Two Short Stories

Posted: April 24, 2012 in Items, Wombats

The admirable Laura Whitener has launched her new journal Firefly Jar Press. It has fiction and poetry in it.

Some of the fiction belongs to me. My stories “Cloudpartings” and “A Poorly Written Story About Love, And Birds” are both up there, and I am both stoked and honored to be a part of the inaugural issue.

Please read them. And the other excellent pieces therein. Thank you.

On Books, and The Word

Posted: April 15, 2012 in Thoughts

At my most unhealthy, when I am generally feeling rejected or downtrodden, I tend to retreat into literature. It’s called escapism.

Escape is only part of it.

Books are utterly accepting creatures. They place no demands on you whatsoever. They take you as you are, to the extent that you take them as they are. There are ideas and relationships and morals and victories, which you are brought into regardless of your state. When they triumph, you triumph.

At my healthiest, I retreat to God.

He too accepts me as I am, to the extent that I accept him for who He is. When I bind myself to Christ, he brings me into his life, his relationships, his victories. And when He triumphs, I triumph.

But when you close the cover on a book, you realize it’s all an illusion. That the ideas and stories, no matter how noble, mean nothing if you do nothing with them. They are but tools. Books are words, not worlds.

Christ, however, is a Way. There is no final chapter, there is only life and life and life. Illusions are burned away, and Truth is met. He pours into us, that we might pour out, to creation, to each other, back to Him. He is the very Word that spoke the world into being.

When you hurt, it’s hard to seek full life. It’s easier with illusion. There is no pain in entertainment. Books cost nothing.

Christ costs everything.

*This was originally posted to my Tumblr.

The Penultimate Day

Posted: April 8, 2012 in Fictions, Thoughts

I wrote this on May 20, 2011. It was the day before Harold Camping said the rapture was to happen. I sat in the park outside my house and watched the young Portland folks in their frantic frolics. Frisbees, sunbathers, ghetto blasters and cans of PBR. A man was pacing around screaming, high on some form of stimulant. The group next to me kept a bong in their backpack and would occasionally pass it around. I sat under a tree, and this happened.

***

The sun rose over Babylon, and from the ground they came.

I never thought to look for them. Never saw them in the dirt, never suspected. And yet I knew that they were there, somehow. Always.

The sun rose first, and the abominations gathered. Fleshly flesh of twin hearts, and twin minds. Men and women, I among them, cleaved together, dreaming of escape. Release. The sun rose golden over Babylon, and our flesh danced golden on the hills. Momentary pleasures, and pleasant diversions, as if to say ‘Here, now: let us taste in life. Let us forget how we are damned.’ Green hills. Laughter-sheen, warmth. Chemicals and bodies.

Then, from the ground, they came.

The earth pitched and heaved in mounds, the soil cresting as the sea in tumult. Germinating seeds, they burst from the earth in mole-hills. How to describe them? Dark, as the soil is dark, flecked with white, each wearing a shroud over its shoulder. They came from the earth and stood, and watched. Solemn, dark, formless shadow-features, stoic in the face of the frivolity about them. They were ominous, and a hostile presence: death and anger hiding in their robes. I waited for them to strike.

Yet they merely stood, silent vigils, as if some unseen hand held them in place. Hold. Not yet. The hour has yet to come.

Of course, I cowered at the sight. I am no warrior-prophet. I readied myself to flee from the golden hills with the masses.

The masses, however, did not flee.

They stayed where they were. They sang, they danced, they continued to partake in great obscenities. As if they did not see those evil, earth-born sentries. Or as if they did not care.

I petitioned them. A fool, I cried out to the abominations, “Come! Flee! Repent! Away!” It was as if I spoke in gibberish, a flatulent glossolalia, and they laughed, and they clapped. I was mistaken for a jester. A marijuana cigarette was offered to me, a woman sang, I stood to fall at the precipice, and the tireless earthmen watched. And. Waited.

It was as though I could not wake, though I dreamed. And I knew it then, like I always knew, that this was the day before the end of the world. I cried out for explanation and, curiously, for justice. The abominations merely danced.

At yet my pleas produced result. From the skies and high places, arrows fell, assembling upon a rival hill. White, and featureless and metal-gleaming, (to hurt the beholding eye,) they formed a geometric pattern; directly corresponding to the earth-things. The sky-things also held their ground, invisible swords held at the ready. There was a charge in the air, spark and weight and violence, hung in the vapor like a tapestry. There was a picture in it, as though the whole world was a symbol for a long-forgotten battle, never finished.

I could not say why, but I fled the abominations, (of which I was one,) and ran toward the white-sentried hill. A few cared to follow me, and we made the journey together, stumbling as we ran. Some turned back, and others fell, and yet we crawl and yet we push and yet we rise. We still flee, to this day, tugged along by a current. A river of light, bigger and brighter than our eyes can discern.

