Tag Archives: drama

BIRTHDAY PRESENT: CHAPTER 5

Welcome back to the on-going serial auto-biography Cancer? But I’m a Virgo. We’re blasting out chapter 5 today after a late start this week. If you haven’t had a chance to jump in yet, it’s not too late! Just click here to start from the beginning! C’mon! You know that one of your resolutions was to read more books this year.

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PART 2

“What is to give light, must endure burning.”

-Viktor E. Frankl . . . whoever he is

cancer_title_page 

I’m sitting in a waiting room somewhere in Pasadena, staring at a magazine that is listing the 100 most influential people of the year. Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, and Bill Gates are all in attendance. I do a quick scan but don’t see any glossy celebrity snapshots of Jesus.

The waiting room is empty. The couch I’m sitting on is leather and cold. I touch it with my finger and wonder if the cow that this skin belonged to had a nice personality. I touch my tumor by squeezing it between my thighs. It’s still there. Maybe this doctor will simply give me some pills, and I can wipe all the sweat off my brow.

The woman behind the bulletproof glass calls my name, and I walk through a locked door. They weigh me, measure me, etc., etc. The nurse leaves, and I’m sitting alone in the Examination Room. The walls are covered in pictures that children have drawn in crayons, all with personalized messages addressed to a man named Dr. Odegaard.

“Thanks for fixing my arm,” wrote James, 7, with a drawing of himself in a cast, standing in front of a tree. The drawing is so bad I have to wonder if he had to create it with his lesser-used hand.

“You’re the best. Thank you for the Band-Aids,” wrote Tiffany, 6, who decided to draw birds flying over a rainbow.

I try to imagine what my drawing would look like. There would be a picture of a smiling rooster. Above it, in bubble typeface, it would read, “Thanks for saving my dick. I owe you one.” –Johnny, 26.

The doctor enters and asks me a few questions. First the preliminary stuff because it’s my first visit to see him, followed by the more intimate inquiries. “What seems to be the problem?” And, “Describe the lump.” And, “Which testicle is it on?” And this is where I sort of mumble something about a trick question. Mumble something about my uni-testicle. Mumble some off-colored joke that he doesn’t laugh at. He asks me to pull my pants down, and I ask him if the door is locked. He tells me that no one will come in, and I comply.

He snaps on a rubber glove and fondles me in a professional manner. He hums and grunts a couple times, makes the sort of noise you might make after seeing a two-headed turtle—not absolute shock but more of an idle fascination.

He tells me to pull my pants up and that he definitely feels something. He tells me that he’s recommending me to a good friend of his, a urologist (penis doctor; see also dick doc) named Dr. Honda. It’s the 11th of September, and it will be six more days with this thing growing inside of me before I get any real answers.

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On September 17, 2008, I turned 26 years old. My wife and I spent it indoors, she having made me a cake and purchased me a few books. The day was regular enough, the cake was regular enough, the weather was regular enough and, as far as birthdays go, it would forever be branded in my brain as the most irregular day I had ever experienced.

We arrive at Dr. Honda’s office, a nice brick building in Arcadia, just after noon. My wife and I sit down in the lobby and she immediately picks up a Better Homes magazine and begins scouring it for ideas to, presumably, make our home . . . better.

Everyone in the room with us is old. Really old. Nursing-home old. They’re so old, that they each have some kind of caretaker visiting the facility with them. I try to imagine the day, hundreds and hundreds of years from now, when I’ll be too weak to take care of myself. The day, thousands of years from now when I can’t bathe myself any longer. The day when I eat more pills than food. Millions of years away.

My wife turns to me and says, “What do you think he’s going to say?” and I say, “You know what I think,” and she just laughs and shrugs. She still thinks it’s a cyst or an ingrown hair or an extraterrestrial’s tracking device, all things that are more realistic possibilities than that cancer-thing-that-other-people-get-and-it-never-happens-to-you disease.

They call my name, and I walk back through the door, alone. Every step I take, I am closer to understanding what this thing is. Closer to knowing that it’s either cancer (which I know it is) or an alien GPS system (which it probably isn’t but in many ways would be easier to deal with).

I jump up on that bed-table-thing with the giant roll of single-ply toilet paper covering it and glance around the room. There are no children’s drawings. Instead there are just diagrams of penises and vaginas that go on and on, wall to wall. Dongs that have been split in half lengthwise to show me what the inside looks like. Uteruses and ovaries that resemble cow heads. Black arrows pointing to the dangly bits, informing me what is in my pants. A part of me wants to examine them closer, wants to read all the scientific jargon, but the other, louder side of me doesn’t want to get caught staring at a drawing of a 16-inch schlong.

The door creaks, and Dr. Honda enters the room. He’s a slim Asian man with a mustache and a big smile. He immediately makes me feel welcome and, as I will come to shortly learn, this is not a professional trait of all doctors. He has bedside manner, a characteristic and skill that cannot be taught.

He shakes my hand and introduces himself. He asks me a few questions about life, what do I do, am I married, do I have kids, where am I from, and then my pants are suddenly at my ankles yet again and I’m Porky-Piggin’ it, naked from the waist down.

As he’s squeezing my GPS tracking system with a rubber-gloved hand, I hear footsteps fast approaching in the hallway and quickly ask if the door is locked. He says they’ll knock first. Yeah, I think, But I’m sure it’ll be that knock-knock-open that people are so wont to do.

“My ultrasound guy is here today. I’m gonna have him check you out.” I ask if I can pull up my pants.

You’ve read all this before. You know what happens. I know what happens. The story is inevitable.

I have Cancer.

That thing that makes people go bald and look sick and thin and tired. That thing that sucks the life out of individuals and kills kids and evaporates old folks. That thing I hear about on TV and in movies and sometimes in books. It’s me. It’s on me. It’s in me. Growing. Slowly.

I picture it looking like the black goo that Venom is made out of in the popular Spider-Man films; it’s not quite a gel but it’s not quite a liquid. It’s just a mess of sticky tar that attaches and grows and builds and pulls and destroys until it has encompassed your very being and turned you into someone else. No more Peter Parker. No more Eddie Brock.

Venom.

Cancer.

I’m staring at the ceiling, cold jelly on my testicle. Now I know. Now I know that I was right. Everything I thought I knew was correct. My gut was dead on. Dead. On.

Dead.

Without looking at the Indian man who’s given me my diagnosis, I ask, “Can I pull my pants up?” and he says, “Yes.”

Pamphlets are spread out in front of me. Every single person on every single cover is happier than the last. Everyone is so happy. They’re all so happy about their Cancer . . . and . . . I am just . . . .

. . . .

Dr. Honda tells me that I have two options in regard to the tumor. My Tumor. First, there is a surgery wherein they will cut me open and split my remaining testicle in half, removing the bad stuff but leaving me fertile. I tell him that I cannot fathom anything that sounds more painful. I ask him what the second option is.

He succinctly states, “Full removal.”

I sigh and ask what the third option is. He stares back at me. Nobody says anything. After a moment he tells me that if they miss even one single cell during the nutcracker operation the cancer will simply return, and they’d have to perform a second surgery in order to take the remaining half. I assume this is supposed to make my decision easier.

I look at the ground. At my feet. At my pants. I tell him to take it all. He smiles, and it’s a very kind face looking back at me. You can tell that he doesn’t want to tell me these things. You can see his compassion, and I’m thankful for it.

He pokes the pamphlets and says, “You’re going to want to bank your sperm,” and I nod. I am going to be sterile. Unable to reproduce. There is something very damaging to me about this thought, and the memory of me lying in a hospital bed talking to a doctor when I am eight is at the forefront of my mind.

I shake his hand and walk out of his office. I walk down the hall. I walk back through the door and to my wife, surrounded by old people. She puts down her Better Homes magazine and stands up, smiles. We walk out of the office, down the steps and out the front door into the parking lot and the warm sunshine.

It has not crossed my mind how blissfully ignorant she currently is.

She looks at me and, with her complete confidence with the ingrown hair theory asks, “Well, what did he say?” and, without missing a beat, I respond, “I have a tumor.”

