An Arguable Truth

Unmistakably Living

I am hypnotized by blue skies. I am cold beer at noon. I am fire, and in the other hand, I am ice. Somehow, I am holding the two together. And neither is reduced by the presence of the other one. I am scared by my own happiness. To possess a thing so precious. As a smile. I am afraid of what it speaks. To others. Who will believe contentment makes me weak. Drunk. Perceptible. And I am. But I don’t want them to know I am.

Flowers that bloomed and wilted in fields never witnessed by the feet of men or women.
I am the best water you have ever tasted. Pouring from a permanent spring in the mountains. Every drop. Wasted.

Sometimes when I eat good food, I taste my neighbor’s hunger soon after. Call it guilt. In my gut. There are some essentials I don’t want, unless my neighbor has them also. But if my neighbor wants what is mine in spite of my need. I will be war. I am the answer to that ancient prayer, something something or other about how we treat one another. It is not axiom.
It is not advice. It is basic, universal, physical and primeval law.

This entire experience we call life has one clear singular inarguable purpose. Balance.
It doesn’t make sense if it was meant to be all good and this is what it is. And sitting where I am right now, though I know it will change somehow, I can not tolerate the thought it is all bad. Even if it’s just me. This child. That dog. Sitting in this little well insulated box on the edge of a great glacial lake. Enjoying the long awaited sun. This scene means the universe can’t be all bad. Or all wrong.

I farm the fabric of the existence. I am the great great great grandchild of two polar opposites. Inexorably attracted. We are all what happened when they finally banged together. We’re the universe’s passion child. We don’t make sense. Because we’re screaming at the top of our lungs love babies. Illegitimate children. And yet, here we are, unmistakably living.

I know I am.

Marbles

It is snowing in April. Last time I saw snow this late in the season I was a teenager. Hiking across Roan Mountain. We woke up in an old fire-watch cabin converted into a simple shelter. With a loft. It was the last weekend in April. Of course we had to sleep up top, and woke to snow on our sleeping bags. This time is a little different. I’m currently in my early thirties, toe rocking my two month old son, a sort of mountain all on his own, watching flurries of snow descend like white hot hornets in waves breaking before a double layered windowpane.

I’m not going to lie, I still woke up excited. Every time. I wake up and the world is clothed by the crusty white eyelid of winter. Whole great lakes lie like frozen teardrops, wind lashes dark tree filtered horizon. All that milk chocolate churned up by cream lipped waves, all along the shore like lips. Something about this temperamental weather lends itself to similes. Pardon me for not holding back. But the whole scene is like being inside a marble looking out.

And we were going to hike in it. Through it. Wind building its own structures out of snow, men and boys stomping over drifts three feet between trees in places. We climbed down onto the road in Carver’s Gap, which was completely frozen, and I ate it. All of it. Bit off so hard I actually cracked my Nalgene water bottle. You can ask anyone who was there. I was finished. In the moment, and for good, even though I hiked the next fifteen miles, I really didn’t. I was drug along in a sort of social stretcher formed of positive reinforcement and statement of base facts. I was rocked into stasis, and sustainable forward movement, by people who, in that moment, were far far more put together than I was.

It went from novelty to reality on that trip. Snow. Between here and there. Where I’m sitting now, under siege by an army of angry water in varying forms. Navy archers behind a cavalry of seething aqua and a tooth bearing beige wearing infantry up front, eating the shoreline foot by foot, entrenching and digging their way into this place. Where I am. Toe-rocking my own little Roan Mountain to sleep watching it snow this far into spring. Typing. Drinking black coffee.

Not as much as you might think has changed between then and now.

Mostly. I’m just not so surprised when a scene I was happy to wake up and see first thing eventually also makes me slip and fall.

There are a lot of experiences that are really quite dangerous.
That are also inexplicably, breathtakingly, treacherously.
Beautiful.

Now take your breath back. And brace yourself.
Marbles weren’t made just to be beautiful.

