I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of the culture wars.

The battle over (ostensibly “for”) marriage is a case in point. On the one side are geniuses who seem to believe that God is pleased when we deny others basic human rights and refuse to respect their basic human dignity. On the other are brilliant minds who don’t seem to understand fundamental differences in human anatomy.

One side insists that marriage be “defended” and its meaning officially defined and delimited by the State. The other demands that that definition be inclusive and accepting, however nonsensical the end result.

Call me a simpleton, an extremist sectarian or rudderless liberal, but I don’t think it’s that complicated. I don’t need the State or anyone else to reassure me.

Marriage is sacred. The sacrament of marriage is sex. And when I say “sex,” I don’t mean to discount various other means of enjoyment, but the act to which I explicitly refer is the copulatory sacrament involving complementary male and female organs. Please don’t make me get any more graphic than that. If, in fact, the singularity and rightness of that exquisite pleasure doesn’t make sense to you, well, you need the kind of help that I’m not going to be able to give you. And truly I pray that you find the help you need.

I implore my conservative brethren to, once and for all, recognize that our feeble–and, let’s be honest, narcissistic–so-called “defense” of the sacred does little other than dishonor precisely that which we pretend to protect.

I implore my liberal brethren to find another word. “Marriage” is taken. I’m all for granting committed couples of every assorted kind (especially those involved in the raising of children) all kinds of legal rights; just don’t expect me to consider them “married,” except maybe in the most diluted, metaphorical sense. And, frankly, there’s far too much dilution of marriage in the heterosexual community, so don’t hold your breath waiting for me to endorse even more of it from the LGBTs. For whatever it’s worth, I’d rather not know what you do in private and I think we can all agree that we don’t want the State poking its nose in your bedroom either.

But y’all go ahead and keep shouting at each other like the idiots and bigots you seem determined to be. I realize that my words are unlikely to dissuade you.

Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to continue celebrating marriage. Please refer back to the aforementioned definition of marital sacrament. I plan on spending the rest of my life celebrating repeatedly, with great abandon and uninhibited joy with the woman who is more beautiful to me each new day than she had been the day before. That, it seems to me, is the best that any of us can do if we mean to express our belief in, support of and gratitude for this greatest of gifts.

Thanks, Chrissy, for being the minister of God’s grace to me–in more ways than I can count, “marital” and otherwise.

I’m pretty sure that I can only ever manage one relationship at a time.

And when I say “manage” I don’t mean “control” or even “steward.” I mean “mostly sort of be in authentically.” I leave the practice of “managing” relationships to demigods and super heroes; really, I’m quite content to consign the whole notion to the realm of leprechauns and unicorns. It’s enough for me that I’m more-or-less capable of sometimes being kinda present to any one other person at any point in time.

Don’t think I’m being sarcastic. Okay, maybe a little, but not much.

I don’t mind gatherings, but if I’m expected to truly acknowledge the existence of two or more of you, you’re out of luck. “Two or more” sounds very much to me like Jesus magic. Yes, I think it is. Now you know why He said that. You’re welcome.

When the two women I love most, my wife and daughter, are in the same room at the same time, I’m pretty sure my heart explodes. Yeah, that might be a good thing, but it’s also bad, very bad.

My apologies to all of you whenever I vibe on the Godness. Indeed, my apologies to the Father and the Spirit when I find my way to Jesus.

I don’t rule out the possibility of some kind of simultaneity, but, just so you know, if this ever happens, it’s an accident. I’ll take it, but I can’t take credit for it.

I’m pretty sure this all has something to do with my comprehension that “multitasking” is a delusion. No, I don’t believe any of you. At best, you’re time-slicing. And that’s swell. But I’m sick of your boastful bullshit. And I, for one, am quite content to be less polyfunctional than you believe you are.

Thanks for listening. I feel much better now.

Yesterday I sat with some colleagues and listened to a local pastor (who is well-respected and has published several books) talk about living without spiritual regrets.

