Auburn Mortality

The browns of Autumn are always outshined by other vivid hues. Scarlets, oranges, yellows, and violets with a prettier tune. Burnt auburn left to wither, unappreciated until the greens of spring return. Some things die and we marvel at them, other’s pass away with a passing glance. Auburn left to fill the space until there’s something worth staring at. Value assigned, Drab Vs. Chiché, yet the trees expire the same, slumber over their leaves.

“I don’t wanna talk about death, I don’t want to focus on the Macabre.”

“Pearly gates and golden streets, I’m building my treasures up in Heaven. Rust and decay will never touch me.”

“Live in the moment, life flits around like a canary, all yellow and exuberant. Death is still, lazy; don’t waste away pondering such things.”

I think it’s fear of death that drives faith. I’ll do anything to feel like I’ll live forever. I’ll tithe my last cent, grind my teeth to dust just to keep moving.

“Oh busy, busy bee, walking to and fro. What if we close our eyes? What if we don’t wake up?”

What if we don’t wake up? I tried to cling to hope, tried to swallow fear, hoping that there’s an afterlife with every tear. So many stories, so much lore, always ending in some deity conquering death through resurrection or reincarnation. I used to pray because I was afraid of what there might be after. Content with worshipping a god I didn’t fully believe in. I used to cry into my mother’s arms, pleading with her to save me from rot and decay. 3 years old is early to worry about death. So I put my faith in a story, written by someone many years ago, just like I used to put my faith in Grover when he told me “There’s a Monster at the End of this Book”.

There’s a monster at the end of every book, and it’s weird to think that Sesame Street taught me just as much about humanity and death as Christ or Buddha did. I used to believe that monster was death, that that monster was sin, but the monster is humanity, and death is Van Helsing, coming to put a stake in our hearts as we crumble to ash. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”, made of the earth, buried there too.

I think the Greeks worshiped so many to distract themselves, a nation constantly at war in their adolescence. Aphrodite, Eros, Apollo, Athena, making any concept transcend it’s form. I think the Christians and the Jews wanted the same distraction, but focused it into one super-being. No respect for death, no dignity in decay.

Samhain is around the bend, and winter there after. They’d slaughter their cattle, harvest their grains, and offer up a bit to death to ensure they made it through the frigid, white doom. We’ll wear masks to hide from malignant spirits, going from door to door, begging for treats. Feasting for the solstice, avoiding any tomb.

Scarlets, oranges, yellows, and violets wither just as Auburn does. Auburn has the hardest task of all: ensuring all the other hues burn out bright, while she just burns out.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m trying to get at, other than death is an inevitability. We won’t escape. Maybe I just don’t want to be afraid anymore? Maybe I’m tired of putting my faith in possibilities and probabilities? Maybe I want to stop alloting life’s value to extraplanar beings and just let life’s value stand on it’s own? I don’t want the harvest to come to anyone or anything but mine own. I want to bask and revel in the responsibility for the things that I have sown.

Inspired by:

Claude Monet’s color palate

Bahamut of the Platinum Cadre

The Chariot’s “Your”

Grover of “Sesame Street”‘s, “There’s a Monster at the End of this Book”

Greek mythos

The Gaelic festival of Samhain

The autumn foliage

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Impressions on Impressionism: Giverny/Entomology/Trap Music

Floue mais intelligible, nous sommes tous des impressions.

Oil greens laced through lavender sheens, views from a turf-laden shore. Vines waltz through railings, coalescing with their man-made supports. Water and sky, an amalgam for the eye, what is reflection and what is atmosphere? Nymphaeceae circlets, fractal florets, delicate mid-afternoon rays caught in tranquil pools.Nonsense colors at an inch’s glimpse. Odd splotches, ridges and valleys of violet and cyan. Craters of cremé with rivulets of mustard. Separate and clashing. Chaos at the tip of a brush. Polished maple, lanced with horse hair, bound in nickel.

Days spent reading “Order of the Phoenix” under pointed leaves. Vacationing in the north, roaming fields of daisies, mounted Clydesdale. Scrounging for silvered change, Coinstar nickel and diming for a quarter tank. Lavender outside of my workplace, calming aroma in the night over rooftop crises. Clear Caribbean, enveloped, intruding on a coral biome. Spoonfuls of Cool-Whip out of the container, no other food in the fridge. The cover of “Flower Boy“, driving through Dallas, “take me back to November“.

November must have been glorious: Paris, circa 1840. New eyes born to an unimaginative planet, born to a race fixed on defined lines. “Je n’aime pas, Oscar“, they must have touted. Maybe it’s because you created something beautiful out of the ordinary. Maybe it was because it forces us to identify with nature. Maybe it was that you meticulously globbed, dotted, and lacquered chaos into blurred beauty. Maybe your recordings of the seasons reminded them that their time was passing too quickly as they sat under their parasols drinking Cabernet. Maybe it struck them with fear and concern when they subconsciously realized you painted empathy, that you painted humanity through nature and oil.Hazy, colors bleeding into each other, I know that I’m Giverny, France 1906. A bunch of splotches, independent from the next, caressing their neighbor, solid and fluid. Sometimes memories run into the next, sometimes a smell, sometimes a color, all evoking specific emotion. A gorgeous fog clinging to a set point of existence.