No Soft-Handed Storytellers

As somebody with trust issues, I interview very well.
I even think it’s a little cute. How much people believe in words.
Strung neat together to form corded little stories. Anecdotes.
That will never be corroborated. This is unexplored territory.
The realm between true and false is trust.
Questions we’ll never ask. Answers we don’t want.

Trust is the bias that binds quilts together.
Lighter than a pound of feathers.
Laid just right, set tight, it will be like two pieces of fabric
from two entirely separate things had never ever been apart.

Rewoven into one. Just a little later on. Stories are like that.

Threads in themes zig zag about seams.
Knitting all these separate scenes into strings
and then blocks
then a thousand strips of cloth.
And you’ve got a story.

Part shirt scraps. Part dish towel and bed sheets sewed on.
Until you have this Frankenstein of information
from so many separate sources somehow
all spliced beautifully, tragically, cohesively,
functionally into a single body. One form.

And you can always tell a good story.
Because people will come after it
with lit torches and pitchforks.

Or you could do a great interview.
And have someone pay you to write.
Sow stories like seeds into garden rows
and cleared out animal stalls
and the very smiles on people’s faces.
With a pencil that also erases.

Storytellers. Trust issues. Minimum wage job interviews.
Scraps to pick and choose through. Just remember.
The quilts that wrap us up in warmth and trust.
The stories we have grown to love.
Were someone else’s trash.
Before they ever came to us.

Screwed

I like repairing broken things. But you can only drive so many screws into a board before it’s no good. Even density, you see, grows these twisted fibers. Like hair. Matted and dreaded and locked into elongated tension upward. Hammers and nails are kind of caustic measures actually. Not all wood can take that sort of abuse just to be affixed to a particular use. Also, I’ve split oak rails that bent nails no kidding by the dozen before I ever successfully drove one home. Not all wood is the same, because not all trees are. Not all life is. We’re all patched together popsicle sticks and hot glue just praying the wind doesn’t pick up again. Tin cans and pie pans. We’re scarecrow people. Patched and chicken pecked and weather bitten. Someone donated those mittens. Another will make these sheep into mutton. A different person will sew back on buttons to fix clothes that will never again be worn by the living.

I like repairing broken things. I’d say that just about puts me in heaven. Such is the way of the wilted world we live in. With the right perspective, and I mean true right, not feels right, not might be. But a truly righteous perspective, we are in heaven. Because the very nature of such a thing would mean some concept of balance. A counter. An experience we all encounter. Hell. Right here asking heaven for its hand in marriage. We don’t know what we want. There’s no heaven or hell outside of one’s dependence on the other. And I want nothing to do with either.

I like repairing broken things. So I’m screwed.

Fixed.
Exactly where I belong.

Only where I am needed.

Terrible things

I said this thing to Ashley the other day. Talking about our son. I said you take Roan so personally, and I take him so plurally. Every sound he makes moves her. And if he is upset, she can not settle. I admit, I laugh at him in his little tantrums a little too often. But I look into his eyes, the only part of him that really doesn’t appear all that infantile, and I see a million other sons. And daughters. And naturally, a lot of parents take their kids so seriously they never get around to pluralizing the experience. Recognize it has a unifying effect on the people who have been affected. It’s social adhesive. Procreation. A biologic gauntlet, that in this particular instance, we sort of tripped over. And thank God for that.

But I can’t look at my son and not see my society. I refuse to fail to imagine the world he will come into knowing. A world that seeks to make a product out of him. Exactly as it has successfully done to me. And I desire nothing other for my son than for him to be free.

Fully free, in the one mainstream definition we all seem to forget when we use the word politically. But economically speaking, I want my son to be free. I do not want to feed the worst impulses of my society’s fear of other societies, and fuel money into the military instead of fixing my path as a nation, so that my footsteps aren’t leaving huge indentations.

I imagine all our enemies, no matter how awful, still look at their children the way I look at Roan. I imagine if they’re fighting this hard, right or wrong, they have some powerful motivation. I don’t have to apologize for, forgive or pretend to understand them.
But if I’m ever going to end this war,
I am going to have to heavily reconsider calling them my enemy.

