The Truth is Out There

November 29, 2004

I find it ironic that the young man who found my Laramie comments objectionable referred to my political agenda. Those who know me would agree I’m one of the least political people around.

Saying I spit on Matthew Shepard’s grave is pushing the envelope too. I am horrified about what happened to Matthew and grieve for his family and friends. No one should be treated the way he was.

As to crediting the words of a murderer: point taken. A murderer would probably also be a liar. My issue, however, is with Andrew Sullivan. Turning Matthew Shepard into the poster boy for violence against homosexuals is about agenda. It’s not about caring for Matthew and his family. Don’t tell me it is. Sullivan basically said on 20/20 not to bother him with the facts of the murder because what we have learned from it transcends that. Hello? What is bigger or more important than the truth? Finding it in the midst of the self-preservation of convicted murderers, the backpedaling of their friends, the agenda of Sullivan and his associates will be difficult. And if we find it, will we be willing to face it and acknowledge it? Probably not because it doesn’t fit with our preconceived notions.

The Laramie Agenda

November 27, 2004

My brother beat me to the punch blogging about the Matthew Shepard expose on 20/20 last night (www.hayz.ws and click on blog).

I have to say I wasn’t surprised that the whole homophobic hate -crime angle was a lie. Consider the gay activist who was interviewed. His response to the assertion that this was a drug-related robbery gone bad was the facts of Matthew’s murder didn’t matter as long as tolerance for homosexuals was advanced. Even Matthew Shepard’s mother said why he died was a minor issue. These activisits used this young gay man to meet their own needs in the same way a casual sex partner would. How sick.

Turning the brutal death of a troubled young man into a political agenda is one of the lowest things I can think of, both by the “God hates fags” crowd and the “Everybody ought to love them” crowd. Shame on you both.

My epiphanies come few and far between, but here’s one. You do not decide who I am. What you think of me does not make me that person. You can call me a name, change my name, forget my name, but that is not who I am. I am the person inside who is growing and changing so fast and staying so much the same that I cannot keep track. I am not static. That would scare me except for the fact that someone knows me and holds my name, even going so far as to write it on his hand. He knows it even when I don’t. He knows it even when you set up a cardboard cutout and call it me; then pretend I don’t exist. My revelation makes me feel giddy. I am three dimensional or four–even five or six. You don’t get to decide. I do, and God does. He will give me a stone with my name on it. A white stone with a new name that only he and I know. I hope it’s a revelation I’ll not soon forget.

Thankful

November 14, 2004

My Al-Anon book of readings–Courage to Change–said today to work on Step 6 of the 12-step program: Be entirely ready to have God remove all my defects of character–yikes. The thought for the day encouraged me to work that out in three ways. The first to have gratitude. The second to focus on growing in my abilities and letting go of my defects. The third to cultivate patience. What wonderful words of wisdom to start another year of life. So, on this first day of my forty-first year, I am thankful for the good and the bad in my life. I am working on becoming the person I want to be. And finally, I am trying to be patient–just for today, just for this hour, and maybe just for this minute. Happy birthday to me.

To Thine Own Self Be True

November 12, 2004

It is a saying much heralded by our generation. “Be true to yourself.” Polonius said it best to Laertes in Hamlet “To thine own self be true, and it follows as the night must follow the day, thou canst be false to no man.”

Back the truck up. Be true to yourself? What if you’re a serial killer? What if you’re a pervert? What if your real, true self is a lazy, shiftless good-for-nothing? Even a moron (if that’s your true self) can understand the basic premise of text analysis–consider the source. Who is it in Shakespeare that tells us to be true to ourselves? Polonious, a pompous, fatuous, schemer, who-I freely admit-deserves to get stabbed and does. Shakespeare doesn’t want us to take anything he says seriously. Now if Hamlet said it, or some other be-tighted hero from the Bard’s good guy squad, we might should (to repeat a Southernism) listen. But it was Polonius, as useless a human being as that other guy with the cross-hatched tights in the other play (sorry, senior moment–Malvolio in Twelfth Night). So why do we listen? Because it appeals to our love of anarchy and the desire to determine our own truth.

If every man does that which is true in his eyes, where will it end? Oh, I know, modern day America. In our heart of hearts, we know better. Jesus says that he is the truth. No one comes to the Father except through him. There is absolute truth, then. It is only in swearing allegiance to that truth that we can be true to ourselves and others. What must happen is that we give Polonius and his hell-breathed words the heave-ho and be true to Christ.