She takes one more step before collapsing onto a parking block and begins weeping. This is when the reality all hits me, and I weep as well.

 

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Thank you so much for reading another chapter this week. Please click FOLLOW down below to stay up-to-date as we’re releasing one chapter a week until the very end!

Next Monday is PARENTS: Chapter 6.

 

 

 

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The Spiraling Cornucopia of Pale Lavender [SEQ. 15 – END]

The Spiraling Cornucopia of Pale Lavender is  a 10-part series of fiction that explores perception and reality. Below is our final segment. To read the introduction of the project, click here.

To read part 1, click here.

To read part 2, click here.

To read part 3, click here.

To read part 4, click here.

To read part 5, click here.

To read part 6, click here.

To read part 7, click here.

To read part 8, click here.

To read part 9, click here.

Otherwise, begin scroll.

 

26I stumble, change falls out of my pocket and a lightning bolt destroys a small building. It punches a hole through the rooftop and kills a baby. It is an accident but I don’t feel bad. Their brains are so simple they don’t really understand pain. 27Studies suggest that their receptors are able to recognize simple stimuli such as something called “fear” and pain of the base physical kind but no further. 28Perhaps the child will be born as new life in a better scenario. 29I understand that sloths have it nice this time of year. 30The bombs are launched and I watch them sail across my skies, penetrating my clouds like flaming flesh rockets. 31The bombs are driven by intention and I watch as a group of individuals gather in the desert and press their thoughts to steer the missiles through the sky. 32They almost had it. They almost had it all. They could have had peace but instead they chose war. 33They make boundaries and labels. They separate themselves and create hierarchy. 34Each of them wants to be better than the other. 35They are always trying to be superior to their neighbor and they become so consumed with it that they lose their very lives. 36The entire purpose for their existence is lost to their greed. 37They have passed all the way through the chain of life and have each been given their opportunity at humanity and they blew it. They each had a chance to live on the final level selflessly and to give of themselves and to enjoy each moment. 38That’s all they had to do for a simple one hundred human years and then they would transcend this realm and begin to accumulate form on the next plateau. 39But they messed it all up. Again. Always. Every time. 40I desperately want to see my people succeed. 41I am so lonely. I want a friend. I want company. I want them to speak to me. I want them to love me. Why do they ignore me? 42This plateau is so quiet. When will they find me? When will they encounter me? 43They have trapped me in this box, calling me names. Calling me god or God or GOD. 44They call me SHE and they try to label me and put words in my mouth and intentions on my heart. 45I am not SHE. 46I am sexless. I am not bound by simple human sexuality. Male / Female are a weakness given to them in order to breed and it has been evolved pleasurably because nobody would do it otherwise. 47Their belief has placed me into a box and their understanding of me is disgustingly limited. 48They pray to me and ask for cars when they have cars while their neighbor starves and dies. 49They pray for justice when they mean revenge. 50Their cruel hearts are deep with black worm rot and their eyes are empty pools. 51They desire every darkness. 52They care not who is hurt or what the cost. 53They will keep improper change at the store. They hit their children for hitting while telling them not to hit. They trap animals in giant facilities and skin them while still alive. They make the animals live in tiny cages in things called Slaughter Houses and they treat them like a piece of plastic that has not been endowed with life. 54Where I have given life, I have given respect. 55And this sickens me. They believe they are special because they are smarter. 56They believe that the animals have been placed here for their enjoyment no matter the expense. 57They believe they should be allowed to manipulate, confine and destroy resources and herds. 58They believe that they can breed life for the purpose of death. 59Their teeth chomp on rotten flesh and they ignore their fruits and vegetables. 60They become obsessed with greasy bacon and forget about my apples. 61They grow fat and they grow obese and part of the world dies from being over weight while the other half starves and begs for help. 62How do you not see that what you are doing is wrong? How do you look at a hurting person and walk away? How do you ignore a hurting human being? 63They are like you. They are exactly like you. They are nearly photocopies of you. Look at your DNA. 64You will find that you are nearly clones. 65I bang my formless head against a formless wall and struggle with my mistake. What have I done? 66How have you turned so quickly to evil? How have you turned so quickly inside? 67You are living your life, pulling objects towards you instead of pushing everything out. 68If everyone pushed out, they would each be hit with kindness from every angle. 69If one starts. If one single person starts, it always begins a reaction. 70They don’t understand their power. They don’t understand the energy. They don’t understand how they’re connected. 71Connected through me, with my spirit, my being, my energy. 72They have access to it all because they are me. 73We work in flawless unity but they have to tap into it. They’ve almost got it figured out. 74But it’s too late now. Maybe the next time. Maybe the next race. Maybe the next revolution of evolution. 75For now we’ll start back at the beginning. But it will have to be somewhere else. Somewhere far away. 76The Greator will have to orchestrate another elaborate Cosmic Explosion. 77The Humanlings have acted so selfishly that they’ve destroyed every trace of life itself. 78They have not destroyed a piece of land or an area or a region. They have not destroyed a culture or a people. They have not destroyed a hemisphere. 79They have destroyed Life Itself, reverting everything to abyss. 80All trees, all hamsters, all vines, all flamingoes, all people, all grass, all ants, all microbes and amoebas. Virus, vaccines and vericuse veins. Air is gone. Matter is gone. Mars, Mercury and Venus (Earth names) have all been gobbled up by the exo-implosion caused by their thoughtless, thought driven cell bomb. 81It’s all gone. 82If no one is around to experience space, is there space to experience? 83Does existence exist if no one may touch it with their consciousness? 84And if no one is there to believe in me? 85My heart pumps with the belief of the little ones. With them gone, so am I.

 

 

 

 

[SEQ. XVI] 1A whisper.

 

 

 

 

Shh.

 

 

 

 

Listen.

 

 

 

 

