A lovely word, really. It is raw. Visceral. In some way, the tangible form of fate, of corporeal destiny foisted upon the unbidding. My skin has oxidized and flakes away in crackles of red and orange, and I try to plaster each piece back into place, luting the few chips that don’t slip by my fingers, that don’t crumble into powder at a touch.

It has been near a year since I last wrote anything. I am afraid to remove the rust. It is both barrier and bulwark, sanctuary and prison. The skin is pink and raw below the particles of iron. Scale or not, it remains elemental iron, strong, or that is what I tell myself. I know better but I am scared to molt, to molt the tarnish, to face who I am, who life makes me… no, who life makes me choose to be.

It has been a long 7 months that I have been on disability, and things seem to worsen by the day. I am tired, so very tired. I can neither abide the rusting of my body nor the removal of the same rust.

Pain. It is all pain.

There is no refuge from it. It is as one who leaps under an overhang to flee the rain, only to find that the overhang is a cloud, gravid with a deluge greater than the open air. And yet, somehow the shelter demands us rampart in cognitive dissonance to the torrent beating upon our back, disallowing us to accept that a haven is more treacherous an option by mere virtue that it is a haven, despite not functioning as one.

The rust has yet to overtake my mind, but I can sense it nearby, grating edges, sandy and sharp against my thoughts. Who? Who will scrub it clean if, when, it rots my senses?

Just a day. An hour. A moment. Free of pain. A chance to gasp without my lungs filling with iron fragments. God is never so near…

A Disappearing Act

Well, it has certainly been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. Truthfully, it has been a rough (almost) six months since I last wrote anything. My health has worsened from what was already rather terrible. Mentally, there has been a thick fog casting my mind in shadows that refuse to be dispelled, turning any light I find against itself.

What kind of future can I hope for? It is hard enough to remember what I did the day before: how can I hope to write when all the words that tickled my mind are now beyond my reach? I lose my thoughts in the fog any time I try to venture into it, finding myself with two paragraphs, lost halfway through the next sentence. Where was I heading with this? What was, am, I trying to say?

If I were being honest, I would say that I’m scared. Scared of not just being unable to be a writer but scared that I don’t have much time left. There is so much I want to do.

Resignation threatens to overtake me at every moment. I feel trapped. Helpless.

All that said, I know that I am not invisible. God sees me. He listens to me, to my prayers, to the prayers those who love me offer. What is there but to trust Him more? Every day, just a little bit more…

Fiat Lux

Light. Let there be light. Fiat lux.

At His word, there was light. That would dispel the darkness. And so there was light.

Then, He made us. And then, there was darkness again. Darkness within us, that was not easily dispelled.

Created light was not enough. His own Light was the only thing that could cast out the shadows. This Light, the darkness could not overcome it; it shines within the darkness. No more would the sun be our light by day, no more the moon and stars by night. He would be our Light eternal.

Now, we who bear His Light are asked to shine. But we choose to gather our light with light, and watch as shadows gather about the world. Lights are not meant to be gathered but rather spread to dispel the most amount of darkness to their utmost. No one places two lamps side-by-side. Except us, Christians.

Maybe it is harder to shine when you know that you are the only one lighting up a particular area. That is a lot of pressure. Or maybe we have fallen in love with our own kind of light, and so we would rather just look at light like ours rather than guide those who do not shine. Or could it be that we are lazy, that it isn’t always comfortable being different from other people, taking the high road, being kind to the unkind?

Or maybe our light isn’t light at all but darkness.

Could it be that we cannot shine in the darkness because we bear light in name but not in truth? Or perhaps we once did but we abandoned it. What greater darkness is there than the shadow which once shined? Could that be why our churches look more like social clubs than instruments, families, of God? Where we go to have fun and gossip and talk Christ on Sundays while we live Judas throughout the week?

