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Two Prefaces to a Future Collection

Preface I, “The Storied Cathedral”

 

Without my Father, I am a blind man riding a bicycle down a hill. I am a woman who has convinced herself that she is pregnant and, with her hands on her belly, tries to force out the baby. But she passes out and wakes up to find that she is still fat.

He appears as chaos to us, in a whirlwind, and we are frightened and want to run away. It is a violent storm and we want to look away. It is coming for us, because with our shrill voices we have requested a hearing. He comes to us in the fields outside the city. And if we come into his presence, we go outside the city walls, forgetting our reputation with this world, and forgetting ourselves. We go out into the swirling motions, hold our breath, pray, and forget.

And by forgetting, we see that he has planned his stories perfectly.

It would be sacrilegious to say that he is building a cathedral with his stories, because a cathedral is a man-made thing. But it would not be sacrilegious to say that he is building a universe.

In my mid teens, I saw a vision of his complexity and chaotic appearance. Caught in the Whirlwind, a collection of stories, was the child of that vision. But when I let the ideas ferment in my mind, they quickly became stale and self-destructive. I set out to prove through this collection that our search for identity and questions are finished when we enter into the presence of God. The answer to the trial of Job was simply the face of our Father. As soon as we come into his presence, which drives us mad as we watch its ferocity and irregularity from the city walls, we are silenced and the Father speaks with his image. The Father does not communicate to us through frail language, but through the unbreakable force of his own identity revealed in the Christ. He pours out his Spirit on his Son and this wrath is so profound that it kills him. And this is love, that he laid down his own life, so that we could throw our petty questions at his feet.

As I once saw it, your creativity was so endless that all possibilities were realities in your creation. You did not just create this universe, but you breathed a cloud of a billion universes all connected and united under the solitary completed possibility of your Son, Jesus, dying on the cross in this universe for all sins in all possibilities.

This was my construction, but I felt that it was my place as a creature to contemplate your breadth and width and height. I felt that if you really are eternal, then perhaps your creation is eternal beyond just one universe. And in a complex web of thought, I concluded that all of your creation and every possiverse existed in this universe, if even a few miles apart.

Ironically, this eternal creation underneath you began to shrink your own eternality. I felt that if creatures only saw how much you had planned and how much you had fulfilled and how much you governed and guided, then the ancient question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” would be answered.

But in believing your creation to be eternal and in desiring to show this to others, so that their questions would be silenced as mine were when I saw you, I was conflating you with your creation. In making your universe eternal, I was making you finite. And therefore, I increased the questions and confusion for a god that was no longer necessary.

I could not see that you are a god of nature, but not in the classic sense. By saying that the greatest god is a god of nature, someone is usually confessing to be a spiritualized and compromised atheist.

When I say that my Father is a god of nature, I mean that I am who I am. I mean that he is bound by his nature and, unlike my complex fabrications, is satisfied. The eternity in him that answers all the questions of man, the end of the trial of Job, is that he is the Trinity. And in this Trinity, he is self-satisfied and does not need to create an endless tapestry. He is satisfied to make one universe and provide himself as savior once and have me exist only once.

To better understand this, consider yourself. Only you will do certain things and think in your way. You are the only you that has ever existed. And unfortunately, the cliche that we are special no longer makes us satisfied but greedy for proof that we are more special than others. Let me reinstate that old maxim, you are special.

You are special, because you will die and you will never have a second chance to repeat this life. Every mistake you make here is eternal unless you come into the Father’s presence. Only the Father can forget, because he knows all. To forget is righteousness. To live in the present is righteousness. To be satisfied with your nature is righteousness. To wait is righteousness, until you can wait no longer and you die and you are not left asking, “How long, o Lord?” because he is looking at you.

It is impossible for you to act and create outside of your nature. Luckily, our nature is malleable and intentionally so, so that if we face some deficiency of virtue, we may be healed by a graft of identity.

I will only ever create according to my nature. The fact that a multiverse is attractive to me says something about my nature. Everything I do is a footprint of my nature. I cannot be free from my nature, because I have been made good. I do not want to be free from my nature. I am being perfected as a creation of the Father.

The two saddest thoughts to me are these. One, not that someone would die, but that they would be afraid of death. Two, not that someone was insecure, but that they are not content to be themselves. The greatest pleasure in this life comes from our worship of God in our small span through what we have been given, our bodies.

So while I could conceive of a god that would create eternal possiverses, it would be heretical to call that god Father. The Father does not and has never created outside his own nature. The possiverse does not exist. This is a declaration of his eternity, because it is an acceptance of the finitude of creation. Creation is underneath the Father and is therefore not eternal.

So it is with my relationship to my stories. In relation to the stories I create new from the soil and the sun he has given me, I am eternal. I can only ever create something limited. I cannot create possibilities. My stories will only go as far as the words I use will allow. There will always be boundaries.