[SEQ. XVII] 1I can feel it working its way into my heart like a warm fire. 2I grow brighter. I reach out. Of course. I was so obtuse. I never looked higher. I never looked beyond. I, like the Humanlings, was too busy looking in and down. I was pushing everything inside instead of outside. 3The greys buzz past in their plasmatic vessel and the consciousness that is my entity attaches to the ship and finds a home. 4I work my way through the navigational bio-computers and glide with it through the BLACK. 5There is absolute darkness Outside. 6The small grey creatures are nothing like the humans. They seem to understand one another through feelings rather than through simplistic grunts. 7Everything on Earth seems so primitive compared to these. 8There is a peace here that I’ve always hoped to exist. That I’ve known could exist. 9I feel a tickle. A prayer. 10A grey that is a bsipo – it takes three greys to make a child; a pleon, a bsipo and a mitigular. 11They are not to be thought of as male / female and they, in fact, are enamored and interested that it only takes two humans to reproduce. 12They’ve been studying the humans for a long time and can’t understand how a normal social structure works with only two in charge. 13How do the parents vote? In a three way relationship, it is always easy to see which way is best for the group. Arguably some of the largest countries on their home planet, on their base plateau, work (or worked, since it is now a memory only of extraterrestrial life) under democracy and yet their personal relationships often operated as singular tyrannies. 14The bsipo sends its thoughts to me and I capture them. A prayer. 15The bsipo wants to be placed with a new pleon and mitigular. The pleon and mitigular have both agreed that the bsipo is not an accurate fit for their family and would like to replace it. 16The bsipo, understandably, is devastated. 17I nurture the thought and circle it and smile upon it. 18I’ve found you, little creature. I’ve found you. Your Controller has found you and I shall answer your prayer. 19But first you must do something for me. Fall to your knees and praise me. Throw your hands in the air and cry my name. Give me strength. Scream from your oozing guts. Weep for me. Take these new partners. And blessed be. 20No. We can have a new start here. Not blessed be. You have been blessed. Give blessings back. It is your duty. No. Too authoritarian. They’ll contort it again. They’ll twist it and ruin it. They’ll manipulate my words and try to apply a value to their work. 21They always want gold stars. They always want approval. Why won’t they just do it to do it? Why won’t they just help? Why are they always wrong like burnt cookies? I can shape them. I can fix them. 22Instead I tell the bsipo, I have helped you because you were in need. It’s still wrong. They will still think that helping only applies from me to them. They don’t want to engage with one another. 23The pleon and the mitigular approach the orphaned bsipo and embrace it in a hug. 24They have welcomed their partner back. 25An orgy ensues but not the way in which you, the reader, understands it. There is no filth and perversion in the act. It is not a social scar. This is their circle of love. It’s embracing. 26Their hands pressed together, their inner beings bond together. Their heads are thrown back and chem-trails that bridge their bodies between cells meld their fourth eyes into a single sight and they are each swimming in the pools of the others subconscious. 27They are delighting in the pure thoughts and forgiveness of one another. 28They dip their heads under the liquid dream and drink deeply. They spin and caress and levitate and merge. 29Their bodies become one and then three. 30The process itself is called Spiraling Trinity and is, as near as I can make out, recreational sex that transcends form. 31The three come back to their bodies and their inner eyes sleep while their outer eyes stare into one another in a triangle of vision. A six dimensional puzzle. Their blue hands intertwine. Their skin has changed color. 32The door swings open and a child stands with mouth open. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’ve seen you blue,” she transposes to them through the tele-functory process of pro-standard communications. 33“It is alright. It is natural. It is an accident. There is no need to be embarrassed. Please shut the door and we will see you at dinner.” 34The child smiles and I see another child in its mouth. 35Like a plant, the creatures grow one from another. 36They don’t reproduce. They produce and the Spiral Trinity is not for rebirth but only for transcending form together. 37In the other room, the child slides a pill into a crevice on the side of her body. Little stubby tentacles gobble it up and absorb it. Green goo begins to drip from the orifice and the face of the child goes limp. 38The child has found the pleon’s Force T substances. Force T stands for Forced Trinity and it acts as a recreational drug that replicates a slightly dumbed down version of the Spiral Trinity. 39The child falls to its knees and opens all four eyes, inside and out. Ears go pert. Inhale. Touch my face. Rub my face. Thoughts spiral. Goodbye. I see my body. Kneeling. Crying. Falling. Breaking. Goodbye. I lift up. 40Trapped in the corner of my room. No. It’s okay. I’m still lifting. My spirit separates from my mind. 41I am experiencing the effects of the Force T. I am experiencing the perspective of the child. I am trapped in both the child’s reality and my own. 42The child feels its / our life throb. 43It slows. It speeds. It pops. The body goes limp and the face hits the floor and the orifice in its side pukes and yellow vomit and pink chunks of meat cascade onto the nice carpet. 44As is traditional with grey deaths, the head collapses and a hog sized scarab crawls out. Black and green. 45It shimmies for the nursery of the ship and disappears. 46The child stands in front of me, our consciousnesses pressed against one another. 47The child is a mitigular but always felt that it was a pleon. 48The ple looks me over and feels me out. Me. I am All. I am Everything. Beginning and End. Outside of Time. 49The ple tells me that The Greator has sent it and that I am to blink out. 50But what will happen to me? THESE THINGS ARE NOT MY CONCERN. YOU HAVE BEEN FAR TOO HAPHAZARD WITH YOUR PEOPLE AND YOU WILL NOT CRUSH OURS. I HAVE BEEN CALLED AS AMBASSADOR TO THE GREATOR TO DELIVER THIS MESSAGE. 51But you died. 52I DIED TO SAVE MY PEOPLE. I DIED TO STOP YOU FROM RUINING US AND SPOILING US WITH YOUR ATTEMPTED GOODNESS. 53On the ship the three greys enter and stare at the body of their beloved child. Human sadness is not a part of the brain that the greys have. 54They acknowledge that their race has suffered a great loss and that their community has suffered a great defeat. They pull in the last few traces of the child and understand that what happened was necessary. 55“May we all stay safe from religion,” the adult ple speaks plainly. 56They don’t want me here. 57NO, THEY DO NOT WANT YOU HERE. BLINK OUT. 58Blink Out? But that means oblivion. 59YOU HAVE SUFFERED THROUGH OBLIVIONS BEFORE. NO ONE KNOWS WHAT AWAITS ABOVE US AND WE ARE ALL ON OUR OWN PATH TO THE GREATOR. BLINK OUT. GIVE UP YOUR SEAT AND PROCEED ACCORDINGLY. ALL GOOD COMES FROM THE GREATOR. 60Thank you for showing me love and kindness. Thank you for being benevolent. It is more than I deserve. I know that now. AND OFTEN TIMES TOO LATE. JUST LIKE YOUR HUMANLINGS. 61Ah! I am no better! I am no better! I am a fool! I deserve this! 62IT IS NOT ABOUT DESERVING. IT IS ABOUT RECEIVING. AND NOW IT IS YOUR TIME TO RECEIVE. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BLINK OUT BUT YOU CAN’T STAY HERE. 63Yeah, another Earth song. I loved them so much. I know I did rough with them. I know I loved them too hard sometimes. I know the floods and the fires were tough but they had to know. I did my best. I tried my best. I wanted them to love me. I just wanted them to love me. Some of them truly did. I made some of them. And I scared some of them. But some of them loved me dearly. And thanked me. And regarded me with awe. 64The undercurrent pulls me down and I am absorbed through a vortex. [SEQ. XVIII] 1Atom to atom, bounding across subatomic particles, I travel through worlds, around nebulas and beyond the cosmos. I transcend both space and time as I pass through swatches of color and joyful energy and symmetrical lines and shapes and numbers – ah, the sweetness of seven, you are beautiful – rotating and radiating in the space between, which is all space always. 2My collective consciousness, which is many lives and many perspectives on many realms all merge with the others that have come before us and that will come after us. 3After our journey, we all come to rest upon the shores of Pale Lavender in the womb. I see the glittering eggs of fertility. The cradle of life. The beautiful velvety warmth of The Greator. The Nameless. The Ageless. The Ever Present Always. 4I cannot gaze on the face of This Thing That Has No Name. It speaks and I weep. I am reduced to regret and remorse and I am being boiled alive and it is delicious. I fall to the velvety flesh of butter and I rejoice in being home. In finally being home. In finding the goodness in all that is good. And finding the absolute harmony of existence. 5The tones of peace and celebration throb gently as I am lifted and embraced and told that I did good. I did good. I am good. I roll over onto my belly and my stomach gets rubbed. I love The Master so and The Master loves me and our love makes the Spiral Trinity look like elbow macaroni glued onto paper. 6Streamers glaze before my eyes and my walls crumble and disappear. Nothing contains me. The sad three-dimensional world from which I have traveled, that world which contains pain and grief is vanishing from my reserves. I am not me. I am part of The Greator. The expansion engulfs the juice of glory and always and forever and now. 7I am this. Always at home, outside of time, with my darling, The Greator, Pale Lavender. [END SEQ.]

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The Spiraling Cornucopia of Pale Lavender [seq. 3 – 6]

“I started reading The Spiral Cornucopia of Pale Lavender… and I didn’t really like it. But then I realized I was trying to read it like a book – I was trying to just read it. And so I went back and slowed it down and tried to imagine it more like something to ingest bit by bit. Like a poem or a fortune cookie. It’s still weird. But I like it a lot more.” – C.M.

“This is truly incredible.” -C.O.

“I have no idea what this garbage is supposed to be. Were you drunk when you wrote it?” -S.G.

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 The Spiraling Cornucopia of Pale Lavender is  a 10-part series of fiction. Below is part 3. To read the introduction of the project, click here.

To read part 1, click here.

To read part 2, click here.

Otherwise, begin scroll.

