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I’ve been blessed with a beautiful wife (two, actually), an amazing daughter, a family that loves me, some great friends. I’ve lived a good life, got a college degree and had a reasonably meaningful and enjoyable career. And I’m pretty sure that Jesus loves me.
Yaknow, when I write that down, it sounds like a note of passing. It isn’t–at least it isn’t meant to be.
My fear is that it might be.
That fear isn’t based on health concerns or the lack of opportunity or even the lack of resources. Sure I wish I had the health and physical stamina of my 18-year-old self; I wish I was independently wealthy and knew all of the right people and all of the right tricks, had all of the right points of access and knew all of the best shortcuts to turn my dreams into reality. But a lack of resources (physiological, fiscal or otherwise) isn’t what’s kept me from realizing my dreams.
For the most part, when I imagine the gossamer-titanium membrane that separates imagination from actuality, a helluva lot of it comes down to, well, fear.
A few fears that come quickly to mind:
1. Disappointing and alienating the people who have proven themselves more than willing to forgive, accept and persist in their irrational love for me, whatever idiotic thing I do or, on the other hand, whatever simple act of decency I fail to do.
2. Offending religious and/or social conservatives with my foul, fucking language.
3. Showing myself to be not merely liberal but an off-the-reservation, anti-establishment, commie, universalist blasphemer against every sacred tradition or cherished family/American/Christian value.
4. Showing myself to be not merely conservative but an intractable, sycophantic, nostalgic reactionary, cleaving like a scared, hungry baby at the mother’s tit of the most illogical, regressive, outmoded beliefs.
5. Being arrogant.
6. Being stupid.
7. Showing myself over- or under-educated.
8. Failing to sufficiently reference my thoughts to the history of thought.
9. Bogging myself down by being pointlessly referential and allusive.
10. Saying the obvious.
11. Saying what everyone else is already saying or has already said.
12. An inability to translate my weird ass thoughts into words that not only make sense to another human being but successfully communicate what it is I actually mean.
13. A maddening desire to fully qualify and contextualize every statement.
14. A bad habit of saying things that are easily taken out of context and inevitably piss people off.
15. Being wrong.
16. Being right.
17. Being too early, too late, right on time.
18. Being irrelevant.
19. Appeasing the masses; being a populist demagogue.
20. Appeasing any of a number of self-appointed, self-righteous oligarchies of elites (whom you can always identify as such by their impassioned accusations against and vilifications of the other oligarchies).
21. Being too enamored of my own thoughts and/or the sound of my own voice.
22. Saying what I have to say in a way that is uninteresting, inelegant, ugly.
23. Being just a “thinker” or “word guy.”
24. Not being any good at even that.
25. An obsession to be comprehensive.
26. Being longwinded, verbose, redundant.
27. Incomplete lists.
So here we go. Let’s just face into some of these fears with a few guarantees:
1. I will continue to wrestle with my demons and will likely be held back to some degree by my fears. I don’t resign myself to bondage, but at this point in my life I no longer believe that regurgitating positive incantations and forcing my mind through tritely optimistic formulae will banish negativity, satan, poverty, halitosis, illogic, rationality or what-the-hell-ever-else is blocking me or chafing my short hairs.
2. I will disappoint you. I’m just gonna have to trust that the people who love me will continue to do so and that my being who I am won’t make them ill or prematurely gray or pathologically disillusioned. Or maybe they won’t love me. Or maybe they will love me and all of those curses will fall on them. I love them but they have to live their own lives, just as I have to live mine.
3. Sometimes I will say things that make no sense.
4. Sometimes I will say things that don’t need to be said.
5. I will sometimes trip (or run headlong) into vulgarity and blasphemy.
6. I will continue to resort to bullsh** neo-victorian euphemism and typological trickery to satisfy my own need to not feel like I am that much of a potty mouth or unsophisticate.
7. I will occasionally (or frequently) rant, whine and pontificate.
8. I will repeat myself.
9. Some of my ideas will be ill-conceived.
10. Others will be poorly expressed.
11. I will probably plagiarize (though, I hope, unintentionally).
12. Most of my conservative friends think I’m liberal. Fuck it; I’ll wear that label if it makes them happy.
13. Some of my liberal friends wonder why I cling to the backward vestiges of sectarianism and superstition. Fuck it. I love Jesus. I believe in fairy tales. I pray to an invisible God who committed genocide and sanctioned incest. Sue me.
