Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The First Place

            The last thing I told myself was, "This could be it!" I know it sounds silly but I actually thought of the possibility. It might be over. I hadn't been under the knife since I was 12 years old. I rarely entered a hospital, let alone allowed them to cut me open. Yeah, yeah, it was only dental surgery but the idea came to me nonetheless. I laid on the cold and sterile slab. I felt like a lamb led to slaughter. I gave them permission to kill me. It was only a dotted line but it seemed as if I had signed my life away. Once the drugs were administered, at the beginning of my fade, I went to God in my head. Just for a brief moment, I assumed I would now meet my fate. I thought of Joan Rivers and how she also laid herself down to die. I then recognised my lack of trepidation. I wasn't afraid of it. I was ready, I was sure. The effect did not creep. In that one moment I was able to face my maker, then I dropped off the face of the world and jumped into the darkest place. There was no dreaming. There was nothing but black and calm and peace. If this was all death would bring me then I really had nothing to fear.
            It felt over in a second but the shadow seemed to linger forever. In my childish dread, I felt surrender. Actually, I didn't feel much at all. I slipped into the black believing I would never come back. Somehow, I was okay with that. This microcosm of what it feels like to end sat relatively easy with me. The tunnel wasn't harsh or ridged. I melted into the void and never even stopped to say goodbye to my life. When I awoke, I felt stupid. I felt like I needed to find a new hobby. I tried to tell myself it was natural to think the way that I had. I believe that everyone must doubt before they slide into the abyss. I have seen so many people suffer on their way out the door that I was almost gleeful that I didn't have to have this experience through that filter. In the past, my Bipolar disorder insured that I knew what it was like to scream upon approach. So many times, I closed my eyes bearing much fear and even loathing towards what rested on the other side. I was, most certainly, scared of any pain, any extremes that death might bring as I passed into oblivion. I was always frightened to meet Jesus, or God, or even the devil. Years of contemplation and focus had chased all those daunting faults away. To be honest, after the silent emptiness was over, I began a new approach to my doom. The recognition that I was no longer afraid of facing God makes it easier to survive Him while in this mortal coil. Perhaps, just perhaps, there was nothing to survive after all. If we all end in this vacuum then bring on the worst.
            We spend our lives waiting for monumental changes to occur. We think we see them coming. It can feel a little odd when true change comes in small doses. Some experiences are silent filler. It appears that the tiniest amount of shift can have a greater and much more lasting consequence than some of the most monolithic events from a lifetime. Not every lesson comes like a big bang. There are often whispers rather than ruckus. Pinpricks collect into bruising. What appears to be an insignificant moment in time can change a person forever. More often than not it is meant to. Unfortunately, just because someone is presented with a lesson doesn't mean they will absorb it, let alone pay attention to it. People don't change their stripes, they have to be forced to. It matters little the catalyst. Fear, trepidation, that sense of nothing approaching very fast, they are all illusions. Perhaps our Near Death experiences are just that. It must be probable, a possibility on some level, that the other side is not full of light or Glory. Perhaps the other side is nothing but black, nothing but constant floating on a sea of nothing at all. Could it be that I was wrong all along? Is it possible that heaven is permanent bliss inside that ether? Is the blackness home?

"I'm not scared of dying
 And I, don't really care
 If it's peace you find in dying
 Well then, let the time be near
 If it's peace you find in dying
 Well then dying time is near
 Just bundle up my coffin
 'Cause it's cold way down there
 I hear that it's
 Cold way down there,
Crazy cold, way down there"
(And When I Die, Blood Sweat and Tears 1969)

            I have danced with the idea that there is no God for decades. The truth be told, everything I studied, everything I came to understand, always pointed in two directions. On the one hand, the light I pursued was a pleasant place to stay. Everything would be okay if you go towards the light. God awaits therein, such peace and calm we will only know when we are taken into His Presence. Heaven has no dimmer switches. Then you come to it. The fork in the road goes from sunshine to shadow. In the other direction lies nothing at all. So, if all there really is, is nothing, then there is nothing to fear. Arguably, all this bleakness and ebony and empty is unto itself something. Again, nothing in itself is something. Constructs from ancient manuscripts would have one believing that God dwells in everything. So if God is everywhere, in everything, then the darkness holds Him too. If when we die there is the true end, then at least there is comfort in the black. Perhaps the scriptures are correct. Perhaps there is peace for all, we shall rest in peace. There is a chance, albeit a large one, that the other side to our living is not living. I still believe in a personal God but I have to say it's getting harder to keep believing as my life goes along. I'm starting to think that God may well be forever in darkness, serenity in the nothing that is nothing. Bliss from leaving it all behind.

            A few months after the suicide of my first partner, I was hopelessly lost in the scope of it all. I had committed myself to my contrition, riddled myself with guilt and a sense of penance in spite of it all. The light I encountered during a recent Near Death experience convinced me that there was more to the pain, more to the world in which I lived. I went from beggar to borrower. I began to search everywhere for hints of the light. I went on a quest to study, to understand, I believed the only way I could survive God was to comprehend Him. At first, this trip was exclusively Christian in its nature. Given time, my journey took me to other Gods and other spiritual disciplines. As much as I would have hated to admit it at the time, all the words did little to quell my questions. In fact, things just got worse. I started to realize just how much human nature one could find in the Holy nature. Anthropomorphism became my catch word. It seemed not that God had created man in His own image (Genesis 1:27), rather that somewhere in our history we had created all gods in our own image. Personification personified. I couldn't handle this revelation at the time so I switched from academic study to inspirational analysis. I needed some sugar in with all the sour. I remained riddled with bleakness, walking the line between my own doom and the punishments that lie waiting for me. Oh how I dreaded more. The light came when I least expected it.
            Sitting on a railroad tie atop the hill on my parents' property, I had placed myself in a meditative state. I sat facing the fullness of a hot July afternoon. At first, I thought it was the sun. My epidermis soaked in the summertime. It spread quickly and I was suddenly overcome. My contemplation flipped a switch somewhere deep inside me. Even during my NDE I had not felt such a calmness, such soothing energy. Every question was therein answered. Every doubt, every fear washed away in steady stream. It was the presence of something far beyond what I had encountered before. The light in the tunnel had come out of the darkness but this light forced the darkness to disappear. I sat frozen in spirit. This was not imagination, something had entered me, filled me, touched me and I knew not what it was. The Christian may summon a Holy Ghost. The Buddhist may achieve nirvana. This essence was not grounded in earthly ways. It was all encompassing and I eventually found myself floating on the universe. I left like molasses draining through a sieve. I was possessed. Although I have encountered brief moments with this captor in the years that have passed me by, I have not come close to the experience I had that day. There is a part of me that yearns to reunite with such magnificence. For me,  unfortunately, that time and that person are lost now to abandon and survival. I am cold to those things which I cannot hope to understand. My heart is not hardened but my mind has become a safety wall, protection from life as a wrecking ball. 

"Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness."
(Archbishop Desmond Tutu - retired, South African activist)

            I find it rather interesting that I spent my entire adult life running scared. I was so afraid of getting to the other side that I lost touch with what was on the other side. Whether it was a natural repulsion to pain upon approach or the condemnation I feared upon landing, I tried not to fly at all. It is strange that after all the years I spent trying to survive God that I somehow discarded Him along the way. Nor have I missed the irony. It says a lot about religion when eternal darkness holds more comfort in death than facing the God who professes to be the light. Although I cannot deny that I still believe on some level, I am convinced that quite often it is better to believe in nothing than it is to give credence to the institution of religion. Its subjective expression through scripture and Holy books is more a justification of the character found in the explanation than an expression of how things really are.
            Yes, there is light if you wish to seek it. You can find it on a hilltop if you look hard enough. Yes, there is darkness. You can swim in it if you close your eyes. Either one is only the grasping at straws. We can't really know anything until it's over for us. The only conclusion I can come to is that one experiences the unknown based on the circumstances one exists within. In the light of an NDE, we find the archetype we have been raised to look for. In the darkness, there lies the peace we have been taught to fear. These figments, these conditioned hopes, are nothing but an artificial pathway to a place of which we know nothing. There is surrender in the reality that we know nothing at all. I now cling to the idea that, in the end, I will survive God because the very same God I was trying to endure never existed in the first place.   

The Monster in the River

The village priest was distracted at his prayer by the children. To get rid of them he said, “Hurry to the river and you will see a monster breathing fire through his nostrils.” Soon the whole village had heard of this monstrous apparition and was rushing to the river. The priest too joined the crowd. As he panted his way through four solid miles, he kept saying to himself, “It is true I invented the story. But you never can tell.”

A good way to believe in the gods we have created
is to convince others of their existence.
(The Song of the Bird, Anthony De Mello 1982)


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I, Robot

"Falling in over my head
Caught out, out of my depth
Trying to find my way, I am lost
So I'm running around in circles through it all"

            I grew up believing that God would fix the chaos of your life if you surrendered to the dogma and doctrines demanded by the Holy Scriptures. Although I was raised Christian, the same idea easily could have come from any other religious school of thought. Of course if God hands out favour for good behaviour, then He must cast down punishment and consequence for our sins. If we are shaped and moved by the Holy Spirit, then it exists within us. Our Pentecost should be like the Pentecost.  If God refuses to incubate therein, we are abandoned. Lucky for us, we are constantly given the opportunity to submit and tow the line. We may be rewarded. When our vessel is corrupt, we cannot find His Grace indwelling. It doesn't matter the circumstance. Whether you're "normal", crazy or imbalanced, or even lost to the world, you had the opportunity to make things right before finding yourself separated from God. You have no one to blame but yourself. The only way to make it right with God, is to accede. To paraphrase what a supervillain once said to Superman, "Kneel before God." 
            How do you fight an idea? With another idea, of course. It's really just a practical solution. It's very important nonetheless. In order to survive god, you have to abandon your pre-conceived notions of the Holy, then set to purge your conditioning. Every bit of information you attempt to remove from your psyche, every change leaves a hole, a breach on the path you are trying to follow. It can seem there is more damage than road. Only an idiot fails to recognize the shallow from the deep and you can't just leave a sinkhole in the middle of a busy street. Something is bound to fall into it. It's the filler that matters the most. It is what you choose to use to erase the space that will determine any future bump in the road. Allowing yourself to think outside the box, exchanging one concept for another, is the most healthy thing I have ever done. It was more important for me to do than quitting smoking or taking my medication. Instead of being in terms of the status quo, I gave up one god for another. I had no real choice. The only real way to rid yourself of the repairs in your road is to repave the entire thing. It's the only effective way to get rid of the holes. Consciously choosing to evolve, switching ideologies for something better, is a mandatory step on the path to surviving god.
            It never really mattered what I did, I cast upon myself the Wrath of God. We all do it. We have been so trained, so brainwashed into thinking God behaves like a human being that guilt, and often contrition, are automatic. We are less because we are not perfect. The rub is one can never be. It is impossible to live up to the expectations of the gods we bow and pray to. Just the fact that we are mortal defines us as fallible, weak and oh so very flawed. No one can escape the reality of mortality. We always have a destination. The mistakes and errors we have manifested along that journey are the very foundation of the person we have come to be. Without the fall, there could be no rising. Without the sin, there could be no forgiveness. Life is more often than not pure chaos but you don't need chaos to struggle. Just existing can be more than enough to cause God's judgment to permeate your life. It doesn't even have to be a choice. If God punishes then all the negative, all the hardship must filter through it. God punishes us because we deserve it. You get what you pay for.

