Wednesday, March 28, 2012


“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3, NIV)

             To be as a child, one must see without judgment. All those conditioned and learned responses, built upon in our lifetime, must be abandoned to less discerning ways. It is a simple enough concept, but very difficult to achieve. To see the world through innocent eyes, and think of God in elementary terms, we must let go of our social and spiritual training and allow ourselves to revert, in a sense, to be "un-born again". We must simplify our thoughts and purge our pre-conceived notions. We must escape from the bias placed upon us through theory, and speculation, ever clearing our sense of reality to a baser interpretation. We must be childlike in our clarity.
            To achieve, in most cases, this place of ingenuousness, one must have a reference point. A place in time which we can look back on and emulate. We must forget about the outer, and often corrupted, memory and focus on the way we felt, and how we thought at that place in our time. We may not be able to relive our lives, but we can retrace our tracks. It is here we can find our lost innocence.

“In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power 
Green Lantern's light!"
(The Green Lantern Oath, DC Comics) 

            The dime was burning a hole in my pocket all the way to the Dominion store. At 6 years old, even I had figured out the value, and significance, of cold hard cash. As my Mother placed my sister in a grocery cart, feet dangling to the pull of gravity, I stood transfixed, staring at the toy dispenser located at the entrance of the store. This was no mere collection of gum and candy, rather it stood out from all the other temptations. I had seen it so many times and it seemed to call to me. Ten cents was a lot of money way back when, at least to a 6 year old in 1971. Needless to say, I was hypnotized.
            Each dispenser held its own treasure. Some promised gumballs, for one cent apiece. Others offered peanuts, or sweet-tarts, or even little pretty things like necklaces or bracelets.  Although joined to each other in metal, my focus of attention held its own place. The logos of Batman, Superman and the Flash captured my eye and my imagination. As my Mother called to me, I dropped my coin in the slot and turned the handle. The dime disappeared and a clink activated a thrill within me. As my new found pleasure dropped into my possession, I lifted the silver cover and discovered pure joy.
            Encased in a clear plastic ball, the Green Lantern's ring popped into my hand, propelled to me through the squeezing of the egg-like shape at the middle. The seam ruptured forth this coolest of things, endowing me with a sense I had not held since I first discovered superheroes some time before.  I was bewildered, taking it in my left, then placing it on my right hand's widow finger. Suddenly, I was empowered, fearless and charged with protecting this realm from the darkness of the universe. I turned, stuffed the two halves of the ball in my pocket, and ran off until I caught up to my Mother.
            The store became a battleground. Every turn, every display another chance to strike against the forces of evil. I zapped the butcher, then some old lady, all the while banishing these evildoers back from whence they had come. I was transformed and so was my world. I stopped just being some kid and started being a hero. Like Spiderman, Samson, and even Jesus, I now possessed a tool to make me worthy of a place beside them. I was lost in the feel of it, pulled to the play of it and made for the thrill of it.
            When the shopping was done and the store safe from monsters, my Father picked us up and we headed for home. Unlike my fellow passengers, I boarded my starship, powered by my ring, and sped through the galaxy on a quest to bring freedom to all people. I encountered meteors and spaceships, each one housing some form of doom or another. I raged against villainy, ever diligent of the lessons other heroes had taught me. Most important, one must never forget that absolute power, corrupts absolutely. When I heard these words from one of my Spiderman comics it failed to affect me, but now I knew I must always be careful not to misuse my newly found skill. Soon enough, we had all landed home, safe and sound.
            For weeks, that ring possessed me. At school, in church, I was constantly floating above it all, ever on guard against any threat or their minions. The ring became my most prized belonging. I clung to it as if it were gold or diamonds. It quickly became my most favourite thing ever. It was just a plastic ring, solid green through the body and the plate. The Green Lantern's insignia was stamped in darker green and set in a white border on the ring surface. I loved that ring more than anything. Almost every night I would place it back in its home, that clear plastic thingy it came with. Many times I just wore it to bed.
            The month I had that silly ring was one of adventure and freedom for me. It did not matter if it really was, or was not, the Green Lantern weapon. I believed it was. At the time, that was all that mattered. Such a simple thing, yet so much joy from it. With blind obedience, I followed my imagination and travelled to places I have yet to return to. I witnessed galactic conflict and sided myself against evil. All the wonders that appeared in spite of that ring being only a ring.
            I remember leaving it on the windowsill in my bedroom. I took my bath, as instructed, and returned to the room, unaware of my fate. I searched everywhere for it. All over the house and throughout the car. I convinced myself it had fallen from the window and tore apart every corner of the backyard. No one had seen it. No one knew where it was. It just disappeared and was nowhere to be found.   

