i think trust must be
that someday i will be
good ways off (a
good time hence),
it was all different.
we’ll see how this goes. whimsy often betrays.
last night i was certain
that i wanted
some scorching black drink brewed
fresh and only for me
and when it was done and
all the grounds were coursed through and
all the oils and sacred secrets had been
sucked out i
poured it into a cup and
set it somewhere new, different,
heat scores and
time wears and apparently
together they conspire to draw
rings in unsuspecting innocent wood
at last when
undeft fingers clumsily looped into
ceramic rings to
rescue planks of ancient trees it was
and already carelessness had
spent its fortune on
making some mark that
no one but me would
i hoped, more
dearly than i hope that
euclid was right, and that five hundred
billion years hence no one
will have heard my name
it’s been a while. challenges are welcome. please, shout to the heavens the horrors of this poem. it will, in all honesty, be appreciated.
Fiction has long been a part of my life. There have been books historically which i have read and re-read incessantly throughout my life. When i was a child and a teenager, most of these tales took the form of fantasy or science fiction. Even fancied myself a bit of a fantasy writer at one point, and i still feel as though i could set down a rather rousing epic if i put my mind and (more importantly) my heart to it. Some period of time into my early adulthood i started shifting my reading and writing interest to more “literary” fiction, whatever that nomenclature signifies. i have begun and left unfinished no fewer than five novels, having never caught sufficient steam or momentum, or perhaps having never had the requisite discipline, to see these projects through to completion. My reading in this arena has been, for a time, rather diligent at least, and there is certainly a tremendous and nameless appeal that the fictive voice holds in my heart. It is not out of the realm of possibility that i may at some point dig up from under the earth of time and business these efforts and breathe life into them anew.
Poetry has also competed for dominance in my aesthetic sensibilities, and though i have not quite had the patience to study it as thoroughly as i ought, there are still times when it seems that the only mechanism which will do a subject justice is the poem, thus as you can see i have written my fair share of them. Most of them are at the very least elementary, and some even go so far as to be downright terrible and asinine.
Recently, however, despite my traditional attachment to these slightly more artistic forms of communication, i have begun to suspect that perhaps my gift really lies in the area of non-fiction. i have never written very much of it, save on this particular blog, and even though the bulk of my posts here can be classified as non-fiction, they still feel fictitious, at least in the sense that they are driven by narrative rather than by research. i must confess i owe at least a portion of this suspicion to my wife, who first pointed out that she found my non-fiction to be my best work. Lately i have toyed with idea of working more exclusively in this domain, and it is starting to gain sway for me. i suppose what always steered me away from writing non-fiction was a lack of qualification. i am an expert in precisely zero subjects, save perhaps the subject of myself. But perhaps this is enough. Perhaps there is enough of a story in my life – and i suspect there is, not because i have lived a particularly adventurous or meaningful life, but because i have lived a particularly rebellious one – to merit its writing. After all, God has written a rather amazing story already, having provided for me time and time again despite my unwillingness to receive that provision. i think perhaps i will stay away from fiction, at least for the time being – God is, after all, a better story-teller than i will ever be – and stick strictly to writing about my experiences with Him and the recovery He has seen fit to mercifully bring into my life. Maybe in this, at last, after a year of dabbling in essentially every variety of writing and succeeding at none, i have found my calling. Time however, will tell.
The well-known adage “truth is stranger than fiction” has a less-familiar second clause, which i find even more profound than the first. “It is because,” Twain says, “fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” If you had asked me 30 months ago what i dreamed would be “possible” for the coming years, for my personal and spiritual life, for my career, and for my marriage, i would not have been able to even begin to guess at the current shape each of those elements has in my life. i believe that the purpose of writing is to provide insight and wisdom into the life of another, and by doing so, be a force for peace, for reparation, for reconciliation. Fiction gives us a certain view of truth through its exploration of possibilities, and poetry another through its propensity for ambitious metaphor, and both can provide some measure of universality, and thus each may, in part, accomplish the objective of establishing commonality. But God has written a truth, full and glorious, that no human word can sufficiently capture, and in my case, as it is for many of us, that truth is more compelling and more exhilarating, and thus ultimately vastly more unifying, than any story or device which we have ever conceived of or read. These stories, our stories, with all of their ugly and rambunctious and supercilious components, are the stories which people most need to hear. These are the stories that will heal, because ultimately they are not about us at all. Tell yours, and i will do mine.