14. I will hate every label and system and structure you try to fit me in.
15. I will continue to strive to define myself (or hear for myself from the heart of God who I am). I will probably take your definitions too seriously, but in most cases I will ultimately dismiss them.
16. I like words–pretty, ugly, arcane and obtuse, monosyllabic and simple, pious, profane, frustratingly vague, painfully precise, etc. There are enough of you bastards that obviously don’t; I’m pretty sure it’s okay that a few of us do.
17. I like to think. Not that I’m opposed to doing. I do some things. But I’m no longer content to restrain my thoughts because I don’t have a three-point action plan to accomplish them.
This is who I am and who I’m deciding to be. You might not like it. Feel free to express your disagreement. Feel free to join the billions who don’t read what I have to say.
Or feel free to join me. I mean this to be fun. I mean it to be meaningful. I mean to actually follow through this time; I like to believe that I’ve finally found a way to pretend that I don’t give a damn what any of you think (it’s a lie; I do–at least sort of) and can in fact say what’s on my mind, instead of always settling for an unreasonable facsimile thereof (that might be a lie too: I’m not sure we ever get the “real” thing; but I’m willing to risk getting closer than I usually dare).
My young friend, Courtney–who is an extraordinary and musical young woman from an extraordinary and musical family–tagged me. You should read her blog–not just that one post, but in general; she has a way of being quietly and profoundly insightful and getting the rest of us worked up responding to her observations. Anyway, back to the instigating post: I’m supposed to tell you seven random things about me.
Normally, I wouldn’t respond to this sort of thing (Courtney called it a chainletter and she’s probably right; shame on you, Courtney). Those who send me fun little quizzes uplifting prayers and inspiring stories and encouraging little what-nots and promises of fame, fortune and the general good pleasure of God if I’ll only continue the chain and SPAM all of my friends–well, y’all already know this. Those who send me bigoted or otherwise specious and demagogic political crap know that I’m likely to fling it back in their faces. Those who send me silly urban legends know that they (and the rest of their unwitting friends whom they failed to blind copy) are in danger of a reply that includes a link to a Snopes article or some other debunking site. I make it sound like I’m a jerk. In fact, if anything, I usually go out of my way to try to not make people feel like idiots for spreading lies and, too often, hateful prejudice and fear. And, hey, the truth is, we’re all idiots sometimes. I’ve decided that being an idiot is part of what it means to be human. I’m an idiot. But we should, shouldn’t we, try to curb a few to the most destructive excesses?
Wow, that was a tangent or two. Anyway, here are my seven things. My own perverse twist is that I’m going to blatantly mostly ignore the randomness requirement. Those of us who work in technology or are students of human behavior or believe in intelligent design know that “random” is usually a false construct intended to make us feel better about our substantial ignorance of ourselves and the world we inhabit. No, I’m going to conspicuously plagiarize Courtney’s randomness. Consider Courtney’s blog the seed for my random generator, unless–I take that back, especially if–that makes absolutely no sense to you. And, we all know I’m going to make them “random” my own kind of way anyway, aren’t I?
1. When I get out of the shower (and I am so sorry for that mental image), there are two cats who lick my feet. I’m not entirely sure whether they’re really thirsty (they shouldn’t be: I bought them a little kitty fountain complete with charcoal filter which I change regularly, and a few times a day I run one of the bathroom sinks just for them because they don’t seem to appreciate water in a bowl by their food); or they just like the taste of water off my freshly washed feet; or they think the shower didn’t quite do its job and they’re generously offering to groom me; or they just love me. I like to think it’s that they love me . . . even though I’m also pretty sure that’s not true. In fact, the male is a bit of a freak and I think the female just does it because she sees that his freakish behavior gets a lot of attention.