"A million tomorrows shall all pass away
‘Ere I forget all the joy that is mine, today."
(Today, John Denver 1975)

            I loved my Great-Grandfather Guiseppi. He meant the world to me when I was a boy. He was my Mother's first, but I took him as my own. He is still with me in my heart, in my mind and in my writing. Although our time together was brief, the moments that I shared with him are etched into my being. Some of the greatest experiences from my childhood rest between he and I. He calls to me from the shadows of my past and lingers as if a ghost to my senses. Almost forty years later and I still miss him so. 
            Of all the children, from all our family, I knew I was his favourite. Our camaraderie showed in our time together. A dozen children could be running around his simple home, and large property, but we could still be found sitting with each other, oblivious to the world around us. We would play checkers and he would try to teach me the complexity of the game of chess. He would pretend to drink Kool-Aid, but I knew from the smell that scotch was his flavour. On occasion, he would dip his finger in his chipped coffee cup, then share a taste in a bitter way. Every time I smell that odour, I can see him in his white wife-beater, hand-rolled cigarette in between his brown stained fingers, talking to me about Italy, or New York, and his journey to this country. He would sit me on his lap and comfort me in his way. I trusted him implicitly.
            His small, shack-like house was tiny compared to the home which now sits on his then-property. The one-level, inverted L-shaped room, all he seemed to need. Beside it, a large, overgrown willow tree gave shade in summer and was the perfect windbreaker during the winter months. A line of pine trees separated the grounds from my grandparents' home, the land stretching back towards King Street. A chicken coop was detached from the place, with several large birds for his consumption. The land was rich with gardens and vegetable patches. The odour of bird poop and fresh cut grass mixed in the air, heavy on a warm summer day.
            He used to walk with me around the property, pointing out this plant or that bug, all the while puffing on a rollie. He seemed to love his world. I viewed him like a child should, with great respect and reverence. Every summer, until his death, he was salvation for me. He offered freedom from my grandmother and the tyranny I felt at the hands of his son, my grandfather. My time with him was always quality time.
            I stood in awe as he opened the wire gate and freed a few hens from their roost. I had no idea why he wanted me to catch one, but the chase was merry and filled with laughter. I failed to secure a bird, as requested, so he sauntered over, grabbed one by the head and lifted it, securing it upside down by its feet. He walked over to the large, stained tree stump, pressed it against the wood then freed the hatchet which sat imbedded in the round. He offered it to me. "Don't be afraid, boy," he urged. "It's just a chicken."
            I truly had no idea what we wanted from me, but I shook my head and declined his invitation. He laughed with glee and raised the axe with one mighty stoke, then dropped it against the neck of the bird. The head popped off as if shot out by a cannon, blood silencing the clucking of what I assumed was a now dead beast. He slammed the hatchet back into the trunk and freed the body from his grasp. It dropped on its belly. I stood in shock at what happened next.
            That brainless bird sped around the yard like a chicken with its head cut off. Blood squirted from its detachment, spewing all over its feathers and the ground that was its path. I couldn't believe my eyes. I watched the creature run in circles, to and fro, all the time eyeing Great-Grandpa. He stood smiling, laughing. You could tell the pleasure he received in watching me squirm. I wasn't around for most of his life, but this day I could see his joy. He chucked that head in a pile of who knows what, then waited.
            When the life had drained out of it, the corpse hit the ground like a bouncing ball. He walked to it, picked it up, again by the claws, and seemed to shake out the rest of its essence. He took me by the hand and led me to the picnic table just behind his place. Methodically, he showed me how to clean the bird, plucking feather after feather in a cascading motion. I took my turn, the entire time looking to him for guidance and assurance that this was how it had always been. When the body was clean, he stood, walked over to the wooden stump, then once again freed the hatchet. He walked back to the table, grabbed the dead thing by its lower appendages, and offered me the tool one last time. I took it with great reservation.
            I closed my eyes and dropped it down, chopping off, with one stroke, the claws. He took the bird, made a slit in its belly and proceeded to gut the thing right in my face. I had never seen the inside of any animal, but remember being fascinated. With each thrust in, he would pull out another organ. He showed me the entrails, the heart and defined the rest of the goo for me.
            A few hours later and I tasted the bird. It was just like all the other chicken I had ever tasted. I admit I felt guilty for killing, then consuming, the poor thing, but he once again reminded me that "it was just a chicken." While I still devour such sources of protein, it is the lesson from that day that I remember the most. The time he took to teach me, and the happiness I can still feel, just makes me want to cry. Sometimes the tears come regardless of the distance between then and now.
            A few years later and his dead body rested soundly in his oak coffin. I was so thankful that he looked the same. When my Mother had told me of his passing I was sad, but I was also consumed with worry. Looking down on him in his box, I was just glad they left his head on.

"Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity."
(Robert Morgan, American Poet)

            The summer of 1977 found me wanting. I did not crave some comic book, nor did I covet a toy or some thing which I had yet to possess. No outside activity drew my attention. No event piqued my interest. I did not strive for a medal from swimming lessons or need to see some movie in the theatre. At 12 years of age, it was Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and time with my father that drove my desire and ignited my senses. 
            Channel 12, a CTV affiliate known as CKCO-TV Kitchener, had yet to be absorbed by a larger network and stood as the prominent local channel for Southern Ontario. The viewing schedule included the mandated news shows, local in flavour, and a mix of low budget half-hour programs such as The Littlest Hobo and Bizarre. Sunday afternoon left little option but for Big Top Talent, an hour-long children's talent show. After church, it was really the only choice from noon to one besides news programs. Oopsy Daisy the Clown hosted this showcase of amateur kid performers, from around the Kitchener-Waterloo area, for 16 years. Unintentionally hilarious, on almost every day of rest, my family sat down to laugh, and curse, the program. It was terrifically awful.
            At 6:30 p.m., every Sunday evening that summer, the station broadcast The Godfather, Part One and Two, played consecutively, and split into segments which played for a half-hour. With my maternal Italian background, and the memory of my Great-grandfather, I was drawn in quickly. After dinner, my Father would watch the news, then call me from my inner world to watch with him. Throughout June, July and August, this was a time we would share together.
            My Dad had always been involved in the lives of his 5 children, making go-carts or cheering us on at sporting events. This was my time with him. Although my Mother would occasionally leave her kitchen to watch with us, primarily it was just me and my Pop.  He would place a bowl of salted peanuts on the coffee table for us to share, then when the coast was clear, he would send me to the fridge for his one beer of the day. I remember watching him nurse it, all the while munching on the snack he placed out before us.
            For those months, tales of the Corleone family weighted my attention. It was not so much the movie that merited my favour, although for an adult drama it held me captive. It was the sense of camaraderie with my Father that kept me returning week after week. The closeness, and feeling of safety, our "special time" still stands as comfort in the face of distance from those days and that place. It has always been a touchstone for me. It is somewhere to hide when I envision the things that are to come.
            Like my Green Lantern ring, or that bloodied bird, it acts to awaken that sense of wonder within me. I become dewy-eyed all over again. I see though to my once uncorrupted sense of being. I now realize my ring had no power. I now realize that it was just a chicken. I even recognize that what may have been for me, each Sunday that summer, was no more to my Father than time with one of his kids. All three, regardless, reignite my childhood innocence.
            When I was a boy, I thought as a boy, felt as a boy and was a boy. As an adult, I view the reality of my past with great affection. I wish I was now what I once was then. I wish I had that imagination, that curiosity and that ability to embrace a simple moment, then cherish it forever. I suppose, in some way, I have learnt to go there again. I have heard the message and live better in my now. I have found my innocence, not lost.

