F@ceb0Ok

I’ve had but one beer and I already want to kind-of punch something. And drinking never makes me want to punch something. This must be special beer. Or a special something.

The thing I want to kind-of punch is Facebook. More generally, social media – but most specifically, Facebook.

I said a thing here that sums it up; I will not reiterate. Much.

It was almost too much work to write. So many buttons. One task: Share my thought before I became too sleepy and confused by User Interface to care.

Everything everywhere on Facebook wants my attention now. It struggles with itself to know what it even wants from me anymore. It just wants me clicking on it; looking at it; needing it for everything that I can’t achieve on my own.

It makes me tired to even think about. It’s like all of the Internet, summarized.

I suppose that is what it is hoping for: to be the Internet’s candied Coles Notes. In a sense, it’s wildly successful.

In a sense – there are certainly others.

Trash-Talking the Maker

The other day, I wrote a sincere email to God, and sent it at His legitimate email address. By legitimate, I mean to say that there is no one I can think of who should own the address god@gmail.com but God Himself. You might disagree, but I think I have a case.

Well, God might have answered or She might not have. They are inscrutable with the answering and the getting on in Godly matters. I am still here and (knock on wood) so are my loved ones. My mother had a heart attack yesterday but it was a minor one, and now she’s in the hospital, where she has the best chance of getting the best care.

Yesterday, around the time my mother was feeling chest pains (unbeknownst to me), I was hammering out an angry letter to that same God I had emailed just the other day. I knew the email would probably bounce, and in fact my vitriol was such that I really had no desire to send it into some archive, where God could (nonetheless) read it whenever She so chose. I didn’t need that stuff on record – even though it certainly now is.

I won’t go into the details. I was having a meltdown. I was questioning my purpose here and also questioning Here. What’s Here for? Why are we in it, in the first place? Why is there so much crap Here with us? The suffering, the anxiety, the injustice, the colossal shenanigans. My language in that email was more colourful. I let God have it with both barrels. And my mother had a heart attack in another province.

I am skating on thin ice, blaming God for that. For all I know, that minor heart attack got my mother medical help and attention before it turned into something bigger – and it would have, gone unchecked. God or no God, my mother was given a second chance. I blamed God for being cruel and uncaring, but He didn’t act that way when He might have, to prove some point to some mortal like me.

So I’m feeling a bit calmer now. Sort of. I think I needed to finally say what I felt in my heart to God in that most rattled moment, in that draft email that I thankfully did not send, but also thankfully did draft out in full. It was cathartic to do that. The God I believe in understands that being Human is frightening and hard sometimes, even when you have it comparatively well. I don’t know what we’re Here for, but I know the struggle has a point. Don’t ask me to prove that – that’s not how faith works at all.

Greater Than Less-Than

I am by all indications greater than the sum of my parts, which are of some great number, however I might wish to carve myself up.

I have trifurcated (nice!) my blogging self into a trinity of me’s. Why? Because I can’t always decide who best to be.

There is no great subterfuge intended in this, I simply like trying on different hats to see how that might change the words coming out of the single head hidden beneath them.

It turns out, despite having been into roleplaying games for most of my life, in the end I am mostly the same character, just with a different shirt on, depending on my mood. So too with my attempts at writing from different URLs: I am still essentially me, however much I might at times not seem to wish to be.

One thing that each one of my I’s have been struggling with these days is how to see clearly the Good in myself. This is no joke: I have spent my whole life trying to be good (I assume I have succeeded to some degree, but by whose compass?), and valuing goodness in others, and willing to concede that I always have more work to do… and yet, I give myself no breaks.

The other day, after smoking a joint (I suppose it was just the right kind, mixed with the right combination of sugar/no-sugar and vitamins and preceding mood (kids: still don’t do drugs)), I had the epiphany that maybe I was actually not only not a bad person, but maybe even a really pretty OK one. Ok… maybe a good one. A good person, I mean. Maybe I was that thing that I just said.

This is how hard it is to pay myself a compliment, right now. I have been overtrained, I think by religion and also experience, to be very wary of pride.

I might be taking this wariness a wee bit too far, admittedly. When I can readily imagine that a violent criminal might be redeemable, but that I (deep down) probably am not, somehow… well, that seems a bit of a disingenuous thing to think about any decent person – even if it is your own self. The setting of different standards of OK between others and oneself is at best irrational. And probably also dysfunctional. In fact, I know that last thing to be true.