These words stumble out slowly, like 2 am bar patrons, steeped in a forgetfulness wrought by intentional neglect. Productivity is always the fruit of a well cultivated garden, and this one has gone unweeded and unkempt for weeks.
Watched a movie the other day (which is the lazy man’s reading). Protagonist was a 30-year old stoner who still lived with his mother. Believe it or not, this actually appeals to me: there is a certain muck of the effortless life that one can rest in, and though it is sad and empty it is also safe and unburdensome. On some level, it’s not as bad as it seems. After all, the struggle to find meaning perpetuates, whether one is by worldly standards a success or a failure. If you don’t believe me, read Ecclesiastes.
Rambling, i know. i’ll get to it soon. This is what happens when you don’t write for a while: your efforts become unfocused, undisciplined, scattery blasts hoping that what they lack in precision they make up for in force, unaware that in many cases, precision is force.
There’s some saying about idleness. Devil’s workshop or somesuch. Chicken or egg situation here, as i see it. Not sure whether idleness gives room for the devil to work, or whether he uses anxiety and uncertainty to produce idleness. “Produce idleness” is a stupid phrase, oxymoronic and imprecise. A month ago i would have cared about that.
The question, i guess, is whether idleness is the root or the fruit. This is always the question, with any behavior. My guess is fruit, since it corresponds to the assertion that productivity is also the fruit, although one could argue that they are somewhere in the middle. Branches or vines that carry (or, more often, don’t) fruit, dependent on nourishment themselves but not ends, not terminal. It makes little sense to think of productivity as a fruit, since by its very definition it must produce in order to be itself. But just as it is not terminal, it is not original either. i know this because my own has been deeply pruned lately.
Lots of things i could blame. Sleep. Work. Nice weather. Video games. It has been mostly a question of energy. I have put more into work lately, and God has seen fit for a time to bless this work with success, and my store of energy is not infinite. Not really sure how people manage to have hobbies, jobs, and children all at once. Seems to me that even trying to juggle two of the three is a mere impossibility, and for many of us even one demands more of our energy than we have. Nice weather prompted me to spend more time outside recently. Can’t argue that this is a bad thing, really. I’m pretty pasty if i don’t, and it has been my only relief from idleness.
Video games. Wish i knew what it was about these that appealed to me so strongly. i suspect it is the element of the vicarious. Somehow by being even more idle, even more unproductive, i can still experience the thrill of being a hero, eat from the gift-basket of dedication, all without ever putting on pants. In the last few weeks i have made 20 million dollars, won both the World Series and the PGA Championship, and slain at least half a dozen dragons. What have you done?
Company coming tonight, which meant last night was cleaning night. Somehow the cleaning itself is not only not miserable, but almost enjoyable. The hardest part is getting up off of the sofa and getting started. Once that mountain is climbed, the actual activity is mostly descent, a slow stroll down into a lush meadow.
We’ve given it the innocent, innocuous name sleep. i guess this is because rheum is too abrasive a term. My eyes have been full of it lately, and it takes an hour or two before i can get them clear. Calling it sleep distracts us from the fact that it is actually mucus, and an overflow of this into our eyes usually indicates that we are congested, even infected. No wonder we changed its name.