I’m fighting to keep my existence this undefined. Like the scales of a Lepidopteran, fine, iridescent, each one important and part of a whole. Consistently reminded that bold lines are even bolder when they’re trying to draw you into a silhouette, and eventually a mold. Categorizing, organizing, ranking, assigning value, regardless of if the value is understood or not. Consistently fighting my hypocrisy of “I want to be more than one thing, but you have to be one thing to me“, pushing through life creating my own heartbreak and disappointment. Loyalty with no strings attached.

Let colors bleed into others. Stay confused and changing and be honest about it. Humans only act like they’re defined because it’s easier to get comfortable in a cage than in the open. We only define because we’re selfish, we only organize because we’re scared, we’re only tied to time because we’re lazy. We only lack direction because we try to only experience one.Water Lilies float under a Japanese bridge and so do I.

Inspired by:

Oscar-Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies” 1914-1926

Tyler, the Creator’s “Flower Boy” 2017

The Mexican Bluewing: Myscelia ethusa

Existential conversations with my siblings

Santa Monica beach: 10:57 pm

Celestial Bodies: A Romanticizing of Ancient Light

Stripe, stripe, stripe; Morse in the headlights. “Truly Random Code“, half-dollar, lemon crème moon, Orion’s Belt aligns: Cruelly open road.

12 degrees.

It’s as if the atmosphere falls away at night in the winter. The solstice rolls around and that infinite nothingness plunges it’s fingers into the dirt. Everything’s brighter. The clouds are translucent against the moon rings. I’ll start singing songs about Space, thinking back on summer nights, “Moongod, where’s your glow?” Sometimes I’ll make myself believe that I’m the only one watching those celestial bodies creep slowly through the sky, “Maybe my new friends will invite me out to stay in their Milky Way real estate.

Alpha Centauri is the closest star to Earth at 4.37 light years, and somehow we can still see it in our sky. We’re consistently observing the past as we look into the sky, seeing light that’s been traveling billions of miles, and we greet it with indifference. I’m always looking down at a light 6 inches from my face, more worried about whether this light shows me a spark or a laugh. We used to worship and marvel at the stars but now that light is in our hands. Hollow, controllable, fragile. Sufjan said that Jupiter was the loneliest planet but I think he was wrong. Earth has inhabitants and they abuse and neglect her constantly. As Jupiter’s great Red Eye swirls about it’s surface humanity is prying the life out of the Earth and pretending she’ll be fine, or forgetting she’s even there. Just a lonely blue speck in a sea of black. “Blue, the most human color.

Sometimes I’ll make my own constellations, trace the lines of my whims and imagination. I just want to create my own lines, making the sky something new each time. Tootles lost his marbles and so did the rest of us. Not only will we not chase our own dreams, but we’ll go out of our way to make sure others don’t either. I caught a glimpse of a future I wanted, and I played it out like a romance in my head. I’ll take in every moment of an imagined self, smile at how happy that Thomas is, let my heart leap a little. But there’s always reality and others who want to take that glimmer in your eye.

It’s no wonder when I gaze out at the dipper that I pine and brood.

“Look at how small I am.”

And then I feel that loneliness too, somehow paired with connection and understanding.

“I don’t want to be alone, but I don’t want to be infatuated either. I don’t want to be everything to someone or to myself, just something to someone and better than yesterday. I want to be consumed by what I love and not have to worry about having my passion taken away by others. I want to be connected but I want to be alone. People are like constellations, I’ll trace those lines differently each day. I want to be able to admire the constellations I’m not a part of. We’re all just star dust anyways, right?”

Inpiration from A Lot Like Bird’s “Truly Random Code” and “Trace the Lines“, The Devil Wears Parada’s “Moongod“, Salvage My Dream’s “Alpha Centauri”, Sufjan Stevens’ “Planetarium“, and Regina Spektor’s “Blue Lips

Aaron West, Crystal Meth, and Holiday Fractals: A Letter

Dear Loathing,

You’ve been one of my greatest friends throughout the years, suctioned to my brain like a Lamprey, swimming behind my eyes, distorting my perspective. I always knew those weren’t floaters but rather translucent snakes reminding me of how much I hate myself. Every time I rub my eyes, stand up too quick, or look at a light for too long, you’re always there.

And I wish you weren’t.

I spent years believing things couldn’t get better. From crisis to crisis you assured me it would always be this way. Behind every negative word said to me, you would echo, “They’re right, you know?”

And I always believed you.

I’m trying to get rid of you, trying to build up positivity. So when my methed-out Step-Father messages me telling me I’m a “pussy” and that I’m “not a man”, I only believe it for a little while. When I get disappointed or heart broken I only believe it’s my fault for a little while. When I’m defeated, I don’t stay there wallowing like I used to.

I went from “I’m starting to believe that there’s a God and he hates me” to believing in myself instead.

So when my brother tells me he loves me and that I’m the reason he’s still alive, I can detach that Lamprey from my Hippocampus. When my friend encourages me in my passions, it gives my brain a moment to heal. When I think about leaving this place behind, moving out to the mountains, I’m not filled with doubt or feel defeated.

It’s been a long while since I’ve had hope, and I’m afraid I’ll lose it. It’s Christmas Eve and it’s snowing, and to most this would feel magical. The sight of snow fills me with fear. That cold white dredges up so many bad memories. This holiday season has always been hard and I’ve been so disillusioned over the years. You always comes back, Loathing, and that’s why I’m afraid. Every time something negative happens I know that you’re waiting with a handful of dead sunflowers ready to spit in my face and say, “I told you so.”