This is why the artist, being afraid of his limited nature, ends his stories with vague language, estimating that our lack of knowledge is equivalent to the Father’s mystery and proves that the artist is god. He uses vague language to avoid the truth that he holds vague notions of himself. It is the creator who embraces his finitude that is free to create real worlds. Vague language, by allowing for any number of interpretations, gives this pleasure not to himself but to the viewers. They complete the story in their own mind and make it real for themselves. And so by setting himself up as god, the artist takes away the single pleasure he is offered and gives it to someone else. The atheist walks in the footsteps of Esau.

For all of this, every creator should memorize Ecclesiastes. I need to memorize Ecclesiastes, to digest it and have it rest in my elbows and knees. God’s gift to man is to eat, drink, and take pleasure in his toil, because all is vanity and we are the dead.

We are the small. We are the vessels, broken or made whole. We are the paintings, running and blending and God holds us in derision. We are the worried and we grasp for moments with our machines to preserve them. But to every season there is a time and a time for every purpose under heaven. And to writing books there will be no end, so the sum of the matter is this; fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. And all is vain, but God remembers all we do, whether attempted or thought, and he will bring us into his presence and judge us according to what identity we choose to lose.

So, Father, I offer up this gift to you. Take my storied cathedral. It is my joy, my privilege, your gift, my toil to construct a cathedral of as many stories I might write and on the tall front wooden door, I have a plaque that reads soli deo gloria, because my glory is fading, but your victory lives in all of us. Father, I have lost the will to fight, for I was not made for life. And I want to jump into that destruction outside the city walls, because this city is coming down and you have prepared a place for me to create and to laugh.

And this is all not a very serious affair, because there are so many of us. So I have no need to get my arms wrapped around those next to me, unless it is for a hug and not for the sake of influence.

Father, here is this storied cathedral, take and seal it for my court above. It is there that I may perfect my work. It is there that I go to continue my work. It is there that I may remember the darkness here and the fear and the uncertainty about evil and it is there that I may write a million stories that do nothing but retell that deep story of Job, which I have only just begun to understand. And Job had more kids and had a bigger house and his influence on earth spread down through the generations to a skinny pale kid living in the empire of America and he is learning contentedness and he finds pleasure in his thoughts, only because they are completed by gratitude, because I did not invent soil and I did not invent the sun and I have only just begun to tell your single story, your storied universe, through the only way I know how, not as a mirror but as a statue, growing towards heaven.

And each stone I use and the frescoes on the floor and the gargoyles on the towers and the bats in the rafters and the vaulted ceilings with the longing paintings and the saints in the windows, these are all my creations. And they are part of the same possiverse of my own mind and I have taken them from that temple of ideas and fixed them firmly into this construction.

And reader, this is for you. Every story you see is part of the same universe. And I call this universe The Storied Cathedral. And I would be a pagan not to tell some of my characters about the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who is as real for them as he is for me. And the same choices are before them, whether I have told his name to them or not, to listen to the Father speak through his idols.

The windows on the left, Caught in the Whirlwind.

 

-Ludington, Michigan, 2014

 

Preface II, Puerile Philosophizing

 

I woke up yesterday and stabbed my eyes out. I can see much better now, after the pain. I can tell you what color your soul is. I know the rhythm of the rain. I understand that the earth is curving at every straight edge. I have seen the blackness of space and felt it. I am not ashamed naked. I can see when failure is heading my way and I can dodge the bullet. I have seen that smaller things are much larger than big things. I can breath underwater. I have dispensed with every outworking of my humanity, except my core remains the same. I am still human and for all my attempts at escape, I still cannot measure God.

I woke up yesterday and my eyes grew back. I see everything again, and that’s much more painful. I can’t see what you really mean. I am clumsy when I try to end something that shouldn’t have begun. I will not live past two hundred. I don’t know how old my descendants are. I plan on planning things. I kill the people I love the most. I leave out hope when it’s needed most. I intend to save others from my own faults. The earth is flat. I cannot dispense with my humanity, but every now and then I try. Every attempt sheds light on something dark. It is not evil, it is not against me. It is very scary. I still cannot measure God.

What variation exists in His head? What has He hid from us? He has not hid my death. He has not hid my failure. I look to Him and I see a face with worlds behind Him. He can allow things that are not to be. Who will argue with Him? Who will demand that He follows rules which we have arbitrarily placed? Who says we have to understand Him? We have to acknowledge Him. If we don’t, every endless line of vision is an absurdity. A world without God would be a world that contains a long list of unconnected unknowables. He is the connection of these things. His existence alone explains why there are universes we cannot see. His existence alone explains simultaneous realities that seem contradictory. He cannot be measured, because He is the measurement.

It is through Him that I become eternal. I am caught up in this flurry of activity, too wild to wrap my head around. It’s wrapped around me and I have to either embrace the ridiculousness or suffocate. This is a reality where anything is possible and where every possibility exists at the same time; where every detail is just as important as the last. There are the wrinkles on an old man’s face and there are billions of galaxies. How many universes are there? How much variation? How much possibility? How much knowledge and force is necessary to control a reality where infinite things exist? A number is not even good enough. I still cannot measure God.