"Close, close my eyes
Sleep, sleep tonight
Adrift upon your ocean, I can hide
No more running around in circles for a while"

            My early twenties were, from what I recall, a time of great fun and frolic for me. I was excessive in my play. When they told me I was Bi-Polar, it had little effect. I carried on, flushing what they told me to take. I was indifferent to my diagnosis and eventually managed to create a living hell for myself. I did exactly what any untreated manic depressive would. I self destructed. My first partner was my saving grace. I didn't change my approach to treatment but somehow our great love grounded me enough to make some semblance of a life. His death should have been the end of me. I most certainly acted like it was.  As the years passed, I discovered a new life, a new partner and a new way of thinking. In spite of this fortune, things got to a point where I could no longer handle the impulses, the rapid cycling or the lack of self-control. I knew that the only way to be free was to succumb to my reality. When my second partner asked me to try medication, I reluctantly agreed. I put on my hope, well knowing that it's hard to repair something that needs to be fixed until you admit it's broken. 
            I have to admit that determining what medication works on me took years and much struggle. I was surprised when something finally started to work. The first day the light bulb came on. I was washed over with normality. For years I passed through life with chaos and upheaval. Soon, that would all be gone. The medication I take works for the most part. It has given me a new lease on life that I have tried to fulfill for the decade or so that has come and gone. For awhile I felt like a machine of sorts. I often would look in the mirror and name myself. I started to feel like a robot. The same process of each and every day became like a drone. I had to balance, stabilize my life so that the medication could do what it was supposed to do. I had to focus on moderation and maintaining equilibrium. Silence became my friend. Every day struck out with symmetry, each day the same, over and over. Creating a lifestyle of isotropy was the only effective means to not reaching my end. A world of panic and anxiety quickly disappeared and I was left with a calmness, a sense of peace and order. I had to create it for myself. I had to take every pill, every day until forever, at least, if I wanted some semblance of the normality that everyone else seemed to have. For almost a decade I left the impulses behind me. I was a good boy. I never missed a dose and I rarely wondered what I was doing. I became that robot, without fluctuation, without feeling much at all. For the better part of ten years  I have known this path. I have walked it for the quiet, for the oneness it had me believing I had gained. Life always gets in the way of our best laid plans.

"Will you catch me when I fall?
Will you save me from it all?
Will you lay me down in golden like a doll?
And be my sunshine through the night
Be my hope when all is gone
Be my soldier while I try to fight on
Will you keep on loving me through it all?
Will you be there to catch me when I fall?"

            Moving into a new home destabilized me. The world around me shifted in less than a day. The rental truck was returned to its place but I was not. It felt like the rug had been pulled out from beneath me. I knew the day was coming. I had prepared myself, resolved myself that it was no big deal. I almost immediately took to creating a routine.  Having the same schedule, doing the same things every day in the same manner can help balance you out. It was somewhat challenging making a fit. I have to admit that the entire event sent me reeling. It wasn't just my relocation that put me off keel. Long periods of stress brought on by outside factors slowly crept into my psyche. The longer my exposure, the more cracks started to appear in my facade. Little by little, fracture by fracture, larger fissures formed. It was building up within me and I didn't even know it. Secretly, over a 6 month period, the robot started to malfunction.
            On occasion, I would short change the medication I took for manic depression. The night before an event, or something significant to do, I would lower the dosage by more than half.  I found it challenging to wake up drugged in the early morning and function, let alone drive and interact with people. Every once in a while, I simply skipped the full on treatment. I never really noticed any effect other than alertness. I had no idea how dangerous my actions were. Despite the move to Paris, Ontario, the constant chaos that life brings and severe anxiety from my personal relationships, I recognized nothing out of place. There were no warning signs of the coming doom. The crescendo built, the wave strengthened, and I was left waiting for the ball to drop. I didn't even see that there was a problem. With my family coming the following day to work the landscape of our new home, I divided my meds the night before. One simple but full treatment was pushed aside, ironically, so I could be more alert, so I could be more productive. It was a very long but fruitful day. As always, it was great to see my Dad. All the work we wanted got done and the gardens took their first steps towards perfection. After the finish and after they had left, somewhere into late afternoon, I started rapid cycling. I hadn't experienced that state in over a decade. This robot had blown a circuit.

"Calling, calling your name
Save me, save me again
Adrift upon your ocean, I am blind
No more running around in circles in my mind"

            The catalyst could have been indefinite, it didn't matter really. At that moment, almost anything would have set me off. The constant stress, the instability and all those significant emotional factors pushed me right over the top. Having skipped my medication only granted the madness its freedom. The result was instantaneous. I completely lost it in the most intimate of places. The flood brought more than a rush, I was drowning. The rapid cycling started to rapid cycle. The panic, the anxiety overwhelmed me in the most complete manner possible.  I had not felt this way for years. I was possessed, controlled and there was little I could do about it. Almost instantly I began to suffer. I had a physical response. My chest tightened, then got heavier. This may have been of great concern considering my blocked arties and angina. Of course, I would have had to give a damn. My head pulsed and throbbed for weeks. I stopped taking all my medication. The chaos in my mind ruled me for days. When I started taking the pills again it lessened, but lingered like a nosy neighbour or your true regrets. As if draining through a sieve, the madness dripped onto the ground then turned to stain. It is still with me. This pain, this angst has been a part of me for so long I don't know why I was so surprised that it might return one day. Prescriptive options only control the fire but they can never, not ever really put it out.   
            God must hate me. If the events from our life go through Him and He punishes accordingly, then what does that say about those afflicted by birth and genetics? How greater are the sins of the diseased, the imbalanced and the suffering? What have we done to deserve this before we have even committed to our error? Why do I have to strain by the sins of my father? I must have had a wicked childhood. My foetus must have done some damage. Boo hoo, poor thing. You do the crime, then you do the time. It really doesn't matter anymore. I can never find absolution from a god that struck me down before I could walk.  If He is just and merciful and loving, then I must be the problem. I get what I have coming. I get what I paid for. I've learned to recognize that I am little more than some villain waiting for future consequence.