One of his sermon illustrations went something like this:

A busy man who traveled for work (leaving early Monday morning and returning late Friday night) bought a lake house so that he could spend time with his family. The family spent their weekends at the lake house, not at “church.” The child loved Jesus and, we were told, was “saved.” The child wanted to go to church and asked his dad why they didn’t. The dad explained that this was their family time. Then the child was tragically killed in an automobile accident. And his father spoke of being haunted (and fearing he would be the rest of his days) by his son’s question. The point of the illustration was that we should avoid the regret of not investing in our children’s spiritual lives (presumably, by failing to get them to the sacred building on Sunday morning)–a regret this man obviously suffered and, by implication, rightly so.

That was pretty much it. I’m sure I might have misinterpreted, but I don’t think so.

I’m just gonna make this short and sweet. I don’t doubt that the man might have some spiritual regrets, but not getting his kid to a magical edifice at a magic time so that he could be magically processed through a magic program by magically-empowered religious professionals shouldn’t be one of them. Especially since his misplaced priorities resulted in the ostensibly spiritually-abused child spending more time with his parents and siblings.

I don’t much mind the Sunday morning regimen. And I have a modicum of respect for the institution. But neither is the Church. And, in my opinion, the biggest spiritual regret in this scenario should be that of the pastor who, from all that we were told, spoke–to his brother, the bereaved father, and to us, the listening body assembled to be edified with the truth of the Kingdom–with all of the amassed wisdom of Job’s friends.

Nothing cute.  Not even an attempt at clever.  Here goes.

So today I’m hangin’ with a bunch of good Christian folks, listening to a Baptist preacher talk about forgiveness.  He had many good things to say.  I’d venture that we could all stand to hear more about forgiveness and I admit to being much edified by his exhortations.

But, you know me (those of you who know me–and I’m pretty sure you’re most of who reads this blog), I’ve got to pick my nits.  Three big ones:

1) In the midst of saying that forgiveness isn’t a one-time event, that we have to continue to forgive the same offense and that we shouldn’t be surprised or discouraged by this fact, he had to go and say that salvation is the one thing that’s once and done.  And he even used the language of trusting Jesus:  as in, trust Jesus that one time and you’re good.  It’s just way too ironic, if you ask me; and if you don’t see the irony, I doubt it’ll do much good for me to try to point it out.  I may or may not agree with the doctrine (and, really, my argument with traditional soteriologies goes way deeper than the fluff of eternal security).  Here’s the core problem: our distorted preoccupation with it is clearly counter-productive.  Born-agains (and I’ll just go ahead and count myself among you) blab all of the time about relationship, but most of our theology belies it.  I ask you this: what kind of marriage ends with “I do”?  And is this whole God thing just a ruse? Are we mostly intending to use the Almighty as an access ramp (a ballsy maneuver, I must say) to “eternal bliss” (whatever the hell that means), or are we really interested in One Thing?  Decide for yourself.  I’m interested in God, in relationship, in genuine intimacy.  And I’m uninterested in contorting the reality of that relationship to make my systematic theology more comfortable.  Completely.  Uninterested.

2) I think we spend way too much time talking about the fact that we all deserve death.  Maybe that makes me a bad Christian.  Probably.  Okay, label me.  I don’t feel any different.

3) He made some great points about actually reckoning the wrong that’s been done against us.  Denial isn’t forgiveness.  Here’s my problem, though.  It gets back to item #2.  People, it seems to me, are relatively easy to forgive.  They are weak, ignorant, damaged.  They are, in other words, too much like me.  If I can’t forgive y’all, well how in heck can I expect to forgive–and be forgiven–myself?  Jesus was right (damned irritating habit He has): “they know not what they do.”  We act upon our hurt and insecurity, and, God bless us, we’re mostly friggin’ clueless.  And it seems to me that too much of our practical theology focuses on holding the clueless accountable.  There, I said it.  Again, maybe it makes me a bad Christian to feel that way.  So be it.

And here’s how all of this fits together, here’s the rub.  By my estimation, we spend far too much of our time, as Milton so nobly and foolishly set out (and in the process, joined cause with Job’s “friends,” and brought great, undeserved praise to the accuser) attempting “to justify the ways of God to men.”  It’s come up far too often in my spiritual journey for me to feasibly deny: the one I have a hard time forgiving is God.  If anyone is accountable, it’s Him.  If anyone has what to answer for (and wherewithal to do it, I might add), well, He’s the one.  And I’m not righteous like Job, but I presume to ask that God answer for Himself.  I’ve not been much impressed by what most humans have to say on His behalf.