I used the term ‘probably am not‘, not to mean that I have dark secrets or a dark past or even a dark outlook on life: I just worry about failing as a decent human being.

I also do not mean, in any case, to judge at what point any person crosses the line between redeemable and irredeemable. I think that point might be up to them. And so I point to this: Anybody can come to feel as though they are to be judged by a different scale than everybody else.

Maybe you make a choice in one moment, to be lazy with your time, and somebody suffers a setback because of that. With a little imagination, you might imagine yourself to be a villain, then and there.

And that is where I’d need to stop you, before you started down that road of self-recrimination, once again. A person can’t equip themselves for climbing while wallowing in the what ifs.

So anyway, the other day I got to experience, what, maybe two hours of almost feeling like I really liked who I was and where I had managed to get myself to, up to this present point.

This feeling was actually slightly disconcerting, because it didn’t feel like me… I had been (temporarily, as it turns out) replaced by a levelled-up version of myself – one that was able to tell his own self-doubt to talk to the hand.

I suppose that glimpse though was enough. The next day, I found myself writing out a list of things I have done right, and not too late, and not not entirely unselfishly.

Good on you if you can decipher this hand’s scrawls…

I want to tell you something. You are also better than you probably think. I mean, you are probably a bona-fide Good Person, like I’ve been led to believe I might even be.

Let me explain (while I still have an inkling of how this feels, to feel it about oneself):

Do you recognize True Good in other people, ever? That already means you are one of those people. You can forgive yourself for not being 100% finished at being 100% Perfectly Good right now.

You need to know this about yourself, the way I really needed to know it about myself, that other night when I did know it, for a couple of strangely unfamiliar hours. I will chase that feeling, now that I know it’s out there… and I’ll promise you that you’ll find it too, if you go looking.

You’re already looking, aren’t you?

Maybe now?

C’mon, I know you can find it in you. You’re already there.

How to Hope

Hopefully this doesn’t mean I’m blocked

An Eventually-Open Letter to God

I thought to email God this morning, but the letter bounced. Maybe God’s inbox is full. I can imagine it’s difficult to achieve Inbox Zero when you’re God.

Writing the email made me feel a bit better anyway, since as far as I know, God’s already received it, inbox or no inbox. He/She doesn’t need the Internets to connect the way we seem to.


To God@gmail.com,


Apologies if I have not contacted the actual God, but instead somebody who thought to take God’s email address, for whatever purpose. I suppose you should be used to receiving emails to God by now, whatever the case may be, and whomever you are. Perhaps you can forward this to God, if you happen to know His or Her true email address:


Dear God,


I am struggling with challenges both big and small. The world seems a bit too bent out of shape. I have been given so many gifts, but on any given day, I seem to make good use of but a few. It would seem the world needs us all to use our gifts more wisely, and soon, and in concert with each other. I am unsure if I am doing my part yet. 


I work every day, and I tell myself I’ll get to doing my part to save the world once I have time, but I don’t know when that will be. What’s the point of staying gainfully employed if there is no world waiting for us in our future? I have great hope, but sometimes it’s difficult to stay optimistic. I am plodding along, like so many, without a clear idea of what to support, or otherwise rebel against.


My immediate family needs my immediate help. My community does as well. So too, my country, and then the world. In some sort of order. Despite all of this need, I also feel the need to address my own: a need to get enough sleep, to get some fresh air and sunshine (lockdowns be damned), to read, to write, and to dream. All of these needs – every one – seems pressing for my attention first and foremost, at any given moment. 


But I have only one timeline, as far as I can tell. I don’t know most days where to focus my time, God. I am in front of screens too much; I am using too much energy as we speak; I am buying too many things that I don’t need; I am reading and absorbing information indiscriminately, as though learning alone can solve real problems… I am praying every day and night, and now I’m praying to the Internet. I need guidance. I need a map.


What I feel I need today is a mentor in how to have hope – somebody who is older than I am, and still feels hope, in spite of that. I need to know how to feel hope so that I can pass that feeling on to those who are younger than I am. I am a middle-aged man, stuck in the middle of a life, without a clear idea of where my own mentors have gone. They all seem scared of viruses, immigration, technology, and change. They’ve already seen too much, but I need them now. Just one.


I need to know how to find my way. I haven’t learned how yet. I want to know what to say to my stepkids, about why they are here, now, on this planet full of troubles. I don’t know what to tell them. I’m scared I won’t figure it out in time to validate why I’m here, or help anybody the way I know I was meant to do. I’m just using up space – I want to earn these gifts. I want to save the world. I need God. We all do. 