"Will you catch me when I fall?
Will you save me from it all?
Will you lay me down in golden like a doll?
And be my sunshine through the night
Be my hope when all is gone
Be my soldier while I try to fight on
Will you keep on loving me through it all?
Will you be there to catch me when I fall?"
(Catch Me When I Fall, The Corrs 2015)

            I am quiet again. All is fixed and polished and shiny and new. I should check if my warranties cover repairs. Every pill keeps popping, every schedule returned to function. There is silence and balance and stability in my head and somehow, just for moments, it is around me. An oil treatment, new sparkplugs and a good cleaning have given my parts life again. I have returned to moderation. So I sit waiting for the beast to return. I know now that I will never have a moment's peace. Most certainly the forces that influenced its resurgence still exist and then some. So I stand facing the mirror, staring at my metal face and aluminum hands. I am ticking from the outside in. At any time I expect to go boom. Input, just one more dose. Shut up and mind your place. Just follow, you little robot. Get in line for updates to your programming. Smile and bear it. It really doesn't matter, God still hates you.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Emancipation 101

"We are stardust
We are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden"
(Woodstock, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young 1970)

            Life is hard. It is supposed to be. Without the trials and tribulations that each of us must endure, we would be stagnant. We would be captive to the same moment, the same day, the very same year as every other year. There would be no growth, no evolving. We would become benign and not in a good way. Any movement forward would be for naught. Instead of growing like flowers come spring, we would be quite wilted, limited and undeveloped. If things were easy for us, there would be little to strive for. Without the hurdles, there would be no contest. If you take everything else that life brings with it and hide for a day or two, the pain would still remain. There is little we can do about it. We must grin and bear it but only until we can't anymore. Life is hard. Living it is harder.
            No one ever gets their Disney movie. There are no happy endings (so to speak). There are no princesses to rescue and no prince to ride away with. Fairy tales never come true and chipmunks just can't talk. There are rarely fireworks at the end of each day and wishing upon a star won't make anything come true. We don't get the cartoon even with all the back story. Life just doesn't work that way. It can be bitter, hard and crushing in the most severe manner. It's not even gentle when we are sleeping. The best we can do is continue to move forward regardless of all the chaos. We can hope for our animated version but it never comes no matter how long we wait. Life is not a Disney movie and the rating has never, not ever, been G.
            You have to adapt if you're going to survive. Change is a necessary evil even when it's not. It pushes us down the road. Survival requires that you just keep going. It may hurt but you can't just lay down and die. It goes without saying. The one prerequisite, the only thing that your survival demands is that you continue moving forward. Life requires that we be men in motion. With motion comes change. It is not so much the catalyst that drives us but our reaction to it. We can curse it and try to toss it away. What futility. We can embrace it, allow it to shape us, and carry on our way. The only realistic way to adapt to change is to accommodate. Make room for different thinking. Expand your mind and your spirit. You must change to survive, so why not strive for better things? We get what we pay for. It is our karma, as we reap what we sow. You have the choice. You can be burdened and trapped in your chaos or you can grow, evolve. Along the way you might even figure out a way of surviving god.

"You are loved, you are golden
And the circle won't be broken
When you sail into the shadow of the storm
Every son, every daughter
When you're out on troubled water
Just hold on
Just hold on"
(Golden, Amy Grant 2013)

            I don't think anyone who knows me now would recognize the man I used to be then. He is long dead and gone. He no longer is. No pause. He was not a friendly face. He was often not worth knowing. He was corrupt and broken, his bitter ways met only by his tainted actions. He was up and down and all over the place. There were many reasons I once knew this state. Not that it was all there was to me, but any honourable traits were lost beneath my sea of turmoil. The path I travelled back then was a rough road and a burden to follow. The change was instantaneous. I didn't have to think about it and I did not have to ponder. It was a complete shift and it cut me to the core. In a moment, I lost almost everything. It was taken from me. The rush was silent but it consumed me. There I stood, at 29 years of age, trembling over his body. A night at the bottom of his doom ensured he was freshly frozen. The damage from the fall iced up to the sides of him. The bloody aura around his head looked more like pizza than remnants of blood and his brain. The shock must have hit me but I remember it all. My world had completely changed in a fraction of time, a mere moment. I had as well, even if I didn't want it to be true. I would never be the same again.
            In the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, the narrator sums up the secret to human survival. As he rides a bus to freedom, we are instructed to "get busy living, or get busy dying." I have never met words more true and profound. They have never left me since the first time I saw this movie. I took them to heart. We really have no other choice, do we? Every day we must pick, we must decide to carry on or abandon all hope. Do you fight the good fight or allow the dying of your light? Each day may bring with it enough to change your mind. You have to reapply come morning. You have to get up, continue breathing and face the day. The alternative is to hide in shadow, giving up all that ever mattered to you. It's a cold road sitting, waiting for it to end. Eventually, you will get your wish. You either evolve or you perish, it's that simple.  
            The metaphor 'Surviving God' refers to the same process. You can sit in ignorance regarding the matter or you can evolve, adapting to new ideas and recognizing there is a huge difference between religious truth and religious rhetoric. To truly survive the constant influence of, in my case, the Christian God, I had to adapt and change to comprehend it on any level. It ends up that we often have to leave our traditional religious upbringing in order to survive that god's influence. Needless to say, fighting your conditioning does not stop because you've walked away. The God you have known your entire life does not always fade, even with a fresh spiritual beginning. To survive god, we must abandon god, but then we must learn how to come to terms with the remnants. We must evolve. The Abrahamic god can be one nasty muther. Whether we call it I AM, or Yahweh, or Jesus, or even Allah, there is one thing you cannot ignore. This deity did not make itself known to bring peace, but rather the sword (Matthew 10:34). People just make God up as they go along. They don't educate themselves, often until it's too late. They do not stop to recognize the character and actions of the being that they worship. In the quest for inner peace, they end up at the feet of something more murderous, more human than we ever could have imagined in our previous state of mind. When the God we worship is more enemy than friend, it's time to flee.

