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.

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.]

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.

Pray to the Right God

Sometimes when I catch myself caught up in anger (at somebody, myself or otherwise), or anxiety, or self-pity, I will manage to recover enough to say, “You’re praying to the wrong God”. I mean that I can make a God out of any belief system; if my firm belief is that I have something to be angry about – somebody deserving of my ire – then that belief, and its expression, become the God I am praying to. Prayers always go toward a God. Thoughts and intentions and words and aspirations and actions are all prayers.

I have made some words here about my Catholic upbringing, either directly or indirectly. I was not hammered with biblical notions when I was young – simply brought to witness them playing out most (though not all) Sundays, and then during the special events: Easter, Christmas, my own Confirmation, and miscellany. I had a Catholic-Lite upbringing. My parents believe what they believe, and simply wanted me to be exposed to belief. I think that was wise of them. They chose Catholicism for me, because that’s what had been chosen for them. I think that was practical and also respectful of them. I have no complaints.

I ventured soon into agnosticism (as far as I understand it), and then called myself atheist for a requisite amount of time as a younger person. This seemed reasonable, and I (now) believe God approved of my leaving home, so that I could find my own way back again. The front door waiting for me was any door to any temple I might choose. Books too can be doors, as can doors themselves – they even look the same, with hinges of their own kinds. The Christian door (like many) happens to lead back to a book, and then a multitude of books written about it, from every possible point of view. All the more appropriate. Things coming home, and always about a Word (or more).

What I appreciate about Christianity (the teeny, tiny bit that I have seen), is that, with some very notable and numerous exceptions, it seems to welcome the constant, curious questioning of itself. The Christianity that I seek is really just about what Jesus was trying to say, and why it impacted so many people, and led to so, so many other things. You can continue to vilify The Church for all of its many sins, but that’s not the God I seek, and so I say, have at it. I am a fan of Jesus, the man. He’s made me think hard about why I’m here. He will continue to do so until the day I am here no longer. Many other speakers and writers have joined him of course, in an effort to assist me to grow – but everybody needs some kind of constant compass, and given that Jesus was given to be mine, I am happy to call him just that.

The issue I’ve now found myself in is the lack of a feminine figure in all of this. Christianity is rightly called out for being highly patriarchal, at least in its language and main characters – notably excepting some Marys and other women, named and otherwise. I do not wish to gloss over those, just to mention that they were not presented to me as being quite as important as the Father and the Son. These are unambiguously male monikers.

I am not trying to be a feminist about this for male reasons – but I suspect I have to fail in having reasons that are not male; I am male, I seem to think and feel like one. There is a spectrum of course, so I get that we all reside upon it together (though at different places, and at different times)… and I know my relationship to the feminine is not yours. But to not have a relationship to the divine feminine (as I have heard it called) is to be essentially incomplete. My greatest recent existential fear is that the male God I have been led to pray to up to this point would not approve of my seeking His feminine side – or more blasphemous still, considering that He might, on any given day, be a divine She instead (or in addition).

This conundrum is a quality of Christianity, as far as I can tell, and quite likely also an artifact of history, being what it was. Many in this world have a much easier time simply grasping this and moving forward than I have seemed to, so far. My cross to bear is anxiety over nearly everything, in spite of having every reason to be full of hope and joy. One small, first-world problem of the soul: How dare I think that God might also hold women up as examples of Himself? What if I’m sent to Hell for even thinking such a thing?

What the hell and the f*ck have I been thinking? This is small-mindedness and a waste of good spirit time. God Him/Herself is poking me in the ribs, and telling me so. Get over yourself – I am infinitely big, and so yes, I have a feminine side too. I have all the sides. Are you going to believe me, or believe the mortal men who tried to capture what I sought to tell them, back when men were the self-proclaimed centre of things?