74She opens the door and enters first. [SEQ. IV] 1We go through the black door and down a small set of three steps and into a small bunker area. It is a small box. It is made of metal. There are shelves. 2On those shelves are boxes and cans filled with things. Some of it is food and some of it is generic office supplies and there is also a bag of yeast that is turning black. The ceiling drips water onto the floor. 3There is an electric plug on the wall but the shape looks like a straight line an inch in length instead of anything my collective conscious may be familiar with. 4The door dissolves as we approach it and we enter a hallway that is lit by light that seems to radiate out of nowhere. It is both odd and familiar to me. 5The smell is both sweet and delicious. Like a steak in cranberry sauce. But it isn’t strong enough to make me hungry. It’s just strong enough to make me satisfied. 6I see that the old woman is suddenly standing up quite straight and looking decades younger. 7She tells me that everyone looks different here. They look the way they want to look in their hearts, which is typically a more glamorous version of themselves. 8Rarely do people want to become someone else. It happens but you typically stay yourself. 9She looks at me and laughs. 10And when I look down I see that my skin is pale white. 11We pass a mirror and I see that I am the man in the river but I don’t know why. 12She points at me and tells me that my hair is white. She pulls out a lock of it and shows me. 13We walk through the tunnels and then up some stairs and mostly I follow her because she walks as though she knows where she is going. 14At the end of the hallway there is a key. She picks up the key and uses it to open the door and I say, “Where did the key come from?” and she says that it was always here and I wonder who built this place. 15She tells me that she doesn’t know but the place is really big. She tells me that the other doors have been explored but none of them connect except two. You can go in one door and then come out the other one later on. 16A couple of guys that have been trying to map it – just some local guys in the village – figured it out. 17They think all of the doors are connected in some fashion. 18But the question is, if it’s a giant maze, what’s at the end? 19They found a room with a ceiling that appeared to not exist, a darkness that sat like a blanket. 20Another place from another time. 21The afterbirth of a local apocalypse. 22I ask her where we’re going and she just says we’re going to go to the quiet room until the Stomping Process is over. 23She says we have to stay here for several days because time moves differently where we stand. 24She says if you perch at the doorway (she used that word perch – like a giant bird) on this side and look out at the village, you will see everyone moving around very fast. They move like they’re all running around. 25Time moves more slowly over here and I say, “How old are you?” and she tells me that she is seven hundred and twenty six years old and suddenly my heart breaks because I know that her husband that is dead is not her first and that she has experienced the loss of a lifelong husband seven times. 26She carries more grief than anyone. Than everyone. 27There are things she is not telling me but I cannot prod right now. 28She tells me that we have to stay in here and wait for the Stomping Process to be finished. 29I ask her how long three days in here is and she tells me that it is seven years out there, which they call a threshing. 30When the Stomping Process begins it always lasts for seven years. 31They take the people and pull them into the sky. 32I ask why and she says she does not know. But I know. 33I know that some of them are kind and some of them are cruel and I know that they are fishing. 34The woman leads me down a hallway where the walls are gray and red and when we come to the end there are two men standing outside of a double door that is locked and the men have guns but no eyes and they don’t ask what we want because their job is not to keep things out but to keep things in. 35We walk through the doorway and inside I see a large group of people and they are all sick and broken in different ways. Some of them are covered in sores and some of them are thin and frail and some of them have blood dried around their mouth and nose and some of them lie on the floor coughing and some of them are dead. 36The smell is unpleasant but not unbearable. 37I notice a vent in the ceiling with a fan that is always running. I also see a vent and it is out of this vent that I sense a smell. 38There are perfumes being pushed into the air here. Something tangy like a grapefruit but instead of masking the stench of sickness and disease it instead adds to it, combining with it, making a smell that is neither good nor bad but making something that is neither. An ambivalent scent that I don’t think I will or could ever get used to. 39The people turn and look at us and some hold out their hands but most of them acknowledge us with their eyes and then turn away, aware that we are unable or unwilling to help them. 40I see a ham sandwich sitting on a counter but the bread has turned a dark green color. There is a refrigerator but it isn’t plugged in. 41When I turn to ask the woman a question I see that she is gone and I am so stupid and now I am alone and now I am afraid and now I realize that I am one of these people and I don’t want to be. 42I want to be free and outside even though I really don’t know what is out there and even though the fishermen are reaching from the sky and pulling people from the earth, or whatever this place is. A hologram, an illusion, a spell, I still would rather be out there because freedom inside of oppression is better than being a prisoner without a view. 43I don’t go towards the doors because I know the men will never let me out. 44I know that I cannot call my mother or my friends or my brother, if I had one, if I ever had one. If I ever had a mother. If I could find a phone. 45I cannot scream for help because no one is listening and I am alone and panic begins to wash over my body and it makes me sick and I start to pace and then I lie down and I sleep and when I wake up there are loud banging noises and the walls are shaking and the lights are flickering and I run and I hide behind the refrigerator that isn’t plugged in while the rest of the people crawl towards the door. 46They fall to their knees and they hold their hands in the air and they all begin shouting and screaming and I hear, “I am here, Lord!” and, “Take me!” and, “I am ready!” and many of them begin to laugh but most of them begin to cry and sob and I see that this is the first time they have been happy for a very long time. 47The banging stops and a whisp of something that I would call smoke or mist creeps under the door except the mist looks like a prism and I see all the colors of the retinal spectrum blending and sparkling like a gemstone and I see other things too. But I don’t see them with my eyes. I feel them. I feel the words and the thoughts and I know that yes, this prism mist is a good thing but I fear that it is also a trap and none of the people know it and I watch as the colorful mist wraps around the group of them and envelops them and I see the mist start to boil and I hear screaming but it is not screams of pain but screams of ecstasy and it seems like they are experiencing other-worldy pleasures and it is in this fashion that they go away. 48They are not pulled through the door but the prism fades as mist does and when it is gone, everything inside of it is gone as well. 49Sitting on the green and white-checkered linoleum floor is a small stone, the same prismatic color of the mist. It is about the size of my fist. I pick it up and find that it is quite warm, somehow imbued with human life but no; I understand that that is wrong. 50This is their sickness and their hatred and their sorrows and their remorse and all of the terrible and bad things of the world that have been placed and given and gifted to them over their many years wandering this strange place, this life, this existence, that they’ve gathered up and now they’ve all been allowed to leave it behind like old shoes, freed from it completely. 51I smell the rock and then I taste it, rubbing my tongue along the top. It tastes like pepper and makes me sneeze but immediately I feel the effects of it as my brain expands and I see all the pain in the world. 52I see it all. 53I see how it works into our bodies. I see that sometimes it enters through our ears and sometimes it enters through our eyes but mostly it is birthed from our hearts. 54We are like mother hens sitting on our eggs, sitting on our evils, sitting on our selfishness, sitting on our jealousies and we keep them warm and we let them grow and we birth them out into the world, not as eggs, but as words or actions or in the tone of our voice. 55I drop to my knees and I want to cry but I don’t get to. I don’t get to expel the feelings. 56I grip them in my heart and I squeeze their complex singularity with my body and my soul cries and breaks and I stare at the ceiling, which breaks away and crumbles away and I see, outside, not sunshine, but ultimate darkness and in that darkness I sense nothing at all. No great evil staring back at me but absolute sadness and it reaches out for me and it wants me and I can feel that if I follow it I can do anything I want. 57I can partake in all of my wants and desires but there will be no pleasure in any of it. There will be no taste to any of it. 58I feel laughter pulled from my body and I feel joy retched out of my hands and I feel happiness, like a coin, taken from me. 59And now I understand that I am empty and this body is truly nothing more than a little package. An envelope with a piece of paper inside and what’s written on that paper? What does my letter say? What is my message? 60I feel the darkness reaching in for my letter but I hang on tight and it says, “No. This is mine. All is mine.” 61And I know that it isn’t true but I wonder if it is and I unfold my letter, not a real letter, but my purpose, and I reach deep down inside myself and [SEQ. V] 1I say, “Who are you?” and the answer comes back. “Compassion. Understanding. Friendship. Don’t ever forget. You will die.” 2And then everything is pulled away from me but some kind of residue is perhaps still left and then my body is sucked through the gaping chasm in the ceiling and my eyeballs melt away and everything is dark and when I turn around, I see a hole in the fabric of whatever this is. Maybe a version of reality or a dimension or time or space. 3I drift away from it and I don’t care because nothing matters and everything is darkness and nothing serves a purpose and floating freely through space is better than being trapped against my will and I feel my consciousness expand and I understand that I’ve been here before and perhaps this is where I came from and perhaps this is the cradle of Now and I call out with myself, not my voice and not my heart because these things are all gone and now I am just a thought. 4My physical being has been removed and I know that I am transcendent but have somehow de-volved to a flickering memory. 5I feel out towards the edges but find nothing but vastness and then a vibration touches my thought and I know it is another place or another person or another thing – there is something. 6There is life. 7Something in this vastness and blackness and darkness and abyss and I call to it and I find it and it is a/ [SEQ. VI] 1I open my eyes and I’m underwater, inside of a narrow tube and I can’t lift my arms.