And, if I may, I’d like to piss off the rest of you by saying that I don’t want any of your weakass sh*t about God not existing.  Yes, it’s probably the case that I’m no longer capable of comprehending such a possibility and maybe that’s one of my weaknesses.  And I hasten to add that I have great respect for some atheists.  Here’s my problem with the default to disbelief: more often than not, it’s a cop out.  More often than not, it’s simply a matter of our not being able to fit God in our heads or make sense of what He does.  Let me say it as clearly as possible: that God is nonsensical to me doesn’t mean She doesn’t exist; that I can’t render Her as a wholly palatable idea (and here’s the critical error, I think: we’re committed to God more as an idea than a person) that fits in my puny heart doesn’t mean I should give up on Her.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but that just makes the pursuit more exciting.

I close with this.  I love God.  In my own weak way, I love Him, Her, Hirm.  What’s more, I like Hirm a lot.  And we have our sweet moments.  I consider this journey one toward a truer reconciliation.  I don’t expect it to be painless.  And I’m not looking for a divorce.  But I’m sick of platitudes and easy outs.  If we’re going to do this, let do it for reals.  I mean to be naked before God.  (S)He sees my nakedness anyway, doesn’t S(H)e?  I’ve spent too much of my life lying in the name of and for the sake of religion.

So I present for your consideration (of course, as with every topic I introduce, I’ll attack it intermittently; but this, I think, is at the core of all of my considerations of faith and doubt so maybe it’s subtext to all of the other nonsense): the impossibility, the necessity, the quest of forgiving God.

You start a conversation; you can’t even finish it.
You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything.
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.
Say something once, why say it again?

Talking Heads: “Pscho Killer”

No, I’m not quite sure why I’m leading with that quote. But I felt that I had to. The potentially sad thing is that I love this song and I will reflect upon it again. But there are far worse things than your being overexposed to the frenetic, syncopated wisdom of the Heads.

I live on the Writer’s Block. That could mean something delightful. I mean the less hopeful thing.

I have so much to say–or at least so much that I think I should say (yes, I acknowledge that I might be wrong). That is the irony of this blog where I never write.

It’s just that the things that are important never seem quite ready. So I sit and wait or even strive for something that is ready but still meaningful–meaningful enough. Or I forcefully roll around the important stuff again, hoping to stumble across the turn of phrase or structure that might finally work.

It is sad, and I might shouldn’t (Lord, I don’t know why that construction so amuses me) admit this, but: I probably spend more time thinking about writing, thinking about words to throw out at an unsuspecting world, than I do most anything else. Sometimes I even practice my conversations with God. That’s probably not uncommon, but it is wonderfully ironic. We laugh about it together, God and I; of course, He’s laughing before I’ve settled upon how I want to say it to Him.

What’s sad isn’t so much that I rehearse my words (at least I don’t think it’s sad; I don’t think that any more at least). What’s sad is that I have so little to show for it. My words are not brilliant, honed by practice. I am not stunningly prolific, the fruitful volume a product of my obsession. I’m just another mediocre wannabe (please, let me at least bask in that). Who doesn’t write. Or who writes but hasn’t yet found a way to shake the foundations of the earth.

What’s funny is that the words I rehearse are rarely those that make it to the page. I’m pretty sure that, whatever joy they bring me in the moment of their conception, they are only a warm-up, or maybe the calisthenics whose application isn’t obvious until the time of crisis. “Wax on. Wax off.” Actually, that’s kinda hopeful.

Maybe I’m pushing it too hard. I’m a firm believer in the process of fermentation and in the truth beheld out of the corner of the eye. Maybe I should stop stirring it so much and just let it sit. I do need to find some quiet, empty spaces. Maybe I shouldn’t stare so long at what I hope to see.

At the same time, I know that I do lack discipline, focus and genuine commitment. It doesn’t seem that one would have all of these problems at once–that one could be both undisciplined and obsessive–but I’m pretty sure I am. And it does make sense. It makes too much sense.