Here are some guidelines to measuring yourself.

 

1. All things exist at the same time logically, only if God exists.

2. God is working. These motions generate a whirlwind which wraps around everything. He hides the whirlwind with His cloak, so we cannot see.

3. Sometimes the cloak blows out and we see things we ought not.

4. We mean nothing apart from God. He has to focus on everything intently. He has to focus on us. Because we are wrapped up in the whirlwind, we become eternal. We are eternal souls, distinct from everything else and playing an essential role.

5. Apparent contradictions in reality exist and must. They are apparent, because they are there. They are contradictions, because of how we see them, not because of their nature. The Law of Gravity and our other theoretical grids cannot capture what we observe. What we observe is the nature of the universe and a reflection of the nature of God, who loves our categorical creations.

6. Because contradictions exist, they have to exist for some reason. They exist, because God has been loving Himself for eternity. And He has a whirlwind wrapped around Him.

7. Everything is constantly changing and subject to the power and usefulness of God. We can choose to either be tools of Him, or reject Him and use ourselves. The latter is just another form of helping His goals.

8. A reality without numbers – one whose boundaries are incalculable – demands that our finitude be subject to His will, even in the cases when He has given us complete free will.

9. My immortality is born out of this work.

 

-Geneva, Illinois, 2013

disturbing-muses-1918

………………..

I want to see a lay person in the church write an epic. Unfortunately, fiction is either written to be sold or to be mysterious. There are the writers who have a message and there are the writers who have a vision. The story is sometimes used as honey for the medicine or is conflated with the truth itself. There is the marketer and the mystic and I think that the next epic will be written as something like magical realism.

I do not like to talk about genre or to put more into one genre than another. All things are pure to those who are pure and this is not only an ethical claim but also an aesthetic claim about form. The point is that content ought to determine form, not vice versa.

The content for an epic ought to come from a writer who has a vision after hearing the message.

A writer whose motive is exclusively spreading a message will pick a form that will sell, so he writes science fiction or erotic fiction or young adult fiction or whatever it is that the mass market enjoys.

A writer whose motive is exclusively to spread his vision, however, will pick a form that will prove his status as a cultural prophet, something like free verse or unedited postmodern schlock. And he will remain the most active member of the local writing group, revered for his depth of vision and the trouble in getting others to understand what he sets up as mysterious. The farthest he will get professionally, perhaps, is printing off one hundred copies of his free verse poetry about finding Your True Self and asking the local coffee shop if he can put five or six copies on their shelf next to the coffee mugs. Or, she will become a professor of English at a community college and get tenure after a few years and teach her students to express themselves exactly as she wants them to.

The next epic will not be a postmodern one nor will it be a “rational” one. I am about to make a grand claim that deals with how to change culture, so let me defend first defend myself.

__________Personal Defense: Skippable__________

This is a blog. A blog is a public journal and I feel it can be as fruitful to have a public journal as a private one. The difference does not lie in motivation, but in content. A private journal can be used for anything – and so can a public one – but you can say anything in a private journal. You are either writing to your future self, Journal, or Jesus and these three people already know everything about you.

A public journal, however, is a place to share your opinions on things. A gigantic marketplace has existed since there was culture and it is called public opinion. It is a marketplace in which it is free for everyone to participate. The blog is only one tool used in this ancient marketplace.

Some modern people look at the internet and blogs and think it is some new invention, but the infrastructure has been there as long as people have voices, ears, and something to say. The internet only speeds up the process of disseminating information, news, and opinions between people. The written word is the child of recorded speech.

__________THE END__________

My grand claim about changing culture is that the goal for a “culture-changer” should never be to change culture. I do not mean that the goal is too vague. Frequently, someone who wants to change culture knows of a certain way to do it. The goal of changing the culture is dangerous, instead, because it is frequently too specific. When someone becomes a vendor in the marketplace – whether they are spreading a message or sharing a vision – they try to do the new thing. And new things are frequently repetitions of old things that were once new. The specificity of their goal is often a way for them to provide an extreme alternative to the “old” things that they see as “problems” in culture.

And then they are pumped and thrilled (!) to oppose big businesses with small businesses or big churches with small churches or Christian fiction with dark realism (this is a dark world, but not that dark) or consumerism with asceticism or their parents with radical discipleship or church programs with Eastern Orthodoxy.

But history has proven that swinging the pendulum the opposite direction is not enough. To oppose something extremely is not enough to change culture. The more violent extremes we support, the more violently the pendulum will swing right back to the problems we once opposed. All it takes is for the visionaries to die and for the rebels, our children, to be the next visionaries who will die.

A true visionary will not just oppose one extreme and not just both extremes and not just the balance. He will oppose the entire idea of a pendulum. He will oppose the fable that history is a cycle and that the current age has to be cycled through and that we have to play some part in the battle between Yin and Yang, to bring in the New Age.