“What is important in life is life, and not the result of life.”
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German polymath)



Tuesday, March 13, 2012


"A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you're taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody's got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you're saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get ..more stuff!"
(Stuff, George Carlin 1986)

             I have never really lost everything. Even when my world fell to hell in a hand basket, at the death of my first partner, I still had our possessions, my family, my pets and my friends. Although most of those friends vamoosed at the news of my long-hidden sexual orientation, a few days after the funeral, I still had more than most people do their entire lives. Anything I ever really needed was easily available to me. Anything I ever really wanted always seemed to be within my grasp.  Outside of separation from someone to death, I have never truly wanted for anything.
            I often sit and watch the news, listening to sad story after sad story, so many people who have lost it all. I realize how difficult it must be to find oneself in that kind of situation, but it seems to me it is not the end of the world. Easy for me to say, but regardless, there is so much more to the invisible and ethereal parts of this life than the material. If you have love, people you care about and faith in something, you may have lost so many things, but you still have everything.
            I heard a report the other day of a couple whose home was consumed by fire. They had enough time to save a few things before this consumption, and in the heat of the moment, so to speak, they grabbed picture albums and treasured photographs. As they stood outside watching their world melt into ashes, they realized that in their haste to save their past, they condemned the family pets to perish in the flames.
            It really is all about priority. What matters most to you? I know people so bogged down in the safety of money that they themselves have lost their own value. They strive,  with a sense of fervour, at the accumulation of more and the very substance of who they are, and who they are meant to be, gets dissolved in this solution. In truth, these "haves" have not. I wonder what it must be like to turn to paper and dangling coin when the night is cold or the wind is harsh. To stand alone, clothed by cash, not some comfort.
            It is a simple notion. Imagine that peace, mercy and grace, coupled with love for each other, should carry us from turmoil into tranquility. What a concept! As if the true things on this plane of existence are not possession, collection and wealth. As if it all means something more. While there is  much more to this world than we know, we perish to the unknown wrapped in accruement, rather than attending to the simple things that really count. No epitaph ever read, "I got to take it all with me."
            I do not know that I could give up my worldly possessions without grief. They mean as much to me, if not more, than most of the people I associate with. Don't get me wrong, I speak of those heirlooms and remnants from those I love and those who have passed on before me. I could care less about my TV, comic books or DVD collection. I am not tied to the notion of more, more, more. I have an accumulation of photographs, keepsakes and the like, and I would not be pleased to part with them, but they do not rule me. They are simply things.
            I imagine there are times in all our lives when we must choose between our desire for property, and possession, and those things which mean so much more. It is a dominant life lesson. I am sure that I too would be sifting through rubble in hopes of discovery, should a fire consume my lifestyle. I am aware, however, that I would rather be happy than controlled by "Mammon" or reminded that the world and its ways dictate my priorities. I would have to let it all go. I would rather turn and walk away, abandoning "things",  than allow chaos to remain because I just could not part with this or that. I have had to do it before and I would surely do it again. After all, it is just stuff. 

"I'm not old but I'm getting a whole lot older every day
It's too late to keep from goin' crazy
I've got to get away

The reasons that I can't stay don't have a thing to do with being in love
And I understand that lovin' a man shouldn't have to be this rough
And you ain't the only one who feels like this world left you far behind
I don't know why you gotta be angry all the time"
(Angry All the Time, Tim McGraw 2001)

