Just once, we touched, but not with our hands.
We breached the human frame
with grace and hope. While the world still stands,
bright souls the dark days tame.
He was almost tempted to stay when the job ended. But there were too many workers already doing just that, and they would have spoiled it. There was enough half-joking insinuation of child molestation and the girl prodigy didn’t need that hanging over her head. What they thought of him hardly mattered, but she had a life in front of her.
Nor would he be returning home. News through his employer indicated half the city whence he came was in ruins. There were riots in other parts of the country, too. No, they had promised one fuel stop in some other Latin American country on the way back and that would have to do. His Spanish had gotten only slightly better because, where they had spent two months building that secret thing on the dry plateau, the locals didn’t really speak Spanish. It was something mixed from that and various primitive languages. But his ears were somewhat better attuned to the Latin lilt and rhythms.
He traded a good chunk of his pay for one of the aging laptops the contractors had been using. It was sturdy, a rough service model. Keeping his promise, he had reinstalled the OS from the recovery partition, then allowed the supervisor to check. No company data remained on his new writing machine.
He knew better than to give the girl or her family much money. The parents weren’t nearly so wise as their daughter. They weren’t stupid, and seemed of the better moral grade among the peasants trying to eke out a living there in that tourist trap village. But he had seen cash corrupt even the best people, and only his own life scars kept him honest. Instead, he explained he was offering her the best schooling possible in that part of the world — the Internet.
There was an Internet cafe there in the village, and he had tested the signal in the back alley where the girl could sit quietly, hidden in the brush. But that day he paid to sit with her in the cafe. He showed her how to use the software and keep the tiny machine in proper working order. They quickly reviewed search engines, then academic sites, and computer help sites. It took only a couple of hours, and it seemed she knew almost as much as he. She took to surfing the Net as naturally as she spoke in those long conversations they had up on the rocks.
The netbook was hers, and he dismissed from his mind any worries. There was nothing more possible for him to do. He didn’t even leave her his email address. Instead, he showed her how to find his poetry where he posted it online. While he was sure she would eventually understand, it didn’t matter. He steeled himself against her few tears; it was the first time she showed much emotion.
His time with her renewed hope in him some humanity could still rise up from the coming conflagration. He didn’t think it was time for the world to end just yet, but perhaps a lot of lives, taking with them a lot of stuff. Their time was past. The rest of the world would go on just fine without the mass of dark souls somewhere to his north.
There were at least one other bright soul he knew about, shining inextinguishable in the dark days coming.
In the minds of many, great art comes from deep passions. What if love itself is the art?
There is no pretense here of moral superiority, only an unquenchable desire to seek the moral fabric of the universe. I write of morality from passion, not from superior achievement.
love: a commitment to act in the welfare of another, or the welfare of all
It gets tiresome correcting false impressions about love, so it falls to writers to find terms with similar meaning, but perhaps more precise. Panting after flesh is lust, affection is general positive regard, and sacrifice is the highest expression. Agape is a nice Greek word borrowed by Christian theologians to label a willingness to give all for the sake of something more important than life. Then there’s cathexis and infatuation. Things we blame on love are frequently from other causes.
The primary means of identification is not even the results, since none of us is so perfectly able to do what we really would like to do all the time. So we are left regarding love as art, something which needs examination with something other than mere intellect or we’ll miss it.
I can splash pigment on a surface, but I’m not sure you would say I can draw or paint. I can tell you I sing, but you’d have to hear it. I’m actually better at leading singing than performance itself. And some seem to think I can write, because this blog does get some traffic. But it all means nothing if you don’t find in it something of the emotional warmth, the spiritual passion behind it.
One doesn’t simply be an artist, nor simply produce artwork. One does art as an expression of commitment and burning necessity. I seek the artistry of love itself.
When hatred sleeps and brighter passions awake
and human differences fade to shadows,
then sanity surfs the winds to take
bright souls to worlds no one knows.
It was not exactly a routine, but predictable enough he could save up his words during the sweltering days behind the welding helmet. During the breaks he would type was much as he could, or sit and savor the meaning of something which hadn’t yet spoken its name to him. As he expected, delays in this or that part of the job gave him a chance to see the big town in daylight.
While most of his workmates wasted money on wine, women and souvenirs, he explored the places where such things weren’t found. The garish paint and impromptu murals, the anguished slogans against yet one more brutal government, and the sweet music of people just trying to make another day fed his fires. Then, in the reflected glow of the welding torch, flying sparks brought yet more words.
