Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Total Silence, Complete Dark

I like total silence. Early in the morning I like it best. No distant cars with their gently purring engines, and the swish of tires on the roadway. No hum of computers, or appliances singing through the house. No birds chirping, or voices whispering. Total silence.

To find this soundless universe I sometimes just cover my ears, but even here the sounds of my own breathing, occasionally the beating of my own heart, and the movement of my hands against the cartilage of my ears invade the noiseless universe; but these self generated sounds at least give the sense that I am alone.

I realize that evangelists and theologians have theorized that man's lonliness is one of the factors drawing the human heart towards God. This sense of lonliness in the universe is a cause for anxiety, and creates my deeper search for meaning I am told. Yet somehow I am drawn toward the silence. In a portion of every day I just want to be alone.

"Alone with God?" you ask.

No, just alone.

Perhaps this is a mild version of Job's regret that he was ever born. Maybe it is just my brief encounter with running away without having to go anywhere.

Avoidance is a major characteristic of my seasons of stress. I wonder how many people like me cover their ears just to hear the silence? If you do this go ahead and leave me a comment so that I will know that I am not alone in my little universe of loneness. Darn....there goes my theory that I really want to be totally alone.

I like complete dark too. Sometimes when my eyes are tired late at night, and bedroom still has enough light to give that gentle glow through my closed eyelids which tells me that the deep night has not come to its fullness, I cover my eyes with my hands. My eyes relax with relief in this lightless universe I create. No pinpoints of light coming through my fingers like the night stars. No barely perceptible glow like distant cities on the horizon. No deep grays, browns, or blues. I wait for the impressions of color upon my retina leaving their subtle watermark in my vision to fade away. Total dark.

Perhaps like silence, I've never met the complete dark. I visited the mighty Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, and while beneath the earth, the lights were turned off for a minute to experience complete darkness. I could not see my hands in front of my face. Was this really complete darkness, or is there something darker?

Christianity does not generally gravitate toward darkness. We compare light and darkness with truth and lies. We speak of the spirit of darkness, and the children of darkness, and contrast that to ourselves being the children of light. I realize that darkness is not a popular subject among Christian leaders through the ages. But I like the darkness.

You ask, "Are you drawing near to God in the thick darkness as Moses did?"

No, just plain darkness is what I am looking for.

Perhaps at some point I've just seen enough. Maybe this is my way of saying that I've had enough of searching for answers why, and receiving information which only deepens the mystery; and enough of seeing blessings which do not appear to match the depth of misery experienced in this world.

Perhaps this too is my brief encounter with running away at the end of the day. Do I have a gentle deathwish prodding me toward the dark and final sleep? Theologians and Psychologists say I have an innate fear of the dark sleep of death. Yet I love complete dark.

Avoidance fills my senses I suppose. I just like to be alone. Seeing no one smile. Seeing no one cry. Does anyone else cover their eyes to block out the gentle glow of light at night? Does anyone else like complete dark and search for it before sleep? If you like to be completely alone occasionally, leave a comment. Perhaps there is a twilight zone episode we can create together.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Manic Joys of Stressful Seasons

So we are now into our fourth week of watching Forrest 24 hours a day. He was hit by a car on Halloween morning, had to have a leg amputated, and had surgery on his other back leg. For the first week, his liver almost failed, and he was on his deathbed, then on the second week, he snapped out of it, and became his same old silly self.

After he came home, with the price tag of a new car, I have watched him for most of the 24 hours each day. He had to have a second surgery on his one back leg because the sutures didn't stay after the first day of recovery. So now he has a bigger cast, and it has a rounded bottom, which makes him shakey on it. Every time he goes out, we need to keep him on a sling to keep him from bouncing too hard on his back leg. So each time he stirs in the night, I am up to see how he is doing. Since Forrest has always stirred a lot at night - so do I.