He will be pleased that he lives in the age in which he was put. He will embrace all of history, not as a power play between two truths or the fruit of men who struggled with dichotomies, but instead as something very good all the way through and increasingly being made perfect.

A true visionary will live contentedly with all men of his age and of the past age and, instead of addressing their present cultural hungers (and his own), addresses the ancient hunger for a relationship with mankind’s Father. He will not look past in history and see one age that he wishes we could go back to, nor does he see that our cultural hope lies in the future (for the present, oh how it is so woefully terrible! No goodness! Dark realism! No one sees things the way I do! Oh, piety! Somebody whip my back, I am too perverted to even enjoy potato chips with a clean conscience).

He will speak through all extremes of past ages. I mean this in both senses. He will draw from past cultural extremes, knowing that he is not the first man who craved peace. They are not only tools for him, but things to cut through, to destroy and look past. This can only be done if he uses them as tools.

Somewhere inside here lies multiculturalism, intertextuality, the idols of postmodernism, surrealism, the avant-garde, and magical realism.

All past epics spoke through the ages in this way. Epics are so strongly rooted in a place in both space and time, that they are set free from their age and considered ageless. A contemporary epic would have to do this. It would have to be so well-rooted in this postmodern age (this post-postmodern age?) and in the tools that postmodernists use, that it speaks through postmodernism into the realm of ageless epics alongside Paradise Lost, Pilgrim’s Progress, The Divine Comedy, Don Quixote, etc.

In my opinion, this epic will be considered a masterpiece of magical realism. It will be written by a man whose spiritual life is a field so well-tilled and so rooted in the Gospel, that his conviction pervades the visions that capture him. And from these visions, he carves an epic because he loves to.

Good cannot be done by those who are not good, a church cannot grow if there is no integrity, discipleship cannot be done by those who have not yet been discipled, and form cannot be perfected if there is not first content.

Our Father grows his church, not by more programs or by extra forms, but by people who have been indwelled by the Spirit of Christ. This is essential to understand for writers just as much as it is for pastors, as much as it is for the lay person who is an ordained electrician.

A writer cannot write to change something, unless he has first been changed.

This is why St. Benedict in his rule said, that if a brother becomes proud or begins to self-identify himself in his craft, then the abbot should take away his craft until he has again forgotten himself. This is why pastors, if need be, should sometimes take time off from their ministry and ordained electricians should take time off to go into ministry. This is why we set time aside to stop what we are doing and, instead, spend time in silence with God. This is why we fast from good things. This is why we do not works ourselves to death, as if our salvation was through the realization of our ambitions. This is why we, if we find that we have four kids under us (I do not) and a wife beside us, sacrifice our thoughts and ambitions and visions to pour love into them until they can do nothing else but pour love into the next generation.

And this is why ambition is something that must be cultivated. I am tired of writers in the church compromising their ambitions for distractions. I am tired of elders condemning ambition as if it was something foreign to the saints of God. The restoration of the church will not just come from nuclear families and from wives who think that submission to their husbands means that they cannot have opinions.

The restoration of the church will come from those who are pure and from the forms that they choose, which become pure. And these people, if they find themselves bursting with ambition either for missions or for shifting the cultural landscape of America through film, have to forsake distractions and instead embrace discipline, cultivation, and glory to God in their ambition. Ambition is no enemy of the church. Ambition is the God-given desire to create, which is the most reflective action of our Father in which we can participate. And because it is mightily powerful in doing the work of God, it is mightily attacked by Satan and all of the enemies of the Church behind him. Hollywood heteroclites who are completely ignorant of the forces of good and evil that use them as vessels of battle (Pharaoh, with his wooden heart, was a pawn of God) will go unopposed if we champion silent chastity over the virtue of ambition. Adam had a paunch and Eve had curves and they enjoyed making things and had ambitions of filling the earth and multiplying. Adam and Eve wanted to change the world and the first person who opposed this ambition was Satan who wanted to silence their desire by offering them an opportunity to just sit down for a minute. We cannot even sit down rightly and take a break from our race, if we are not first running towards something, pursuing ambitions that our Father has given us.

……………….

This is a very small thought. Keeping thoughts minimal creates more possibilities, I think.

It took me a long time to figure out that video games are only fun when you miss content. Some people try to experience everything the game has to offer. They want to be the highest level, to go into every dungeon, to get “all” the money, to complete all the quests, to marry all the wives and buy all the homes. And they want to do all this on the highest difficulty level.

While that might be fun, it reduces the video game to a game. A video game tries to establish a reality for you to experience. A video game would like to be more video than game.

I liked to make “super” characters. If any CPU was grateful for something, they were grateful t0 me. I would spend hours on a quest that was designed to be thirty or so minutes long.

In pursuit of this ubermensch, my playing became more obsessive than enjoyable. The video games were boring, but I kept playing.

