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.”

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.

Monday morning, first day of Spring semester classes

Monday morning, first day of Spring semester classes, first year of grad school. Routine has been established, but not enough so that I consistently do physical activity and tend to scholarship money. Just enough of a routine to get me out the door and get my son to his school, and me to class so that I can keep my head afloat. I feel an enormous weight off my back sense I’ve decided to abandon Facebook for the second time. Hopefully, this time is for good. There has been way too much negativity increasing inside of me toward others, and a great lack of objectivity about who/how people really are.

It has also been helpful for me to return to reading Buddhist texts, and think about reality outside of the everyday paradigms in which I’m used to situating myself, be it the Judeo-Christian one or the post-modern Scientific one, or even the crazy, post-truth, post-facts world of news and politics.

Mostly, I am looking for a consistent framework that I can rely upon, without this framework becoming so rigid that I can’t adapt to new situations. It should be obvious, but I have to remind myself constantly that I control so little of what goes on out there, and I have neglected to control much of what goes on in here that I should have been controlling.

Random dreams last night about my own vanity. I came across an ID card from ten years ago in the dream, and this card had a little animated GIF of me interacting with someone I once knew on it. In the dream, my hair was plentiful and flaxen, and I looked sort of like an eighties sitcom teen heartthrob. I was convinced in the dream that I was able to look that way from simply using Rogaine, and my stopping the application of it had turned me into a wizened old man who looks more like the Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

I think it was a reminder of how in the past I’d held a much higher estimation of myself and my appearance than I really needed to, or perhaps that I still cling in the present to a false notion of how I once looked. Such dreams are primarily prompts to clean up crud that I still cling to, I think.

I think what you have to ask yourself

I think what you have to ask yourself is: if you had to choose between:

having this country run entirely by non-whites, but the ideals of our founding fathers were held up in an exemplary fashion;

vs.

having this country run entirely by whites, but the government was a cross between a Nazi, Communist and monarchical government–

which would you choose?

I think Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell need to ask themselves this. I think Trump supporters everywhere need to ask themselves this. I think we are in the process of getting our answer from these people, whether they want to seriously ask themselves this question or not.

It is no longer a matter of “waiting to see what happens” or “the Clintons and Obama did this, too.” You are watching our system of checks and balances get shredded for good, and you are either okay with or you aren’t. You are watching a maniac making himself King, and watching him take measures that no other President has dared to take. The ones who came before him have regrettably set a precedent for this behavior, but the people who control Congress are the ones who are enabling it. They seem to think that in the end this deal with the devil won’t hurt too much and will leave them mostly in a good place.

It is unfortunately still framed too much in a partisan narrative. It is bizarre that so many NWO conspiracy theorists believe that Trump is their man to prevent the NWO government from arriving. An elite lines his cabinet with elites and behaves like a king, but he is ultimately doing this for the good of the republic. It is unfortunate that too many NWO conspiracy theorists were at the end of the day far-right individuals who were every bit as hyper-partisan as the rest of us–folks like McCain, Bush, Romney, etc. simply weren’t far right enough for them.

I am fully aware of the fact that I am at least partly to blame for the rise of Donald Trump

I am fully aware of the fact that I am at least partly to blame for the rise of Donald Trump. I ranted and raved and subscribed to liberal political magazines and volunteered for and donated to political campaigns quite a bit between 2000-2008, and once Obama won, I stopped worrying. I got a little agitated when Cruz tried to shut the government down and Trump started winning primaries, but I thought for certain that the American people were smart enough to pull us through in the end, and make the right choice for President. I assumed that people would understand that not voting for Hillary meant voting for Trump, no matter how much they despised Hillary. And that people would see just how much worse our country would be under Trump than Hillary. I assumed that the number of people now living in the United States who would make the right decision would far outweigh those who wouldn’t. Yes, Hillary won the popular vote, but I mean to say that I assumed Trump wouldn’t even come close to getting the number of votes needed to win the White House.

I am no longer assuming anything, except that my future and my son’s future will probably be dark and unhappy. I get how everyone talks about getting up off my ass and doing something, but I also lived through the Bush years and watched the results of so many efforts to do and say something to take Bush and Co. down. Even Alex Jones was anti-Bush. Nothing took Bush down except for the charisma of Barack Obama. Nothing changed things this year for the Tea Party set except for the charisma of Donald Trump. Sure, they put some people into other offices, and yes, they got Ted Cruz to pull a stunt a few years ago. But, the crowning victory came once a charismatic personality lent his name to the spirit of the movement if not directly to that particular movement. I wholeheartedly believe that if the woman’s march of a week or so ago had taken place back in August and had made Hillary its figurehead, and she had properly taken the mantle of charismatic leader of that movement, then Donald Trump would not have been elected. Showing that you have strength, voice and power against the establishment on the day after it takes office isn’t as helpful as showing it during the time leading up to the election that will hopefully upend the establishment.