This is what I fear I am not permitted to think, much less say to myself… and much less write to others. What if they are sent to Hell for reading this, and then considering it might be true? That God might have no gender, or else all of the genders? That God could at once have a Father’s righteous anger (when his children are hurting each other or themselves), but also a Mother’s gracious and unbreakable love? How dare I. How dare you for continuing to read this. We’re all Hell-bound. Right?

Well, to hell with Hell. It might be there, in some kind of metaphor (I think it is on Earth, when we are astray, and then really behaving that way)… but I do not feel that a thinking God would expect his thinking children to act out of love, simply out of fear of eternal punishment. Sainthood with a gun to my head is no sainthood worthy of the name. God would not approve of a good deed done selfishly, like that.

And so I have continued to read about Christianity, as written about by people with greater perspectives and better ideas than I. God would approve of reading about the Bible. There are worse things.

One book I have been slowly moving through is God in All Worlds : An Anthology of Contemporary Spiritual Writing, Edited and with Introductions by Lucinda Vardey. I am currently in chapter 7: Awakening the Great Mother. This could be crudely thought of as the “token feminism” chapter (I know I first thought of it that way), but of course it would be wrong to think that. This is just how I think, which is a different thing altogether. I entered the chapter with some apprehension, as though I would be even less able to understand it – I have had trouble understanding a good portion of the book so far – as I suppose I am still looking for Jesus (and His male Father) and this chapter by its very name seemed to promise stepping further away from the scripture I’ve become comfortable not fully understanding. What direction should I be going in, here? Toward tradition (and then, whose?), or away from it (and if so, toward what?).

But I wasn’t about to skip a chapter just because I felt vaguely unworthy of it, and so in I went. I can’t tell you what affect it will have on me until long after I’m done reading the book, in all likelihood, but I can say this: I went looking for God (via Jesus, and other stories) and this book ended up in my life. By all indications, its title promised I could find God everywhere. This did not seem then and does not seem now to be a sacrilegious act – the Christian God is simply an aspect of God, claimed by Christians. Or something. God wants to be found, and wants to find us. It’s us, looking for ourselves… but a greater version. I don’t know, I’m just making words now. That’s how it goes.

What I have been now given the permission to do (I had to ask for this of myself, in prayer to the male side of God) is to consider the feminine side of God too. Maybe seek God as Heavenly Mother for some time. After all, I have been calling God Him for most of my life. Would it be a mistake (even if it were mistaken) to call God Her for awhile, just to see if I got closer, or else further away? To see if it could better guide me home? Could that possibly be any “worse” than being an atheist for years, for wanting to believe Richard Dawkins had more answers (and better ones) than generations of spiritual seekers and contemplatives? How sexist have I been, in waiting this long to pray to a white-robed woman in the sky, instead of a white-bearded man?

And so I put a toe in the water just the other day (for largely the first time in my 50 years here), and gave myself permission to pray in some new direction (but really, the exact same one): to see God as bigger than gender, altogether. What a concept. I am late to so many parties.

What I can tell you is that my hope and fortune have so far not faltered – my house has not burned, my loved ones are still healthy. I have had no inner demons gain strength, I have had no ominous feelings of having made a grave mistake. I have in fact only felt generally less interested in self-flagellation, and somewhat more forgiven and understood on a fundamental level. Maybe just a little bit. As though the creative source from which I came was at least as caring and concerned as both of my own mortal parents, collectively, have been for me. God is bigger than mortal parents, but I have made Her (and by extension, Him as well) so, so much smaller. Mean, really. What a cruel trick to have played on ourselves.

I don’t mean to invalidate the need for penance, when penance is called for – but it is not a way to wheedle oneself out of some firey judgement brought down upon us by an angry single-parent; it is a way to build character. The kind of character we are meant to strive for in our short time here.