You should miss some things in your life. Live unintentionally. Do not make a bucket list. Talk too much and meet too many people. Let people into your life who serve no practical purpose to your career. Let your curiosity take you places instead of your lists. Do not try to conquer life, because death will conquer you at some point. Do not be conservative. Live liberally.

I prefer this lifestyle over hedonism. Hedonism, the pursuit of maximum indulgence and pleasure, has its lists. Its goal is to max out on the pleasures of a sensual world, so it makes plans and conserves its resources to get the most out of things that are only meant to offer temporary pleasure.

It is the person who lives unintentionally, who misses things and keeps going, that maxes out on temporary and unintentional pleasures.

 

I Am Joining All My Thoughts To You, Father

I considered calling this Confronting Borges, but I will never confront Borges. He has only confronted me.

I could not confront Borges, because his most unsettling points are ones he himself dismantles. At points, he seems to thoroughly believe in the fluidity of identity. This fluidity of identity is the only foundation of Creation, it seems, making everything that we perceive as labyrinthine as the thoughts that he explores.

His thoughts are a testament to the majestic capability of the human mind, but also its inability. Because, while he seeks to get to the very heart of reality through his language, he recognizes that he never will and that he will always continue to try. Everything that he sees is an infinite regression.

He is not only unable to perceive the heart  of reality, because language is insufficient, but primarily because reality is never as labyrinthine as the possibilities which it allows us to explore through language. By confusing the labyrinths we produce in our fiction with reality, we force language to produce something it never can; a carbon-image of our reality that presents itself to us with no language of its own except the senses. So if Borges ever wished or ever wanted to thoroughly explore the labyrinth of reality, he would have to altogether stop writing and instead go out into the forest and strip naked.

By using language to thoroughly explore all possibilities, we will drive ourselves to madness. It is either the madness of the thinker or the madness of a savage. Using language as the force by which we create our own interpretations of our reality – which we do not and cannot ever own (only God can sufficiently use language to describe this reality, because He owns it. Like we are able to use our language to describe things which only we know about, so God used language to describe to us this reality which presents itself to us as foreign. He spoke Christ.) – leads us to embrace the insanity of our own position, of claiming ownership on that which we do not and cannot own, or to believe that our position is the only possible one, yet the only one which cannot be thoroughly explained by us. That conclusion is the thing which proves not only our own insanity, but our own inability.

The second madness, the one of the savage in the forest, is perhaps the one most open to conversion. For, recognizing that his perception is language-less, he feels the aching desire for any sort of language that makes any sort of sense of this reality. All of the paradoxes which he once found himself previously trapped in are satisfied in the crux of history.

The first madness, the one which furiously burrows into itself – believing that all necessary tools for making sense of reality exist inside the self – is the one most incapable of recognizing the divine Word of God. The first madness, however, is profoundly susceptible to the persuasion of the senses, which are the first understanding. They are the first understanding (some would prefer to call it the first definitions), in the same sense that God is the first Mover. All thinkers with even a little grain of understanding recognize that the idea of infinity outside of God is heresy. All language is left undefined to some extent, so that definitions are perpetually forced down to the place where language ceases to exist; the fingertips. So the senses are the first understanding.

This first madness, then, inevitably falls to that inexplicable nature of this reality which he did not create. That is, beauty. The man who thinks he can understand all through himself, through his own force of will at the pen, can never find in himself an explanation for beauty. And therefore, he can never find in himself any explanation for why he seeks to create anything at all. Because all men, no matter what machinations they create, feel that the things which they create are beautiful. But they are left aghast, whether they admit it or not, that the things which they create are beautiful at all. And so they are forced to the conclusion that their own weak frames cannot hold; that their creations are beautiful outside of them. And it is this external beauty of their own creations that leads them to continue creating. And so, where their use of language was once energized by their desire to understand through themselves, has now been replaced – and always will be – by their inability to understand how what they create is beautiful outside them. All men, therefore, especially those with the first madness, recognize that beauty interminably exists outside their own understanding.

The sane artist creates out of gratitude, knowing that the visions which capture him are given, never found.

So while I do not conflate the senses, that first understanding, with beauty, I do recognize – and I hope you will too – that beauty is the beginning of all understanding. And we experience beauty through a reality that is not our own and that uses a language we did not or ever will invent. So those who create so that they might understand reality through themselves really create so that they can experience the beauty of the reality which they cannot understand.

Humanity was, is, and will always be in dire need of the spoken word of God. Whether the argument is formed well or poorly, God is necessary as Creator because a First Cause is necessary. God is also necessary as Redeemer, because a First Understanding is necessary to make sense of the world, to set us free from our own destructive fabrications of possible labyrinths. So while God, through natural revelation, preserved a primal First Understanding in the beauty of this sensual reality, he gave us His Word as the True First Understanding.

And it is with this First Understanding, of Jesus Christ, the man who fulfills and contains all paradoxes, that I begin and end my confrontation with Borges.