And let’s be clear: Donald Trump is part of the establishment. He is not draining any swamps, he isn’t going to Make America Great again for anyone except himself and his family, and it is even dubious if he will succeed at that given his track record of terrible business decisions and corruption. A best case scenario will be that he convinces Congress to end presidential term limits, and spends the next fifteen years in office living like Berlusconi until he croaks and people finally get a clue and vote for someone more sane. A more likely scenario is that with the coming martial law, Trump will more or less set up a dynasty and his children will rule after he leaves office.

What I am actually witnessing in my lifetime is the process by which the United States of America undergoes what the Republic of Rome did as it transitioned to an empire. My best hope for me and my family is that we are so utterly inconsequential and insignificant that all of the ranting on blogs and Facebook and Twitter and letters to Congresspeople and Editors and marches, etc. will go largely unnoticed. We will quietly live under the radar and cross our fingers that Trump will not set up a National ID system in which you are microchipped or tattooed with a special Mark of Allegiance to the American Way and the Economy and other things sacred, but now utterly meaningless given that the word America is fast becoming nothing more than a proper name. When Trump began saying that if we don’t do something soon, we wouldn’t have a country at the start of his campaign–it was, of course, a dog whistle for racists, but it was also a signal of his real intentions: Donald Trump has no desire for the U.S. continuing to exist as the country of liberties and freedoms we claim to know and love. When it comes to the kinds of Executive Orders he is pushing and the people he is putting in charge, it is not even close to what Obama and past presidents have done in the past.

To be for sure, the Executive Branch has continued to witness more and more power flowing to it, and the efforts of Congress and the Supreme Court to check that power, along with the efforts of States and local governments to check the power of the Federal Government have been slowly eroding over time. All of us citizens are responsible for this, when we take interest only in who will be President and then mostly ignore all other elections and political and government activity. We have all enabled the monster that is Trump to arrive, and frankly, if it hadn’t been him, it would have been someone else. Hillary probably would have tested the waters a little less overtly, but she surely would have contributed to the erosion of the system of checks and balances.

Will the ultimate end to the U.S.A. as our founding fathers intended it to work happen during the office of Donald Trump? He is certainly to my reckoning the best candidate we’ve had for this to happen since FDR. However, no one knows what is really in Trump’s heart. I would still like to hold out a little bit of hope that the man is sincere in helping America to return to whatever he thinks it’s supposed to be to make it great, and has enough reverence for our original founding principles that he wouldn’t make himself a dictator, but I am only holding out a tiny bit of hope. I certainly was wrong about Bush being as bad as he ended up being–he was largely more dumb and incompetent than evil. I was definitely wrong about Obama coming next after Bush–how could anyone see Obama coming in an era when everyone equated a man named Osama with Satan, and a man named Hussein with Satan’s best buddy? To have a name like Barack Hussein Obama seemed like the worst possible name to have to become president. At times, I was pretty certain I stood a better chance of being president, simply by virtue of being white and having an Anglo Protestant name.

So, fortunately, I am wrong a lot in my dark assessments of what the future will bring. But, I don’t think I am incorrect in saying that Trump has take abuse of the Executive power to a whole new level, and too many Republicans like Paul Ryan are enabling it because they think they will get a good deal in the end of their deal they are making with the devil. As an aside, I should state that I find it utterly absurd that you cannot directly contact members of the House unless you lie about your zip code–as most of these men and women, especially ones like Ryan, are more than willing to weigh in on national and international issues, it has never really been the case that he simply represents some tiny little backwoods section of Wisconsin.

In a lot of ways, men like Paul Ryan are worse than Donald Trump. Trump is more or less a WYSYWIG–he may have some more evil tricks up his sleeve than the evil that’s come out of his mouth and been signed by his pen so far, but whatever Trump has done or said in the past few weeks has not in the least been out of character or astonishing. Someone like Paul Ryan will occasionally show flashes of integrity and respect for the job that has been entrusted to him, but your average Paul Ryan inevitably caves to men like Trump because at the end of the day he cares more about his job and money than he does about his country. As so-called Christians, I must say that these evangelical types and conservative Catholics have made their priorities very clear: Mammon first, then Country, then probably a lot of other things that they would hate to give up before giving up their faith like Football and Guns and red meat, then Christ. This is not a statement about whether or not I am more Christian than them–I am fully aware of the fact that my priorities don’t always put Christ first–however, I don’t think these holier-than-thou types are nearly as self aware about just how much they put a love of money over even a love of country.