Please send help, and thank you for all the Things.


Love,
Mike

Everything is Almost Full

I’m having one of those days, at the moment, as it happens. Maybe one of those months, or seasons. Maybe even one of those years.

I’m fifty years old – my glass, by now, is most certainly either entirely half-full, or else entirely half-drunk and done.

Depending on my point of view, and what I want to think about glasses and metaphors.

It seems to me, these days, that all of my things are running down, or out, or hot, or otherwise away from me: My computers and virtual computers are all full-up with things; my bank account appears to be perpetually dry; my tax returns are never on time; my clothes are falling slowly apart around and about me; our roof leaks; my homework is soon due.

All of my varying deadlines and thresholds are looming a bit too large.

Everything is almost full. Almost over. Almost too late.

Almost too much.

This is what it feels like in my brain right now, is what I mean [what I meant eleven hours ago, in any case, when I started to think-and-then-write-and-then-rethink this… and then stopped it all for long enough for me to feel better].

My brain is always telling me some kind of story about what’s happening. I’m not sure who gave this brain that job, but it takes it pretty seriously.

I’ve started to take it on faith that, no matter how I’m doing – or what I’m doing, or where I’m doing it, or why – my brain will go on faithfully monitoring the progress and the lack of progress and telling me that things are coming to an end, by gum, and so I’d better get started.

Then the Universe (often via the Internet and also dreams), conspires to agree with it, feeding my brain messages that it will make of whatever it will. And it does! Boy howdy.

Ever have ever one of those days? Ha! Of course you have. We all have, haven’t we?

And if you haven’t yet had one (and you are a mortal Human being like I am), then you are probably too young yet to be reading… and anyhow, you certainly will have one of those days, one of these days. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll have many.

If you’re really lucky, I’ll wager, you’ll have a lifetime of a very many kind of days.

I wish that for you: to have a full, full life of a great many days.


It was the morning when I started to write this, feeling overwhelmed by the stories told to me by my own brain.

And then this, my day, happened… and it all went better than I thought it might (and who would have thought?)

And I am more than ok right now, at this, the end of my new latest day.

Everything is perfectly full, and also perfectly well.

Not a Gun

The Iron Giant is one of my favourite movies.

I use the Giant as an avatar a lot, and I think if I ever get a tattoo, it will be an image of him. He delivers one of my favourite lines in any movie, ever: I am not a gun.

This sentiment is applicable at all scales. It’s a message about non-violence of course, but it’s also a message about personal choice – and the responsibility that comes with having the freedom to choose who you are going to be.

There are not many more important messages, when it comes right down to it – these ones in my estimation pretty much have it covered.

Drafts Bin Rescues – Part C

In the midst of my attempts to improve my Published/Drafts ratio, I went and started-and-then-did-not-finish another Thing – namely this Thing.

I titled it “Dark Night of the Soul”, intending to talk about the topic. A couple of good friends of mine have told me they think I might be in the midst of one myself. I am unsure how many Standard nights typically fit into one Dark night – but apparently more than one or two.

This is fine; it doesn’t affect my general faith in things, though it does keep me thinking about faith. Maybe that means it is affecting my faith. Probably in a positive way, though. Right?

If I were to think and then feel the faithful thing, this is what I would then believe, and so say.


Dark Night of the Soul

I tend to use my blog as a spigot for furtive thinking. It’s because I have anxious thoughts. I look around for ways to express them.

I’m not convinced that expressing anxiety is the correct way to overcome it.

I don’t know if attempting to overcome anxiety is possible. It might be the wrong approach.

[I meant to go on to say that accepting that I was feeling anxious was probably a better approach than trying to subdue it like an opponent in a wrestling match. I had run out on energy at the third short paragraph, and went on to read something. I’m feeling better now – having given myself permission to take the weekend to just do what I wanted, at a speed that made sense. I did a lot of lying down and a bit of reading.]

Drafts Bin Rescues – Part A

The ebb and the flow of what you should know

In this (potentially short) series of posts, I pull out and partially complete whatever I find at the top of my Drafts bin. I’m going for Drafts Bin Zero.

This one was started days ago, and then abandoned, once it became apparent the title was more interesting than what I had to say about it.

Things done > Things not-quite done

Days go by and I haven’t the time for writing.

And then others, it’s the reading that doesn’t get done.

I have days when I do both, and those when I do neither, at all.

And this is a pattern.

And that pattern repeats.