I do admire, of course, Borges’ desire to place the paradoxes in himself. Of all the thinkers I have met, he does the most admirable job of making himself his own Christ figure. He recognizes that he must be a man of paradox. He sees that the Christ is a man of unreality and reality. History is as necessary as metaphysics.

So when Borges discussed, or at least pretended to discuss, the idea that Christ could have been other men – he could have been Judas – I was pleased to see that Borges, in his essay on the Refutation of Time, conversely concluded with this:

“Times is the substance I am made of. Times is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges.” (pg. 234)

Through this, he displays a profound paradox which Christ does not contain, but only those who attempt to be him contain. In his increasingly abstract burrowing into himself through thought, he comes to a point where he recognizes that his own desire for the beauty of thinking is his destruction. He sees that he is his own destruction. And he sees that he is his own destruction, because this world is real, that the senses can not be proven in any case to be illusions, and that, come what may, he will always be Borges. This is a similar statement to the one of Descartes. This world cannot be proven to be illusion, too, because even if it was, that illusion would be our reality and, therefore, the only thing which is obviously real.

So Borges sees, therefore, that his identity cannot rest on himself as a creator, as an artist, as a thinker, as a writer. If, he sees, Borges identified himself through himself, he would destroy himself. Incurvatus in se.

Yet, Christ presents to us the solution to the artist who craves a solid foundation in identity. Only in Christ can we move and have our being. Christ is the historical Jesus, but he is also the metaphysical church. And it is in this body of Christ that we are solidly identified.

To use Old Testament terminology, we must jump into the Whirlwind of God. We cannot have any solid identity, until our identity is lost. Mystics and spiritual thinkers such as St. Paul and all of those thousands of monks who have felt similar convictions, have not only touched on this idea but proven its truth. By losing our identity, we gain our identity.

This is the ultimate question that Borges seems to be asking, at least in his Labyrinths; what is the artist’s identity?

In one place, he pokes fun at the classic writer’s temptation:

“Like all writers, he measured the achievements of others by what they had accomplished, asking of them that they measure him by what he envisaged or planned.” (pg. 90)

This is hilarious and profound.

Ovid, although through the filter of history we now perceive him more as personality than person, said, “Now stands my task accomplished, such a work as not the wrath of Jove, nor fire nor sword nor the devouring ages can destroy”.

Ovid found his identity in his creation. But how, as we know, could any man do this when all creations exists outside of someone? How can you find your identity in something outside yourself?

This is the beauty of the Divine Word, the only language God has given us to completely understand this reality. He has given us Christ, who stands set apart from us. And through Christ, He has given us His Spirit. And Christ, therefore, exists in us through the Holy Spirit and we in Him.

These mysteries have been fulfilled ever since the incarnation of Christ and have been felt ever since the beginning of time. It fulfills the dissatisfaction of the artist who creates and feels emptiness, staring at his magnum opus, realizing that what he has created is not inside him and never was. It, instead, came through him. And it stands above him, almost as a judge.

The beauty of Borges’ labyrinths is that he explores the dark edges of our reality, which include such gloominess as this. In his essay, Borges and I, he contemplates what it means for him, fundamentally, to create at all:

“Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, though I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and magnifying things (talking about himself). Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is true that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar.” (pg. 246)

In this Borges feels the longing to exist, as Christ does, both physically and metaphysically through other things. He wants, like every artist since the beginning, to transplant his very essence into things outside him. But he cannot do it, because he is not Christ. He wants to be Borges and to simultaneously not be Borges, but he sees that he is, unfortunately, Borges.

This is mimicry of Christ and not a reflection of Him. For where mimicry leaves the one to recognize that he is, unfortunately, finite, reflection recognizes that his identity never was his own. And that Borges, fortunately, was never Borges. He would only ever have been Borges if he had acknowledged the deity of the Jew from the 1st century.

Artists are the most satisfied when the language, the reflection of the Language, is not seen as the language, but merely its reflection. Only the Christian artist can see his work and say, “It is very good.” Only later, shall it be made perfect.

But this is veering into mysticism and I will leave that for those who have a tighter control on terms. For us at this moment, let us return to the idea that things are only satisfied as themselves.

I will use Plato as an illustration, because he is such an odd character to me. In his mind, he sought to do what no man had done before him on such grand a scale; organize knowledge and the human experience into a comprehensive system.

Reflecting on the nature of human ambition and curiosity, someone could say that Plato was only seen as brilliant, because he was the first to attempt something so daring. To that I say, yes, but for a different reason than the one who claims that someone could have filled his place.

I say that he is brilliant, because he is the first, not because someone could have filled his place, but because no one could or ever will. No one could ever exist in the same space as Plato and yet be Plato. Plato is the only Plato that will ever exist and no one would have ever come close to have done what he did. I do not say he is brilliant, because of his primacy, but because of his perpetual identity. Plato was brilliant, because he was Plato. Human demonstrations of skill and intelligence can and should be reduced to the very foundation of a human’s essence. There is never a cause or reason for why someone is skilled or intelligent. It is only ever because they are who they are. For this very reason, too, it is the fool who looks at something which seems to have been easy to create and says, “I could have done it”. No, he could not have and he never will. And if he thinks that creating things is so easy, he needs to get out of the damn art exhibit and into a white room with nothing but a stack of paper and a pen.