             You don't know what you've got until it's gone. At least, that's the way it seems to go. When it's gone, leaving you to yourself, you end up settling for almost anything. The emptiness of life can lead to choices that one may not have made were circumstance and the situation much different. In hindsight, one may recognize that what appeared to be a good idea was actually nothing but a desperate move, the last bastion of a withering fool. So quickly one can go from swimming in a pool of shit to drowning in it, held down by the very thing you thought might save you.
            On December 7th, 1996, I first met Andy. My life was very different in light of my gains and losses the year before, but I found myself looking outside my grief, outside the pain, for some sense of a future and some semblance of a life to lead. Regardless of how we met, it is our relationship and parting that hold the greatest lessons for me. I remember thinking to myself as we sat in his car, on the evening we met, chatting on about this and that, how uninterested I would have been had it been a sweeter day. I became involved with him against my own better judgment.
            Dating again was an odd little thing. Having been in a loving relationship for 6 years, or so, only convinced me that I could do better. Despite the feeling that I was settling, I threw myself into this newfound tryst, thinking it better than nothing. By the time spring came, in April of 1997, I had moved myself, most of my possessions, and my cats Gizmo and Felix, into his small war home, built in the 1940s. Hell has wooden floors and a quaint backyard that leads to Highbury Avenue in London, Ontario.
            Andy was handsome enough, I suppose. His thinning dark hair and pale English complexion did little to highlight this fact. He was taller than I, with a very average build, and he carried himself as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. To avoid being petty, I will not delve into his more "physical" attributes, but it was clear to me from early on that any magic I had experienced with partners in the past would not be an issue with Andy. To coin a favourite phrase, "I could have been bored at home for free."
            Living with someone again turned out to be just plain nasty. Whether he was a transitional relationship, or not, meant nothing once the madness began. I had reluctantly moved to London with the hopes of escaping the constant pull of sadness and ended up finding more sorrow and chaos. I started writing full-time again but had to take an additional part-time position as a bouncer at a gay bar in the downtown London core. For 7 months, I relished heading to Partners. The chore of tossing drunken idiots out the back door into their own oblivion seemed a venting exercise. For the first time in my life, I was exposed to positive and enlightened attitudes about homosexuality. I developed good relationships with both the staff and the clientele. Partners, for a limited time, became an escape for me. A place where I was understood and could finally be myself. It turned into a safe harbour.
            It all started simply enough. Forbidding me to put out pictures of my late partner and attempting to restrict my visits to the cemetery were the catalysts for our first argument and the tension that came with it. When his restrictions tightened, I just spent more and more time at the bar. I did not take to the notion of someone trying to control me. Everything he did seemed intent on shaping me into who he wanted me to be. The more he pulled on my strings, the more I danced away. When he demanded I remove all pictures of Doug and no longer go the his burial spot, except maybe at Christmas, I had enough. At least I told myself so.
            It was not at all difficult for me to remain friends with Andy. Although we had split on a romantic level, lasting only 3 months living together, his request to try and build a strong friendship did not fall on deaf ears. I left my cats at his place and many belongings. Anything of real sentimental value I took back with me to Strathroy. I worked weekends in London on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights so it was convenient just to go to Andy's after my shifts were done. I spent the week in Strathroy and the weekends mostly at the bar.
            The problem became clear one night after the establishment closed. I walked from downtown all the way to the area surrounding Fanshawe College. I arrived back at Andy's around 3 a.m. Considering the one hour walk, I would have thought my arrival surprisingly early. There sat Andy, lawn chair beneath and scorn above, waiting for me on the front lawn of his home. Needless to say, we woke the neighbours a few times that night. Accusations of infidelity, when we were no longer together, coupled with random episodes resulting in him having a pseudo-nervous breakdown in the middle of his living room, turned the dream of a friendship into a nightmare from which I could not awake.
            I am not a perfect person. I, most certainly, was not stable during this period.  While the innate drive to help Andy kept me trying to salvage something of our time together, the issues of control, blame and self-preservation were more than enough to aggravate mega rising in me. As much as Andy may have given in to chaos, I did nothing but add to our torment. I suppose, in a sense, I should have known better, but it was a difficult and trying time to get through. I know that I did my best. I often wonder if I allowed the way he treated me more as penance and punishment than regard for his well-being. I realize now that I believed I deserved it.
            When Partners closed it doors for good, I took all my clothes and fell back into the safety of my parents' home. I remained in close contact with Andy, convinced our friendship would be better if we distanced ourselves from each other, both physically and emotionally. This did little to change the crescendo of instability and unbalance. No matter what we did, the angst always remained. I even housesat when Andy took a vacation tour, for a month, visiting St. Petersburg and points east. When he arrived home, I had started dating someone else, had moved past the idea of having anything real with him, and started a new life for myself. He was not pleased.
            The depressive side of my Bi-polar disorder had been vanquished to the back seat when all this was happening. My medication did not, however, tackle the problem of my mania. It would be several years before that beast would be taken out, shot in the head and buried in the backyard. I was constantly a volcano readied for eruption. When he accused me of trying to make him, purposely, want to kill himself, as he proposed I had with Doug, I almost reached the end of my rope.
            I started removing my belongings from his residence with the idea of parting company for good. I got my cats, my computer and made plans to return with my Dad's van for my comic books, appliances and the like. I never got the chance. The last time I talked to Andrew, yet again, things ended badly. It was explosive. I don't know if it was his doing, or my surrender to the stress and insanity, but I broke with self-control and freaked right out. I screamed at myself, in my head, that I had to make him go. He just would not fuck off. In my hyper-state of thinking, I was rapid cycling so fast I could have generated enough power to illuminate Niagara Falls for a year.
            He held my stuff hostage. Over 20 years of comic book collecting, most of my CDs, and numerous kitchen and electronic devices were left to his bidding. In response,   I surrendered to the monster in my head. I wanted to get him, shake him and scare him good, but I knew this would do little to chase him away. I recognized distinctly that I had to make him want to go, to get rid of him.
            One night, I casually walked up his driveway, grabbed a white plastic lawn chair and, after squishing my boots in the soggy soil near his side garden, I stood on it leaving foot marks. I got down, placed it under his kitchen window and abandoned my stuff forever. I went to the nearest phone, rang him up and methodically whispered, "I saw you." It was like shooting ducks in a pond. I hung up the phone, resolved that the consequence would set me free. Even in my mania, human predictability was always just that. I just knew it would work.
            From the start, I should have ran as fast as I could as soon as I could. My mistake was trying to save him and thinking that I could. No one can save anyone but themselves. Perhaps it was having lost Doug to a winter's night. Perhaps it was the underlying need for me to punish myself for that fact. In the end, it came down to my sanity or his. Any cost was more than worth it to finally be set free.
            My Mother, and my current partner, sat with me as Andy and his parents entered the courtroom. When the time for justice played out, I pleaded no contest to the Restraining Order. As the judge rang out its conditions, I almost felt glee inside of me. Agreeing wholeheartedly to each and every one, I convinced myself "good riddance" lingered in Andrew's mind and my own. It really was the only way.
            I could have tangled myself in the legalities of belongings. I could have stretched it out and fought for what was rightfully mine. Some people, like my Mother, said I should have. For me, I was willing to pay the price. It did not matter my investment when continuing may have cost me everything. I traded those valuable things for much simpler, and healthier, things. All it took was a little of my dignity, a few CDs and a lifetime of comic book joy and expense.
            I have rebuilt my life since those days. I am now amidst the greatest things a life can offer anyone. I am loved. I love. I have family and friends. At times, I feel like the richest man in town. It seems to me that those dark moments lead me to a much better place. I am not sure I would have landed here if I had not flown away from there. You see, the very next day, I picked myself up, I dusted myself off and I started all over again.