But this isn’t meant to be an exploration of my problems writing, or, um, not writing. Ha. That’s too important. That post isn’t ready.

Oddly enough, what I mean to say is this: I’m not quitting. I think my meaningless words do matter. I think there is hope in my hopeless rambling. I will make noise. However inconsistent I am still committed and I am at least hanging on.  I am a writer, goddamnit, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.  And there are moments when I don’t even care whether I am a good writer; likewise, there are moments when I do care.  No, I’m not sure which is more important.

Horton, can you hear me?  Can they hear me?

New Year’s resolutions annoy me.

For that matter, so does so much of the marking of the New Year.  It’s like that whole birthday thing.  One of the stupidest things we ask each other (and, I admit, I’ve asked it myself) is “so, do you feel a year older?”  You shouldn’t.  The same time 24 hours earlier, you weren’t a year younger; you were 24 hours younger.  You were–in annual terms–pretty much the same age even a month before your birthday as you are on your birthday and will be a month after your birthday.  It’s just silly.

Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s great that we celebrate people, and their birthdays are as good a time as any.  I don’t so much know about celebrating the progression of time.  I find “time” a troublesome abstraction, to be perfectly honest.  Yes, abstraction.  But that’s another digression for another day.  And don’t even get me started on entropy.  Oy.

But, no, what really bugs me is the artificiality.  New Year’s resolutions are at once compulsory and melodramatic.  Let’s be honest, most New Year’s resolutions will fail.  Most of us enter into them knowing (somewhere deep inside if nowhere else) that they won’t last, but we do it anyway,  because we feel that that’s what’s expected.  They are a lot like marriages.  

If you’re going to do something, do it.  If not, I think you and we are better off with your not making such a big deal out of your tepid commitment.  As so many half-assed marriages are merely the prelude to divorce, so many “commitments” made for the New Year are more dissolution than resolution.  If we were truly resolute, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t need the histrionics.  But, in any case, what we need less–and not more–of is the pretense of commitment and the pretense of change.  We’ve got plenty, thanks.

Janus is a two-faced bastard and we rightly honor him with our lies.  But let’s not.

Change.  (That’s an imperative and, therefore, a complete sentence, and not a fragment; not that I don’t do fragments).  Go ahead.  And grace to you as you do.

Exercise, eat better, balance your checkbook, love your family, upend the world, make sense of your life, whatever.  Do it.  Ask for help even.  Announce it.  But mean it.  And count the costs.

And, no, I’m not advising that we not take chances.  What I’m suggesting is that we really take them, instead of just going through the formality.  

And I’m not damning us for our failure.  We will fail.  We can be forgiven.  We must get up and try again.  But we shouldn’t just play at it.  For that matter, some folks play with more commitment and passion than most of us live.  Let’s not let them have all of the fun, eh?

I resolved a long time ago to stop making New Year’s resolutions, and I’m proud to say that I’ve kept that resolution.  But I don’t mean to be a legalist; if New Year’s works for you then more power to you.  Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I’m the only one who perceives this time as fundamentally duplicitous.  I do.  But though it be dark and foggy it is not unredeemed.  I am, amidst the shadowy mists, preparing, perhaps, for purification in February, battles in March, etc.  

I’m pretty sure that God isn’t bound by the Julian or Gregorian or, for that matter, Maya calendar.  We tend to be, but we can be free.  Will the world end in 2012?  Hell if I know.  But I do know that we could usher in the end of the world as we know it today if we chose to.

Oh, and–coincidentally or not–I would like to exercise some more, so I’d like it if all of you January posers would get out of my gym.  You know you don’t mean it anyway.  You know who you are.

I like prebeginnings.  My favorite time of day is the dark before dawn.  I prefer to approach it from sleep, though I quite often find it from the wrong direction: the end of the night.  

I like Spring.  But I love the Winter that precedes it.  And, most especially, the Fall that promises Winter and looks forward to its own eventual redemption.  I love Fall and Winter more intrinsically, but I love them for their relationship to the life they usher in.  Summer, I have to say, almost always feels like a great disappointment.

Maybe I’m weird that way, but I’m okay with my weirdness.