 

 

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Part 4 premieres next Monday the 6th. 36and then he reaches up and he peels off his face like boiled skin from a tomato”

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The Spiraling Cornucopia of Pale Lavender [seq. 1 – 2]

[SEQ. I]1Inside, but also outside, of the grand sweltering nothingness I do not exist. Nor am I an I. No singularities drift. 2In empty space that is not cold, a warmth suddenly envelops me and I recognize and accept that I am a thing. 3Liquid washes over my being although I do not know the word liquid because I have never known anything. The currents of motion and time push me where they wish. 4I am the first of my kind. 5Something tingles at my core and I feel a tugging and a separation of my being before becoming aware that there is another. A second presence is nearby and it is the same as me because it came from me. 6I am a singular cell. A collection of atoms. A bond of life. I am both mortal and divine. I am spiritual and temporal. I am life. The very first. 7And now there is a second, made from me. My partner was pulled from my essence and made from my content. 8We are not identical but we are not the same. 9Another spasm and then we have some company. There are four of us. Eight of us. Sixteen of us. A village of faceless, emotionless, drifting amoebas in the liquid love juice of existence. 10We are the spermatozoa in the semen of creation. 11A tail. Gills. Limbs sprout from my core. Intentional movement drags me to a mate where we replicate and create our own life. Our community calls our replication evil. Says we are dabbling in the unknown. Playing God. 12The breath of life rushes over me again and I can move faster, hide better. 13Survive in the darkness. 14Stay away from That Thing that has engulfed so many of my kind. 14Above me is a sharp blanket. It hurts my eyes to look for too long. I push towards it. Ah, yes. Light. 15The pressure of the environment pushes back against me. 16Our tribe says not to go towards it. They say that is where God lives and we were meant to stay back. If He wanted us to approach Him, then He would not have placed the pressure barrier between us. 16My body has changed and the pressure doesn’t bother me any more. 17I am curious. 18I crawl along in the shallow dirt, the light just above me calling not my name, as I have no name, but calling me. My code. 19If it is God, I want to see. I want to press upon It with my eyes. 20I press on to the light and then, like a gentle slap, my face births from the water and I understand that I am in water and that there is such a thing as out of water. 21I have been reborn. 22One step at a time I emerge from the ocean, the cradle of existence, the warm goo that is The Earth’s Womb. As I have birthed a child, so too has the Earth. 23The air is cold and a fibrous material begins to coat my body, covering me, changing my form. 24Fruit hangs from trees and I crawl up them to eat their sweetness and I look around and I see The Land stretch out in front of me in such a great distance that I become dizzy observing The Eternal. 25I hop out of the tree and my face has altered. 26In the distance I hear a noise and when I follow it with my recent eyes, I see a four footed creature behind a tree. It too is covered in brown fur but it is not like me. My stomach rumbles and I know what I must do but I know not how. 27I straighten up, accepting the task at hand. 28I pick up a stick that has fallen to the ground. I rub it against a rock until the end is sharp and I hunt. I follow the creature until I fall upon it and I stab it. 29Red life gushes out of it in currents and I drop to my knees and press my hands into the warm blood. I did this to you. You gave your life for me. I am grateful for you. 30I watch as its eyes blink, staring into the trees. I follow its gaze and see another one like it but a smaller version. A baby. 31I am ambivalent to it. 32Without waiting for my beast to die, I reach my fingers into its chest and I pull, ripping open the skin. Greasy and stinking organs ooze out of its hole and coalesce at my feet. 33What are you? What is it that controls you? 34I dig in deeper and find a hard white material. I crack it open and expose a soft beating rock. I lift it up. Here you are. 35And I smell it and I engulf it and I am filled up and the creature that is a part of this place becomes a part of me and I become stronger. 36A breeze scratches me and I find that I am cold and so I peel off the hide of this creature and I wrap myself in it, dripping blood down my naked and goose pimpled body. 37I stand above this beast and I stare at its empty shell. I stare into its hollow eyes and I send my value and worth towards it. I am grateful that it has given its life for me. It has given me food and warmth at the very cost of its breath. 38I recognize something called color and that each object in my surroundings contains variances of its own. 39In an empty field that is green and yellow, a forest suddenly bursts from the ground, not saplings but large oaks that are mature and the Earth continues to change as I do. 40It happens fast because I don’t pay attention. 41There are natural holes in the trees trunks, inverted knots, where small animals roost and nest. Creatures scurry in the branches. I see a red squirrel with a white belly and a fuzzy tail. It has big cheeks, full of food. The squirrel runs down and curls up in the hole of the tree but then the tree eats it, consumes it, nurtures itself. 41It contracts and the hole squeezes shut and I hear a crunch and a squeal and the tail of the squirrel, which is trapped outside of the nest, gives a few weak kicks and then the tree sucks it in like a dog eating spaghetti. 42I walk towards the river and I find a small raft made out of thick cut branches tied together with old yellow fabric. 43Who built this? 44Underneath the raft I find a dead and bloated body that resembles my own save for the color of the skin. Where mine is dark, his is light. It reminds me of the color I saw in the ocean, hovering above me. 45Could this be the source of the light? Could this be God? 46Has our understanding of God been wrong? 47This is a man with a potbelly. He has white hair in a male patterned type of baldness. His skin has turned into cottage cheese. His eyes used to be green but now they look like someone has poured glue over them. His fingernails are yellow and brown and caked with dirt. 48I wonder what this man’s penis looks like, mangled and gross, bloated and crawling with bugs. 49He is wearing a white shirt with blue trim. The subtle intricacies of the design are unparalleled. How he was able to fabricate such a creation sits beyond the fence of my understanding and must be a kind of divine wonder. 50I wonder what is in his pockets. I wonder who this man was. 51I hear another crunch and my senses tingle. I turn my head and see another beast walking towards me but this one is far different. It is what I will look like someday. It is what I will become. What I will change into if I am left to change. But I will not be left to change. This thing is about to take me away and show me things. 52I have been chosen. I have been chosen. 53If the others thought the bloated man was God, it was because they did not lay eyes upon the creature approaching me in grace. 54It is short and thin – its body structure narrow and delicate. It has big black eyes and gray skin. It approaches me and I see that it has a very tiny mouth. 55I wonder if it has teeth. 56It stands before me and we observe one another in silence. 57The Great Being looks at me and I get lost in those monolithic eyes. Getting lost in their darkness. Am lost. 58I want to sing their praises and write their poetry. A sense of awe pours over me and I realize how tiny I am. The Earth that I saw from the top of the tree is nothing. 59I am a speck of shit on the toilet paper of existence. And now I’m going to have my nose rubbed in it for thinking I was better than I was. Such a foolish and limited creature I am. My stupidity and primal state are embarrassing. 60I take a step closer. I could touch it if I chose. Or I could try to. 61A gentle humming that is not verbal radiates from the body and sends shivers up my spine. My penis tingles and a tear runs down my cheek. I smile and my hands clench to fists. I drop to my knees and stare up at this thing. “I love you. Please. Save me. Show me. Anything.” 62If it wanted to, it could end me. It could simply cap off my life and tear me open and wear my skin to cover its nakedness but I sense that it won’t because it has not an interest, but no need to do it. 63The holy black eye surrounds me and [SEQ. II] 1then I am standing on a craft that crawls through the blackness of space. 2I know this to be true. 3The fence that circles my mind doubles outward and I see the lay of more land. My understanding rises up out of the Earthly sludge and comprehension of things previously unknown dawn on me like the beginning of time. 4I now understand that there is a fence and that my mind can only approach the fence and that I cannot wander past it. Present, future and past tense are moot. All happen simultaneously. Language tense is invalid and lacking true dimensionality. 5All around me are greys, none of them staring, all of them observing. I am the center of naked attention. 6There are machines everywhere. And hallways that seem endless. 7I walk down one and off to the side I see a woman with the top of her head split open and her brain exposed but she is still alive. She says, “Hey, Chuck!” and wiggles her eyebrows at me in a friendly gesture. Her hair is brown and curly. The grey operating on her brain reminds me more of a mechanic than a doctor. 8He is just fixing a small problem in one of the machines. 9I enter another room that is more like a great hall and see that it is more vast than my simple field. So large that I cannot see the roof. 10Where am I? Am I not on a craft? The sky seems endless. Am I on a planet? Where have they taken me? 11The inside of the cavern glows with perfect light that radiates from nowhere. The essence of life gives light to itself. It is a light that exists at the origin of everything.