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Mare's Nest

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him."
(1 Corinthians 1:27-29, NIV)

            The first rule of existence should be, "Keep it simple, stupid." Despite how complicated life is, for me, these are words to live by. I wasn't always so willing to embrace the unconventional idea that less is more. I do not speak only of the material world and those things which we may gain from it. There are greater areas of our lives that require an uncompounded approach. As Leonardo Da Vinci said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." 
            The greatest tool for lifting the burden of such complications is to focus on simple things; those things which bring the most joy and meaning. When we simplify, we eliminate those elements which are unnecessary, allowing the necessary to have a voice. We must chip away, through the process of elimination, as the sculptor carves the stone before him, piece by piece. The way to a life of simplicity is in learning to let go.           
            The complex nature of life can be subjugated through abandoning the needless wants of life. When we reduce the clutter, the chaos reduces itself. Simplicity will come when what you want and what you need are one and the same. At base, life is very simple, but we make it complicated. We hold to ownership and belief, trying so hard to get more. Instead of getting more, we should be wanting less.
            While it is important to rid ourselves of the more physical mare's nest, we must also rid ourselves of spiritual complications. We must free ourselves of old trappings and ideologies, allowing the true nature of the Divine to shape us. We must rid our center of the daily grind, ever striving for silence and balance. As Socrates warned, "Beware the barrenness of a busy life."
            We must be content with what we have. We must celebrate the way things are. When you see you have everything, then you want for nothing. Truth be told, there are many more things which we do not want. When we stop to recognize all we do have, we reduce to the simplest terms, and return to the base ideas formed in childhood. The simplest approach is usually the most fruitful.