Waking happens in an instant, and yet not. I am awake now, and shaking the congestion. It will be sometime, though, before i can see clearly again.
not every thought is destined for
setting down firmly in
carefully selected words
trimmed and pruned for
devastating effect, growth,
titanic impact; and though they
cry out for enumeration, explication,
most will remain unspoken,
never leaving generating home — pent,
rapt, glued to muted televisions, slouching
permanently, sadly down on
overworn inadequate couches, and will only always
wonder what it might be like
to have a voice, to echo in
canyons and open spaces, to be
trapped by pinna, resonated by
malleus and incus, to shake loose
the untilnow passive fluids in
semicircular canals, and to at last
electrify in a cochlea, transmit through
axons and dendrites into web of
gray matter, and there translate into
the quickening pulse of
someone else’s heart —
Best i can muster right now. Forgotten but not gone. – r.e.w.
for no other reason than because i must, i begin writing (what i see, the content) lest atrophy and wither these muscles (digital, cranial) that scream out for use. he is awake next to me now, who so recently slept comfortably, unabashedly, in daylight and storelight, in the old musted likelynotcleaned bookstore chair. i cannot do this, midday as he: sinus and snore forbid the act, engagement bars the attempt. he though (now contentedly reading), fearless, qualmless, appoinmentless, scheduleless, can. i am fascinated, fastened as i am to wheres and nows and thingsimustdo. a sigh escapes him, and these can say wordless so much. might be it speaks of comfort: old joints, bones finding settlement, peace in worn and weathered upholstery. could it be post-work, post-effort, cramped lungs spilling out muddy and carbony, yearning to be oxygened, replenished again. or it perhaps is (as this is, this whatever, this thinkless, imprecise utter wander) a breathful, mournful expression of abject need: perhaps it cries of want, of frustration, of doubt, of hunger, an anxious heart expiring out, expunging in airy gasp a manifesto of whatwemustbecome. i, still clinging to last green branches of youth’s autumn, and he having long ago forsaken any claims to such: perhaps there is more between us than first i guessed. now, for no other reason than because i must, i entertain this philosophy (what i otherwise feel, think, believe allowed to peaceably die) lest develop and flourish these sensations (difference, solitude) that are, at root, lies made of earth: cold statues left from ancient craft of man, features worn by time and wind and all corruption, no longer suitable as works of art, unique, brilliant and new, but rendered now hideous and unintelligible, exposed by erosion for what they truly are: simulacra, stiff and grey and dead.
looking up from this i know i must reach out to meet, shake hands, introduce: but his eyes have closed again, lids drawn curtains shutting me out from domiciles within.
Each morning, almost without fail, i see here at the local shop at least one group of men meeting. Sometimes there are two, sometimes more. Sometimes they are older, sometimes younger. Almost universally however, regardless of background, motivation, economic status, or any measurable demographic, they are meeting here to encourage one another in the faith. i have never seen, to my knowledge, men meeting together intentionally to tear one another apart. It seems a rather dull and obvious observation, but whether or not we know it, men need one another if the walk through life is to be successful. Whether it is genuine psychology or just a popular conception, masculinity is often associated with rugged self-reliance and stoic independence. It is the woman, popularly, not the man who asks for directions when lost. i can say with no qualms that i don’t give a hang about common notions of masculinity. i need others in my life. Badly. On my own, i am pretty much inadequate to every task.
When i first moved to Austin, i left almost every friend i had behind in Houston. Granted, it wasn’t too long before i met a few people, mostly through work, but though i got along perfectly fine with them (when i wasn’t being a jerk), one cannot make life-long friends in a day. Those who remained in Houston had been my friends for years: we had gone to school together, and weathered many a storm at each others’ sides. Obviously i did not have this shared history with my new friends, so while for a season they were the people with whom i spent my time, as soon as my work situation changed, so did my friendships. I have changed jobs three times now since moving here, and the number of people from each of those previous jobs with whom i am still in contact is miniscule. it was a very long time before i began to develop connections that were as profound as they had been in my hometown, and when i finally did, i wasn’t even ready for it.