I’m trying to dissociate the white of the snow with the trauma in my life. Snow is such a wonderful thing and I’m tired of feeling afraid of it. I’m tired of it reminding me of you. I’m clinging to hope that you will stay away, that I’ll have the strength to keep fighting you, and that I’ll continue to have the will to pursue a more whole me.

Sincerely,

Your Oldest Friend and Newest Enemy

Continental Divide or A Depressed Man’s Guide to Folding Yourself

Ache.

Resonating through snow-capped peaks, pulsating through the soles of my battered Nikes. There’s a groaning. The slipping of plates, tectonic quakes, millennia of friction and reformation. Earth has many spines to walk on, the white, osseous snow, gold her marrow. Thin air cracks the skin, nosebleed, crimson drop marries hexagonal flakes in a salacious rosé. The mountains always give me so much, it felt like a pitiful sacrifice, accidental, minute.

Rumination; digesting experience. Inevitable.

I’ve spent so much time in my life trying to forsake myself.

I’m a mountain that has been moved.

Spent years pouring out pieces of myself because I was taught altruism is Holy, and the self is to be cast aside.

I’m a river that is all dried up.

I lost my salt. No spice in life. Settling to be a vessel. Settling to be a pump.

I’m an ocean nothing floats on.

Always looking past the sky in an attempts to glimpse heaven. A concept. Intangible.

I’m a sky that nothing wants to fly in.

I kept putting aside existence. Allowing others’ passions to be more important than mine.

I’m a sun that doesn’t burn hot.

Shame embodied, never knowing myself to be anything else. Offering nothing but loathing to mirrors.

I’m a moon that never shows it’s face.

Lip service. Conflicting morality. Too tired to save face anymore.

I’m a mouth that doesn’t smile.

Tired of being poured out. Tired of “being a light”. Tired of being a silhouette.

I’m a word that no one ever wants to say.

Fold up my legs, fold up my arms, forget me in the attic. I hope that origami self collects dust while I figure this new one out. I hope his memory becomes a hazy vignette when placed next to my future. And I thought about him while standing on Mother Nature’s spine, that Origa-Me. I thought about when I gave up my faith, when I started making those creases, how hard it was but how freeing it felt. I thought about my father figures, and how I didn’t want to reflect them, making that first fold. I thought about my therapy, about my traumas, all the parts of myself I gave away, shaping and folding. I thought about my mother and how many times she’s said, “I just want to see you happy” as I put in the finishing creases. I thought about the freedom I felt in that thin air, the excitement of placing that Origa-Me self in a box as I dreamed of a future I wanted. How satisfying the hops of a hazy IPA were as I pulled down the ladder. The callouses on my fingers from copper strings felt more authentic as I place the box under the rafters in the corner. How the mountains shifted like I did, slow and steady, as the edges of my Origa-Me self starts to yellow. How my groaning went from disembodied and pained to purposeful and passionate. Dreams don’t seem so outlandish. Free to indulge in happiness and hope as other boxes surround that paper man. It’s uncomfortable because it’s new, it’s uncomfortable because it’s making me whole. Galvanized, compacted. Turning to exuberance and anxious excitement; a different kind of

Ache.

Narrative: Nostalgia, Crayola Creations, and Santa Monica Pier

It’s 4 am, mom, and I’m going to California. I can remember the times you would watch VH1’s “Behind the Music“, The Crüe’s history unfolding on the screen, dreaming of the day you’d see the City of Angels. You told me you were upset because I got to go before you, but you taught me to dream and I know you’ll see it soon.

So now it’s southwest on SouthWest, caught between the giddy anxiety of making my dreams come true and the frustrated exhaustion of yesterday’s hard day. The muted rumbling, “Carrie & Lowell“, and increased G Force rocked me to sleep. I dreamt of a time I’ve always hoped for, where I’d come home to a wife and a couple kids, greeted with flirtatious sarcasm, a kiss, and Crayola creations. Our house was yellow and we were blue like Smurfs, we were beaming with our orange smiles, holding hands in harmony.

The screech and jerking of touch down woke me up. The pictures on the fridge were fading fast as we were walking off the flight deck and into the San Diego air. We couldn’t see the ocean yet, but the smell of salt was noticeable in the sea breeze as our Über pulled up.

I can’t remember his name, but I can remember everything else. He was gullible and didn’t understand my sarcasm. I messed with him a bit until I realized he would never pick up on the joke. He asked us about Chiefs football as we wove through the city streets, changing the station from Lana Del Rey to The Band Perry. He asked us what we were doing in San Diego and we told him we didn’t know. He perked up and a smile crept across his face as he began to talk about all his free time activities. “I like to go out a couple miles to the kelp forests and spear-fish. You just sit on the bottom, release the bait, and wait in the cool water till something comes by. Then when you spear it, you’ve gotta grab it and ride it till it dies.” It brought this vivid image into my mind of the sun’s rays piercing through the kelp, casting a green shadow on the diver. The glint of the spear as it shoots through the blue, red spilling from the fish as if Jackson Pollock did water colors.