God’s anger has a purpose, like the anger of a parent watching their beloved child almost walk into traffic. I have subtly believed though in the Cosmic Stick rather than the Cosmic Carrot for a disproportionate amount of time. I am not at all done wondering where God is, and what aspects I am supposed to conceive of, and then say my words of thanks and prayers to, but I can see that my conception of God is still very informed by the limitations of human minds – including my own of course, but those of others as well. I can imagine all of the very-human reasons this came to pass, and continues to do so.

God (or whatever one chooses to call the Source, or the Here and Now) made us into beings that could perceive, think, discern, choose, and act. That is what we are and are meant to be and do. It is no sin to consider anew what God we are to pray to on a given day, since God is all of the gods – not a small and localized one, but the One, which includes us as well. This is of course my belief system, at present. What more could it ever be, to me?

If it were a sin to think God might be able to conceive us all on Her and His very own, then there is no escaping sin. I choose to feel I have much to learn still – and I have the permission, freedom, and responsibility to do it. I will let you know if catastrophe strikes, but I’m so far inclined to report that God is still hearing my prayers, just as well if not better, for having had them addressed to His better half, with greatest respect and even greater faith.

How to be a Hero

I woke up the other night and started to write this, and it got big, and I realize I can’t find the edges of this topic. So I’ll post it, typos and all, and then move on, and will no doubt have more to say later, in and among the brambles of my regular days.

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What Part of Jesus do I Hang on my Wall?

QUESTION: Should they, the Early Christians, have chosen something else to symbolize God’s love?

God’s son: rendered in wood, and hung upon a cross – that ancient instrument of intimidation, torture, humiliation, and death. It seems at times to me a bit unseemly to remember and announce a transcendent God in quite this way; a rather poor eulogy for His Saviour Son of Man. Jesus had so many better moments in his shortened life.

And yet perhaps no greater moment than this – his last. Would we have remembered Jesus any better otherwise… or still less, or even at all? What if he had died an old man, surrounded instead by loved ones upon his blessed deathbed, after a long, full life of healing the sick, walking on water, multiplying food & drink, challenging authorities, and delivering life lessons in the form of riddles?

Maybe it was that shocking (and, as it turned out, temporary) end to his story that keeps it in my mind, somewhere. Maybe it is that very image of a man hung high for the crime of claiming a connection to the divine – one that he told us we all share – that keeps me longing to take lessons from one sad story of good news.

My Daily Denials

I keep a crucifix in a bedroom drawer – next to my other unmentionables, and additional random remnants I keep as talismans too, inexplicably: a broken shoelace, a ball of wood from some art supply store, and a bookmark (mentioned in another post), bearing the words of another, differently contentious prophet. A curious trove of trinkets and treasures, from the arguably practical to the I’m-not-sure-quite-what. Strings, stones, boxers, briefs, socks, words, and an eternally dying plastic Jesus Christ.

I wonder at times why I don’t have an image of Christ on my wall where I wake up every day, and then I recall what that image is, and what (I think) it represents. I suppose I owe the man that much, to remember his sacrifice, but Jesus Christ (sorry, Jesus)… who wants to celebrate that moment, and see it every day? Is that what God would want? It’s a kind of macabre celebration of a life, to fixate so fully on its last and agonizing moments.

There is of course the sanitized version of this symbol: the crucifix without the dying Word of God upon it. It looks to me like an inverted sword; it has a practical handle for holding up against vampires too. It has an epic simplicity to it, and works as well in rough-worked wood as it does in gold – probably better in wood, all things considered.

But then… would I carry around a tiny noose, or a rack, or maybe a miniature iron maiden – and any of these out of context – as a symbol of my faith in the good that resides at the very kernel of each of us? Of our collective potential to transcend violence and anger and fear?

No, I would choose maybe an acorn, or a bird, or a cloud. Something light, something fluffier, and a wee bit less gruesome. The cross alone was simply an instrument of death inflicted by mortals upon other mortals (and maybe one immortal volunteer). Jesus upon the cross changes its character and meaning entirely. I have never appreciated the meaning of the word sanctify, but maybe this is as good an example as any example could be of a word-used-well.