Time itself is a held-back scream, with two unseen hands readying their pawns for a final push. Hidden worlds clinging at the skirts of that river’s rushing always, and all of us left mumbling to choose our sides on this perpetual, penultimate, day.

I hate my shape.

When I say- break me-
my foundations molder
from within-

I wish to be
rebuilt
by you-

You tear out rotting beams.
An answer to prayer.

And yet I tremble
at the tear.

It hurts me to let go
of my furnishings.

The paradox of
building
on a rotten core
is thus:

I hate my shape.

But I so desperately
wish to keep
my outlines.

So most everybody has a thing. Some people have multiple things. It can be hobby, a passion, some skill that they hone and practice for the sheer joy of it. It can be a career, it might not be. There are varying levels of talent. But it’s a major part of what expresses them as a person. Some people are athletes, some people are musicians, some people master computers or restore old cars or whittle little sculptures of wizened Russian Grandmothers out of driftwood.

I write.

I don’t necessarily write well. I certainly don’t make any money at it. But I find that doing it has helped me communicate better, understand people more fully, observe the world around me in greater scope and detail. There are other things that I enjoy. But they lack the unbridled, limitless creativity that the word has to offer.

There is a tactile sensation to the word… when I write the word lavender you can smell it in your mind. The word steps in and signifies what can’t be experienced directly. Creates new concepts that one cannot encounter in the physical world, through the senses. It is an ambassador, a witness, a builder, and a binder.

Also, out of all of the ‘things’ out there… from acting to sailboat racing to mountain climbing to photographing… I’m reasonably sure it’s one if the worst ways to pick up chicks.

So to anyone out there who keeps thinking, “I want to write more,” I hope you’re really, really sure about it. Because no matter how adept your use of imagery, you will never have a roomful of attractive people fawning over your sentences.

Unless you’re famous, but that’s a given.

My point is, writing will be its own reward. It will open your mind to limitless possibilities and allow you more clarity of expression than you had previously dreamed of, but that’s all you should expect. And I want to make sure you know that.

Because nobody told me, and I’m thinking of taking up the guitar.

*This was originally posted on my Tumblr.

Restoration And Decline

Posted: March 26, 2012 in Poems, Thoughts

We are always
cleaning up for God.

Washing ourselves
in dirt.

Immune
to our own stench.

There is a sadness
in this scouring.

Always sweeping,
we are too busy

to be swept up.

Belief Is An Inadequate Word

Posted: January 4, 2012 in Essays, Poems, Thoughts

An essay in the form of a Poem. Also, an over-simplistic regurgitation of ideas that I plucked from the profound yet puzzling world of Martin Buber’s “I And Thou.”

 

I do not ‘believe’ in God.
Not in the sense
that you mean.

Like you ‘believe’ in evolution
or altruism
or the U.S. Postal service.

Belief implies a disconnect,
you see,
an assertion of something
outside of yourself
that still, somehow, is.

In this sense,
even the concrete
is abstract:
we may cast
delightful doubts
upon the tyranny
of tangibles.

Perception is fickle,
after all,
what then can we assert?

Vapor?

Light?

Some other Cartesian Causality?

We cannot separate
from some things.

God, therefore,
is not some thing
to be distinguished from-
God is a swelling voice,
an entirety,
the underlying You
to be addressed.

When I breathe, and speak,
and think,
I do not merely acknowledge God-
I live God.

God cannot be ‘believed’ in.
Only felt and seen
and spoken with
and known.

In the same way,
I do not ‘believe’ in Miracles.

I am one.

Stoplight

Posted: December 7, 2011 in Poems

A long overdue posting, but my poem ‘Stoplight’ was published in issue #4 of the Psychic Meatloaf poetry journal. It’s about a stoplight. Just so you know what to expect.

One Of The Most Liberating Lessons

Posted: December 7, 2011 in Thoughts

I have learned over the past year… sometimes, it’s okay to be sad.

This seems like a no-brainer. It should be. But it isn’t.

For one, we live in a culture that pursues happiness as an end-goal. The absence of sadness is what we strive for every day.

It’s what drives us to fill our waking hours with mindless, numbing entertainment. (Guilty.) It’s what drives us to seek material comfort. If neither of those things work, we seek medicinal help from substances that muck with our brain chemistry. Because we can’t deal with the fact that we are sad.

This isn’t to say that entertainment is a bad thing in and of itself. Or money. Or even pills… I’m not going to gainsay clinical depression, I’ve seen it’s effects. But I think there’s a huge difference between the sort of depression that hits for no reason and the kind of sadness that stems from a specific cause.