We need fellowship. But the world needs us. And we need to find a balance of sharing the light of Christ and replenishing our spirits. Ultimately, Christ is enough though. No person can help us to shine more than the one who created the Light. Shine for Him, and you will never find yourself short of Light.

A world of black and white

Silver is my favorite color. It is the color of moonlight whispered upon water crests, the smell of tangy steel, the tintinnabulation of Christmas music and charity. It is gray if gray could shine.

Such thoughts would lead me to think that gray ought to be the world’s least favorite color. It prefers a world of extreme binaries, simplicity at its worst. Nuance that glimmers? Never. Matted white, dull black. There is no room for hue or saturation or luminosity. No room for color.

That is not to say that I don’t understand such individuals and their desires. Binaries are simple. They remove thinking and place all moral judgements upon the concept of the other. Me, black. Them, white. Them, black. Me, white. Anyone who is not us is them, and anyone who is them is not good because they are not us but them. It sounds a bit maddening but one could understand most political arguments and views by throwing away their rose-colored glasses and putting on sunglasses with one missing lens.

Let’s replace the colorful language for more colorful, and significant, language. Red, conservative, Republican, bad. Blue, liberal, Democrat, good. Red, conservative, Republican, good. Blue, liberal, Democrat, bad. Ah. Now that looks like a more familiar argument for us Americans. The problem is that it isn’t just a political party that you are disagreeing with. You are demonizing around one-half of the population of 300 million plus humans. You are dismissing their views, their values, their reasons — some of which may be good(!) — as utter trash. They are evil and stupid and illogical, and you are the paragon of goodness and reason and intelligence.

Anyone who knows me, and knows this blog, will not be surprised by this next statement: you are a moron if you think this way. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or Republican, believer or atheist: you are an absolute, troglodytic lackwit. If you cannot comprehend, or at least attempt to, you deserve no voice in any sensible conversation.

I’m tired of the utter nonsense I have heard non-stop since Trump got elected. From both sides. You are both buffoons; please shut up.

I dislike Trump immensely, but, if you choose to close your eyes as to why he won, it may happen again, or, while more poetically delightful though more terrible, you will vote for a person of your own party who will do and act the same. It is sad that as an anarchist I have to watch all this lunacy continue. Then again, it also makes my argument and case seem a bit more sound.

Politics aside, and I alluded to it earlier, the view of black and white goes much further. At the base level, we see it in its most insidious form of racism. It continues on up to thought-policing and international conflicts. Never before has the quaint aphorism of needing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes been so needed in our world.

While we are busy condemning each other over the most asinine trivialities, while we masturbate to our own selfies and claim to be morally righteous in the midst of a circle jerk of fatuity, even while ignoring the planks in our eyes, a world weeps, cries out for help. Yes, the terms I just used are strong and possibly offensive. But maybe it will help someone wake the hell up. The world burns about us. Free speech dies alongside thousands of children. They die from neglect and negligence while our watchmen watch themselves.

The apocalypse is always talked about as if it were a bad thing. I’m not so sure anymore. At least, I could find a bit of silence.

Fully human

Human. The word carries so many connotations and meanings. Human, saint. Human, sinner. Human, monster. Human, hero. If you ask a hundred people what it means to be human, you would most likely receive a hundred answers.

For me, being fully human means feeling the breadth and depth of emotions. And not just the happy ones. All of them.

I want to laugh and smile and cry and rage and grieve. I want to feel like the only person in the entire world and to feel like no one. I want to be hated, to be loved, to be missed and forgotten. I want to get lost in thought and to live in the moment. I want to believe that there is nothing worthwhile in this world and that everything has a beauty its own. I want to shake the heavens and sleep late.

There is no life that I want to live more than a fullness of each and every dichotomous feeling. Each one brings a greater fullness to the other. The sun darkens the rain even as the rain illuminates the sun. So many try to avoid the rain, and so many miss out on what it means to be human.