This solidity of identity is something Ovid and materialists reject; to great irony. They want and believe in their own identity, which is why they so firmly try to establish it. But it is their own worldview which establishes their identity as something in the wind, as something subject to be changed into something else for a time. This has led us to the most absurd development in all of history; transgenderism.

Reality is always more full of light than the dark tunnels of our fabrications. Reality confesses, pleads – it is on its knees – showing us that every single creation possesses a solid identity. And because it has a solid identity, from its creation to its perpetual end, it can be lost in the identity which is both solid and fluid. The identity of God is both separate from us, but permeates everything we see. He has, unlike us, transposed His identity into His creations. And so we, being once malformed chaos, gained our solid identities because we have never had an identity apart from Him.

So, the solidity of Plato, the inability for any theorizer to move his identity from the right or to the left, is part of the foundation for which I prove that the Christ had to be Jesus of Nazareth. Theologians have thoroughly proven this in other places and it seems humorous that I, a small person, feel the need to prove it once more. But Christ, in every possibility, was always Jesus of Nazareth. And Jesus of Nazareth was always Christ. No one could have ever been him, no one ever will be him in any possibility. And if anyone found themselves in his position, they would not.

Ovid has achieved, in some way, the immortality he confessed. But it is not as grand or spiritual as he suspected. Rather, it is proven in the fact that he is remembered at all. And if he were to see what that has gotten him today, I suspect that he would be disappointed. History has or never will reach the height of satisfaction in hope and ambition as it did in the life of Christ, the historical Jesus of Nazareth. Ovid, instead of becoming immortal through memory, has merely been forgotten. And this is why he is no longer remembered as what he was – a person – but instead, as a personality. He used the fogginess of history, which he well knew as a chronicler of mythology, to obscure the fact that he was no greater than any of us, that his identity was as equally in need of being lost.

Borges touches on this idea of person-to-personality in his essay, Valery as Symbol: 

“…the work of both (Whitman and Valery) is less valuable as poetry than it is as the sign of an exemplary poet created by that work.” (pg. 197)

So again, we are faced with artists who see their completion and see that it stands taller than them. And rather than making them taller, it has made them smaller.

So this is why I partially can never approach Borges. I will never meet him. And the works that he is left in, Labyrinths, are merely the pieces of an image of a man who is the image of a man who never saw himself. The Borges of the books never existed, but he did exist as a creation. He never existed as a person, but as a personality.

I am merely trying to show that the personality which we might fall in love with (he is so charming) was as equally charming to the man with whom we think we are falling in love. Borges existed as apart from Borges as we do from Borges. And Borges makes use of this paradox quite frequently in his Labyrinths, Borges the personality.

This goes to prove that the sub-creations of man are only attractive and beautiful to us because they are fundamentally not human. They are not designed and ought not point to the man who created them. Instead, they ought to point to Creation, from which they are possibilities, and then the Creator. This is the destruction of the cults of personalities and it is why Bach, that blessed brother, wrote soli deo gloria on his music, because he recognized that the glory of his skill was a demonstration of the skill of God and not his own. He was skilled, because he was Bach. And he was Bach, because he did not make himself.

It would be awkward for all involved if someone began worshiping Bach. It misses the point entirely and the worshiper is left – of course! – unsatisfied.

I am tempted to worship Borges. He appears before me like an angel in a doorway. And I am left having to tell myself that I see to it that I do not do that.

Borges has tried to see reality on his own terms. His vision for it, too, is solely original in the sense that it is only compiled from the words of others. No other thinker I have encountered makes such an extensive use of references as he does. So even the personality for which we might fall in love is really the image of a thousand other faces.

The universe is not a dark labyrinth, for the very reason that we neither created it nor can we come up with the language on our own to understand it. It is, instead, a place for us to explore. And this is the Christian hope for the artist. We are free as artists – finally – to explore without the need to create something which is our salvation. All other artists have tried to produce in themselves their own salvation. The closest I can think of was Pygmalion. That is a joke. But really.

As a member of the body of Christ, I see in this universe that is free for me to explore, endless possibilities. And these possibilities are the holes in which those who make labyrinths get lost. For me, these possibilities are potential realities. To create as a creature under God is to create realities through the possibilities the Father sets before us. “Enjoy, son!”