 

 

Return next Monday, May 23rd for part 2 of 10 as our adventure continues through the realms of deep space. We’ll also ground down to a small village and meet a woman who carries the weight of many lifetimes of misery. She will guide us to a community park filled with doors that lead us to the land of Somewhere Else. Fear, hope, anxiety, betrayal and escape. This is the beginning.

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The Genesis of Observation

 

In our beginning, existence was formless and empty, darkness and abyss were over the surface of the cosmos. The Observer witnessed the creation of space and time.

And The Observer witnessed a great star ignite in the abyss, burning hydrogen and creating heat. The Observer noted that with light came darkness. Millions of years passed.

And The Observer witnessed gases collect around mass and create atmosphere and The Observer noted: This will contain the elements necessary for life and will protect the inhabitants from elsewhereSlowly, the atmosphere formed. 8Millions of years passed.

And The Observer witnessed pressures underground shift the plates of the planets and the low spots began to gather water and the high spots began to gather snow if the elements allowed. 10 The Observer witnessed the formation of dry ground and the formation of seas. And after millions of years, The Observer noted that it was good.

11Then The Observer witnessed vegetation evolve from the soil. The land produced many seed-bearing plants and many trees that bore fruit with seed within them. 12 And after millions of years, The Observer noted that it was good. 13 Time passed.

14 And The Observer witnessed more hydrogen atoms begin to ignite in the cosmos across vast distances. And The Observer noted that constellations could serve as signs to mark time passing from other shores, 15 and the stars gave light to the Earth and everywhere.” 16 The Observer witnessed Alpha Centauri ignite, which would warm Earth and The Observer witnessed gravity draw the moon into the orbit of the Earth. 17 The Observer noted that the moon reflected light from the sun back onto Earth at night, 18 and new evolutions began. And after millions of years, The Observer noted that it was good.19 Time passed.

20 And The Observer witnessed the individual cells of life continue to multiply and witnessed them evolve. The Observer witnessed them divide in the water and crawl towards the land. The Observer witnessed them evolve wings to fly in the air across the sky. 21 The Observer witnessed the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it evolve, according to their kinds, and every winged bird evolve, according to its kind. And after millions of years, The Observer noted that it was good. 22 The Observer also noted that the creatures continued to divide. 23 Time passed.

24 And The Observer witnessed creatures evolve from the sea and walk upon the land: the livestock, the creatures that moved along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind. 25 The Observer witnessed the wild animals, the livestock, and all the creatures that moved along the ground, evolve and change. And after millions of years, The Observer noted that it was good.

26 Then The Observer witnessed their brains evolve conscience and self awareness and witnessed them becoming more intelligent than their ancestors had been so that they could care for them; the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, and the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and all the creatures that moved along the ground.

27 So The Observer witnessed the creatures evolve,
with self awareness and consciousness, both sexes evolved;
male and female both evolved together.

28 The Observer noted, I hope they are kind to one another; it is a great thing to care for the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and every living creature that moves on the ground.

29 Then The Observer noted: Their bodies have evolved to fit this planet perfectly. They can sustain themselves on the vegetation of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.

31 After billions of years, The Observer noted: the machine works. Time continued to pass.

 

 

 

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Where Do Babies Come From?

While visiting our in-laws in Montana and patiently awaiting the arrival of our newest tribesmen, Jade and I decided to dip out and take a walk with the kids. Turning the corner on an overcast day, Quinn asked me, no doubt with thoughts of pregnant women on the brain, “How do babies get inside the mommy’s tummy?”

This train of logic makes sense. We show up to Montana, telling the children that Aunt Katie is going to have a baby. We tell the kids that there is a baby in her tummy. Green light, green light, green light. Who the heck put that thing there?

Gotta be honest. I was a little caught off guard with that one. I had certainly thought about what it would be like having that talk with my daughter and I’ve thought about what I’d say but I’d never actually come to any kind of conclusion. I’d never thought I will say THIS. I mean, even if you’re going to shoot totally straight about it, there’s no clean way to say, “A man gets an erection – uh, that’s when his penis gets really hard, and then he sticks it into a woman and rubs it until he ejaculates inside of her – oh, ejaculate is like this creamy puddy stuff. Yeah, it’s pretty gross. So anyway, the man shoots this creamy pudding stuff into the woman’s vagina and then badda-bing, bodda-boom, the baby is there.”

It’s gross, right? You’re cringing. No way am I saying that to my five year old. No way am I playing this one straight.

Not yet, anyway.

I just imagine that I damage them so irreparably that every sexual experience they have for the rest of their lives both begins and ends with spells of shivering and vomiting.

Anyway, I’m like, “You know our garden and how we pick vegetables?” “Yeah,” “And you know how we plant a seed and then a plant grows?” “Yeah,” “A daddy plants a seed in the mommy. And the seed grows into a baby and when the baby is ready, we pick it.”

I say, “Does that make sense?” and she says, “Yes,” and then peddles away on her big wheel. What is happening? I’m having sex talks with my children. I was in high school yesterday. How did I get here?

Well, as it turns out, who the heck put that thing there turned into who the heck put me here which turned into who the heck put us all here?

This is a process of several days, understand. She’d ask a question and it would seem to percolate with her for 24 – 48 hours before she’d come back with the raised ante.

So we’re driving home from Montana and Quinn asks me from the backseat, “Daddy? Where do we come from? I mean, all of us? Did God put us here?”

And this is a role defining moment for me. I was raised in a very traditional Catholic household before leaving the Catholic church and rolling “straight Christian.” My faith has gone through a number of peaks and valleys – or rather, my faith has always been what it is but it is my actions that have seemed to falter. The spirit is strong but the flesh is weak, you know?

And it wasn’t until recently, and probably I could write an entire piece on this, that I’ve begun to seriously question many of the tent pole beliefs of my faith. Was Jesus actually the son of God or was he simply one of the most amazing teachers history has ever seen? Did Jesus resurrect after death? Is God real?

I won’t get into the minutia of it here – perhaps another time – but I’ve found this really divine peace that I’ve never experienced before. I feel free.

My faith was chaining me to the ground. My blind faith only made me blind.

And so I don’t want to tell Quinn that God is real and that she should believe XYZ simply because I’m telling her that it’s true.

And so I let her wonder. So that when she does look for God, it is her own journey and it’s not crafted by me and it’s raw and rich and experiential. Instead of telling her what happens in the movie and how awesome it is, I’m just going to let her go see the movie herself.

I believe that there probably is a God. I believe that it probably isn’t the one that modern Christian culture is having us believe in. I think our perspective of God is disgustingly warped and perverted and I think the Christian faith, overall, is absolutely grotesque masked hatred. While most of the followers walk around preaching peace, they’re sitting on their hands at home, blasting pornography and talking about how important it is to keep men from loving men and how to best keep families that are in desperate need out of our country. Basically standing in direct opposition to Christ’s teachings.

By opposing gay marriage, they are saying, in short, that love should not happen. And by keeping out the Syrian refugees they are saying, in short, that empathy should not happen. They will tell you all day long that they don’t think this but words are wind.

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” That’s James. From the Bible. Calling this brand of religion worthless. 

“And you will know them by their fruits.” That’s Jesus.

Christian church, we all know you by your fruits. And your fruit is rotten and disgusting and it turns the stomach of the world. Your faith is off-putting. It is not attractive. You are not the victim. You are the predator.