Tonight April came to visit. April was the first person to help Forrest when he was hit by a car. Somehow he got up with his seriously mangled leg, and hopped to her. She was two cars behind the car which hit Forrest. She drives a trash truck, and stopped to help him. She held him, and used her hand to stop the bleeding until I arrived on the scene. She probably saved his life. In all the furious action to get Forrest to the Vet Hospital, we never actually met April, nor did we hear the story until tonight. Somehow she tracked him down at the Vet, and then found us, and wanted to come visit him.

In the midst of a series of stresses, and tragedies over the last year, meeting April seemed to bring joy to the house.

Of course, I question myself and wonder: Will the joy last for an evening, and dissipate quickly to the bland feeling which comes with discouragement? or will it prove to be one of those steps up toward normality?" (Perhaps I should have used the word normalcy, because normalcy wasn't a word until a President used it in a speech, and as we know normal doesn't exist.) Is this just the manic up of a bi-polar swing?

Over the last three weeks I have slept few hours each night working my doggy-nursing position. I am sure sleep deprivation, added to stress helps create a sense of having bi-polar disorder. Dog accidents, sickness in the family, financial stress, and naughty Christian leaders can help create stress which leads to sleep deprivation - we know here at 7 Upham Street.

I saw Elijah go from slow to happy yesterday as well. He was feeling terrible - which is common as his kidneys are failing, but he found out that it was primarily because his blood pressure was so low. That means that he had to stop taking one of his meds which is supposed to bring his blood pressure down. That was something like mildly good news, so he was happier when he came home from his Nephrologist visit. Up, down, up, down we go in this house lately.

I've never been bi-polar, although I've experienced the swings from mania to depression which mark its presence over this season of stress. I am hoping that mania, and depression are fading away into the stability of simple joy. April's visit may be a simple return to joy, but perhaps it is a mild manic swing. I'll let you know. But right now, we're smiling here at 7 Upham Street, and we are not even taking any happy meds.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Home Brew Gone Bad? gauging persecution, isolation, and a Martyr's Complex

This being my personal blog which releases the serial deconstructionist in me back upon myself it only seems right to consider whether my highbrow ideas about church life, and the state of Christianity are really just some sick Messiah Complex.

Okay my ideas about churchlife may not really be highbrow. They may actually be quite common, simple, and more like an home-brewed ale, than a expensive wine matched with the first course of a seven course meal, but that does not relieve me from the possiblility of acting all highbrow and know-it-all about my self-appointed important ideas.

Now I know a few people with Messiah Complexes. Most of them tend to have a Martyr Complex as well. Could it be that somewhere their good ideas were rejected, that they received a little abuse - perhaps even a lot of abuse? Could it be that good ideas ignored ferment, and build pressure until they bust out in a more aggressive expression? If left to ferment too long, is it possible for the expression to be more violent than it needs to be - self important, and perhaps over bitter like a bad home brew?

The Messiah Complex people I know are pastors, alcoholics, businessman, unemployed laborers, lawyers, high school dropouts, soccer moms, and society's disenfranchised. They do not fit a specific demographic, but they do all have ideas which carry some sense of urgency, and they view their ideas as under-utilized, and ignored.

Of course, I am not sure how one personally discovers whether their ideas are revolutionary or simply insane. I am not sure that Martin Luther felt any different about his ideas than Rasputin, DeTorquemada, or the countless mad monks who have filled the hills of history.

I do know this: I need to be careful about how I think about what I think. I am convinced that church as usual is not the way to go. Having been on the receiving end of abuse in denominational activity, I am convinced that something needs to change in the circles I had a part of over the last twenty years. I have seen the hypocrisy of the people who speak in the name of unity, and carry the small knife which gets buried deep in the back. I have seen Christian leaders nod in approval to ideas which I have presented, only to have them turn and treat those same ideas as heretical spewings.

Yet I have to ask myself, "What is the difference between good ideas gone bad, and truly revolutionary thinking?"