“Simply the thing that I am shall make me live.”
 (All's Well That Ends Well, William Shakespeare 1604-05)

            It was complete chaos. My mind, my body and my spirit all screamed of disrepute. I was confounded to sanity, whatever that may be. I could not find myself, all dazed to the voices and flashes and fury of a mind outside itself. I do not know if I was crazy, or going that way quickly, but for the first time in my life, I was scared by what might happen. I felt as if I was dying inside.
            In the fall of 1995, I just about went out of my mind. Not only was I still grieving the loss of my partner, battling the after-effects of an addiction to Demerol and Morphine, and trying to find my way, untreated for Bi-polar disorder, but a greater battle raged within me. It was for my very soul. In an almost literal manner, I felt like Faust. His battle with temptation, knowledge and the devil was becoming my daily lot in life. I was deep in study, trying my best to understand the religion of my parents and why it seemed to shun me. If Jesus didn't want me, then I was left no other choice. I went in looking for answers and ended up in torment when I found some. The truth crept in and made me quite mad.
            It was a difficult thing for me to let go of Jesus. Since childhood, His presence and teaching made up the entire gamut of my ideas on God. Even when I studied theological paradoxes and alternate history back before Doug died, I still managed to maintain a strong affinity for the Christian way of thinking. When I reluctantly began thinking for myself, absorbing concepts and ideologies from outside my faith structure, I began to fall apart. I couldn't handle the truth.
            Through the works of Karen Armstrong to John Dominic Crossan, I started to understand outside my conditioned intellectual and spiritual position. The writing of Tom Harpur, Anthony De Mello and even philosophers like Plato and Socrates, slowly reshaped my thinking and shed an unwanted light on the corrupted history apparent in God's relationship to humanity. As my relationship with what I had once considered infallible turned to a complicated weave of lies, dogma and bias, I recognized that not all was as it had appeared to be. I felt as if the Spirit within me had exited, leaving me to war with both God and the devil.
            The ways of man, his thinking and rebellion against the Holy, had always been tools of this devil in my judgment. God, throughout Scripture, warns us of the foolishness gained in the world. When these "heretical" and "evil" notions became part of me, I wondered whether Satan had gained a stronger foothold in my sensibilities. Having been cast to the pit for my sexual make-up, and sinful nature, it mattered little to me if the heat was turned up. As the flames of my damnation licked at my heels, I started to understand more fully. I wanted to know why and I demanded from myself surrender to whatever I should find myself facing in the end. I never even considered I would have to turn away from Christianity altogether. Such turmoil caused a great schism and drove me deeper into a place of darkness in my mind.
            It was as if a virus had been released into my system, attacking almost everything I had been taught to believe and embrace. With reluctant dissension, I allowed it to run rampant, corrupting my faith and its foundations. I experienced a moral and spiritual collapse, all the while the religious wisdom I had always been exposed to started to reform into a new truth, a new way of thinking. I realized the chaos of this conversion could only be quelled in letting go of all that had once been for me. Rather than balancing on an intellectual and spiritual fence, I had to make up my mind and jump to one side or the other. I could not serve two masters. For the first time in my Christian life, I questioned. I questioned God, I questioned Scripture and, without exemption, I questioned the Christ. I was swallowed whole by guilt and shame.
            There was no other way for me. I was trapped in a catch-22. It had been made clear to me, through Scripture and the Church, that God did not want me as I was. Even though I had surrendered previously to the idea of grand reshaping in order to have righteousness before Jesus, there was little questioning that I was not welcome in this kingdom of God. I had to let it go.
            This was not an easy thing for me to do. I consistently rebuked myself and this new positioning. I felt as if I had flung myself into the pit, all the time forgetting I had already been cast there by God Himself. I had to start from the beginning all over again. As if reborn, I focused on simple ways and the universal truths held by all religions. With the help of my Minster, Reverend Derek Shelley, I found a different door to knock upon. A different path to follow. I had to recognize the commentary for what it was and the message for what it is. I had to be deprogrammed in order to survive God.

"If you love something, set it free; if it comes back it's yours, if it doesn't, it never was." (Richard Bach, American Writer)


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Simple Things

Chapter Two
The Simple Things

"And when they carve my stone all they need to write on it
Is once lived a man who got all he ever wanted
Tell me somethin' who could ask for more
Than to be living in a moment you would die for"
(Living in a Moment, Ty Herndon 1996)