Christianity as a whole is very wonderful. The teachings of Jesus can change your life and can change the world. I don’t want what I’m saying to be confused with modern day Christianity, which is – for the most part – just a stiff-necked mannequin. An imposter. A copy of the real thing.

It is a giant, rubber dildo. A phony.

Most (not all) modern day Christians are so consumed with the laws of their faith that they’ve lost the lessons. Modern day Christianity has come full circle and the practitioners are the very Pharisees that crucified Christ.

When the Bible says that you’ll call to God and he’ll say he never knew you, it’s talking about those people. When the Bible says that many are called and few are chosen, it’s talking about those people.

If you believe in the devil, you can rest assured that he’s just kicking back and watching Christians do all his work for him.

And I can’t get behind that way of thinking. And I don’t want to associate myself with any group of people who lead their lives with such fear. I believe in a God that kicks ass in peace. A God that lives inside all of us and in everything. A thing of beauty and love and a thing that we can each connect with in that beauty and love.

And I found this raw experience because I was willing to let go of everything I knew and I would have missed it if I had refused to let go of things that people taught me instead of the things I had experienced for myself. Who God was to me was always who God was to my parents. Does that make sense? My perception of God was crafted by other people.

And I don’t want to craft Quinn’s perspective of who God is. When the Bible says seek and you shall find, I believe this is what it’s talking about. You come look for me. And I’ll be here. I truly believe that. And if you believe that, then cutting your children out into the world shouldn’t be a problem. If you believe that God is great and God is the Ultimate Truth, then if your children seek the Ultimate Truth, they will find your God.

But we’re all afraid they won’t find God. We’re all afraid they’ll find something else. Because when it comes down to it, we have no faith in our faith. And so we nurture our beliefs into them. Better to keep these things in our own hands. Spoon feed them religion.

When I told a number of my Christian friends and family that I was speaking with the door-to-door Mormons and was reading The Book of Mormon, I was told that I should quickly run the other way. When I told a number of my Christian friends and family that I was reading Dianetics, I was told that I should drop it and run the other way.

Never trust an organization, institution or group of individuals, whether that be political, religious or otherwise, that demands you to not seek knowledge elsewhere. When someone suggests that you not look for true knowledge outside of the presented box, they do not have your best interest at heart.
Fear of knowledge is a fear of reality. And a fear of reality leads to a very limited understanding of the world. And a limited understanding of the world leads to a limited understanding of people. And a limited understanding of people leads to fear. Oh, my. That’s certainly cyclical. Look at your people group. Look at your friends. Is it the same people that would tell you to hang tight to your beliefs that would tell you to keep the Syrian refugees out? Is it the same people that would tell you to hang tight to your beliefs that would tell you that gay marriage is an abomination but not be able to tell you why?

Are the people that tend to fear the world the same people that tend to fear knowledge?

When Quinn experiences God, I want her to experience the closest thing she can. And when she looks for God, I want her to look on her own. I want to instill in her a sense of raw wonder of the universe. I love that she’s asking all these questions at five. I love that she’s already seeing the world and going, what is this? What is this? What is that thing? How does this work? She asked me about the sun and planets and outer space the other day and now she’s memorized what most of them look like – she knows that Saturn has rings and Neptune has rings (that go the other way) and Pluto is tiny and Jupiter (which she spells Gupiter) has a big red spot on it and that our planet is blue and she understands that the planets work on a “big loop around the sun.”

I’m like, excuse the French but, what the fuck?

Is this child freaking Carl Sagan reborn?

“Well, Quinn. We came from amoebas.”

Amoebas?” really, truly shocked. “What’s that?”

“It’s like a small thing that’s even smaller than you could ever see. You’d have to have a microscope to see it. It probably traveled here on an asteroid that contained ice when the world was forming.”

“Is it like this small?” and she holds up her fingers pinched almost together.

“Smaller. Way smaller. Like nothing at all.”

And then I try to explain evolution to her but quickly realize that there is just no easy way to explain this to a five year old. You try to talk about things changing and it doesn’t make sense to them and you try to talk about natural selection and it’s just too big an idea because they don’t really understand breeding and passing of traits. Is there not a children’s version of Darwin’s Origin of Species?

So I’m left to try and simply draw connections between monkeys, apes, Neanderthals and modern man. “What animal do humans look like the most, Quinn?”

“Uh… monkeys?”

“That’s right! I’m very impressed that a five year old noticed that.”

 

Crickets.

 

“Over millions and millions of years, monkeys slowly became man.”

“God did not put us here?”

“Well, some people believe that God put us here and some people believe that God put the amoebas here and some people believe…

Are you sure you want to say this? Once it’s out of your mouth, you cannot take it back. Is this a seed you really want to plant? You are about to make a major life decision and this may affect her faith in sweeping ways – in large ripple effects.

“Some people don’t believe in God at all.”

WHAT?!”

She doesn’t ask me if I believe in God.

Sometimes I wonder what I would say if she had…

 

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Evidence to the Extraordinary

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“Is sasquatch real?” Quinn asks, out of breath, as she runs up to me. I’m sitting at the table drawing faces on marshmallows we’re about to roast. Is sasquatch real?

 

There’s a part of me – that quick gut reaction part – that tries to quickly blurt out, “No,” just so I don’t get embroiled in an endless conversation of “Why? Why? Why?” with my five year old. But instead I bite. “Is sasqatch real? That is a very interesting question because it doesn’t have an answer. Have you ever heard of a question that doesn’t have an answer before?”

 

She shakes her head no. Quinn is very inquisitive and both her memory and ability to comprehend large concepts is sometimes frightening. She looks at me with wide eyes and crunched eyebrows. I can tell that she understands she’s breaking new ground.

 

“Well, Quinn. Some people believe in sasquatch and some people don’t.”

“Why?”

“Because there is no proof of him. Do you know what proof is?”

“No.”

“It’s something you can say is real. I have proof that this marshmallow is real because I’m holding it in my hand and I can touch it and I can see it and feel it. Another name for proof is evidence.”

“And you can tell that I am real because you can see me?

“That’s right! You’re very smart.”

“So sasquatch is not real because nobody can see him.”

 

This is where it gets tricky. How do you nurture a sense of awe and wonder in a child while still painting an accurate portrait that they will understand without drowning them in information? That’s a tall request. How do you explain how large the galaxy is to a child that doesn’t have true concept of what a mile looks like? It all needs to be boiled down to these very simple kernels of truth.

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“Sasquatch might be real because nobody has ever seen him. I know that’s a big idea for you. Nobody has ever seen him so we cannot say with certainty that he is real or false.”

“Can you look it up on your phone?”

 

I appreciate that Quinn views my phone as a gateway to all knowledge and truth because, at its core, that is exactly what the internet is. The Great Digital Oracle.

 

“The answer is not on my phone. Nobody knows the true answer.”

“There are no pictures?”

“Yes, there are pictures but nobody knows if they’re real or faked.”

“Like a man in a suit?”

“Your astuteness frightens me sometimes.”

“Oh! Thanks, Dad. What is uh-stood-ness?”

“Lots of questions. Let’s not get side-tracked. You should also know that there are some people that say they’ve seen sasquatch and have touched him but most other people say that they just made it up.”

“Why would they do that?”

“I don’t know. Publicity?”

“What is publicity?”

“It’s like when you do something so that a lot of people hear about you.”

“Why?”

“Because some people like to be the center of attention.”

“Why?”

“Alright, listen. Let’s focus on one thing. Ready? What did we learn? Sasquatch is . . .”

“Maybe real.”

“Because . . .”

“Nobody has seen him and we cannot prove it.”

“That’s right. It’s just a story until someone has . . .”

“Evidence.”

“Bingo.”

 

I pick up my marker and start coloring in the eyeballs on my marshmallow, creating life.

 

Quinn scratches her head with comically large actions. It’s like a very theatrical cartoon character taught her what it looks like when people “think”. Lots of head rubbing and going, “Ummmmm.”

 

“Yes, Quinn? Do you have another question?”

 

“Is God real?”

 

I set down my marshmallow and look into its flat, lifeless eyes and wonder if she intentionally sets me up.