"In the game of life, less diversity means fewer options for change. Wild or domesticated, panda or pea, adaptation is the requirement for survival."
(Cary Fowler, American agriculturalist)

            It has been over twenty years since my resurrection. Sometimes I stop, looking in the mirror for the person that I used to be. I can never find him. I cannot be sure he is even there. I'm not convinced that this is a bad thing.  I wouldn't want to go back, even if I could. For two decades, I have waged a war on myself. I refused not to evolve. I strove for change, constantly reaching and struggling to be better and to think better. I was initially propelled by grief and guilt but I am still moving in the same forward motion, without all the drama. I am still growing, still trying to be that better man. I had to adapt in order to survive. I still have to adjust my thinking to new ideas and new revelations. Change is a constant, even if you cannot see. Without it we would be marshmallows, unable to deal, unable to cope. A useless glob at the end of a hanger. Life is hard and it builds us to withstand. We are made strong by the scars we bear.  
            I try to have no expectations of God. No expectations, no disappointments. Where my mind was once haunted by dogma and superstition, I have found peace in the unknown. I had to discover for myself a place where, rather than surviving god, I could find Him. If I had not embraced change and allowed myself to be shaped by experience, I would never have known the things in my life that freed me. I would be trapped in the past, holding to the guilt, holding to the memory of all that entails. In my attempt to understand the Holy, I found nothing but myself. To survive god, I had to see there was nothing to survive. It took some time for that idea to evolve in my mind. There is no enemy to punish me. There is no gatekeeper to restrict my entry. To survive god, you must abandon god. As a theist, I just went and found another.

"Bad things happen. And the human brain is especially adept at making sure that we keep track of these events. This is an adaptive mechanism important for survival."
(David Perlmutter, American physician)


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Last Resort

            Welcome to the final chapter of Surviving God. After almost 5 years, it is time for me to jump forward and expand my tiny universe into something much more inclusive. No more confines. No more restrictions. Rather than a focus on one area of thinking, it's time to reach for much more than I have in the last few years. If God is in everything, if there really is something there, then I must venture past it. I will not be ruled by the damage done. I cannot worship an anthropomorphic entity. It appears that I have survived. I have moved on. I must lucubrate my intent. I must examine the rest, if that is possible to do. Such a big world and so many issues, so many ideas that come with it. The past will see me threw it. With this survivor's guide to direct me, I will use any forward motion to do much more than endure.

"Falling in over my head
Caught out, out of my depth
Trying to find my way, I am lost
So I'm running around in circles through it all
Close, close my eyes
Sleep, sleep tonight
Adrift upon your ocean, I can hide
No more running around in circles for a while
Will you catch me when I fall?
Will you save me from it all?
Will you lay me down in golden like a doll?
And be my sunshine through the night
Be my hope when all is gone
Be my soldier while I try to fight on
Will you keep on loving me through it all?
Will you be there to catch me when I fall?"
(Catch Me When I Fall, The Corrs 2015)


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Maximum Capacity

“How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life.
Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.”
(The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes 2011)

            Writing a blog has become one of the most enjoyable and easiest parts of my life. For over 5 years, I have published myself, with little effort. Now, as I approach 500 postings, I carry on with the daily, and the weekly, and all roads of time in between. I have made a commitment to myself to try and reach others through my mistakes so that  they may somehow dream from my inspiration.  I have always been a writer. It is second nature for me to spill open the floodgates and relate from my experience. Putting words to my life has never been much of a challenge. It comes naturally to me, all this give and take and expression. The entire process has never been anything but an ease, a complete exercise in pleasure and personal gratification. At this relatively late stage of my life, the conveying of word to pen, then to paper (so to speak) is more than just a reward. It is my salvation, unconditionally cathartic and brings me much peace.
            I first became aware of my inclination back in public school. I may have gotten in trouble for my report on Adolf Hitler but I remember the praise I received from anyone who took the time to notice and actually read the report. I realized rather quickly just how hard it is to kill words once they had been put "out there."  I am not convinced that it was a conscious decision to follow this road. Throughout my formative years and into adulthood, I recognized this innate ability was within me. It was part of me, much like singing has always been. I did not need to sign on some dotted line confirming I am a writer. It just was. I just was. Years of higher learning did nothing but help me hone a pre-existing condition. For all my years of study, I discovered very little to assist in my craft. Structurally, I picked up a few things here and there but generally speaking, I had  already mastered the art.  

"A word is dead when it is said
Some say –
I say it just begins to live
That day."
(A Word is Dead, Emily Dickenson 1862)

            My professional life as a journalist and broadcaster helped to form my writing style but only from the position of application. I realized early on that if I wanted a career in the field, I had to adjust that style to suit each forum. If I wanted to make any real money, I had to adapt to each assignment, conform to each project. It was not okay to be subjective, even if your experience told you differently. Blogging and journalism are different sides of the same keyboard. Like any good blogger would, I had to learn to put my objective biases aside and subjectively deal with the matters before me. This was no newspaper or all news station that I was working for. I am my own editor and have complete control over all content. It did not take many postings for me to realize that blogging had few restrictions. One can do as one pleases and when one pleases. The only deadline we have we assign to ourselves. The only form of censorship is self-censorship. Blogging is not news reporting but it seeks to inform in much the same way. Journalism is swimming in a river while blogging is floating on the ocean.
            I took to the computer almost immediately after my mother died. Having primarily written for news media, it was a challenge at first to dive into blogging. For over a year, I wrote and posted, almost daily. It was a heavy commitment. Each week saw 5-7 blogs placed for all to see.  Each week (depending on the timeframe) was meant to be a tribute to those who had gone before me but that quickly changed. Initially, the beginning blogs were smaller, quicker and desperate for structure and style. The thing about writing is the more you write, the better you are supposed to be at the art. Like exercise, you have to work the muscle for it to function at maximum capacity. The more you apply yourself, the more favourable the outcome. The end result should always be met with your own approval. The words you use define you, regardless of the platform, content and style. It is the expression that should stand out. Unlike with news journalism, the facts are secondary. With blogging, the feelings matter the most.

