more magical than your average Joe Plumber’s path. In fact, the sense of there being a great path, or a future time for greatness (be it doing things that are noble and great or being recognized as being great or both) is gone. The feeling of being especially chosen or called by God just isn’t there. God isn’t calling me to do anything at all, other than be happy and not mess things up too much. I am not any more divinely favored than the plumber or janitor, when it comes to a particular “mission” or calling or vocation or path.

This might seem on the surface to be atheistic or defeatist or depressing, but it really isn’t. It is actually quite freeing. I feel free to go about a life of just being me in all of my good and bad characteristics, and no longer feel like I am set apart by God or humans. I don’t need to drink the fanciest or most local beer. I don’t need to get excited about the important and relEt things that could keep me in the running as an important and relEt person. God is not going to send me to hell if I decide that I wasn’t cut out for the life of a preacher. God is not going to send me to hell if I decide that I am a mere man and a slightly below average Christian. Some Christians might want to do such a thing, but thank God they don’t get to decide. I am not in charge of running the government. If Donald Trump decides to declare martial law and make himself a dictator, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. All of the work and ideas of great men is utterly beyond me–beyond me to affect, change or contribute to. What I can do is live a life that is honest, even if that means it might be a boring life and even a life others find to be disappointing. But, an honest life lived moving forward could very well be a more freeing life.

I no longer feel like I have to wear some kind of smiley, Jesus-y suit around others. Too many people I encounter in the Christian world, be they liberal or conservative in their politics, are impossible for me to connect with–they are full of a lot of self-righteousness and smugness for how virtuously they live their lives, and not interested in bothering to be merely human and happy. Maybe this is an exceedingly broad brush or the act of projection of self, but I do know that I am failing to connect with people even at this late hour, and it would seem that I am made a certain way and incapable of changing that. If I am made to be such a way, then it seems sinful to try to change how I am just to appear to be a nicer, more outgoing person.

Numb

Numb. Behold, you are among the numb ones. You stubbed your toe and the infection grew, and you paid it no mind. Outside, there is mindless progress. We need to get busy doing something because we are lapsing into irrelEce. It is time to wake up and do. Be productive. Be numb, but by all means, keep moving. The winter will come and stare at you from all directions. Yours is a grey, cracked canvas.

Your people were once proud. So were everyone else’s people. The things your people take pride in today are not things a human being should be proud of. But, that’s the great thing about human beings. They can become quite proud of most anything. All of them snapping miserable little snatches of Time with their phones and showing their friends, but not saying a word…hoping for exceeding praise. We all want the crowd of strangers to be just as excited about us as we are.

This was an odd time, indeed, when someone was more likely to greatly lament the passing of a celebrity than the passing of an old friend, family member or someone they knew reasonably well. Was there ever a golden time and place for humanity? Some of the greatest paintings were painted and symphonies composed while outside people lost their heads or burned at the stake. This could be the golden era, though it is doubtful that students some hundreds of years from now will see it as so.

What will we talk about when we have determined that everything we can say to each other will make us hate one another? Why do we need to build a physical wall when we are already pretty adept at building virtual ones and metaphorical ones and metaphysical ones? The wall that is coming is a tsunami and it will wreck all of our petty little walls. Lord, I have been a sinful man. Yes, I’ve sinned all of the usual sins, but most of all, I failed to love my neighbor. I sought out many others whom I felt were more worthy of my love, but my neighbor was to awkwardly not me.

It was, in fact, easier for me to love my neighbor from behind my walls. It was easier to go some place and call a man my neighbor when I could get my neighboring in small doses. It was easier for me to love neighbors who were vastly different than me than the ones who were more or less like me but awkwardly not quite me. Who were those men who looked a lot like me but talked in grunts and clumsy pauses, assenting joyously to news of sports scores and battle victories? Men of my own kin, more flesh and blood of mine than anyone else on the planet, and yet more different than so many others. Confident, comfortable men who had no anxiety about letting out another notch on the belt to make room for the next trip to the buffet.

It was easier for me to love the “not me”–the man or the woman who was clearly and exceptionally not me in some distinct way. Was this because I couldn’t love myself, or couldn’t accept that God loves me, too, and loves those men who were so much like me in many ways but spoke a different language than the one I knew?

By the time I’d reached a certain age, I’d formed these deep grooves inside my brain over what an experience was supposed to look and feel like. If an experience wasn’t behaving as expected, it was quickly dismissed as being irrelEt to my overall mission on this earth. Eventually, I stopped having any experiences that were noteworthy. I experienced existence. A moment of crisis might entail something like heartburn or a stiff neck from a bad pillow.

I became easily lulled into thinking that the world out there and the world in here would never meet in a jarring sort of way. I had the occasional reminder by way of a traffic ticket or a call to jury duty that someone out there was still keeping track of me. But, for the most part, I could rant and rave inside my house and on my blog all day long and nobody paid me any mind. The loudest of the ranters whom I more or less agreed with–he still wasn’t loud enough to change anything, so how would I be able to?