There was never a lull in conversation as he jumped from topic to topic, from the Padres bullpen, medicinal marijuana, authentic mexican food, to late nights on the beach, and second base at the club. I was annoyed at the volume of shallow conversation. He asked us what we did, Ryan explained his position with SouthWest as I fought through reluctance to share about my life. When I told him I worked with homeless youth, there was a change in his demeanor. He began to explain how he was going through a divorce. His wife had left him after his real estate business went under. I could feel the pain in his voice as he told us his wife had accused him of being a drug addict, alienating him from his own mother, and painting him as an abuser. He flipped down his visor, a picture of a girl in a pink sundress, no older than 6, was covering the mirror. “I have to do this because my wife left me with this beautiful girl.” He smiled and stroked the photo, weaving through traffic. “This is what I have left of my life.”

He dropped us off at Hertz and I felt sad and relieved as we said our goodbyes. Our rental was a tiny Chevy Spark, we had Chick Fil-a for breakfast, and it was off to Pacific Beach. You could hear the waves crashing before you could see the Pacific and the breeze was refreshing. The sand was fine and the water was cool as the surf hit our feet. There were people doing Crossfit under the Pier, surfers began filling the shallows as waves started to swell, kelp lined the shores, and birds with stilt-like legs ran from the waves. We went geocaching on the bay and I almost stepped on a jellyfish, the houses were packed together in a menagerie of color and foliage. Ryan grabbed a quick cup of coffee and we expressed our appreciation for one another as we took off to have some West Coast brews.

We went to a few breweries and we weren’t too impressed, had some In N Out and moved north to Ballast Point.  It was a nice change of pace from mediocre beer. I ordered 7, headed to the restroom and nearly exposed myself because the urinals were much further away than anticipated. I told Ryan and we laughed at my foolishness. The beers were daring and different, and I discussed them with one of the brewers. He gave me his card and told me he was interested in more of my opinions. I left feeling larger than life, the world was spinning and the heat sunk deep into my bones. I was mesmerized by the mountains and the ocean being in the same view as we drove up the 405. “This is blowing my mind. Seriously God, how the fuck did you come up with something so beautiful?” I couldn’t keep my eyes open, passing out as we were passing cars in the carpool.

I awoke and we were in Marina Del Rey, gorgeous houses lined the street and I spotted the reason we were in California: Phil. I ran across the street and wrapped him up in a bear hug. He laughed his elegant laugh as we all embraced each other, I remember nostalgia rushing over me as memories of D&D, how I used to say both with an “L“, playing Sufjan on the ukulele at bonfires, and the Cloud Atlas Sextet before bed. He invited us in as we sat down to dinner with his Missional Community. It was a Mac and Cheese competition for one of the girl’s 16th birthday and too much dairy for me to be able to eat. Everyone smiled as they went around the table, giving praise to the birthday girl for her love of people and heart of service for Christ. I wish we took more time to tell each other the good that we see. The compassion they had for one another was almost tangible in the air. It almost felt like Christmas or the 4th of July, full of excitement and wonder.

We had to leave, back up the 405, Mötley Crüe’s “Live Wire” on the radio. Phil’s complex was like a little village with cobblestone streets running through the buildings. We spent some time in the hot tub conversing about the Meyers-Briggs discussing the personalities we didn’t like. Two lovers sat with us, their eyes only on each other they giggled with each comment made to each other as if at a one man show for the others stand-up. I never understood infatuation, and I feel conflicted about being so wrapped up in one person. It’s scary and you can’t see your surroundings. I want someone to walk next to, not to be an end goal or an everything. These thoughts about the lovers kept playing in my head as I slept on the floor and my friends played Munchkin in the background.

I dreamt I was married again, only this time there were no kids. I remembered walking on the beach with her, she was leaning on my arm and the breeze was making her hair cascade around her neck. We had light hearted conversation, plotting out the rest of our day. The warmth from her felt better than the sun’s. She whispered something in my ear and kissed me on the cheek as if she knew I was waking and that it was time for her to go.

It was Tuesday now and we were hungry. We set out to find a mexican restaurant in the hopes of having authentic tacos. I programmed a place called Don Chuy’s into my maps, they had jalapeños in their salsa, reminding me of the times I’d have to eat them for “lying“, and there was too much raw onion on the tacos. We left disappointed and still hungry, making our way up the coast to Malibu.

We didn’t see Tony Stark’s house, but we stopped at an overlook, admiring the town and it’s denizens. My cold was getting to me, and I had to blow my nose in some leaves as J. Cole was singing, “That’s why I keep a cross on my chest, that or a vest. Do you believe that Eve had Adam in check? And if so you gotta expect to sip juice from the forbidden fruit and get loose.” We found a trail in the mountains and hiked it for a while. Bearded dragons and leopard geckos ran across the path, trying to soak in some heat for the day. There was a boulder that we tried to push off the cliff but it wouldn’t move. We found a dam on our way up and on our way down I picked mountain flowers for someone back home. One of them smelled like vanilla and honey. Purples, oranges, yellows, and reds I was going to press them all and send them to you, but they wilted too fast and I had to throw them away.