"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards."
(Robert A. Heinlein, American writer)

            It's not what you write. It's how you write it. There is a conscious shaping which occurs throughout the writing process. We cut and paste, we edit, we scrutinize each word. It is our mission to relay information regardless of the content. We may write for the sheer joy of it. We may write professionally. We may even use the written word to effect change. The platform acts to convey the message in a way that is suitable to our writing style and expression. The type of medium we work within may either limit or expand our process. All writing is the same, the platform is all that varies. Inevitably, we find panache, our expression, a fashion all our own. We follow general structure and guidelines yet in all our work we must reveal (but only what we want to be seen).
            I only have three simple rules I use when writing. I learned them early on from an old school newsman. He taught journalism to first year media students. For the life of me, I can only remember his first name. I was instructed that I should call him Geoff.  I guess I never really used his surname. I am able to remember his three simple  rules (one should follow in writing) but I can't remember his bloody last name. I tried to look him up on the internet but it was a futile act. He probably died years ago.  His lasting effect did not go with him. All the thousands of dollars in tuition, and years of study, and it is the most basic course that left the lasting impression. Geoff set the standard for me. Had I left higher learning at the point I knew him, I would still be in the same place. These guidelines are a foundation that I try to follow.

1. Keep it simple, stupid
2. When in doubt, don't
3. It's all in the details

            All good things come to an end. It pretty much works for the bad things in that same way. Everything ends and we are left to begin all over again. Sometimes circumstance is the cause of the destruction. Often, random influences are an agent of futility. Sometimes things just are and there is nothing we can do about it. In  juxtaposition to the cause, we ignore the path we are supposed to follow. We end things hoping for renewal and not caring about consequence. In the end, there is nothing but to end. I say leave them wanting more. Moving on may be the very best option. It is by acknowledging that we have crossed the dotted line that we discover with every end comes a new beginning. In fact, more than not, to end is a good thing, the right thing, exactly how it is supposed to be. It's time to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.
            I starting blogging with 'Borrowed Knowledge.' For over a year, I tried to publish each weekday. I grew exhausted and closed it with great relief. When I began posting 'Surviving God,' every Tuesday, for year after year, the effort bore much fruit. I had no idea the depth it would reach for and the commitment it would need. Like all good things this too must end. I am in no way abandoning the medium. I simply wish to focus less on one topic/theme and relate more generally speaking. I grow tired and restless of the same old centre and wish to more fully express myself. Rather than having the thesis of each blog somehow tie in with what it means to survive God, I can approach without any intellectual limitations from a point well taken.  I will conclude this blog with a final prologue, consisting of several individual blogs. Once all is said and done, I will introduce the new blog, one more suitable to my expectations. It is my hope that the reinvention will grant me maximum capacity.

"I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all." (American Hunger, Richard Wright 1977)



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Preaching to the Choir

"Do we need to start a war?
Do we need to take a side?
If we open up our eyes
Realize that we are blind
Is it all worth fighting for?
It all comes down to
Who's wrong or right
Who's black or white
It doesn't matter what you're bleeding for
Straight or bi
Your God or mine
It doesn't matter underneath it all
Cause we're only here to love
Like there's no tomorrow
So let's live each moment like
Our time is only borrowed"

            The world isn't fucked up, it's all the people that live there. Make no mistake, I do mean every last one of us. We are ships tossed and turned and left out to sea. We have no idea where we are going. All of us are lost, conveniently blind, with no idea where to go or how to get there. It is not a complicated matter to understand. We do as we please whether other people can see that or not. Our secrets are usually hidden for a reason. We are more emotional baggage than rational creature. We believe we are better, others have been convinced, but underneath it all is a selfish greedy monster that rarely shows its head, at least not in public. Only we can see it. We place it out of sight for no one else to witness. It is the true us, the one so many gurus have warned us about. We take the self that we show to others and we convince ourselves that it is the truest part of us. We try to ignore the voice of our reality. I hate to break the news to the believers out there but no matter the God you have found, no matter the change you make on the outside, underneath it all is narcissism, pettiness and self-indulgence. Don't get me wrong, I am talking about everyone, every single human being including me. 
            Collectively, we do more damage than individually. We are one massive, unpredictable hate machine. We are vile, one and all. We destroy almost everything with which we come in contact. We are, it seems, more tyranny than peace monger. We make war with our brothers and so we abandon each other, harm each other and in the end, we always seem to kill each other. All the time we beg greater beings to bring peace into this world. I suppose we need help from ourselves but we truly believe it is needed only in others. Yes, we tend to have the most wonderful moments throughout our lives. We have insight, compassion, even agape love for one another. They are spoiled by our evil; Halloween costumes in the middle of May. These are merely icing on a hard cold stone. They rarely, if ever, really serve a purpose. We do not see eye to eye. The ways that we treat other people is indicative of the way we treat the rest of the world. Each of us is a dissimulator, screaming for salvation but only for ourselves.