In trying to start some things, I have often faltered.

I fail whole-heartedly, in my half-hearted flailing.

I learn that my limits are indeed limiting.

The hours just plain go, and most of the time, far too fast.

Where are all the stories I meant to write, one day?

Remember my dreams?

I was going to make a game.

I was going to draw some pictures.

I was going to have kids in between those selfish other things.

I had all this time, once – it’s half-or-more gone now.

I haven’t done everything that I had thought I would do.

I’ve done other things though, so it’s not at all been all for naught.

I had another day today, and I walked places.

I tried to slow down a little.

And just be.

And I did… I was.

For a short time, I just was.

It was nice.

I should do that more: doing nothing in particular.

Almost every day, I wake up with an idea of what I might do with the rest of it.

By the end of the day, Things have often happened.

Though often not those same Things I had thought might.

Then maybe more ideas come.

Then the sleep does… will it be more or less, is anybody’s guess.

I otherwise always have to be talking, typing, walking, or griping.

Every third or fourth time, I throw in an unsolicited rhyme.

I’m very fidgety.

It’s annoying, sometimes, it really is.

It gets older, by the day.

So do I.

But I won’t let myself be done, yet.

Not until I finally am.

To Dream and to Talk Too Much

Yesterday, I wrote a mild diatribe at my uncertainty over God’s gender. I’ve written about this elsewhere in the past. This morning I worried I had said too much about something I really can’t understand. Well, that would probably mean I’m always guilty of that, whenever I open my mouth to speak at all. One can only worry so much that they’ve done a bad thing rather than the good thing they were hoping to have done.

Many mornings, I go for a walk in my neighbourhood. My favourite, mildly challenging route takes me down the road, up a hill into a neighbouring hilltop suburb, then down the other side and eventually to the local coffee shop. This coffee shop is about 10 minutes walk from here, but I like to take 30 to get there, by putting a hill in the way. It gives me more time to think, and lets my body burn a calorie or three.

The very top of the hill – that part where I’m done with most of the climbing, and am now on my way mostly back down again – is the apex where I feel closest to whatever it is I’m praying to on that journey. It’s become symbolic to me, and so it’s an important part of my routine.

Yesterday, as I crested the hill, I felt connected to something – perhaps just a permission to dream big, on behalf of those in my life who might benefit, if not for my own self. I don’t know if it’s hubris to imagine your own self as potentially important in the lives of others… and that is probably a problem of mine I should consider addressing. Of course people matter to each other, and I am people too. I deserve my dreams, but more importantly, so do they. It brought me to tears, at the top of that small hill: It was the feminine face of God that told me there that it was really, really ok to dream that way, and to dream big. I came home and wrote a blog post about it. There you go.

This morning, as I crested the hill, I asked myself (or was asked) what was important to my heart. I was now thinking about my heart as a separate thing – and not just the same thing that did my dreaming – because of something I read last night, in A Year With C.S. Lewis. It is an anthology of clippings from his various books.

The passage in question – the one that got me to thinking about my heart, rather than my dreams, was the one for Sept 28, called Fantasy Virtues. It is from Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters (which I haven’t read completely, only passages from A Year With…).

The character Screwtape, being a devil, considers God to be the Enemy, and is concerned with the corruption and downfall of a human subject (the patient), and here, describes this human as a series of concentric circles:

“…his will being the innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy. You can hardly hope, at once, to exclude from all the circles everything that smells of the Enemy: but you must keep on shoving all the virtues outward till they are finally located in the circle of fantasy, and all the desirable qualities inward into the Will. It is only in so far as they reach the Will and are there embodied in habits that the virtues are really fatal to us. (I don’t, of course, mean what the patient mistakes for his Will, the conscious fume and fret of resolutions and clenched teeth, but the real centre, what the Enemy calls the Heart).”

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

This got me thinking differently, so my morning prayer-walk involved asking this: where do my dreams come from, if not my heart, and are they alone able to make me a good person? What if my best dreams and inspirations are simply a God or Goddess giving me the gift of sound advice? This is often how dreams and inspirations seem to be. Is it my own good quality to have something else inspire me toward better things?

The word inspiration is about receiving something from some other source, more than it is about producing that thing oneself; inspiration is not exactly a product to which the inspired can lay claim for having created. My dreams, in other words, are not where my true virtue rests, though they form a good map, when at their best.