Our next stop was a winery, small and quaint. We came inside and a man greeted us. He was French and had been here for over 20 years. He had his doctorate in laser physics, taught classes at UCLA, explained his background over a glass of Chardonnay. The Frenchman explained how he hated socialism and inadvertently insulted my intelligence. I respected him for his honesty and was too fearful I’d trip over my words or seem pretentious if I spoke to him in his native tongue. He poured us an oak-aged Port and told me the most important thing to do in life is pursue your passion endlessly and find a lover to serve. I wasn’t sure if the air of romanticism was coming from the lilt of his accent as he encouraged us or from the 12 or so wines we’d tasted, but I felt like romance was actually plausible and those two lovers in the hot tub didn’t seem so crazy after all. I bought a bottle of wine and thanked the Frenchman for his time and conversation. I kept thinking about the dreams I had as we cruised back down to LA. Caught up in romance the traffic isn’t as bad as you’d think, you just have to carpool and be aggressive. We made it everywhere we were going early. Ryan made the comment, “So many people so close together but so disconnected.” I jokingly asked if I should roll down the window and start a conversation with a stranger. We both laughed as we passed a cherry red, 60’s Mustang that Aaron West just so happened to be singing about in the background.

We met up with Phil and hopped into his red convertible Mustang. Our destination was Santa Monica Pier, Phil and I sang out “For my prayer has always been love” and “Oh, be my rest, be my fantasy“. The parking garage kept track of open spaces and I admired it’s convenience. There was an impromptu marathon running past as we made our way west. Dinner was served on a rooftop of an Italian restaurant on the pier. I watched people ride the West Coaster as I ate my calzone, some people from London ate dinner perpendicular to us. The theme park had closed by the time we’d finished eating. It was only 8 and I bought a funnel cake because I wanted to at least feel like I went. I wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel as the street performers played melodies from the 70’s. We walked out onto the beach as the tide was coming in. We played a game where we’d see how far out we could chase the tide without getting wet. Phil sang Deas Vail’s “Shoreline” under the waxing moon, it was so peaceful. I got tar on my shoes and we started our trek back home. We talked about gravity and how hard it is to be perpendicular beings. Thoughts of humans being quadrupeds made me laugh as we drove back home to LA.

This was the last night. Tomorrow I’d be back in Missouri. Tomorrow I’d go back to responsibility. Tomorrow I’d spend my entire day on a plane as the time zones shaved off hours from the day. Tomorrow I’d be exhausted and let too much get to me.

I dreamt of a more recent time where I wasn’t married. I was working and one of my kids punched another in the face. I went home to relax but my wife from my dreams was there, but we weren’t married yet. I couldn’t ever remember what she looked like, but I still knew it was her. She saw the stress on my face and rubbed my shoulders as she told me really bad jokes to distract me. I made us dinner and we watched a movie together afterwards. I remember falling asleep on the couch with her in my dream then waking in the floor in LA.

It was tomorrow. I found myself wishing I’d had more yesterdays as the day of travel ensued, hoping those dreams were a not so distant tomorrow.

Thoughts: Cardboard Box Spaceships and Bob Dylan’s Hair

I wanna see the veins in the poplar’s leaves, four points pointing at me, stoic trees singing in the spring. UV dancing through the green tint, lost in all of it, like Calvin and Hobbes I need some stripes, a tail, and a cardboard box to travel this world, even if I have to make them up to make it all worth more.

Feet planted in the Rockies, “Laugh with me, buddy. Jest with me, buddy.” Just playing through my head. Thousands of feet above the sea, up in the air, through the pines, my God why can’t it always be like this!?

I forget about these moments, losing my imagination, wandering through my trials like I’m caught in some sort of trench. “Your pipes are frozen, by the way. A squirrel’s made his home in your ceiling, no sleep when there’s scuttling above your head. You needed to pay your rent last week, but all your bills come at the same time. But time’s not a thing you really have, work harder, damn it! Work that job you don’t feel competent at, slaving away as no one notices that you’re a drunk, drowning in the things you never wanted to become. YOU’RE NEVER ENOUGH!”

So I find myself singing Dustin Kensrue to get by, “It’s Not Enough” and it never will be. Yahweh won’t you find me and hold my hand for a bit? I’m tired of being plagued with these diseases that leave me drained and wondering if the air I’m breathing should be for someone else. Can we just have five minutes to sit and give it up? I know I don’t have the time, but maybe we can make it? I’ve got it all with me, it’s always in my head. Maybe you can take it for a summer, just one summer, that’d be grand. I could spend it in the Tetons or maybe Pugit Sound! I could take in everything with a new lens, see colors again, anything but gray.

I’m just a bit scared, you see, a friend of mine got choked out by your zealots and now you’re not real. But I can’t help but see your outline more clearly. Why is it that he can put his faith away and mine can’t be hidden?  I’m just a bit nervous, not that you’ll leave, but that you’ve become too real. I keep praying for joy and I’m afraid you’ll give it to me, like it’s Valentine’s Day and it’s a gift I knew I was getting but was surprised to receive wrapped in a heart shaped box.

I remember in the 4th grade I got an award for being optimistic, and to this day that’s the award I’m most proud of. I just want that to be real again. Jesus, can’t we be 10 once more, I know I left my joy there. I don’t want to be cynical anymore. I don’t want to have to worry about getting hurt, about waking up at 2am to anxiety attacks. Let me see this Great Cloud of Witnesses I’m surrounded by, I want to lay down this sin that clings so closely, it’s so heavy God!

I don’t have any endurance to run anymore.

So now I’m left with this heart-shaped box. I know what’s in there: joy and a deeper understanding of my faith. I’m afraid to open it because I’ve never known what that is. Every time I think I’m getting close to it, it’s taken back before I open it, or it’s one of those cans that explode into snakes, or there’s just nothing inside.