I have a problem with the suffering in this world, and a problem with being reminded of the suffering of a man who we have since come to remember for his message of healing, compassion, peace, and forgiveness. This contrast is understandably stark, and itself deeply mysterious. At least, it is those things to me. What is the allure of Jesus hung in pain (and presumably some amount of resigned disappointment), alone upon a lonely post?

Maybe it is sacrilege to ask. But then I think the Christian God at least appreciates questions. Maybe even demands them. As long as we’re asking questions about how to better ourselves and others, I’m not so sure any divine creator worth their salt (and our devotion and attention) would care if we at times struggled around the edges of what our faith and devotion to better ideals should look like.

I don’t know about yours, but my God appreciates effort, and understands human minds are capable of only so much wisdom without a good deal of making mistakes in the process of pursuing it.

Choosing a Means to Remember

So given that I have been given the right to choose how best to remember this man Jesus, what would I have chosen, as a symbol to remember Jesus by, if not his execution?

Would it have been his face? And what arrangement of features and skin tones would be sufficient to give credit to every person in every part of the world who would like to see some of themselves reflected in Him, so they could better reflect Him in themselves? I have no answer. Maybe Jesus could be carved to look like any one of us. But then, how would one recognize him?

Would I have chosen his crown of thorns alone, without the suffering skull? Perhaps with a respectful drop of divine blood? This too would be an appropriate symbol, though perhaps might be conflated with a wreath in these modern and commercial times. Also, the thorns would need to be a bit blunter, were one to expect to wear a smaller crown around their neck. Still, maybe the crown of thorns would be the thing I would choose, at least if pressed to choose quickly.

What about the feet of Jesus (with or without sandals)? The objects of reverent kisses; the very members that moved this travelling prophet around the lands he had come to land upon? The ones that touched the now-holy grounds most physically? Are there stones still in the world that were touched by those very feet? The fleshy surface of Jesus that came into most direct contact with our own world: the feet that could defy gravity, and walk on waves. Maybe those? But who would hang feet upon their wall, and where do you cut them off, respectfully? Perhaps just his footprint… but somehow without making assumptions about his size, in any way. It seems a tall order to celebrate God with a pair of feet, in any case.

Would it be a shroud, or a hand, or the tongue which spoke divine words? A tongue alone is probably taking it too far. The hand, but without identifying fingerprints (an invasion of privacy and personal security to be sure)… the shroud, but then it would need a regular washing, and would that require holy water and/or soap? I cannot know these things.

You might begin to get the idea. It is hard to properly immortalize the already immortal, using the common materials and symbols at hand.

Is it one of the many paintings of Jesus, that I might prefer to see when I look at a given wall? No, those are just paintings, and images are a dime a dozen these days. They are sure to only resolve God into a man with a beard of a given length, and a certain eye colour, and some kind of hairstyle. I think there is something to be said for the Muslim decision (as I understand it, which I admittedly might not) to not characterize such an important figure in such a visually literal manner. It collapses something big into something ordinary, regardless of how colourful one might choose to make it.

But the Christian god – my God – does at least put up with this, and would not approve of violence against those who might wish to paint his Son (in various media), out of love or otherwise.

Even cartoons can be a good way to remember, and continue to consider; remembering and considering are considerably better than discounting and forgetting. I think Jesus had a sense of humour anyway. It’s all good, He might say, I’m not entirely in that image anyway, but you go ahead and try and guess what I really look like I’ll still be waiting when you’ve got more questions.

The Power of an Unfinished Story

The Christian faith to me remains a curious personal struggle with mystery and faith. These and others are the words I have been handed by circumstance to consider and repeat, and perhaps to build upon, in my own life.

Christianity to me does not seem to be an immutable set of pat answers to anything, even though scripture is very often accused of attempting just that, and is very often used in just that way.