Does everyone have the urge to jump off balconies, or is it just me? I used to sit on the second floor of this giant amphitheatre at church services. There was a huge plastic protective barrier to keep the second tier folks from falling onto the people below. I’d sit there at God’s hockey game (that’s what it felt like behind the plexiglass–waiting to get nailed by some spiritual puck that would knock my teeth out). When I wasn’t wondering if people spontaneously combusted, I’d have to restrain the urge to take a flying leap over the divide.

It happens to me when I drive too(be afraid, be very afraid); I wonder how quickly the pain would pass if I swerved in front of the oncoming semi. Now, before you call the men in white coats to start the Thorazine drip, tell me you haven’t had crazy thoughts. Tell me you haven’t had the urge to scream out in a large crowd. Tell me you haven’t had to bite your tongue sometimes. Yeah, I thought so; put the phone down or give your address before you give mine.

On the contrarywise side, I have been in places where people stepped outside the proscribed behaviors. A screaming maniac running up on the platform quickly escorted out. Someone calling out loudly in a straight-laced Baptist service. And I felt the collective fear and discomfort–one of the ducklings stepped out of line. Quick, peck it and get it back into conformity. Or remove it. No trace left of dissension. My heart pounded for the return to normalcy. When it came I was both relieved and disappointed.

Why is it I want to swan dive off any given second story with a half wall, and yet I cringe when someone else steals that thunder? Is that the dividing line between crazy and sane? I bit my tongue? I held my hands so they couldn’t grip the bar and vault into space for that lovely free fall? Lovely until the contact came. It’s not the falling that kills you. It’s the landing. My free falling costs nothing because I won’t do it, at least not so far. Is it because I’m too sane or too afraid?

He left in the rain.

November 11, 2004

He left in the rain all those years ago, bags packed. Without a sound, without a trace, without a backward look. Fevered recriminations, numbed sorrows, grey nothingness, eventual acceptance. Left behind to clean up the mess I wonder who detonated the bomb. And I wonder why. Would chasing the world over change the leaving? Would undoing the wounds undo who we are? Are the people we are now any different than the people we were or are there just more scars? He left in the rain, yes, but neither one of us has taken a step.

Giri

November 9, 2004

My father tells me that the Japanese word ‘giri’ means sacred duty, that ‘death is lighter than a feather, but giri is heavier than a mountain.’ That resonates with me. How often does a bottle of pills seem the best and only solution? Admit it; you’ve thought it too, to our shame. But understanding giri puts that death wish in perspective. Death is easy compared to the herculean task of carrying a sacred duty.

Christ says his yoke is easy and his burden light, but he doesn’t say it weighs nothing. Think of holding something in your hand. It doesn’t have to be heavy, but if you hold it for fifteen minutes or fifteen days or fifteen years, suddenly the perspective changes. That is not to say that it is not worth carrying. We simply must acknowledge that it is hard.

Father Flanagan and his boys from BoysTown bear the motto, “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother.” While I applaud the sentiment (I cry just as much as the next guy at Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney), I find it fatuous at best. He is heavy, Father, darn heavy. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop carrying him.

I just want to able to admit that carrying my giri-mountain or my brother is hard work. I don’t even care really if you don’t acknowledge it or believe it or even (probably) don’t care. Just me knowing it’s hard might make it a little easier to carry it and carry on. And it comes to mind that God knows my frame and remembers I’m dust. I bet he knows it’s hard too.

You Shall Not Pass

November 9, 2004

I took a test on the internet “Which Sci-Fi Character are You?” [http://www.tk421.net/character/ A wandering spirit caring for a multitude of just concerns, you are an instrumental power in many of the causes around you.

And so am I, very dangerous: more dangerous than anything you will ever meet, unless you are brought alive before the seat of the Dark Lord.

Gandalf is a character from the Middle-Earth universe. TheOneRing.net has a description of him.]

Thank the science fiction deities I was not Wesley Crusher. That would call for a stiff dose of some prescription drug. To my secret (?) pleasure I was Gandalf. Okay, not secret. I bragged about it to every sci-fier I could think of. Nyah, nyah, nyah, nhay, nyah, nyah, I’m Gandalf and you’re not!

I digress; last night I watched part of The Fellowship of the Ring–the scene in the Mines of Moria. Wow. That’s about all I can say, wow. Gandalf discusses pity and predestination with Frodo. Pity stayed Bilbo’s hand and kept him from killing Gollum. Bilbo was meant to find the ring, hence Frodo was meant to have it. That is a happy thought. Happy that Frodo now faces certain destruction in his journey to destroy the ring? Is he nuts? Then Gandalf freely gives his life in his stand against the Balrog, summoning his power to forbid the passage of the demon of the dark. I cheer, I weep. I want to be like Gandalf.