So could you help me open it, and could you stay for a while? Can we go on adventures and find out more about the things you’ve created? I really like this ribbon you’ve chosen, what’s this knot you’ve tied? I’m just trying to distract you from the fear I have for what’s inside. Can we write some songs about barn owls or about Bob Dylan’s hair? Maybe we can joke about the future, or about how bad horror movies are now. I’ll just shake the box a bit to feel the weight of what’s about to happen. I’m caught in this giddy state of brainstorming all the things that could make me happy, the longest Christmas Eve.

Maybe tomorrow will be Christmas, maybe it will be next week. All I know is I have the gift, I’ve already had a peek.

For the first time in a long time I’m excited about my life. I feel as if I am capable of being happy. It’s scary, and uncomfortable, but I’ve been waiting for so long. I hope this lasts for a while and I swear I’ll do what I can to get used to smiling. 

Thoughts: Quand allons-nous aimer?

Mon Dieu, pourquoi?

The sobbing in the streets where we used to sit and sip our café au lait,  watching our neighbors pass by as they carry out their lives. We were just smoking our cigarettes, laughing, lounging.

Now we’re putting out our buildings instead, drinking up the sadness with the madness, our streets flooded with confusion, with anger.

Mon Dieu, mon cœur! Ce n’est pas possible!

Could it be that our nightmares were reality? Our streets were refuge for the fleeing, our homes were shelter for the weak. Could it be that these people are just like me?

Identifying with the outcasts, identifying it was also me. No home to go to, mourning in the streets, white roses in bullet holes in glass, our pain as theirs, home’s not safe.

Remember when things were calm and the waves were soothing? When man loved one another? When humanity was more human?

Oh Jesus I’m up in arms, I’m ready for war! But how do you fight an enemy that isn’t tangible? It’s not an army or a nation or a people group, it’s our hearts.

God, why can’t anyone see, that it’s people who are fucked up, and people are the key to setting things right with humanity. Everything we touch turns to dust, we try and create only to decimate, pushing for betterment of things that weren’t meant to be. All our hearts are black, all our ambitions are driven by our selfish conditions with visions of pornography, of celebrity fame, of a cause with a voice and no action.

What the fuck are we doing?

I’m not any different than anyone else. I’ve got my hands tied with my emotions, grasping for relationships I know aren’t good for me, concerned with the thread counts in my sheets, looking at parts of women that weren’t meant for me. Anger wells up in my chest, I can’t rest, I’m not functioning at my best, I’m not functioning at all.

I’m just existing.

Sometimes that’s all I can do.

A dear friend looked me in my eye and told me I wasn’t the same. He said, “You’re angry now, like there’s no hope.” Well I never asked for any of this pain, any of this shame, I was just trying to stand up for what’s right! I was just trying to be a decent human being!

“Who are you to determine what’s right? You know, when I’m angry, it’s because I’m afraid. Our anger is a reaction to our fear. What are you so afraid of?”

And thus from his lips it did depart, that I was caught, and it was time to face my fear. It boiled down to my shame, that I was the person I was, that I was actively fighting against everything I believed. I was afraid I would never be wanted, that my best would never be best for someone else.

Well Christ reminds me that even my worst is good for him, so I’ll get angry at him for calling me out, then get angry at me for getting angry at him, and get angry that I’m the way I am, then get angry at me for telling myself that.

We’re all so layered, sediments and stone, but canyons don’t get so beautiful without weathering to show their bones. When you look at how complex you are, and realize so is everyone else, pieces start to fall in place. Pain is what shapes our perspective, pain is what pushes us into the light, pain is created by us, pain is existent only because of us.

So “shadows prove the sunshine” and we’re woven together. Sometimes we’re in the shade, sometimes we’re not, none of this will make any sense until you can admit to yourself that your joy only comes at the cost of someone else’s pain.

“Do you think some people were made for suffering so others could experience joy. I think about that often. I think maybe that’s me.”

Thoughts: Peaks, Valleys, Brothers & Cardinals

I have had the most epic of weeks. I took a spontaneous trip to Colorado, stood on top of Pike’s Peak for the first time in my life, falling deeper in love with the hoary headed crags, drank some of the best beer I’ve ever had in my life at 10 different breweries throughout the state, witnessed the snowfall on the mountains, caught up with a friend from LA on a happy coincidence, drove back to Missouri, slept a bit, and then went to watch The Wonder Years pour their hearts out on the Blue Note’s stage.

I’ve had some really good times! It was refreshing, it was full of life, it was wild and natural, which has led me to some really great revelations:

Nature Restores.

On the excruciatingly long drive through Kansas, you build up this excitement to see the wonder that is the Rocky Mountain Range. It’s not until you’re about an hour into Colorado that you see the mountains as you come around a bend. As soon as I saw the peaks I welled up with tears. It had been so long since I’d seen them and it felt like coming home. I forgot about everything that was stressing me out. My job, my friends, my family, my endeavors, my fears, my insecurities, the troubles of this world, all dwarfed in the shade of the Rockies.  I started sobbing a bit, trying to stay on the interstate, while my friend Ryan looked at me confused and asked if I was okay.  I was more than okay, I was hopeful again for the first time in a long time. We drove straight to The Inclime at the base of Pike’s and climbed it. I almost passed out as I was not used to the altitude yet, having to stop every 100ft as Coloradoans passed by in oxygen restrictive masks as if they were taking a leisurely stroll. We only made it halfway and I had to stop, but I still felt so accomplished. I felt full, I felt understood. Then I wondered how it was that a Mountain could understand a man so well and man couldn’t understand much of anything?  Which led me to my next realization:

The Creation can connect us with The Creator.