I have a sneaking suspicion once I do that, I’ll fix my own life in such a way
that enemy is no longer their name.

I see all that in his navy eyes. In the skeptical lines as he stares me down, typing. He likes the sounds of the keys clacking. So do I. We have that, and a whole lot more in common. We all do. We could stop right now, and lay down our arms, and pull back limbs like tortoises into all of our shells. I am speaking globally. About many nations. We are fighting unending conflicts with the exact same motivation.

I knew it the instant I held my son in my hands.
I realized the source of the fear that now rules the land.
And it is the purest love I have ever felt.

And I would do terrible things to protect it.

Jesus for Hire!

Jesus Christ has been portrayed hundreds of times across many different platforms. Television series, movies, cartoons, reenactments, and almost every form of media imaginable. Of course, over time, stories tend to get retold and gently reshaped into forms more familiar to their audience. And a Middle Eastern Jewish man gets mistaken, quite often, for a Scots-Irish, blue-eyed North American southerner. Hey. It happens. I always say, I’ve been called worse. But I must admit, I play a pretty good Jesus. And, even as a Christian, I understand how this man and people like him get made into caricatures over time. But caricatures are still enjoyable. At fairs, and events, any kind of gathering or celebration. Suddenly everyone looks to the corner of the room, and simply because of some congruence of beard, hair to the shoulder and a pleasant demeanor, everyone thinks, Jesus. It’s become a character. And a character that denotes a level of mindfulness and respect on the part of any actor who makes an attempt. And many have. To varying degrees of success. And I am joining their ranks.

 

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I play a pretty mean Jesus. Not mean mean, just dead on, laid back and sensitive, mostly smiles. I’m an actor, primarily working in historic dramas, so keeping my hair long is standard practice, and not shaving often is as well. Add a floor length robe and leather sandals, and you have your very own Jesus to attend Easter luncheon, your birthday party, youth group event, Holiday celebration or any gathering. Even if you’re not religious, maybe you just really enjoy irony. The idea of a guy who looks like the idea we have of how Jesus is supposed to look, sitting there listening while you talk politics with your peers. Any event, really, except crucifixion. I am your Jesus.

But it seems a shame to wait for every area I’m in to put on a production of Superstar, or for someone to remake The Last Temptation with anyone who in any way engenders the image of Christ.

I want to offer this character for contract. This is Jesus. Linen robes and leather sandals and long hair and dark beard. Sitting there, ineffectual, at the open bar for your wedding reception. Or showing up with baskets of candy at an Easter celebration. Or reading the lessons for a cantata or holiday service.

Even if you just want Jesus to sit there in the corner, sleepy-eyed, smiling at everyone and talking about farming.

I am the actor for you.

Oh, and a side note, literally any other biblical character as well.

Homogenization is a powerful thing.
It’d be a shame to not take advantage.

This Poem

Great big fat literature.
Grat.
Busted.
Misshapen.
No clue how that happened.
Did he really sit down to write this poem.
Heavy.
Folded.
Doubled.
Emboldened.
Ugly.
Gross.
Morose.
Struggling.

These words hold mirrors up to my face.
Crawl into bed with me.
Share my space.
Kiss my face.
Right on top of bruises.

Language uses.
Allegiances scattered.
Words don’t always choose us.
Sometimes the one who loses
wins the better pen.

Becomes a greater author.
Keeping all the grease that comes from cooking up

this big fat nasty literature.

Life is Brian

What if the revolution doesn’t have to touch the system. Finds it isn’t necessary to replace any of the words we’re currently using. What if revolution did all of its work, instead, on definitions. Let me give you an example. Our definition of the word life is insufficient. We define it like it is a state. And any of us full on the food we just ate, knows the word life doesn’t functionally describe all the work we are doing just to keep alive. Life, as far as we know it, is a process. Every human you experience is somewhere in the midst of an ongoing equation we all share in. Adding water, hopefully in the right amount, to carbon-rich nutrients, boiling in a leaky furnace we’re always working hard to regulate the temperature on. To call this massive, overlapping story some vague and singular thing, like Brian, is misleading.