To say that our Founding Fathers would be appalled at Trump is a bit of an oversimplification, of course. Our Founding Fathers were a diverse (in opinions, not ethnic backgrounds, of course) bunch of smart guys who differed on the amount of power the President should have. I am pretty sure that more than a few of them would have been okay with banning Muslims and building a wall–the idea of religious freedom was a lot more narrow in a lot of these men’s minds, and the idea of who was actually fully human was pretty different as well. However, I do think that most of the Founding Fathers wanted what was best for this country in the long time, and they were products of their time. It is easy to knock people who don’t think like you do when they didn’t have the same opportunities for enlightenment that you did. It could even be argued that poor Donald Trump has been sheltered and suffocated intellectually by his own particular environment, and he is in some perverse way a victim as much as someone born in war-torn country trying to get to a better life. Obviously, this is absurd and Donald Trump has had access to the entire world–in his lifetime he could have traveled everywhere and taken dozens of classes to better himself and make himself a more enlightened person. What’s more, his sheltered world is the kind of world not many would object to, were they to find themselves living in it tomorrow.

Really, what am I getting at with all of this? There is clearly a problem now of some magnitude. As a father and husband and citizen of the U.S., I feel that it is incumbent upon me to assess the gravity of the threat and make the best decisions for myself and my family, but not become so utterly quick to run off to some other country to work and live that I turn my back on those who may need some kind of support or advocacy from me. I am not nearly concerned about the threat to my own neck as I am about the threat to my son’s future. I don’t want him growing up in a country where he pretty much sees his best opportunities as being part of the Trump Youth, or joining the Trump Party, or what have you. Of course, if Trump is the Antichrist, then moving to a place like New Zealand only delays the inevitable–we are in the end times, and Jesus will be back soon to set things right.

I am on the verge of immersing myself again into a full class load

I am on the verge of immersing myself again into a full class load with extra time spent studying and working part time. There is so much wrong unfolding in this country right now, that it seems almost impossible to do anything especially effective about any of it. I had my moments where I prayed to God to remove Trump from the Presidency–I didn’t care how, just as long as someone less evil replaced him. I am unsure of what God is thinking right now. I realize that there are so many artful ways of talking about the Lord permitting awful things to unfold so that we can live in a realm of truly free will, but most days I don’t think this is enough. I don’t find it very valuable to conceive of a savior who is waiting on us to completely save or destroy ourselves before appearing.

My Christian faith of especially the past seven years has really taken a beating. Between learning how bad some of the heroes of the Bible really were and how much of it is probably myth, and seeing the majority of Christians in the U.S. get behind Donald Trump, I have started to spend more time reading Buddhist and Jewish mystical texts, like I did when I was in college. I think that I still love the pure Jesus, and the pure ideal of being a forgiving, loving peacemaker on this earth, but the hateful, selfish Christian found throughout our society today is not a new kind of Christian. We can likely pin the death of the Christian purist on the time of Constantine–when the Roman persecutions were lifted and Christians could practice their faith openly in the most powerful republic on earth and its leader took up Christianity as his religion. That was when it became more precious to be a wealthy man entering through some very wide and broad gates to worship Christ, than it was to be a poor wretch of a martyr being persecuted for your faith.

I have started envisioning many alternate scenarios for the future. I am at times willing to put just about anything on the table as a possibility and leave it there. In some of my imagined scenarios, there are an infinite number of alternate worlds just like this one, and each person lives out the life of some random historical individual–you might be born in a slum in India one life and British royalty in the next. This is kind of like the concept expressed in the movie The Dark City. Or, if you want to, you could continually come back as the same person you were before and live an alternate version of your life all over again–like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, but for an entire lifetime.

There are, of course, certain sticking points that would prevent me from wanting to live out such scenarios, and others that make me very badly want to live them out all the time. For example, my son–I would be heartbroken if the cosmic powers that be took him away from me and I never got to see him again. But likewise, I would be just as utterly devastated if I never got to see my mom and brother again, or see my wife again if some alternate world caused me to end up having a completely different life, and trying to find these beloved souls again was a bazillion times worse than looking for a needle in a haystack.