It’s a funny thing how you can live your life, treading on the grass, breathing in the air, to climb into a car made of resources exhumed from the earth, driving over the rocks we’ve crushed to a paste to our homes we’ve made of fell trees and not one time recognize the Earth we are in. It’s not until you’re forced to see it out in the wilds that we’ve either “preserved” or haven’t destroyed yet that there is so much beauty in the Creation and how God our Mother birthed such a wonderful child.  You feel understood and fulfilled between the pines and cedars, sappy in more than one way, as you can better hear Earth breathe. It’s in the whistling of the frigid wind on top of the snow-covered Pike’s that I could hear the voice of Christ. He was tugging on my heart, I was just anesthetized by how “tame” we’ve made this Beautiful Blue Marble. We block out any sounds of YHWH with the sounds of chainsaws, automotive emissions, city lights, social media updates, and our own bullshit. I attempted to say nothing to anyone on this trip, taking only a few pictures, trying not to answer any messages I may have received and the product was wonderful. I could enjoy and appreciate everything I saw in nature, everything I ate tasted better, all the beer I drank felt life-giving, every footstep I climbed, walked, or ran had purpose. I have never felt more like an actual human being in my life. I was understood at a level that I had never been understood before.

We find ourselves when we let ourselves go.

Being understood is a human’s deepest desire. We LONG to be known and to be known fully, yet most of the time this can’t happen because humans aren’t capable of fully understanding one another and our own selfish desires often get in the way of us even trying. It seems in my life, that the more I try and change myself, the more damage I actually do to my person and the people around me. I get so so concerned with change that I don’t actually take the time to get to know myself. I get so wrapped up in wanting to be interesting and wanting to be wanted by others that I become something I never wanted to be. Then there’s this whole process of getting back to me. It’s long, it’s painful, and it’s exhausting. It’s only been in these past few months that I’ve been able to let go of the person I think I need to be and let the person I am actually grow. A few months ago, I would have been more concerned with people knowing I was in Colorado, that I was doing something interesting, that I was having a meaningful experience. Today, I realize how hollow all of that is. It’s riddled with loneliness, vanity, and pride. It’s so much easier to get hurt when you’ve got so many holes created by these things. But when you let go of the grips you have on who you believe you should be, there’s room for love, there’s no expectation of perfection and no pain when you inevitably let yourself down, relationships are more meaningful, you can flourish as a person. You can finally find things you love about you. I really enjoy how adventurous I am, how I can make my own path, how compassionate I am, how willing to accept criticism, how I push myself to accept compliments when they’re given, how much of a role model for my brothers I am, how open I am to admitting my faults, how I do what I can to encourage the best in others and love them in spite of however messed up they may be or however many times they may fuck me over, how it physically pains me to be dishonest, and so many other things. Encourage the best in yourself, so you can encourage the best in others.

We are really good at making things something they’re not.

After having all these shenanigans on mountains and highways, I went back to work on 2 hours of sleep, running right back into the thick of the stress. The day was long, it was hard, and almost more exhausting than when I’d left. I felt defeated. All this time spent chasing myself, chasing rest, and it was gone in less than 12 hours. I slept for 14 hours that night, hoping I could shake some of the exhaustion.

It didn’t work.

I considered quitting the next day. I was in a terrible mood and it seemed like all the problems I left appeared again where I’d left them. They greeted me like a passive-aggressive lover, sapping my strength and self esteem. I was done when my good friend Austin Doyle messaged me, telling me he’d bought me a ticket to see The Wonder Years.

I was elated again.

I got to hang out with the best guy I know, a guy who always makes me feel important and like a difference maker, and on top of that, I got to get my frustrations out in a mosh pit as Dave Campbell screamed that he was “Awkward and Nervous” and lamented because “we’re not saviors if we can’t save our brothers”. He dedicated the show to those who lost their lives in Paris, pouring out everything he had to shed light on something that mattered so much more. It was breathtaking.

Or at least it should have been.

The crowd was terrible. There were several drunk women who couldn’t keep themselves safe, a woman who spilled 4 PBR tall boys on our feet, and not being able to mosh at all because there were 5 guys doing nothing but trying to hurt others as I took a hit to the nose. I was furious. My time was completely ruined because people wanted to take an experience and make it something it wasn’t.

We push so hard to get our way, for this ideal that’s so far off. Disillusioned and naïve we’ll do what we can to throw others under the bus to get what we want. Cheat, guilt, steal, shame, manipulate, we’ve got all our cards at the ready, trying to be Gambit from the X-Men. Even the selfless things we do have selfish intentions. We can’t ever let things be what they are, we run from feelings because we’re scared, we’ll push everything away if it means it will be easier, if there’ll be less pain involved.
I have to be honest, this week has been extravagantly joyous and incredibly horrendous. It’s been so up and down that it’s felt like 2 months. In a period of 7 days my heart has been at the lightest and heaviest it’s ever been. I wiped clean my burdens and filled the slate again almost in the same stroke. I’m caught in this state of melancholic contentment. I’m tired of the rollercoaster and I’d like a break for just a bit. It’s been hard for me to accomplish anything lately. One thing after another after another for months now. I’d really just like to catch a break.