I hope that example helped some. Because the point I’m making is crucial.

You haven’t done anything for Brian if you set him down on land he doesn’t own, no job, no clothes, no home, no food. You haven’t helped Brian either, if you bury him in the clogged heart of a city where anything he might eat or drink will depend on little green pieces of paper in his pocket. You see, Brian is not an isolated occurrence. Brian is actually a complex equation. Anyone who claims to create a system intended to feed and assist him would do nothing more than protect the elements of that crucial pursuit Brian is perpetually caught up in. Same as the rest of us.

Brian is all he has. Selling him the basic necessities for his own survival, is by definition, a monopoly. We don’t have to change that one. But life, on the other hand, is a definition we will need to update. Let me do that.

Life is harrowing plotline, with complex villains and heroes, the dragons that seek you and monsters for your enemies. As soon as you settle, you’ll be spurred on by hunger, and as soon as you’re sated, thirst will wrest you from your seat and set you digging wells and chasing rivers.

We’re all free. Correct? I mean, I think I read that somewhere, buried by our country’s waxing constitution. So. If we’re all free. Then I suppose society’s intention isn’t really to police human freedom. It must have been created to assist us all in the tedious writing of this complex novel we call living.

Then why does all food cost money?
Why does all water cost money?
Why is housing one of the most expensive, and essential, resources to come by?

Hmmm.

Why would society set itself up, and establish economies around selling us products
we die if we ever dared to boycott.

Some big questions there. Our definition of life should be big enough to answer at least a few of them. And we are falling short. Life is not a state of being. The same way we discuss freedom. We act like we’ll fight one war and have it for good for all our family for all eternity.

Point being, if we have the right to life, we have free and equal access to the resources essential to even beginning to sustain a state one could call alive. Nothing needs to be rewritten, or changed. No new amendments needed. It’s just that word life.

We’re too close to see it clearly.
With a little adjustment to perspective, we could all come to know life
by it’s true definition. The full meaning of the word life.
And wouldn’t you know.

It’s Brian.

Pink Sun Rising

Auburn horizons with a purple tinge.
Fields of once white snow grow colored creme de la creme.
Cinnamon trees mixed in.
White lights slow strobe on distant radio towers.

And giant concrete straws blow bubbles of steam
in long trains that fade into brown clouds.

Snow soft as down falls apart in breath.
A foot or so of depth.
Ice layer beneath that.

From so much unexpected rain.

Dropped fifty degrees.
In the short course of a single day.

And the purple horizon.
The pink sun rises.
Signifies.

The rain intends to stay.

Indistinguishable

God is a memory that predates subatomic separation.
It is preproton. Preneutron. Preelectron. It existed.
Prior to what we call the universe.

And it is or was an entity comprised of pure consciousness.
Outward. Radiating expression and thought. You were there.
What I mean when I say the word I was there. Just indistinguishable.

God is a memory, like love, of a time, for lack of a fancier term,
back when we were still all one thing. And the instance
that was once affectionately called the big bang,
was the day this solidarity was broken. Up.
Into unending electrified pieces.
Like mothers into birth.
Soldiers into battle.
Christ and his cross.

God also learned the initial crucial lesson of growth and evolution.

Sacrifice.
The first lesson of life.
How much more we can achieve if at some point we concede.
We gain more through this loss than never-ending millennia
of nothing but consumptive, hungry living.

God had everything. And nothing,
Suspended in frosty isolation. Dreaming puritanical thoughts.
No fractured reality like puzzle pieces peppered in. No equals.
No friends. No criticism. And God made a decision.
To give life a shot. It died.

And I believe in God.
I believe the universe is its corpse.
As far as life after death.
There is nothing to fear.

We already are.