Every evening he ate at the buffet, and after the first three nights the hookers left him alone. Then he took a bottle and headed out on the sands. By walking down along where his feet got wet, he avoided most of the wallowing bodies in the primary trade the workmen bought in the village. Where the sand strip ended at the rocks, he had found a slender few hand and toe holds to climb the stone face. Somewhere up on a promontory there was a flat spot big enough he could lie down with room to spare.
Most of the time he simply sat and contemplated in the quiet breeze. It was as if nothing filled him, nothing sated his hunger as that quiet. It was a place where his words slept just long enough for him to take something in, instead of spilling over.
So it came almost as a shock to him when he heard the hard breathing of someone coming up the rock face after him that evening. He had only just settled for a few minutes when the sound drifted up to him. He watched, a bit worried it was some determined prostitute. What he saw was long hair, alright, but a body too small for even the tiny women around here. The last hand hold was just too far for her small hand to reach. He instinctively reached out and pulled her up.
She said in surprisingly clear English, “Thank you, sir.”
He slid back and gave her room. She sat near the edge with her legs crossed. Not very pretty, and her stained clothing matched the calluses on her bare feet. He decided to risk testing her English a bit. “To what do I owe this pleasure, miss?”
“I overheard someone calling you a poet, and I wanted to speak with you, sir.”
She couldn’t have been more than twelve, and he thought more likely nine. “It’s hard to shake a bad reputation.” He grinned. “What could be so important you would chase a poet up on some wet rocks in the dark?”
“Mostly, I just wanted to speak with someone more likely to use proper English, so I could sharpen my skill. Among all these visitors from America, most of them sound too much like the silly TV soap operas.”
He threw his head back and laughed out loud. His body shaking with mirth, he turned to her perfectly serious face and realized there had to be at least one child prodigy in every village. She slowly smiled, and waited for him to recover. In just a few minutes, he forgot he wasn’t still at college. Only her size kept him in touch with reality, as the conversation ran on into the night. Their discussion wandered over literature, philosophy, other languages. They never touched until it was time to retreat back down the rock face, when he had to help her down. She turned to wave as she strode off down the beach.
For once, he stumbled back to the tent after a late night with a girl on the beach.
The false warmth of rented love
splashed on the sand, washed away with the tide.
An uncaring moon leers from above,
while stars laugh at your untanned backside.
It turned out the village was a suburb, as it were, of a much larger city farther up the shore. There were buses and cabs and other eager offers to take them into the town, and some of the men went. There was no such thing as a cafe which didn’t feature a bar and various forms of entertainment. The first was too noisy, and the next had the wrong smell, and something in his intuition warned without explaining.
The third was almost completely open to the air, and he wasn’t the only one drawn by the smell of drinks heavy with the fresh tropical fruits of the land. One end was tables and a buffet of sorts. It was much easier to match his personal tastes this time, so he paid the low price and carried two loaded plates to an empty table. He sipped at his drink and ate slowly as he watched more of his workmates file into the place. An old man with a guitar showed up, and a kid with various bongos, drums, kettles and whatnot on a cart he pulled inside and parked next to a wooden platform. It was tolerable music, though completely foreign to his ears.
He spied the stall with faded symbols indicating a toilet. Deciding it was safe to leave his table for a few minutes, he made a quick visit to the facilities. As he rose to his feet and pulled up his trousers, he glanced over the top of the stall divider, between the foliage onto the sandy alleyway behind the place. A sharply dressed man led a small herd of girls and young women, with a couple of thugs bringing up the rear. The pimp stopped in the shadows, spoke quietly, yet sharply in the local dialect to the girls, then snapped his fingers and pointed to the entrance of the little open air club. The females began coming around the corner in twos and threes, a minute or so apart. He realized he was staring and finished his business.
His table was untouched, and he resumed his meal. One of the girls sidled up to him and took a seat at his table. She was cute as could be, but her profession was no temptation to him. Aside from being a little prudish in the first place, he knew prostitutes were the same all over the world, and trusted them not at all. He tolerated her snatching a few bites playfully from his plates, but when she asked him to buy a drink he shook his head no.
After swallowing the mouthful of food, “You got the wrong guy, babe. I’m not interested.”
In highly flavored English, she replied, “You prefer boys?”
“I don’t prefer anything at all. I’m not interested in sex.”
She stared at him a few minutes as he continued eating, shrugged and rose to walk away, and began stalking another man who had just walked into the place. A server came around and he asked if he could get something to drink in a take-away container. The old woman brought back a what he took for a wine cooler, paid her the full tab and strolled out the doorway. He dropped a tip in the jar next to the musicians.