Look at the man: he did not settle somewhere and build a temple to himself (or his father, Our Father)- he moved around. He followed the roads available to him, moving at what mostly appears to be Human speed. He retraced steps. He evaded pursuers. He stuck to the ground he was given – but he moved. When not welcome in one place, he shook the dust from his feet and moved on. He told others they should do the same. There was work to be done everywhere, just like today, and too little time to do it all. He even lost his cool now and then, and might have even regretted it afterward. He didn’t carve his words or behaviours into stone or dogma: we did that after he was gone.

Today, we remember this mobile man, by affixing his image to the sawn trunk of a dead tree, re-posted in the ground – or itself hung upon a wall, and most often indoors. We place this symbol of a movement in fixed positions in our homes and houses of worship. The physical tokens of Mobile Jesus still get around a lot, captured in that one fixed moment in time and space.

I could go on, finding other symbols that I would prefer to hang upon any given wall, to remind me that Jesus died for the forgiveness of my sins. One might well roll their eyes at my presumption here. After all, there are as many if not more in the world who do not consider Jesus a given, at all. I am only reiterating what I have been told, and continue to consider.

And still, here I am: the hearing of this story, and my continuing consideration of it in light of the things I’ve personally gone through in my life, has been objectively important to me – in saving me from some dark and downward spirals I might not otherwise have escaped.

The story alone carries with it an undeniable Holy Spirit. Jesus, whoever you feel he may or may not have been, did save me from something, and continues to do so. Call that Magic if you will, or call it the power of Faith, or the power of God, or even the Power of Intention if you must – but it manifests as solidly as solid matter, in my heart and mind, and then in the things I choose to manifest in this world.

So for now I peek at my dying Jesus now and then, and say a very-Canadian Sorry for not wanting to put a nail in the wall, so that I can nail Jesus once again to something stationary, trapped in one place and time.

I carry instead the symbol in my heart and mind, and when the Holy Spirit (or whatever you might wish to call it) is suitably stirred up in me, I can see Jesus (that is, God; that is, Love) in the faces of those around me, and in the animals, and in the water and the trees… and even within myself.

The Word is not a dead word – it is animated and fluid, and living, and works its way through how simple people continue to struggle with their own simple selves, in the pursuit of answers that are continuously given through the active asking for them. Nothing is nailed down.

Happy Sunday! I hope you are safe and well and continue on your own better searches.

Routines, Episode… something

This morning, like most mornings, my eyelids fluttered and my body tossed this way and that, and my neck felt a bit sore, and my chest a bit heavy. I was leaving the world of dreams to enter this one. Things here are more-or-less real.

I had breakfast. I had a shower. I answered the varied calls of Nature. All in some kind of order. It involved putting on clothes and gathering things.

I found myself at the wheel of my father’s red truck, having said good morning and see you later to my Mum (often though not always the first one to rise in her household), and with my Dad still asleep and healing soundly.

The truck brought me down the road, while I rebooted my thoughts, dispelled again my inward concerns, and heard the ear worm I had created over the last several weeks playing in a quiet and steady loop at the back of my mind.

Then I was at the gas station. According to a new little sign on the pump, I was supposed to wear a mask even while outdoors now (in “public spaces”). I had rebelled, accidentally. The world for me at 50 is officially changing faster than my habits can keep up with. I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to breathe outdoors the way I had once done, a week ago, and all of my life before that. Now I know. I’ll try and adjust.

I got some coffee, after driving myself in a different direction than I had in the previous week. This, for variety – and to delay the inevitable start of my one-more-day-till-the-curtains-close.

I don’t mean to be morbid, in mentioning my mortality.

It’s Friday, and I’ve survived another arbitrarily strung-together sequence of weekdays. My mood and thoughts are shifted slightly now, knowing the underlying tone of my next two days will be slightly different: I’ll feel more vaguely free – though nothing at all will have changed, and by Monday the cycle will start again. I know this from great experience.