Comfort is not human. It is animalic. All animals seek comfort. They are sorrow averse. Humans are the only ones who may find some sense, some fulfillment, some joy in pain. Ah. Now, I sound like Frankl, which is hardly a bad thing.

To feel is to live. Feelings, with meaning, give us the humanity we tacitly claim. That we actively try to avoid.

Taking the name of Christ

When we call ourselves Christians, we acknowledge that we follow Jesus and the life He set out for us. Well, we acknowledge that we will try our best to follow Him. We’re human after all, and there has never been, nor will ever be, a human who could or can fully embody the Christian ideals. Just the same, by taking His name, we also take responsibility for our actions.

In the American Church, though I assume such things are ubiquitous and quotidian, I have taken note of a particularly vile practice. Namely, Christians who like to profess their love for another in Christ’s name while subsequently being un-Christlike. That is not to condemn those same people for being human. I am human as well, and, all too often, which would be ever, I am un-Christlike. The problem is in the invocation of Christ.

We, Christians, ought to give Him the glory when we do good. If we truly do anything worthy and good in this world, taking the glory for ourselves would be silly. None of us were, are, good without Him. But it should be considered anathema to ever justify our misdeeds by the same Christ.

And that is exactly what we do when we invoke His name before acting contrary to His teachings. For all the verbal frippery, what is essentially being said could be distilled into “I’m a Christian and I want you to know that because it is easier to tell you rather than actually living it because I’m about to do the opposite of what a Christian should do.” It is what I call the ‘Christ-but’ statement. If you say ‘but’ immediately following a positive profession of Christ — most often of Christ’s love being one and the same as your own — you are acknowledging that Christ asks differently of us, which shows a consciousness of what faith demands of us, but a choosing to do the wrong thing, whatever it may be.

This is a brand new, definitely not centuries-old, certainly-not-in-the-Bible thought: our actions account for our faith more than our words. If anything, be wary of the Christian who beats their breast with shouts and warcries of faith. If you have to wear a crucifix necklace, if your car has more Ichthys fishes than lights,  if you have to tell people that you’re a Christian, then maybe you aren’t living it very well.

So what do we do then? Well, how about we just stop the Christ-but statements? Then, after we have a moment of humanity, how about we try to find reconciliation, whether it is our fault or not? None of us are going to stop being human, but we can stop pantsing Jesus in front of crowds by name-dropping Him immediately preceding such moments.

Poemetry: Stargazer

Turn off the daylight

and dream with me a moment.

Stay with me in the moonlight,

silver and frozen.

By the stars, we’ll sigh and sleep

beneath the skies soft and deep,

in the field where we first met.

Smile into my eyes,

brush your fingers through my hair,

curl into me warm and tight

in the chilled black air.

 Be my wife and marry me,

love me for eternity,

and accept this ring of jet.

Poemetry: Jesus’ Vandals

From his Head, they stole the crown of thorns,

replaced with barbed wire and grafted horns.

From His hands, they stole the holes where nails held true

and replaced them with two cans of chew.

From His feet, they stole Galilee’s waters

and replaced them with french fries and whoppers.

Who might these villainous vandals be?

Why, brothers and sisters, can you not see

that these villainous vandals are you and me?

A Symphony

Yesterday, I attended the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Chopin’s Second Concerto and Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony. First, I must touch upon a truly virtuosic performance in Chopin. Yuliana Avdeeva, first prize winner of the Chopin International in 2010, more than showcased her mastery of Chopin. I had box seats directly behind where she was playing and so had a full view of her hands. She glided jointlessly between frenetic energy and graceful swaths of gossamer. I have never seen such finesse regarding Chopin, caressing the emotions endowed into his scores while also taming the fury of the technical grand jetés and grand pliés. Simply put, she is the best pianist I have ever seen and heard. All the more, I look forward to seeing Ms. Argerich perform live next March.