I am sure that I have had enough persecution, and general trouble, with a small degree of isolation (especially now while I help lil' ol' Forrest to recover) to allow the Martyr's Complex to ferment in my heart, and even develop to the Messiah Complex. Yet I am hopeful that in questioning this I am knocking myself back to a humble position, and avoiding thinking more of myself than I ought to. Perhaps this will allow the yeast of my thinking to controllably ferment.

Jesus was a Rebel, and so must I be. Yet his home-brew has lasted for centuries. It has not gone bitter. It still fills the heart with laughter and joy. I am not sure I have His recipe, or his skills in my batch.

Lord, help my revolutionary thoughts to brew a fine deep red ale, and not a nasty little home brew no one else can stomach.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Feeling Like Fumi: The Struggle of What to do with our Troubles

Is it sane to think that the troubles we go through may actually help someone somewhere sometime? I hope so. Paul says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

So perhaps feeling a bit like Fumi is okay. So click on the link, and watch this cool short animation.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tension and Excitment: The Revolution Starts Now?

Today I received a letter from the old Denominational gang. We sent a letter asking for them to reevaluate their previous decisions, and look fairly at all the evidence - which they previously neglected to do. Their letter said in business like terms, 'we will review this request.'

Meanwhile back on the blogfarm, I have been listening to a song repeatedly, like a four year old. The song is "The Revolution Starts Now" by Steve Earle. In fact, I will pause for a moment to light up my iTunes, and play it while I type.

"buh, nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh...I was walking down the street, in the town where I was born..."

Okay I'm back - kind of.

"The revolution starts here..."

I was nervous to open the letter, because we've been through Hell in the last year. The Wall Street Journal did not have the space to even touch the depth of our tension, and struggle. But after reading the short, (terse perhaps?) response from a denominational VP, I began to get excited as the day progressed.

Pause again - I've been typing slowly, because I was singing along with Steve, and now like the four year old, I must restart the song. Tom Petty is cool, but not revolutionary enough for the moment.

"buh, nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh..."

"I was moving to the beat, that I never felt before..."

Okay, I'm back again.

Is this some weird form of mental disease, or was I born for revolutionary activity? Do I enjoy pain, or is my sense of adventure overheightened by a love for adrenaline? I should be mad, sad, or tense that this might start up again, but for some reason I am feeling excitement. What's up with that?.

"Yeah, the revolution starts now - in your own backyard, in your own home town...."

That's it. I can't type anymore, but I can replay the song a third time.

"buh, nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh...I was walking down the street, in the town where I was born. I was moving to the beat, that I never felt before. So I opened up my eyes, and I took a look around. I saw it written 'cross the sky, 'The Revolution starts now.'"

By the way - Forrest is home, and appears to be coming along as a three-legged Greyhound. What a tough little guy. He's my inspiration.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tragedy and Twitching

My buddy Forrest got out of the gate on Halloween morning. Some one left it open, and I did not see that the gate was not latched. He got hit by a car on North Street, and now he is in doggy intensive care.

He had one leg amputated, and another had some surgery. After all this work, we are not sure he is going to make it. So we spend a few hours each day sitting with him in the vet clinic.

This is the second dog in as many years to be hit by a car. Annie was killed right in front of me a little over two years ago.

When Annie died on the street as I knelt in front of her, I could not sleep for three days. Each time my eyes shut, and I began to fade off, the scene suddenly replayed in my mental vision so clearly that it seemed real, and I startled suddenly awake. Sometimes still I remember that event and I will quickly blink, or perhaps even jerk mildly.

This must be a mild version of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, or perhaps even Tourette Syndrome.

Forrest's recent tragedy has caused this response to increase a bit.

Bev and I have been crying periodically throughout the day, and are perhaps a little distant to our friends. I suppose that comes with the emotional, and financial stress of seasons like this.

I am twitching less over the treachery by my Christian brethren last year. I am sure that Suzanne Sataline and The Wall Street Journal Article about "Befriending Witches Still a Problem in Salem" was instrumental in helping that twitch, but now I have an old twitch renewed by a recent tragedy.

I hope that in Heaven there will be no more twitches, just as there will be no more tears.