It was dark now, and the evening was already a bit cooler than the sweltering daylight. He removed his sandals and tucked them under one arm as he sipped the cooler and headed for the beach.
We used to make a big deal of the Waco slaughter, and I still recall the bumper sticker: “Is your church BATF approved?” But when independent researches pulled off the band-aid to reveal the putrid lies beneath, that sound bite missed the point. And then the Murrah Building bombing, Terrance Yeakey, Kenneth Trentadue… and now we consider those pretty minor. Not forgotten by any means, but simply the opening salvo of the war on citizens. Now it’s Waco everywhere, every day.
Some changes come slowly, and we realize them later. My self-identification as a Christian Mystic came after a decade of slow shift. Other things come as shocks. When Waco first came across the TV channels, I was on the government’s side. A few years later, when the Feds got me kicked out of my church, I realized what a fool I’d been, and tossed all my DARE Program stuff into a bonfire.
Don’t get me wrong; the Branch Davidians were a hideous bad religion. But that was not the way to deal with them. They weren’t that kind of threat. I can understand what got JFK murdered, but for all the digging, it seems Waco was just blundering into something. No real threat to anyone, just a confluence of bad trends coming to a head. There were no good guys, and too many bad guys on all sides, making too much out of nothing. Trentadue’s murder was the same kind of thing, only more stupid, a simple case of misidentification. Yeakey I understand, because he was going to blow the lid off a huge cover-up in the Murrah Building Bombing, itself something too bizarre to contemplate.
Each of these events are like old friends. If you are a thoroughly independent type person, as I am, most of your friends will tend to be the same. It’s not that I don’t care; I’m very warm and touchy-feely with those who tolerate it, and ornery enough to do it with some who don’t like it. But if whatever made us good friends goes away, we don’t stop being friends, we simply don’t have any reason to communicate all the time. So if I see my best buddy from the time I served as a Military Policeman, we’ll share a big bearhug and talk about our lives. Then we’ll part all warm and fuzzy and not talk again until the next encounter, whenever that might be. I don’t have any emotional need to keep things warm and fuzzy if there’s nothing to share. What we did so much of together in those days is no longer possible. So it is with those conspiracies. I’m not spending much time these days digging into the various cover-ups, but I’ll read any new discoveries if I run across a report about them.
And on days like today, I remember both.
While many have tried just as hard, I reject the notion anyone tried any harder.
I went through all the same doorways as everyone else. I got my ticket punched at the all the right stops. There was an ugly taste in my mouth at some points, but most of my peers never seemed to notice. The few who did seemed to have gotten over it. It only got worse for me. I kept trying every possible option I was offered, but it just didn’t work.
Most recently I gave one last shot at something which seemed untainted by all the old rules, but that’s because the rules were simply not written in plain sight. It was worse than ever. The one thing I was trying to escape was more suffocating than I could imagine.
I’ve given up. I’m moving on, and I won’t be fooled again. I cannot follow Jesus Christ in any currently existing organized church.
While that implies there is something terribly wrong with all of them, that’s not the point. Churches have always been messed up, but the worst ones take themselves too seriously. By that I mean the folks inside the group who embrace the particular groupthink of their brand do not realize all organizations are fallen humanity organized. The organization cannot be sacred, because God is a Spirit. The communion in the Spirit is not the organization. Whatever it was He said about His Church was not a statement about human institutions. On this I am most at odds with Catholics and the various brands of Orthodox, and I make no apology for calling it a heresy. (But then, who the heck am I, right?) Yet I have found the same basic assumption in every church organization I’ve encountered. The higher up the organizational ladder they go, the more thoroughly have the people convinced themselves God isn’t seriously interested in the others.
And not a one of them allows the notion you can follow Christ outside their particular organization, let alone outside all of them together. That’s okay, because I don’t need their permission. Nor do I need their cooperation.
I can be friends with, and fellowship with, any believer who takes the notion they should fellowship with me. That will always happen, because there will always be people who are loosely attached, not yet ready to let go for whatever reason. You know what’s really crazy? Way, way too many of the folks who say they’ve made the same break as I have are still chained to the same debates which characterize those inside the buildings. I have yet to encounter a single other house church group which isn’t still intellectually bound to one denomination or another. It’s one thing to be aware of the debates, and to have a unique answer, but it’s another thing entirely to think all that stuff really matters. It doesn’t matter. But the people still matter, because God can work through anything He likes.