With all that, you would think Rachmaninoff was overshadowed. It was, however, a piece that struck me at the most right of times, when the notes could seep through my skin and rupture the veins. The notes matched a progression of events in my life, placed me on the shoulders of the fourth movement to carry me into the next stage.

The piece begins ominous and baleful with a fullness of what is best described with the lovely, Russian untranslatable, toska. For the unfamiliar, the word carries a width and breadth of meanings, all of them culminating in a deep, spiritual anguish. There is a disquietude in this anguish, a sprout of unrest growing in the shadow of a gravestone. For me, it was the loss of a… friendship? No, that doesn’t sound right, but I’m unsure of what else to call it. In any case, the toska resonated with what I had just been through regarding the loss.

Rachmaninoff then moves into the second movement which explodes with optimism and hope. Gone is the pain and brooding of the past. Somehow, following my loss, I felt invigorated, renewed. Maybe it was the adrenaline or the words spoken, but I felt stronger than I had in a long time.

Strength gained in such a way does not, however, last very long. In the third movement, a beautiful and romantic and, above all, wistful melody takes over the strings. It is sweet and melancholy without drooping into bitterness. It was in this state that I found myself at this time. I miss her, miss the person she is, miss our conversations. Tears frosted my eyes and I fought furiously to swipe them away as Rachmaninoff’s strings caused my reminiscing to deepen. And yet, I too feel no bitterness. That hurt has faded into fond memories, softened by time and rain.

Here is where Rachmaninoff, whom I already had great respect for, wrenches my spirit from the gutter of sorrow into the resolve of God. The fourth movement begins with a hearty chortle of strings before dissolving into quiet will. Here, Rachmaninoff share a moment of faith. Faith that God is not bereft of the promised hope. Hope that God has deigned to separate the future from the past, and that the future can mend what the past has rent. This faith and hope bursts into certitude in how best to move forward, and that, no matter the outcome, what is to come will be worth living for. My faith was unshaken from the ache and sorrow that ensued, but my heart was crushed. In the midst of it, it lingered in that blackened morass we call grief. From the confident resolution of the finale, Rachmaninoff exhorted me in a musical-notation equivalent to Galatians 6:9. I will not grow weary of doing good.

So it was that I left the symphony, stronger and enriched. So too was it that Ms. Avdeeva’s beautiful performance could not top a tale of my own recent past and subsequent future. Regardless even of my soul’s reverberations with the score, it was exceedingly beautiful. It blows my mind that so much of Rachmaninoff’s music was held with disdain by his contemporaries, even the great Stravinsky. Just the same, I see the corollary in my own life. Why should I care what others say of me? I know who I am. I know what I do. My heart is sure, supported by my faith in Christ and the spirit He gave me. Now, to wait and hope.

Matters of the heart

Today, I went on my first hike in over 6 months since getting Lyme disease. While all too often it is temporary, I feel pretty well. Physically anyway.

I make the distinction because someone dear to me and I parted on not so happy terms yesterday. In particular, it would seem some kindnesses I offered were misconstrued for having ulterior motives. I can’t even be angry about the doubt. Many times have I been hurt and because of that I question other people’s motives all the time.

In reality, only I know that I acted out of compassion rather than selfishness or expectation. I check my motives before everything I do, lest I be a hypocrite, though we all end up being one at some time. Even more, when questioned, I search through every bit of my being to ensure that if spiritual weeds have appeared that I may remove them, destroy them. And I have been plumbing my soul since the moment of challenge.

What I have found through the years is that such secondary searches rarely bare fruit. Since becoming a Christian, my heart condemns any misguided actions quickly, and I find that I am unable to argue against it. Right now, my heart feels clear. Not even the slightest weed breaking the surface of the soil.

It is strange to say that I have a peace about it. But I do. Though only insomuch as I know that I did no wrong. Not that it matters. The person is gone. Not coming back. And that gives me no peace, nor does the thought that someone dear to me thought I acted in my own interest rather than theirs.