2. I credit a lot of what’s good about me (not that I’m saying there’s a lot) not only to the persistent presence of concerned and loving parental and other adult folk in my early life and the persistent presence of a concerned and loving wife and child and other youthful folk in my later life but to something that happened when I was a wee lad and my mother was in charge of a church program of some sort (yaknow, Christmas or the like). One of her charges got sick on the day of the program. I was in a younger age group so wasn’t originally part of it. But in the time of need, she gave me a good chunk of stuff to memorize and recite that morning, which I did. Or at least that’s how I remember it. This led to a childhood wherein I was often memorizing scripture, especially in King Jimmy’s tongue. And, thing is, it’s been rolling around in my head ever since. It’s kept me from going off the deep end more than once. Perhaps as importantly, it’s helped me dive off the deep end more creatively than I might otherwise have. I’m not one of those that thinks the KJV is less errant than other translations, but it is quite beautiful and it prepped me for Shakespeare and a whole slew of other literary, musical, artistic, spiritual, philosophical, political et al. enjoyments.
3. When I was young, I developed what I came to consider a sort of tic wherein I was constantly counting syllables and beats and such, usually with the four fingers of one or the other hand. As a result, the meter of the world around me was seen in terms of its roundness by (or remainder from) four or eight. Sometimes the numbers would match the words as I heard them; i.e., I’d hear them together in my head. I had a sort of affinity for rhyming, too, Courtney. The sad thing is that, like many of my natural propensities, I one day came to the conclusion (of which I later repented) that I should stop both habits. And I did. Not that I can’t do them still, but it’s more an effort than I think it used to or should still be. Maybe this is why I so encourage and celebrate quirkiness and freakishness; I have mostly come to regret the quirkicides I’ve committed upon my own soul.
4. “Rhyme” and “rhythm” are two of my favorite words to say and spell (it is a happy accident that they relate to item #3). “Occasion” (and its many forms) has long had my number but I’m coming close to nailing the ornery bastard down.
5. My elder brother, John, once bequeathed on me the nickname Berf Luigi. I’m not making this up. “Berf,” he explained, is a combination of “nerf” and “barf.” “Luigi” is “Joel” spelled sideways, sort of. I’ve never met anyone with a better nickname. It made me feel special and seemed to resonate with something in my heart of hearts. I love my family.
6. I’ve always been a little embarrassed that I don’t know much about web design or programming. But honestly, I’m not sure that I’m willing to make the investment either. And I like dwelling in the ether between the hardcore coders and the helpless users. I can code a little if I have to and I can generally figure out and ruthlessly exploit software and systems (especially niche software), but I’m not a code monkey. I use and abuse programmers; I respect them; I need them; I like them. But I’m not really one of them. I’ve only ever been an honorary or pretend coder, like Marcus Welby or one of those charlatans with honorary PhDs (well, they’re not all charlatans; it was just funner to say it that way).
7. It’s always bothered me that I don’t remember much from my earliest youth and that I have a hard time with visual memory. I have an odd memory anyway. Words and goofy little thoughtcycles run through my head and clog out the other stuff, I think. My brain is a menagerie of caged rabid hamsters spinning their wheels like so many encircled monkey typists trying to work out “Hamlet.” That mixed and clouded metaphor (I’m a big fan of the mixed metaphor but you probably already knew that) contains an allusion to something about randomness I learned as a young man. It seems a fitting end to this little digression.
It will probably take me a while to get around to tagging; and I’m liable to do it intermittently and may not tag precisely seven of you and I may–pbbbt!–re-tag someone; I can’t say for sure what I’ll do. When I tag you, I decree that you must just say seven things whose random/derivative coefficient you must decide. But, of course, I encourage anarchy and rebellion, so do as you please. Yes, I demand it. I demand that you flout my decree of indefiniteness and dissent.
Oh, and end your post with a silly pronouncement.
So, I’ve got a ton of stuff to say, but none of it is in a form that I want to post, so I decided that I’d do a kind of blog freewrite. Sort of. Maybe not quite so free, not quite so sloppy. But free . . . ish and definitely sloppy.
You’ve gotta love “ish.” Thanks for that one, Lord. And whoever else gave that to us. I mean, it’s not great. But it’s great . . .ish. And somehow that sounds sarcastic, which I didn’t start out meaning it to be. But there it is and maybe rightly so.
This is a blog. This is my blog. So I suppose it makes sense to make it bloggy. I think I’ll go there today. Not many people read this anyway, and those that do probably have at least minimal interest in my life and thought. So here goes. Briefly. No, really; not like I usually end up meaning that.