Recently, however, i have been living in quite a wealth of friendships, and interestingly it has only happened because it was not the objective. It is really no trick to make friends when all you care about is making lots of friends. It is another thing entirely for people to treat you as a friend even after you have been deceptive and hurtful to them. As many of you know, there have been some rather rough times in my life, mostly self-inflicted. i had many “friends” during those times, people who i saw every day, hung out with at every opportunity, people who i thought would be in my life forever. Almost none of them are still around. The people who are around, however, are not the ones with whom i was honest, with whom i was “myself” so to speak, but the ones i lied to the most. The ones who were most hurt by my actions. Those who have remained to help clean up the mess. And this is why i feel so blessed.
i have only gratitude in my heart for these few people, and for God’s placement of those people in my life. i would not be making it through this aftermath were it not for the support of my true friends, the ones who, for whatever reason, loved me in spite of my faults. They have truly shown me what it means to love others as they love themselves. It is no fault to be in need of brothers in this life, nor to admit that need. It is, in fact, a strength to be able to confess that alone we are insufficient. After all, the only thing in creation that God said was “not good” was for man to be alone. The next step in this process, now that i have been so richly blessed by others, is for me to smash that sponge dry; to take all of the love that i have been fortunate to soak up in the last few years and squeeze it back over those who gave it to me. Only then will they truly be my brothers.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10 : 24 – 25
fatigue that is
deeper than bones
in wiry old strength
last night’s snow. more is
delivered fresh each morning,
white, new, heavy with the
weight of ice and
hidden dust. on the private stage of
grey-blue sky, each crystal
dances its own path,
shaped in lonely ways of its
own choosing, its flutter
choreographed to some music
that he cannot hear. but once they have
settled, lain down, capitulated,
he cannot see their differences:
fused by melt together they
conspire to make obtrusive mounds.
they cannot now
in graceful repose recline
nude upon the finger, nor
dissolve deliciously on the tongue,
but are fit only to be shoveled,
displaced, moved from the path but
never eliminated, piled on the side,
lingering in sight as he passes,
coasting, sliding in his wake like
ancient icebergs silently back into the
treads left by old tires.
Maybe i just didn’t make myself clear. After all, asking for a “sign” could very easily be interpreted as asking for a “sine…”
Or maybe blogging just isn’t my thing. In fact i know it isn’t, ultimately. It’s not that i don’t enjoy writing. (“Enjoy” is really the wrong word, but i am at a loss for a better one. Perhaps i could insert “fight through laboriously hoping the reward is worth the effort while,” but that seems verbose.) To some degree, i am in intense rebellion against the online culture of blogging. i can’t get into the whole wandering-digitally-around-liking-miscellaneous-posts-just-to-get-traffic-on-yours thing. Or maybe i’m just bitter because my stats peaked in June and i haven’t gotten more than a sniff since then. That’s fine with me i guess, since it means i can write anything i want here and no more than five people will ever see it.
i have said all along that it wasn’t about the popularity to me, and truly it isn’t. But it is about impact, and right now mine is about as powerful as a pillow dropped into a pool of marshmallows in a low gravity soundproof room. i have a few suspicions about the root cause of this. First of all, i have definitely lost my fire a bit in terms of commitment, and with the overwhelming amount of posts out there if you aren’t doing it every day then you practically aren’t doing it at all. It’s not as if i haven’t wanted to, i just haven’t had much to say lately. Also, though i haven’t seen every blog that exists out there, i have seen quite a few and many of them are quite consistent in their approach. This monstrosity, on the other hand, is a bit of a wandering nightmare, thematically, stylistically, and creatively. Basically the net result of this is that one day you may stumble upon a jewel that speaks to you greatly, packed with wisdom and snippets of joy and inspiration, and you may impulsively hit the “follow” button. A week later either you are going to see nothing posted, and just forget to ever check again, or you are going to see some turd of a post that has nothing to do with anything, similar to this one, and you will quickly lose interest. How to make sense of a blog that has no consistent schedule, theme, style, or mood? One day a stream-of-consciousness rant, the next some crap about baseball, the next some half-thought-out poem that has the sharp edge of an anciently dull butter knife.
i’ve lost my way. (cf. Brief instructions) And as i said in my very first post, no one is interested in following someone who is perpetually lost. Looking back over my own posts, i am sometimes staggered at how much passion and inspiration and creativity i seemed to have in earlier months. i am not saying this equated to my blog being “good” per se, but at least it was impassioned. i was convinced, absolutely persuaded that writing was my calling, not just a hobby. Now it seems to have been relegated to the category of “things i do whenever i am bored with Facebook.” i suspect that these things come in waves, but i haven’t been doing it long enough to know whether or not this is true. i only hope that it is; that this is merely a wide low trough on the way to a sharp spike of inspiration and success, and when i get to that place i will look back and know that this time was absolutely necessary, that it made me a stronger, better, more dedicated writer.