Likewise, to recognize, assess, comprehend, agree with, prioritize, choose, and even announce my dreams aloud – those things which the intellect does – are only first steps. I can only consider myself blessed to be able to consider dreams and inspirations in the context of this life: what they might mean for those around me, how they might come about, which ones are most worth pursuing, given current circumstances… the planning and contemplation phase. Undeniably important, and, as far as I can tell, within myself to choose to think, or to not think.

But inward thought is only the beginning of outward action, and so my true virtue only begins there, but is not yet fully realized into the world – it may in fact be in even greater peril of never coming to fruition, having taken real time and energy to almost-manifest-but-not-quite-yet. A trophy for the Screwtapes of the world to prize – and a threat to them as well, should they become a matter of my will.

All the good thinking in the world does not resolve something good into being, except in one’s own imagination. If thinking and even deciding good things was all that was needed to be a good person, we would only need to be brains, without hands, feet, and mouths (the tools of change we have been given to actually do things while here). Even blogging about what I dream for this world is only manifesting something good up to a point, though it is certainly better than keeping thoughts and ideals entirely to myself.

Of course, many people “only” write, but do it well, and with great heart, conviction, and purpose, that this is more than enough to manifest something worthwhile of their own best selves. Recall that not everybody has full use of all of their parts at all times, and so the parts we do have use of are where our true worth can always be found.

So what is my heart, then, according to Screwtape, according to C.S. Lewis (and according to whatever inspired him to write those words)? My heart and will are the engine, I think, that brings dreams and inspirations into fruition, in the best way I can manage. It is about effort, and intention, and sticking with something good to a proper completion, even when new inspirations (and their resulting patterns in my over-thinking noggin) pop up and demand that I drop the good things I’m doing, in order to stare at these shiny, novel notions.

My heart needs to be engaged. A heart is never at rest – it beats until it doesn’t want to anymore. The body (its servant and extension), must do things too. Real things. This is where I become the good person I am here to be. The virtues feared by Screwtape must find their way to the centre of who I am – these, formed into daily habits of the heart and its extended body, are the essence of walking well in the world as a verifiably, demonstrably good person. I think this is why Jesus walked around so damn much. He was never long at rest – his heart was too busy manifesting good things all over the place. He knew he had to move – not just pray and ponder, not just always preach from the same mount.

That is my belief today, in any case. Who knows what I may be led to believe tomorrow?

So today’s hilltop visit posed to me this question: what does your heart want? What does your will want? What does it mean for your will and your heart to want something, anyway? Your dreams and your thoughts are what they are: you can dream a great dream, and then recognize its value. Your dreams are given you – or perhaps invoked – and your thoughts are formulated… but things wanted in both these places are abstractly so. This is fantasy and thought just doing their bit. But the heart and the will and the body (hands, fingers, feet, tongue… whatever you have that you’re able to make change with) want by doing, not by receiving, or thinking. That is how the heart wants, I think. It needs that spark, it needs a spark to make it go somewhere. It always goes where its spark leads it.

How do you spark your heart in an intentional way, tangibly toward a dream you are given to acknowledge and love, in your mind’s eye? Your heart is here, in the world – if it is to want something, it must bring that thing to itself, here.

I think that takes a kind of practice. I am still unsure what kind – but probably just regular practice of the day-by-day kind. All I know is that my heart wanted to write about this, and share it somehow, in case it might matter. And so my feet brought me back home, my hands opened this laptop, and my mind and fingers then formed and shared these words, to you. My heart got what it wanted. Had it not wanted to do these things, we’d not be here together right now.

As I ascended the hill this morning – before the question about my heart’s desire (and exactly how a heart manages to effectively desire) – I thought about how this physical world is where the “rubber meets the road”. My walk up the hill confirmed this: I wore rubber on my feet, and I was walking the road – not just dreaming of it, or thinking about it, or telling somebody I was going to go for a walk one day. I was walking, which was what my heart had decided to do with the early part of its day. I chose to spark it that way. I wanted it to be, and then wanted it into being so.

There are places I’m sure where dreams alone come from – and maybe where they exist as a primary reality, unbound by time and space and gravity and all the mess that is here. The mind, somewhere between Here and There, then seems to be where thoughts live, and then plans, and also memories… all symbols for trying to make sense of what it is we dream about and are inspired by while here.

The world of matter though is where we are given a chance to turn some of those things into solid manifestations – though for what reason, I can’t say. It feels like school here; we have ideas and assignments and the freedom to choose to read them over, and then do them and hand them in, or not. Our call, our way.

That is, I think, the homework of the heart.