I’m not sure how to resolve this post. I’m not entirely sure how to feel. What I do know is this:

There is no light without dark.

We cannot have successes without failures.

We cannot know love without heartbreak.

We can’t appreciate others until we can appreciate ourselves.

We cannot be understood without the risk of being hurt.

And finally, “Don’t apologize for things you’re not sorry for”.

Thoughts: “Questions We Can’t Stomach or How to Glaze Over Things That Matter”

But who do you think goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell?

I was asked this question repeatedly this week. It’s a question that has created a lot of hurt in our world, a question that is looking for a means to an end we could never understand, but we can’t be comfortable with not knowing, we can’t be comfortable with believing that the evil of this world can be forgiven. This question sparks a lot of things within me: my chest aches in sorrow because there are people who believe that this is the ultimate goal; Heaven and Hell. My brain is wracked by the apathy and calloused acceptance of the thought of people being tortured by fire and fiend for eternity. My skin burns with rage for people’s inability to see that it’s not the point.

This post isn’t about whether or not I believe in the existence of Heaven or Hell. It’s not about how Heaven or Hell works or how it “brings glory to the Creator”. This question got me thinking quite a bit, I posed myself with a question: Why are we focused on the future and what we don’t have? When will we be grateful?

There’s a huge problem with human thought today. We can’t handle being uncomfortable, we turn our focus to how many likes we have on a photo, how clever our hashtags are, making our lives look picturesque and interesting. It’s kind of pathetic. Our days can be completely ruined because our data was throttled when there are people who don’t even have paper to communicate with one another, or someone put mustard on our McDoubles that we specifically asked for no mustard when there are children who work in sweat shops just for a few measly scraps of food, or we get furious because we have to wait in a line for 3 minutes at H&M to purchase a $20 scarf when the most prized possession that a kid in the Republic of Congo is a Nike t-shirt from 1980 that someone so kindly “donated” to United Way.

We have a perspective problem. I will go out of my way to avoid a panhandler because I don’t want to take the time and effort to help this person when it would take maybe 5 minutes tops and I work at a fucking homeless shelter with loads of resources. But my time is too precious. All the time I spend eating food that’s not good for me, watching reruns of American Dad (a show I don’t even really care for honestly), and God forbid I give up my time to indulge my porn addiction.

It’s no wonder I’m so cynical. I can’t see the good in this world because I’m such a big part of the problem. I’m over here watching porn indulging in the dehumanizing and devaluing of women, feeding into the ideological zeitgeist of acting like human trafficking isn’t a thing, eating fast food like twice a day and then throwing away half of it when there’s kids that I work with that are just getting out of a situation where they didn’t even have food, sitting on a phone all day and complaining that there’s nothing to occupy my time when there’s people out there who can’t even enjoy life because they’re working 3 jobs to avoid being evicted.

Sometimes I really wish I were one of the people who pretended that the world was a peach and their only problems were that they didn’t get whipped cream on their pumpkin spice latè. To live in ignorance so that way I weren’t always ruining moods or killing vibes. I would do so much to just be light-hearted. I just really want to not hate everything.

So who do you think goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell?

To be honest, I kind of wish we all went to Hell. That may sound pretty extreme, but with the way that our American culture sets us up, we’re really not that far off. We live in a world where we don’t bat an eye at those on the street starving, backing politicians who would sacrifice honorable military lives for oil and petty squabbles, charging ridiculous amounts of money for medical services because of a piece of paper some lady got from an Ivy League college.

I’m trying really hard to turn this around but I am just so pissed.

So who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell?

If Christ came just to sort people into heaven and hell I think I’d rather believe the universe was a spontaneous event and be content with secular humanism. There has to be more to this life than just Heaven and Hell. I’m not gonna sit here and say, “Golly gee, just think on Heaven and the blessings to come.” This is what a lot of Christians do to cope with the world and feel better about suffering. But this thought is passive, it solves nothing and only makes apathy and being calloused okay. It’s non-committal. It’s passing the buck so we don’t have to have any more responsibilities. There’s no love in a mindset that focuses on Heaven and Hell.

My life and thoughts have changed a lot in the past year. I have been doing what I can to focus on Christ and the love of his actions. I’ve been trying to find Christ in the Old Testament. I’ve been trying to understand why he loves the way that he does. It’s shifted my perspective a lot. I find that the more I focus on letting religion go, the easier it is to see Jesus. I can love more fully, I can escape from these things that I do that are not productive and be grateful for what I have.

“I’m trying my best to be a better man. Despite all my fears, I really am.”

I’m trying to be more hopeful, trying to be more light-hearted, trying to be more grateful, trying to help others where I can. I’ve found a few people who help me do that. People I love and cherish, people who have the most gorgeous souls, people who love so deeply, people who make me feel light-hearted and loved. It’s a tough transition for a cynic, but it’s a worthwhile one.

It’s funny how the people who don’t know Christ have more willingness to love than those who do. It’s intriguing how those “destined for Hell” bring so much of Heaven to this earth. I just want to call for a perspective change. Be more grateful, love people, be involved and informed, soften our hearts.

We’re more than just being separated into “elect” and “fallen sheep”. We’re more.