When I first decided that I needed to write this post, it was as a sort of apology: I realized that I had started a bunch of things and otherwise manifested a strong predilection to introducing and prefacing maybe more than completing.  And what you don’t know is that I have several more that I really need to post: prefaces, introductions and such.

The more I thought about it, the less I felt like I needed to apologize.  Sure my tendency to preface works with some of my dysfunctions.  But so does my writing; for that matter, so does my thought.  And–whether I should or not–I’m getting really tired of apologizing for how I think and speak.

I have lots to say about the predawn and my love of it.  And, of course, I’m not going to say it here, now.  Yes, this too.

But there are two things I want you to know:

1.  I take my titles seriously.  They’re a kind of preface.  At the very least, they pose a perspective that, though I may quickly veer from it, I hope that you’ll let intermix with what follows.  Sometimes they’re silly, but that’s part of the point too.  On more than a few occasions I’ve anguished over repeating the title as the first line of the post just to make sure that you got it and paid attention to it.  Part of why I’m writing this is so that I don’t worry about that anymore.

2.  Though I’m not writing sequentially or systematically, I’m conscious of what I’ve written and, like that little blurb (the title, I mean) at the top of the page, I mean you to take it all together somehow.  You don’t have to.  I’m pleased that you’re even reading a single post.  And, really, I do believe in taking a thing as itself–even taking a thing deliberately out of context–and I believe that we are more than the sum of our parts or the culmination of our histories and genetic inputs.  But, still, context helps.  So, especially if you’re confused.  The category links are very helpful that way.

So, yeah, more later.

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 really been missing Deb lately.  Again.  Still.  And I was reminded of this goofy little song that makes me laugh but also helps me access my feelings.  If you don’t already think I’m a sick pup, perhaps this will change your mind.

WARNING: Some of you may consider the following blasphemous and all sorts of other ways inappropriate.  I don’t.  Pray for me if you will.  But if this messes with your christology or otherwise offends your world view, I’m praying right back.  🙂

This one goes out to all of the widowers.

The convoluted thing about it is that the song (which I first heard on “Fresh Air,” while I was at the gym a couple of months ago, fwiw) is actually the second major revelation of how I’ve been feeling.  In fact, it was more a reinforcement than a revelation.  The first came through a scene in a movie, of which I plan to write later.  And the third was a segment on “This American Life,” which I listened to today.  The bit on TAL is what got me thinking of the song and made me decide I should go ahead and post it.

Of course, I don’t consider this a completely accurate depiction of who Jesus is or how I relate to Him.  And there are lots of other ways that it doesn’t fit.  But there are some important ways in which it does.  Probably, too, the song without the video might be a little easier to relate to and to relate to my situation, but the video is too funny not to share.  I don’t think I should have to say all of that, but there I did.  Relax already.

Oh, and this isn’t the kind of music I usually listen to, but somehow the genre fits the feeling.  Maybe I can appreciate down-and-out, I-need-another-drink country music . . . sort of.

Most especially, please consider this a response to that “comforting” thought that our departed loved ones have been called up by the Lord because “He needs them” there more than we need them here.  I do love the people who have shared that notion, but it’s unbiblical and it doesn’t help.  Idunno, maybe there are folks who do find it helpful or who can ignore it like so much white noise.  FYI, I’m not one of ’em.  No harm, no foul; now you know.

I have many other thoughtish things to say about this and I may say them later and link back.

Enjoy.  And ponder if you dare.

Update: they yanked the video from Youtube, but I found it on FunnyOrDie. Then it showed up on YouTube again.

I have some saddish stuff to say–not necessarily immediately, but eventually, and not continually, but at least occasionally.

And you will perhaps feel the urge to, in those timeless words of Mr. T., “pity da fool.”

Please don’t.  Or please, at least, don’t feel any obligation to do so.

I’ve come up with literally (the literal “literally”, not the figurative “literally”) dozens of arguments against your pity (and may share some later), but for now I’m going to share just a few and, I hope, concisely.

It’s not that I’m opposed to pity per se.  Pity, in its purest form is truly divine.  Indeed–and especially within the last 18 months–I’ve gladly given and received it, a lot.  And to those who have been the source of what I’ve received: thank you, deeply and sincerely.