I am often sad.

Bad things happen. Bad situations, bad decisions, bad attitudes. Natural disasters and family disasters and emotional disasters. They happen. They will continue to happen. We live in a broken world.

And when they happen, I for one don’t want to greet them with a stoic smile. We get this idea that we have to keep smiling all the time, regardless of what happens. Being able to take it well is a sign that we’re well-adjusted. If we don’t keep it up, something must be wrong with us.

I would argue the opposite. Because being happy when sad things happen is not a sign that the world is becoming a better place… rather, it is a sign that we are becoming less human.

Dealing with sadness is one thing. A mourner’s attitude accomplishes little, you can’t let the sadness hold you back from doing the right thing. But thinking that you’re somehow doing it wrong by being sad when crap happens? It shines a spotlight on our unreasonable expectations for this life.

We will not always be happy. And we shouldn’t be. We should always have purpose, and always have peace. Those are promises that we’re given by making the Love of Christ our end-goal. But sadness is a part of that journey. We’re promised that, too.

It’s just that, in the end, it’ll be worth it.

So if you, like me, have the tendency to run away from sadness… remember. Take a deep breath. It’s okay to accept it. It’ll pass. And shift your focus away from you and toward His face.  Honest perspective will numb sadness waaay better than any pill, paycheck, or Battlestar Galactica marathon. (Don’t judge me.)

You know that whole ‘peace that passes all understanding’ thing? I won’t claim to understand it. But I’m sure glad it’s there.

“Thank you. Thank you. You’re too kind. Please, be seated. Thank you.

“Now, I’d like to begin, if I may, by saying this: all stories, at their heart, serve one of two masters. The first is Determinism. The fates, written in the stars, have controlled us. Oedipus, Romeo and Juliet, timeless principles sent to warn us: there is no fighting it. Despair, for destiny is at hand.

“The second is Freedom.

“Not that the stories themselves are much different. There are hero journeys, noble sacrifices, mysteries, romances, tales of meteoric rise and catastrophic fall. The disposition towards fate, or freedom, that is but the lens that the author places over such a work. But I would ask you this, ladies and gentlemen. Look to the characters. Look to the little people moving about in that tale you value so much. And ask yourself… are they resigned? Do they give in to the mystery?

“No! They seek, they love, they dream, they fight! They pursue freedom of action with all their soul and strength and might! Yes, I might say… in fact, blast it, I will say it, that all literature is an exercise in freedom. Every tale is told in an effort to assert just a bit of control, just a hint that our existence might, at some base level, mean something.

“And I suppose my story is no different.

“I know, this is somewhat irregular. You are, after all, chiefly interested in my… unorthodox views on time. And here I am, old man, sputtering away about freedom. Thank you for indulging me, ladies and gentlemen, your graciousness is certainly appreciated. But I feel as though…

“No, no, it’s alright. Let the lad say his piece. Everyone should have his say in the great dialogue, so to speak. Now is… yes. Of course. Right on schedule. It’s alright, let him up. Please, I insist. Come on, young master.

“Please, folks, do not be alarmed. I know, some of you, well, you may be a little shaken. Not those of you who have come upon me professionally, who have only known me as an old man. But those of you who have known me- yes, yes I hear your gasps. Quite the spitting image, isn’t he? No, it’s alright. Please, allow me to explain the best I can.

“Yes, that young gentlemen making his way up to the podium right now is… me, at least, a me that existed at one point in my life. Rest assured, my friends. He means you no harm. The gun in his pocket… oh please! Please! Do not panic. Let’s just be rational about this, folks, I promise it will be resolved soon enough.

“Now, if you don’t mind, I do have a few words to say to the young fellow in question. If you don’t mind indulging me.

“Well. Good evening. I don’t suppose it would make this easier for either of us if I said that I’ve been expecting you. Hmm? Well, I suppose I should say this straight away. I know what you must do. I remember doing it. I’ve been trying for years to undo it, but it seems we, too, are victims of fate. There is no eluding it, even in Time itself. Well, no use crying over it. What will be has been, so to speak.

“I guess there’s only one thing left to say- I forgive you. I understand how empty it sounds to you now, but it will comfort you later. Once you recognize the nature of ‘later.’ I hope I don’t sound patronizing, of course, you’ve been gifted the vision of foresight, but without the hindsight to balance… oh, but now isn’t the time for philosophy, is it? Now is the time for action.

“Well, act then. What you must do, do it quickly. Take that pistol from your pocket and point it at my heart. That a boy. Just like you practiced. Ah, ah… stop that arm from shaking, you’ll need to do it right. Now. No more stalling. Come on, lad. Pull the damned trigger.

“Do it.”