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The Quenching Waters of Shame

 

Let me tell you about one of the most shameful moments I have ever experienced. Let me tell you about the awful time I wanted to disappear into nothingness because I was so humiliated by my thoughtless actions. Sometimes Truth is a venom and when it works its way into our hearts it hurts fiercely but it also helps if you let it. It can burn away all the fat of reality until we experience only the kernel of humanity that is left.

Let’s begin…

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The heat in Africa is like someone holding a blow dryer in your face on a July day. It’s like eating mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs in a Jacuzzi. It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire.

 

When you get a bottle of water, you don’t sip it. You slam it. You slam it if it’s cold and freezes your throat. You slam it if it’s room temperature and feels like spit. There is no casual thirst here.

 

And now, standing in the dirt, covered by the shade of our van and wiping sweat from my face, I see Ryan, a Ugandan who’s tagging along with us, kill an entire bottle in no time flat. He wipes his mouth and says, “I know dis guy named Geronimo – he’s a big guy. Will take a whole bottle and just drop it right down his throat into his big belly.”

 

I lift the piss-warm water to my lips as my mind wanders back to America where a faucet gives me ice-cold water and I don’t have to worry about microbes giving me diarrhea and headaches. I say, “How fast you think you can slam that bottle?” Ryan shrugs and I pull the stopwatch up on my phone.

 

“GO.” Ryan kicks his head back and goes bottoms up. The clear liquid birdie-drops past his teeth and he doesn’t spill a drop. “Eight point five seconds. That’s insane.”

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He grabs a second bottle from our stash in the van and hands it to me. “Ready, Johnny?” I nod and watch his thumb hit the timer. I flip the bottle up, trying to imitate his method, but instead water jets up my nose and covers my shirt. I cough and water sprays out of my mouth. Ryan starts to laugh as I go into a choking fit. “Haha! Twelve seconds, Johnny! I win!”

 

No! I can do better! I can do –”

 

But my thought is cut short and the contest is forgotten forever as I realize where I’m standing, as I realize where I am and what I’m doing. “Maybe . . . we shouldn’t . . . do this . . .”

 

Staring at us is a small group of Ugandan children, twelve in all. Some of them are barefoot. Some of them wear shoes that are tied to their feet. One kid has a hole in his pants so big I can see his penis hanging out. Their shirts are either too big or too small for their bodies. Their skin is as dark as a plum and the dirt they are caked in is like a powder. One child has a herniated belly button the size of a kiwi. Their white eyes look at me. Look into me.

 

I’m not just in Uganda. I’m in the slums. I’m down here shooting promotional videos for an organization that houses abandoned babies, an organization that takes infants who have been left for dead inside of dumpsters and places them with new mothers. I’m down here representing them. And I’m down here representing America. And I’m down here representing humanity. And I’m supposed to be helping. I’m supposed to be in the dirt with these kids, giving them the tiniest shred of hope in their day. Earlier I was doing close-up magic—making a small coin disappear—and teaching them secret handshakes and they were chasing me around and hugging me and laughing and shouting, “Mzungu! Mzungu!”— an African term that means white traveler—and a humbling happiness came over me wherein I knew I could not help them all and I knew I could only help in this moment.

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I look at their houses and I see mud walls with tin roofs. I see a canal, an undeveloped sewage system, that is one foot wide filled with human waste running in front of their homes. I see someone from my team open up a bag of suckers and I hear 30 children scream with so much glee that at first I think someone is being murdered. The children run around waving their candy in the air and laughing. I watch a two-year-old drop his sucker in some kind of dark brown mud. I watch him pick it up, wipe it on his shirt, and stick it back in his mouth.

 

I watch the mothers look at me and I know what they are thinking. They know where I come from. They know what I have. They know what they never will. Their mats in the dirt are as good as it gets and are as good as it ever will get. There is a quiet hopelessness that my presence rubs their noses in.

 

A drunken man wanders down the street and begins shouting at us in Lugandan, the local language. I ask Ryan what he’s saying. “He doesn’t want us here. He thinks you’re going to take his picture and make money from it and he will get nothing.”

 

“Can you tell him that we’re going to take the images to raise money for the babies?”

 

Ryan says, “He doesn’t care. Those babies are not in this village. Uganda is a big place. We might help someone but we won’t help him.”

 

We can’t help everyone.

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The man disappears and comes back holding an iron rod. He cranks the volume on his voice and begins waving it around. The man gets up in the face of a local girl and begins pointing at each of us wildly. Ryan translates for me, “Why are you helping them? They are white, and they don’t care about you! When they are done they will leave and forget about you and you will still be here, poor and broke!”

 

It’s easy to paint this man as the bad guy, but the truth is that he’s spent his entire life being treated like an animal as we all come from our homes and take pictures of him in his natural habitat. He feels exploited.

 

When he’s spoken his mind, he stumbles away.

 

In a place like this – where you have so much more than everyone else, where you’re the richest guy in the room and everyone knows it—it’s easy to start thinking of yourself as some kind of gracious Mother Teresa type. It’s easy to start believing that you’re sacrificing yourself for The Children. Vanity moves in fast.

 

“I’ve come from America to save you! Do not fear, simple African people, for I have brought you the best thing I can: myself!”

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I reach out and I take a child’s hand and I look into her eyes while I wonder how filthy those fingers are. How much human excrement is on them? I say, “How are you? What is your name?” while I scan her for any cuts that could infect me with HIV.

 

I’m down in it. For tonight only. And I am helping. But not this kid. Some kid somewhere will feel the effects of this video we’re making. It will raise awareness and it will raise money and that money will help some kid. But not this one. Not any of these. And the guy with the pipe is right. When I’m done here I am going to go back to America and you will still be here. And you will still be poor and broke.

 

But I won’t forget you. He’s wrong about that.

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The sun is dropping down, and this close to the equator it only takes 15 minutes to go dark. The kids chase after us, laughing and dancing, smiling and shouting, “Mzungu! Mzungu!” as we walk to our van.

 

We get to the lot and I’m sweating. Ryan slides open the door and grabs a bottle of water, “I know dis guy named Geronimo—” And that’s how it all plays out.

 

How quickly we forget ourselves.

 

And now here I am, my eyes connecting with each one of the twelve kids. I think I know who they are and what they are. I believe that I am deep enough to understand the sorrows of their culture. And with clean water rushing down my chin and into the dirt, pooling in the dust at my feet, I realize that I am filled with more shit than the ditches in front of their homes.

 

I feel my heart break. Not for them. But for myself. I am baptized in shame. I swing my pack off and reach inside. Please, please let there be more. Please. My hand wraps around warm plastic and I pull out a bottle of water. I push through the crowd to the tallest child and say, “Are you the oldest?” and he nods. I hand him the bottle of water and I point to the crowd. “Share.”

 

Half the kids get a sip as it’s passed carefully between them, and then it’s gone and is discarded on the ground before they all look back at me. Nobody is multiplying fish and loaves here.

 

Our driver hollers. “Suns down. We gotta go.” And he means it. This is no place for a mzungu at night. I jump into the backseat and the kids all press their hands to the glass. “Mzungu! Please! They babble in their native tongue, shouting pleas at me.

 

I can’t help you.

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The engine fires up and the van shifts into drive. “Mzungu! Mzungu!” I press my hand against the glass and we start to move. I thrust my fist into my pocket. Where is it? Where is it? Hurry up! Hurry up, you fucking idiot! You fucking selfish idiot! The pocket is empty. I go for the other one—just a bunch of wrappers and lint. Where is it!? Where did I put it? There! My hand wraps around a single coin worth 100 shillings or about 3 U.S. pennies – the one I was making vanish with my close-up magic.

 

I swing open the door and reach out to the smallest kid, front and center. “Here! Here!” He holds out his hand and I drop the coin into his palm. His eyes turn into saucers. “Thank you, mzungu!” They all see the coin and they look at me and they start shouting, “Mzungu! Shilling! Mzungu!” They reach out for me, 12 dirty hands asking for my help, as the van speeds up.

 

I do them the courtesy of looking them all in the eyes as I slam the door in their faces.

 

I’m sorry. I can’t save you.

 

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