And maybe that’s part of my aversion.  I’ve received so much and I’m not sure I’m worthy of any more–certainly not any more than anyone else.  Yeah, just the thought of it makes me feel guilty.

Pity can also be a bit oppressive.  In some sense it implies a response of further sadness.  It can be a sick cycle, really.  You pity, the one pitied is further immersed in sadness, provoking more pity and so on; and if we’re not careful, we all end up depressed and suicidal.  Well, okay, it’s maybe not so bad; it can be, but, thankfully, someone usually eventually gets the point and jumps the loop (which, unfortunately, still sounds like a euphemism for offing oneself).  And I do hasten to clarify that the proper response isn’t to carefully tiptoe around the sadness.  The pitied know they are sad and your careful avoidance only accentuates what a mess they’re in.  As best you can–for what it’s worth, IMO, take it or leave it, et al.–don’t shower the pitiable with obligatory pity but don’t pretend there’s nothing wrong or that it can’t be talked about; just be and be honest.  I know that’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Yaknow, come to think of it, that’s my main point.  I want to probe this stuff, walk through it, unpack it.  I want to dig into it like it’s a clearance rack of genuinely underpriced, actually valuable stuff (we all have stuff that matters to us; pick yours–it need not be material stuff–and the metaphor will work).  Not the crap that’s usually–brightly and hopefully, in large, friendly uppercase letters on a field of obnoxious orange–emblazened with that invitation.  There’s something good amidst the crap, buried perhaps, but still present.

It’s not so much a clearance sale, but more like an unwanted shopping spree.  You didn’t buy it–at least you didn’t mean to.  But they took your money–took more than your money, took most of what mattered or made any sense or had any value, at least most everything that you could hold and call, however imprecisely, your own.  However unwillingly, you’ve paid the price.  And, now goddamnit, you’re going to get something out of the exchange (though even calling it an “exchange” is the kind of affront that makes you want to throw up and punch somebody simultaneously–which would be a neat trick and, I imagine, potentially both satisfying and uniquely effective).

So now the price has been paid and all that’s left is to pick through the cheap baubles and find something worth salvaging.  And what I’d really like, if you don’t mind my asking, is someone at my elbow to say, “Yes, Joel, that’s a keeper” or “Please, no.  You don’t want that worthless sh**; just let it go.”  This is a blog. Blogging is about open expression and dialog.  Let’s dialog.

And here’s the other thing.  I’m sometimes sad, but I’ve no interest in being morose and I will in one moment weep but even in the apparently same instant laugh–perhaps, you might think, inappropriately.  I want to have fun and be amused and, frankly, whether you like it or not, I’m going to.  I also want to be ruthless with the truth, want to beat it to a bloody pulp if I have to, and if either of us is tentative or inhibited, that kinda gets in the way.  My point: if you want to laugh, please do; if you want to confront my intellectual dishonesty or sloppiness, please do.  Don’t worry that the protocol of pity forbids it.

Well, that’s probably plenty of mixed metaphors for now (I have more and will pull them out later, lest you feel it is not).

I’m asking you not to pity or at least not to excessively express pity.  More precisely what I’m asking is that you feel no need to pity.  It is a favor; I don’t deny it.  And you may deem me unworthy of such a favor and presumptuous to request it.  But, there, I asked.

More transparently, I confess to you that this whole business of pity and obligations and expectations ends up functioning as Resistance.  I will say more of Resistance but for now know that it is essentially this: not writing.  Which brings us back to the beginning: I have some things to say–some things I feel I should and must say.  Perhaps my request will deflect a few distractions.  If nothing else, this public declaration is cathartic and helps me step around them.  Come up they will, but I said I didn’t want them, so, no offense, I’m stepping past them.  In truth, I’m still quite open to pity; I’d just rather not be bogged down by it here (ha: blogged down), if that makes any sense . . . and even if it doesn’t.

In homage to his T-ness, with an obtuse allusion to Adobe, I’m considering marking the most ostensibly pitiable posts with the category “PDF,” yaknow, so you’ll be warned.  And I admit, I think it mildly clever.  Very mildly.  Almost unnoticeably.  Don’t pity that I’m cleverness challenged; that’ll really piss me off.

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