I just about opened the box with the Linux books last night

I just about opened the box with the Linux books last night. I have the computer purchased–an $80 workhorse off of Craigslist. At some point in the coming semester, I suspect I will be driven over the edge and open the box up and start learning a few command line commands a day. Why? I’ve become incredibly disillusioned with whatever there was of myself that could be described as cosmic, loving and charitable beyond the pettiness of my given time and place. I have had too many days at seminary where I feel like a complete fraud. I’ve become disillusioned with people–both ones I’d hoped were better Christians and ones I’d hoped were just plain smarter about someone like Donald Trump. The future right now seems to be utterly dark and full of chaos. The notion that I would be able to happily settle into life in a mid-sized parrish in a mid-size college town for the next twenty to thirty years seems absurd on these days where every single item in the news feed tells me that I and my family will be lucky to survive the next ten years and have a somewhat normal country to live in.

It’s one thing when people lack compassion, and it’s another when they lack brains. I grant folks either one, because I can’t say as I feel like I am as compassionate or making use of my brains as much as I could be every day. But, I will say that I rarely have my days when I lack both, and I truly believe that once you lack both as part of your political views, your humanity is lost and so are you. It’s one thing to be upset with the disproportionate amount of illegal immigration that takes place from Mexico and Latin American countries. I don’t agree with it, but if you intellectually have come to a conclusion that this is more harmful for our economy than not, that’s one thing. It’s another thing to respond to immigration problems by being both lacking in compassion and lacking in intelligence. There are smart ways to reform things and there are ways in which you simply allow your personal, misguided fears to get the better of you.

For Christians who support Donald Trump, I hope at least a few of them are doing a lot of soul searching right now and asking themselves just how far they want to see these measures go. Do they want to bear the burden of guilt that Germany holds today for what was done in the first half of the 20th Century? For some, I think the answer is simple: there is no guilt because they simply don’t see immigrants as human beings. There are a few that I know who probably wouldn’t even have a problem returning to the days of slavery, or simply exterminating or kicking out everyone who isn’t a proper shade of white. But, I don’t think that covers the majority of Christians who voted for Donald Trump.

However, I do think that the majority of Christians who voted for Donald Trump have chosen to put money, guns, patriotism, fear and desire for comfort, football and probably an idolatrous form of Christianity itself over a true love of Christ. For them, I vacillate between feeling a great sadness over just how much they have decided they are willing to compromise in order to maintain their priorities for the idols they worship, and feeling utter contempt and hope that these people all wake up one morning realizing they are the ones who got left behind when the rapture happens. I also think that for a few of them, the idea of being left behind is utterly appealing, because that will give them the opportunity to prove once and for all just how much they are the true Christians as they inevitably become martyred during the time of tribulation.

Do I deserve to be accused of creating a lot of straw men and making a lot of generalities? Probably. Such an accusation isn’t going to change me thinking the way I do and trying to call things as I see them. Does an accusation of being unfair and overly simplifying the moral issues evangelicals struggle with matter to me? No. What matters right now is a question of whether or not I am going to continue on this path toward becoming a pastor, because I ultimately believe that God is calling me to do this and that I will eventually be able to help those God wants me to help.

Are there some days where I wonder if God really called me to do anything at all, or if it was simply my own pride flaring up when I got sick of how things were going at the places where I worked? Of course. There are some days where I wonder if God even gives a shit about me or anyone else on this planet, and if the Deists weren’t onto something–this is a realm where we are left to our own devices to work out are own shit among each other, and God isn’t going to step in and reset everything until we’ve completely fucked everything up, but for good.

Last night, I helped my wife with some simple HTML issue she was having with an e-newsletter she was sending out at her work. It felt strangely good–to be able to do something of tangible value and just fix something that was broken, instead of sitting around thinking, reading and writing and hoping. The temptation has risen ever-so-slightly to reach out to a recruiter and get a temperature check on what kind of job they think they could find me as someone who hasn’t really done any of the old career stuff for almost a full year. I’ve been slightly tempted just to throw my hat into the ring for some random job that doesn’t pay great but still pays better than I’ll probably ever make as a pastor.

But, I think I’m going to stick to my guns and tough it out at least through this spring semester. I am going to see if anything doesn’t change–a light comes on or a door opens or someone walks into my life who would be a mentor or someone to show me the way toward this brand new career I set out to do a year or so ago. I think it is valid and okay to wait for some clearly obvious signs and indicators in this case–God doesn’t talk to me directly, things open up in life or they don’t.