"Do we need to build a bomb?
Do we need to fire a gun?
If you have to stand your ground
It's a war that can't be won
Is it all worth dying for?
It all comes down to
Who's rich or poor
Virgin or whore
It doesn't matter what you're praying for
Death or life
Your truth or mine
It doesn't matter underneath it all
Cause we're only here to love
Like there's no tomorrow
So let's live each moment like
Our time is only borrowed"

            I believe that, for the most part, people are disingenuous. We claim to love the light, we even claim to move towards it, but in the end we are not as we claim to be. We are shadow and darkness and sin and folly. This mortal coil operates more on impulse than instinct. The reason we try not to reveal these traits lies in the  fear of discovery. We rarely admit we have this creature within. We rarely see things the same way the world does. Each of us have been splintered by our own device. We appear to be whole and logical and, some would claim, good. Lord, how we do try. Beneath all the right things, we are drawn to the wrong things. We don't think of all the consequences because we really just don't care. Regardless of brother or family or strangers, we enlist them to our cause. We validate by drawing a few closer. We all are stupid, idiots who can't see for the truth in front of our faces. We waste so much time. It carelessly slips through our fingers. We don't see that it is all just borrowed.
            Apparently, for human beings, it is our differences which define us. We all congregate yet at the same time we separate. Our commonalities end up meaning little if anything at all. Those differences are what really count. They are the wall that stands between all of us and enlightenment. It is through self-awareness that we gain control. The result resonates but we stop giving altogether and not just monetarily. We rarely can find any part of ourselves left to give. It's easier to be a bitch to some homeless guy because it makes it easier to just walk past. We dissolve our responsibility so we do not have to proceed with it. We hear but we do not listen. We can see but only what we want to see. It's easier that way. We have turned from it all. All seems lost. The world is falling apart around us and we sit watching, like it was some television program. We get to decide when to turn the channel or not. The world may be coming to an end but at least we are all entertained. It turns out that we don't need Jesus or the Madhi to bring the apocalypse. It's clear, we really only need ourselves for that.

"It all comes down to
Who's rich or poor
Virgin or whore
It doesn't matter what you're praying for
Death or life
Your truth or mine
It doesn't matter underneath it all
Cause we're only here to love
Like there's no tomorrow
So let's live each moment like our time is only borrowed
Our time is only borrowed"
(Borrowed Time, Madonna 2015)

            Every person holds the light within them but we no longer seek it. In the most basic sense, it seems it is gone for most of us. All this preaching to the choir is for naught. We all talk about love but few of us even know how to use it. Although love is always there, so is chaos and corruption and greed. Whichever one wins is ours to determine. Collectively, we have settled for doom. Not even one of us is really that good. We may claim to be, we may even think we are, but guess again. In the end, there will be an end. This world cannot sustain the virus known as human being. We are killing the planet. We are killing ourselves. We are soon to be fodder, leftovers from our melting pot. I can imagine some alien craft landing after our demise. They just shake their heads (or whatever), drenched by the stench of ignorance and futility.   
            We all have a responsibility to shine. It is our struggle with the darkness that will actually define us. It is our obligation to love in spite of all the shadow. Love is the dotted line, that which we are bound to. It goes without saying, but we do not pay it heed. I'm not sure what the answer is. Like most times, I am not sure if there even is an answer. How do you strive for goodness among mankind when individually the darkness has taken over? I guess it comes down to either shitting or getting off the pot. I can only hope that we flush before it's too late.

 "The idea behind a kaleidoscope is that it’s a structure that’s filled with broken bits and pieces, and somehow if you can look through them, you still see something beautiful. And I feel like we are all that way a little bit."
(Sara Bareilles, American singer-songwriter)




Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Fine Print

"I get up, I fall down
Sometimes I feel like I am always on the ground
You pick me up and brush me off
And tell me that I'm good enough"

            We had talked about buying a house for years. We had no idea what was in store for us. When the closing date was set for over four months later, we were foolish to believe that such an amount of time would be a good thing. It never is unless you are about to die. I had already started packing months before, initially dealing with paperwork and organisation. Slowly as the months passed into the next year, the spare room started to fill and we started to plan. Before we even started looking for a home to purchase, I concentrated on the heavy burden that seventeen years of "marriage" can accumulate. The chore of such a feat was not lost on me. It was challenging sorting through all that shit. Box after box began to build into a giant Jenga game in the corner of each room. The spare bedroom was eventually swallowed up by cardboard and materialism. It was overwhelming the amount of storage the endeavour took. It was a necessary evil that someone had to do. 
            I quit smoking around the same time I started getting ready to relocate. I tried to absorb myself into the matter in order to avoid temptation. It worked for the most part. Unfortunately, when you smoke cigarettes like I did for over thirty years, everything in the path of the smoke is filthy. Every book, every treasure was covered with a slick layer of nicotine and tar. I have to admit it was disgusting just how much brown washed off the articles just before I stuck them in a box for safe journey. Bucket after bucket and even more went on forever like some water torture. Like some rotted stew it mocked the years of me sucking on this death. It was a reminder of my insides, my lungs, my heart, all lathered with the dark sickening goo. Every nic nac, every picture frame was a form of contrition, penance for the sin of addiction. I wish I had counted along as every splash represented every cigarette. Each squeeze from a rag was every drag I used to take. I could have handled a few days or even weeks of this sorry mess, but eight months of constant evidence was often enough to make me want to light one up just in spite. Right up to the end, my death wish was rubbed in my face. Every piece of furniture, every shelf was coated with a sticky residue. It stuck to my fingers when I touched it. As I worked each one clean, a tide of anti-chocolate dripped on my feet and the floor. Puddles of what lies inside me beckoned themselves for recognition, urgent, at last, to be seen.
            All the packing, all the cleaning was nothing but a pain in the ass. This compared little to the actual interactions with those who were supposed to be helping us. You pay someone and they are supposed to do their work, their responsibilities, but apparently this is not the way the world works anymore. People don't seem to care whether you get pissed off at them for not doing their job. Growing up, my parents instilled a sense of obligation in me, an idea that if someone pays you to do work for them then you do it the best that you can and as promptly as you can. This is no longer my experience. People just don't seem to give a shit, no matter the cash you dole out to them to do what you hired them to do. Companies and businesses seem to cherish this newfound attitude and not just in the lower ranks of their employees. Short of murder or raping a client, it seems management will allow almost anything as long as it doesn't interfere with the bottom line. The days of courtesy and efficiency are gone now. Not only has being polite become a lost art but respect and obligation have as well. When I am trying not to tell them all off, I forget that this is just the way the world works now. Professionalism seems to no longer even be a word. So it would appear from the vantage point of looking in. It's hard to just grin and bear it.