I left out the thousand little details that got me from my leaving last night’s dreamland to sitting here, writing to you, from the passenger seat of a borrowed truck. These unmentioned details are all iterations of what has come to and from me, twenty-thousand times before (or thereabouts). You can fill in the details: towels for showering, opening and closing various doors, tying shoelaces, scarfing down an unmentioned muffin, and so on.

I wish I had never seen the movie Groundhog Day – I would be feeling (I think) a little less stuck in some kind of puzzle right now, had I not. But then again, maybe that movie was a clue to solving something. I’ve had this thought before as well, unsurprisingly.

I am a biological machine, and (thankfully) I don’t run a completely randomized set of instructions every day. Can you imagine? Without any routines at all, we would be utterly inconsistent and incoherent. We might be happy, but we would be alone in that happiness. My routines keep me tied to people and to causes and to places that I care about, for whatever reason. Maybe my reasons for caring are themselves just matters of habit – though I think there’s quite a bit more to it than that. That is what I refer to loosely as Faith.

Writing should have been a better routine for me these last few years, but it has been hard to stick with it, in the face of so many other things to graft onto (or remove from) the routines that make up the person that is me. Regular exercise and better nutrition should have been [could still be] a part of those routines as well. And other things. I’ve still got time, but I never know how much. That’s part of the puzzle.

All those red herrings and paths not-yet traveled. How does a person live well through a mine field like that? Like this? Too many metaphors to mix… so little time to untangle it all.

I enjoy the challenge of life, more days and moments than not. I won’t lie: I can’t take much credit for it, as I was given a good hand of cards from the outset. I had somewhere solid to start from, and return to. I still do. I think I write too much about the guilt I feel about this, though I’d like to believe that this too is a routine I can work my way through, and on to the other side. Maybe through writing, maybe through doing nothing at all except what I’m doing now.

Bill Murray worked though the puzzle, somehow. I don’t remember the details of that story, just that it had some sort of good resolution. He learned something. I forget what… but I remember that he did. I guess it was a good movie after all. Maybe I’m glad I remembered that much.

The clock closes in on what we have come to call 9:30 (at least in this narrow band of our world). This signals some part of my brain to think about wrapping this up, finishing my caffeine drink, and getting back home, where a collection of new and old routines awaits. Side-quests to complete, on the road to somewhere else, slightly different than where I am now.

May you have a surprisingly excellent Friday! I want you to experience something wonderful and new, out of nowhere. It is out there waiting – I know it.

Thank God For Fridays (TGFF?) 🙂

Random Reporting from the Field of Possibility

I went to return a library book, and ended up finding some news.

It’s actually easy to Find News, if you bother to look – and if you consider anything that’s news to your own self to be news at all.

Inspiring Shed of Mystery – found @ Fredericton, New Brunswick

I did not know about the recent murder of a school teacher in France, until I I drove by a crowd of people assembled in front of my hometown’s town hall this morning. I noticed they had signs – one of them read, Islam loves Jesus.

Who could not wonder at least a little bit what that was about? So when my errand was complete, I went back to ask. The crowd had mostly dispersed by then, except for a few families. I spoke to four of the men there; we talked about peace and about getting along. We smiled through our masks as we spoke each other’s names. I received a bookmark from one of the men, with the words:

I was sent to perfect good character
Prophet Mohammed

I cannot think for one moment that the Author ever meant to condone violence, or the racism and bigotry that such an act seems destined to fuel. I feel he meant to argue for the opposite of those things.

Nobody in that, my hometown crowd, seemed to want anything but to remind their neighbours that the greater number of us are on the same page. We want our children to be safe, and our lives to have a meaning far, far above politics and division.

My one errand became two, and then three. There is good news in the world, I’m writing to remind you, and it has a far stronger character than the bad.

Have a happy and safe Halloween ❤