For the White Wizard is right. Understanding that there is a plan keeps us going through the darkness and the battles. Were there no plan, there would be no point to the suffering. Were there no stand to defend our fellowship and our mission, there would be no one left to cast the one ring into the fires of Mount Doom.

I have a friend who always debates with me that God’s sovereignty takes a back seat to man’s free will, hence the evil in the world. I find this world view depressing. I don’t see joy in this loved one’s life. If God is not sovereign, pass the prescription drugs please, because I don’t want to be coherent.

Although I know my heart is more like Gollum, I yearn to be like Gandalf. He sees the big picture and believes the guys in white hats will win. Not because they are strong and powerful. Hardly. They’ll win because they know that they are weak. They’ll succeed only by working together and having faith that they fight for something greater than themselves. They welcome allies and battle through the night until dawn breaks on the fourth day because what they hold onto is worth fighting for.

Bilbo’s pity of Gollum saved the day in the end, for Gollum forced Frodo’s hand (literally) and sent the ring spiralling into the destructive fires. God uses the foolishness of men to confound and bring about good. But that’s not enough for me. I don’t want God to use me in spite of myself. I don’t want to be cast into the fire. I want to be at the triumphant wedding celebration at the end (preferably standing beside Legolas), rejoicing with my comrades that we have fought the good fight, that we have won the victory, and that we have earned crowns to give back to the one true king–the true Aragorn. For that matter, the true Gandalf, the true Sam, the true Frodo–for are they not all different facets of the one whose fellowship we seek? Change me from a Gollum to a Gandalf, that I may rejoice in time to come. Let me start by encouraging the faint of heart and defending the fellowship by standing firm, with my life if need be, knowing I shall be resurrected as a White Wizard to serve the one who raised me up.

I ponder D’Artagnan’s words from The Man in the Iron Mask. He spoke with pain (yay, Gabriel Byrne). He understood that his loyalty to the king cost him dearly. He believed the best about Louis, even when Louis gave him no cause to have faith. His faith was in something higher than Louis–in the loyalty this best of Musketeers had grown in his heart, in his blood shed for the king, in the prayers he had prayed incessantly to his God. He kept his oath even when it hurt every fiber of his being, isolating him from his friends.

What does it mean to keep your oath even when it hurts, as I read in one version of Psalm 25? It means you realize that life isn’t what you planned, when you are disappointed by the people in your life-your parents, your siblings, your spouse, your friends, your kids, yourself, your God, and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they, too, are disappointed with you. You weren’t what the package promised either.

It means staying true when you look down the tunnel for the light at the end-of the keeping, of the hurting-and you can’t see it. You know it’s there. You’ve been told it is; you’ve even seen it yourself from time to time, and most of all because God said so. But you can’t see it. Are you blind? Have you fallen away? Are there scales on your eyes?

Or, to change metaphors midstream, are you just in the desert until it’s time to leave? You’re there until you’re not. Nods to Gordie, who once said, “People are people.” And I laughed him to scorn and thought him a vapid ass. But experience has taught me he is right. All those sayings that seem trite –people are people, it’s not over ’til it’s over, it is what it is, you’re there until you’re not-they are actually the truths that run the universe. So simple they seem ridiculous, but so real they cannot be denied.

So, I’m in the desert, and it is night and it is cold, and I’m alone. For now. Because this is the season of keeping the oath until it hurts. While it hurts, when it does nothing but hurt. But the verse doesn’t say keep the oath even when it hurts others. It is not my license to inflict pain or injury. And yet I do. Like Mrs. Weasley ripping on her boys, “How dare you!” leaps from my lips more often than not. Yes, I can turn and say with syrupy sweetness, “And Ginny, dear, we’re so proud of you for making Gryffindor,” or “Harry, I’m so glad you’re here.” But the damage has been done.

I must, I think, learn to sit quietly. Telling God my anger-at Him, at the unfairness of life. I was there, once, in the acceptance and the peace. But I’m not now. Maybe that’s why I’m not out of the desert yet.

I went to the actual desert on a vacation, a solitary pilgrimage. And I loved it. Its wild beauty captivated my heart. Why, in my spiritual life, can I not see the beauty of the desert? Is it the scales? Drop them from my eyes, Lord. Make me again like D’Artagnan, seeing an oath as non-negotiable. Holding true when all others fall away. Believing you are there and you are good “though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though to everyone else it looks like spitting into the wind, I must rejoice.