i very nearly ended this post with a sarcastic quip, which might have met with rave reviews but if i am to be true to the mantra “impact not influence,” i am forced to admit that sarcasm does very little except make you sound like a mildly clever jerk. The truth is, the difference between my writing now and when i started is source. i started this thing as a project to tap into God and His purpose for me, and since then my commitment to writing (and consequently my success at it) has waned in equal measure to my commitment to being near Him. He is, after all, the source of all good things. My feeble human brain will only produce so many relevant pieces of work, if any at all. But if i am sourced in Him, if i am absolutely committed to being in and with and near Him, then if this endeavor is supposed to meet with success, it will. In several ways, this is really the lesson i have been learning lately, a topic which i will explore more thoroughly in my next post, which will happen later today. Or tomorrow. Or maybe next week or something. Dang, now i’ve gone and used sarcasm anyway. Can’t win ’em all, i guess. This one’s a loser for sure. On to the next, then…
As a few people have been kind enough to remark, i have been posting significantly less lately. The reasons for this are myriad, however a few are worth mentioning here. Firstly, i was out of the country for about a week or so, limiting my access to the internet, although it would be disingenuous to suggest that this was much of a factor, since my virtual absence really started back in late October. Secondly, i was listening to an NPR program a few weeks back on which a poet was being interviewed. (Which one, i do not recall) This particular writer mentioned that a poem written in less than two weeks was, for her, fairly phenomenal, and in general three or four weeks was more the norm. My own tendency, though i don’t believe there is necessarily a right or wrong here, is to use primarily a stream-of-consciousness approach, and do very little editing of my own poetry. This allows for ample and abundant posting of writing, but my fear is that is hinders my ability to be critical of my work and improve upon it. In an attempt to learn from those wiser and more experienced, i have begun to let poems marinate for a while before posting now, walking away from and coming back to them two and three times. Thus rather than posting a poem immediately after the first draft is complete, i now wait at least a week to see if anything about it strikes me as naive or banal. i am not sure this has catalyzed any significant increase in quality, as was its intent, but the strategy is still young.
But all of this, while true, still merely beats about the bush. The true reason, if i may be honest here (and if i cannot here, where can i?), is i have been suffering from a tremendous lack of confidence. i have mentioned before, and thus will not belabor the point ad nauseum here, that perseverance is not one of my strengths. i had high, and almost foolishly mystical, hopes for this blog. i imagined that in no time hoards of readers would be refreshing their blogreaders salivating pavlovianly waiting for the next nugget of wisdom from my mouth, then gleefully sitting back in repose after reading, content in their knowledge of having discovered a secret prophet.
Needless to say, this has not happened, to my knowledge.
Which is good. Of course. i must admit that, though my pride does not want to do so. But i need to remind myself what the purpose of this blog is, and it is not self-glorification. My stated intent from conception was to use this space for two purposes: to hone my talents and practice my craft, and to glorify the One who gave them to me in the first place. Interestingly, in neither case is confidence particularly necessary, and in fact in both cases it may strangely be a deficit and a hinderance.
A good friend once told me never to apologize for not writing. i have no intention of doing that here, at least not to my few readers. Nevertheless i do wish to admit that my heart has been in the wrong place, and thus apologize for the flaw at root in my absence. In other words, i have no specific regret about not writing, merely about the heart condition that my lack of effort writing indicates. But this, too, will ultimately be used by the Lord for His purposes. Dry seasons, too, are necessary that rain may have its desired effect when it at length blessedly falls. So my lack of confidence in my abilities in no excuse for ceasing to attempt. In fact, it is all the more reason i should be putting forth yet greater effort. God will use what he chooses, and most of the time he chooses those with little or no ability at all, that it may be His strength that shines through. May it be so here, as well.
The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. – John 7 : 18
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Corinthians 12 : 9