It’s not hostility on my part. But they won’t let me walk the path I must walk while working within any existing organization I can reach. The last few weeks have seen the last bridges burnt down, and I don’t even have any matches. Lots of fire for the mission calling within me, but I can’t possibly turn that off. If it burns something, that something was tinder looking for a spark, made of the wrong stuff. I’m willing to stay away from them all for their own sakes. There won’t be any engagement either way, neither as a call to reform nor an attack to dismantle; I’ll generally ignore them and hope they return the favor.
The hardest thing you’ll ever do is, in your mind, realize almost everything you’ve been told about a particular subject is a lie. It’s the same discovery which led me to break with the mainstream in so many other ways. If this is insanity, I’m happy with that, but don’t try to lock me up, because that will get you hurt. I won’t even have to do anything; I’ve seen that often enough. More than once I’ve walked away from something, leaving broken shards all over the ground because the framework came apart without me lifting a finger. It’s the saddest thing you’ll ever see to realize everyone claiming to work with Heaven insist on using straw and dirt to reach up into the sky. If you aren’t borne aloft by the force inherent in the thing itself, you can’t get there.
I gave it a fair shot, and I simply don’t belong there.
Self-doubt need not be crippling.
Without apology I claim there are processes above the intellect which can be distinguished from emotion, and superior to any formal reasoning. Most people become vaguely aware of it through intuition, a process just outside the conscious intellect by which we arrive at conclusions without formal reasoning. We intuit an answer based on something more subtle, and going with it works well enough we learn some measure of trust for it. In essence, it’s a mental shortcut, an ability to process outside the conscious mind. That’s as clinical as I can get, except to note you can improve your intuition by asserting some effort in learning patterns.
During my military training, I was fully conscious of the whys and wherefores of what they were doing to us. I disagreed with most of it, but understood why they thought it was necessary. The military presupposes the most untalented mass of humanity. Because it teaches to that level, and constructs training based on that assumption, it actively interferes with human talent. Most of your real abilities will be rudely shoved aside. You won’t be permitted to use your talents, and promotion depends on forcing your talents to fit the pattern. The point, of course, is maximum survival in combat, as it were. Everyone has to be taught to act the same so the dummies can keep up, so it’s all dumbed down. It boils down to drills which ensure approximately appropriate responses to surprises.
It works okay, but the long term trend sucks the life out of innovative thinking which keeps things improving. We are stuck with tactics that don’t work so well against our current enemies, but well enough they can get away with trumpeting their successes. Our troops tend to survive okay, but they aren’t beating anybody who doesn’t use the same tactics. We get that much only because our enemies are even less competent. A truly competent enemy would eat our boys alive, and require far less men and resources to do it.
But life remains full of surprises. We continue to see how training is okay, but only if someone in charge has an actual education to go with it. Someone has to absorb the whole purpose, and also have a broad acquaintance to how humans operate. Even with the military now requiring some college for even enlisted troops, we lose it by having such a complete failure of colleges to actually educate, and the military still assuming the lowest common denominator — doing so with a vengeance. The whole point is to make everyone with the same certifications interchangeable, which requires dehumanization. So while such training is not a waste for someone with a full awareness, we could surely do better all the way around.
At one time our education did recognize the necessity of cultivating non-conscious operations. It wasn’t in the same terminology as I use, but you can detect it by how it worked. Well educated men knew there was something some men had which could be caught, but not taught, and they made the most of it. We can reliably expect future generations as a whole to ignore it even more completely, even as a handful rediscover it. I don’t claim to have it, but I’m willing to bet I have a piece of it.
Some fifteen years ago the Internet was new to me. I made all the same idiot mistakes as most people typically do, in terms of interacting with other users. This was aggravated by a very powerful turmoil in my soul as I began shifting from the Western orientation to something long forgotten. I ran through a serious depression, among other things. In other words, my netiquette failures were far worse because of other serious issues. The symptoms were a very slender clue to things much more serious. So a serious improvement will also manifest the same.
Twice in the past few weeks I managed to respond to something far better than I knew at that time. I was confronted with something unexpected, not just in what someone else said, but in the full context. I was agitated, but the emotions didn’t get in the way of a really good intuitive response. I wasn’t fully aware of just how appropriate my response was until much later. You have to understand how dramatic a change this is for me, when blundering and making a fool of myself was previously ubiquitous for me.
This is just a small sample of other things going on in my world right now. It’s far more than mere intuition, as I strive to walk the talk of someone who claims there is a spirit-Spirit communion possible which can steer our behavior far better than mere human logic. On the one hand, I was gripped by this belief, held by it for several years before I actually experienced anything I could point to and say, “There it is.” Well, it’s starting to show up. Now I’m getting a taste of how it can actually work.
Something inside me was utterly certain of this long before I tasted it, and I knew the problems were in me, not the ideas.