I woke up this morning (it was morning, though a little late) in a state of clarity. It’s funny how that happens–in the morning, I mean, and especially on the weekends when I’ve actually slept. There’s something about the combination of rest and coming out of that less-inhibited, less-filtered, more-believing, more-open, altered state of consciousness that is sleep. Sleep is good.
And sleep–dreamy, REMish sleep, in particular–is a little like speaking in tongues. Yeah, you can argue that both of them are nonsense, but it seems to me that they’re both just transrational. And absolutely, IMO, necessary. Sure: scattered, semichaotic images and sounds. But there’s an efficacy there. And “there” is the right word. It’s a place, a place where healing can occur, where we let down the guard just long enough for the Spirit to slip in. Because the truth is, for all of our protestations to the contrary, we are constantly contending against the works of Grace.
So, revelation. And I felt the need to write. I didn’t want to lose the moment, so I actually used pen and a journal that I keep by my bed but rarely write in. And I journaled and wept (not continual weeping, but some very good and occasionally very deep weeping) until I’d filled 18 pages. Which is especially remarkable in that I hate writing more than a few sentences with pen on paper.
And I call it “revelation,” but it’s really just a moment of clarity, which, in that state to which I’ve alluded, is simple, unpretentious, un-self-conscious. Doesn’t even recognize itself as remarkable. It’s only the entry into daythought (which–daythought-I have a hard time not viewing as evil, given it’s oppressive, doubtful tendencies) that renders it special, shows it as an aberration against normalcy. Normalcy sucks, so aberration is decidedly a good thing.
Thank you, God. You are, indeed, the Lord of the Sabbath and the God of dreams.
So, some teasers. My ramblings from this morning are probably too rambley–too long, too profane, too chaotic to just spit them out here. And they might need more shape even for me to keep them in my own thought, let alone introduce them to yours. I must blog them, though. And I may try to preserve their form as much as I can. Who can say? But here are their abstracts, rambley still, but less wordy than that to which they refer. And, please understand, I don’t mean to make complete statements here; rather, consider these fragments a promise, to which I must return.
- My relationship with the LORD is in a state of nominally complete deconstruction.
- Deb died, as far as I am concerned, at exactly the wrong time. And that pisses me off for all sorts of reasons.
- It is very dark here, but God is comfortable and fully aware in the darkness.
- God is, in fact, a big Cheater–His seeing in the dark and all.
- But I still love Him. How can I not love Him? Really, I’ve asked myself about the possibility and it seems increasingly im-, even in the midst of what is an embarrassingly persistent anger. It is embarrassing. I don’t feel like I’m continually angry and I definitely have moments where it’s not on the surface, but whenever I think about it, it sure feels as though it hasn’t gone away. Yes, I am angry. I’d like to tell you that I’m not, but I am. But I can no more deny my love and worship than I can deny my anger. No, it doesn’t make sense.
- I haven’t given up on God. It turns out, as far as I can tell, that that’s even part of the anger.
- We are rebuilding, God and I. I hope mostly God, because, as I think is abundantly clear, I’m clueless and otherwise not with the program.
- I and my blog must be a no bulls*** zone. But this is variously problematic.
That’s all I’m gonna say for now. I’ve probably already violated (as I am wont to do) the “leave them wanting more” principle. Oh, and this is brief.
Let it rain, let it rain
Open the floodgates of Heaven
and let it rain . . .
(Pocket Full of Rocks, “Let it Rain” from Fascination)
60% chance of showers in DFW, I’m walking from the train station, listening to Fascination and “Let it Rain” is up. The sky is dark and there’s a cool heaviness in the air.
Singing along, ‘Let it rain, let it rain. Open the floodgates of heaven . . .’ Considering the distinct possibility that I might, literally, get soaked before I make it to the office, I laugh and whisper under my breath, ‘But, hold off just a sec, could ya?’
Don’t get me wrong. I love the rain. I love thunder and lightening and the way thick, dark clouds completely transform the landscape—both visually and in their burden’s release. I have happy memories of walking through the rain, the precipitation sometimes so abundant that I’m completely but happily soaked within seconds.
But, yaknow, sometimes it’s just not convenient.
Can’t You see we’re drowning here?
And don’t You care?