"You are faithful to me
I am not afraid no matter where I go
You will never leave me
In You I am home
Cause you are faithful to me"

            The chaos may have started right away but it was nothing like what it would become. It was the bank that played harbinger, foreshadowing what lies ahead. To my surprise, I had no real idea just how commonplace stupidity has become. Being approved for a mortgage, then quoted specific details was nothing but a waste of our time. Two days later and they called to change it all, every morsel of the previously agreed upon terms. It was like pulling the rug out from beneath us the moment we first stepped onto it. There was no question that we needed to find a different institution.  Of all the services and attendants we had to deal with over the half year, not even one seemed to have a clue. Even our realtor, in the end, failed to dance outside the mess. It turns out that no one did what was fully required of them. Of course, they still took payment. The mortgage broker, home inspector and lawyer that he referred us to left something to be desired. Failure to return our calls became a main event. It often left us lingering in some financial mode of limbo. It was hard to understand why people refused to do a good job, that they were getting paid to do more than ignore us. The entire experience made me eager to run and hide. We even considered abandoning the cause altogether. We did not give up although at times the heart was not willing to invest any longer. Back and forth, up and down, one stress after another layered upon our standing ground. More times than not you could smell defeat. There was something quite rotten and it sure wasn't me. 
            Before the closing date, we hired a home inspector to make sure everything was up to standard. With only one electrical issue, our above average rating was good news indeed. He was a friendly chap, nice enough I suppose. It appeared that he did a terrific job. He appeared efficient and professional. Several months later and it is obvious that not everything was as it seemed to be. The shower needed to be replaced and repaired with no notice from our $400 examiner. I suppose it could have been worse. The previous owner easily could have left stickers on all walls throughout the house rather than every other one. The most unfortunate event occurred around one week after we moved in. The dishwasher was part of the deal, left under the conditions of sale. The inspector said that it worked. He put it in writing but this just was not so. We had been living off paper plates and those red plastic cups, since move-in day. I met no hesitation when I stacked the first load and set it into action. It was by no means a full load. At first, everything seemed okay so I left it to its own volition. Then came the bubbles. I had used dish soap, like an idiot, in order to compensate for lack of real detergent. As the foam seeped from the bottom of the machine, I imagined that this was all due to my lack in judgment. As I scooped up the spreading mess and dumped it using a dustpan into a metal bucket, I soon realized that the bubbles were coincidental. Water spit from the very same bottom, in spurts, then running, then spurts again. Parts of the hardwood floor looked like a potato chip the next day. If they had only told us it didn't work. If we had only been alerted to this complication during the process, someone may have actually earned their wage. The ride had apparently just begun.
            It wasn't just the bank or the lawyer or even the mortgage broker that seemed less than committed to our cause. From the cable company changing our appointment and particulars over and over, to the U-Haul rental that kept shifting from pick-up spot to pick-up spot, everyone seemed in on the joke. When we returned the vehicle in the dead of night, we had no idea just what the final bill would entail. I wasn't ever laughing. With the purchase of a fridge and stove at Sears, we learned not to bank on others with our own decisions. People cannot be trusted. Apparently lying, overcharging and perverting the delivery, over and over, only convinced me that doing business, no matter the company, no longer means proper customer service. It is something entirely different than what it used to be. Complaining about said delivery process doesn't even merit a finger pointing from head office. It seemed to be the status quo. Why everything needs to be so complicated is beyond me. Quite often, I wish for the days of my youth when everything was simpler and you didn't have to pay for a little respect. Right through Halloween and the crap continued. Missing accessories, delayed appointments and incomplete work haunted us. It seemed it would never stop no matter what I did or didn't do. If I had known just how much trouble it all would be I am not sure I would have been so gung-ho regarding the house. It was a stressful time.

"I feel lost and on my own
Isolation has me thinking I'm the only one
But You show up and hold me close
You tell me I am not alone"

            I have to admit that on occasion, throughout the process, I felt like karma kept smashing me in the face. It's natural to experience doubt and regret when dealing with such matters but what we had to go through was more than enough to make one feel oddly guilt ridden. So much chaos and it must be something we were doing. The universe seemed to be laughing in our face. God, apparently, had a hand in the joke. Cumulatively, incompetence and disregard built to a crescendo, results of not feeling good enough and any punishment that was sent from above. We weren't doing anything wrong or so we kept telling ourselves. Surely, event after event was not some random experience added into all the rest. Every error that was made, all the hell of back and forth, whispered not so gently, from floods to a plague of stickers and holes, left in or on almost every wall of the house, these must have been a punishment from the deity of our choice. At least, the Bible and other scriptures tell me so.
            Always read the fine print before you sign on the dotted line. What you ratify in your mind may not be the same as on paper but they both act in similar ways. You enlist into your existence. You manifest what will be. How you view each experience is the common denominator in almost all cases. Tragedy and trials come to everyone. Some sit thinking they have done a dirty deed while others see opportunity even throughout the darkness. Sometimes it's not about right and wrong. It's about taking what life has to give to you and moving through it to a better place. Half full or part empty, it's all in the presentation. Hard times, struggle, even chaos will come and go in a constant tide. It is our reaction, on almost every level, that will determine our fate. The shores are friendlier this side of the dotted line. Things went away when things finished up. The world has become peaceful again, or at least it has for the moment. The noise and confusion have subsided for the most part. Still, I sit here wondering about when God up in heaven will strike again in His own special way. We are all at His mercy, at least that is what I have been told. In the end, whether God chastises, karma attacks or chance plays its hand, hard times come for everyone and just living can make dying look easy.

"I am not alone, I won't be dismayed
You will hold my right hand to help me
I will have no fear
You my God are here
Standing right beside me"
(Faithful, Plumb 2014)