If something seems possible, he has given us the freedom to explore it as a potential reality. We explore possibilities as realities all the time; it is called fiction. And through this definition of fiction, we see that fiction and the theories of science are part of the same universe. The different ways of exploring should not be seen as separate. By exploring these possibilities as realities, we move our possible reality into the reality of God. Fiction allows us to create things that are, in every way, real. This is the freedom of being a creature made in the image of God. And as a creature under God, we recognize that it is only real because there is such thing as reality; it is what He set up and came into for us to experience. The human experience. And when we read fiction, are we not experiencing it as an assumed reality? Much of this is determined by the skill of the artist. This ability of artists to make new creations through creating will only be perfected in the New Heavens and New Earth. How many possibilities-turned-realities will exist in an eternal environment? Only as many possibilities as God has allowed.

Borges believed in the infinite in creation – it seems – but our creations are capped in this age by our own ability. And I would argue that this is not only a good thing, but something that will be continued even in that state when we are made perfect. And I say this, because God Himself has limited his creation. God, as the Prime Artist, is limited by his own capacity, which is his nature. God is incapable of many things. Here are two;

1. He cannot create anything that He cannot control.

2. He cannot do anything outside of his nature.

So God constructed a Creation that perfectly conforms to His will in every sense of that word. And in that same sense – in His very nature – exists the possibility that man would go against his will and rebel. So too God made a world that contained this possibility. It was only man who decided to act on this possibility and, as a sub-creator, create the reality of evil in the reality of God. And he did so by playing along – by working fiction – with the Serpent. This is the source of evil, man’s freedom and God’s inclusion of possibilities that He does not willingly turn into realities, but man might.

And so, as Borges said, this world is real. But it is not unfortunate. And this statement of belief includes both the fact that there is only one universe – the very idea of a multiverse is rotten and heretical to the core – and that there is one who artists see exists above all that had a singular vision for us.

And unlike Borges, who presented the idea of us being written as frightening, I see it as a fact profoundly comforting.

I was once a possibility, but God made me a reality. I am fiction.

So when I approach writing my own fiction, I approach it reverently, because it is a holy affair. I approach it careful not to base it on my own sins of pride and self-identity, but instead on the truth that whatever I make will look up to me as I look up to God. And it will have similar questions, similar fears, and similar oddities. And I also see that, unlike God, I am not in control even of my own mouth. So how much more will the things that I create become something separate from me? I open my mouth and say something I had not intended. But there it is. I created it and it now exists.

Purple elephant.

It now exists.

I believe that in the New Heavens and the New Earth, that would truly create a purple elephant. Because of what fiction has showed us, the act of creating, I believe that in some sense I, alongside all of my brothers and sisters, would become gods. And perhaps the defining characteristic of God is control over identity. God so completely controls and knows His identity, that when He creates, he moves his identity to that Creation. And it only makes him taller.

As for I, my creations only make me small when I seek my identity in them. I am not yet capable of creating and imputing my identity on my creations. Only God will allow me that gift. For now, I can only create in a way that reflects my future creations.

Lord, I will lay up all my accomplishments, all my visions, all my thoughts, all of things I most cherish, as sacrifices to your greatness. I own nothing. I am given everything. This is the hardest thing for me to say as a prideful and false characterization of the real Caleb Warner. But Lord, I, Caleb Warner, sacrifice all of my identity that I see in my work to you. And if my work is forgotten, then I will be more pleased than if the whole world knew about it. Because if the whole world knew about my work, I might convince myself that all the beauty I sense, observe, and then record is my will for myself. It is not. It is your will for me, as a creation. You, as the Father, want me to explore this world before me. And I, as the Son, will not be more satisfied in any other pursuit. I was made to explore and find beautiful things you have hidden.

So I will do that. I will get lost in you. I offer up the realities I make as realities you allowed me to see as possibilities and things you drove me to pursue for your glory and for my pleasure.

How good and glorious is your name in all the earth! Your Creation now stands accomplished, such a work as not the pride of Ovid, nor the wrath of self-destructive generations, nor the darkness of Borges’ labyrinths, nor the cult of Whitman, nor the rantings of Dawkins, nor the sadness of Nietzsche, nor the confusion of the transgendered, nor the evil of abortion doctors, nor the squeaking of homosexuals, nor the pride of false prophets, nor height nor depth nor present nor future, nor fire nor sword, or the devouring ages can destroy. All artists shall bow before you and shout from their stomachs, “Our Father is the only artist who made a magnum opus that is satisfying!”

Lord, my righteousness is how I will wait for you to answer the Prayers of the Saints that billow up to your nose from our frail altars. I, with all the saints before, with, and after me, cry out to you, “How long, O Lord?” And I cry, because I am frequently unbelieving. I stumble, backslide, and have to confess my sins, my frequent sins, my willful sins. All my powers of body and soul are corrupt; a fountain of pollution is deep within my nature. And I pray to you not only for the sake of the world, but for my sake. How long will I feel like this battle is one that is being lost? How long am I supposed to feel like it is worth giving up? How long am I supposed to stare up at heaven and ask if you are really there, if you ever really gave me your Spirit? How long am I supposed to sit here and watch millions of your children being tortured and suffering? How long are children supposed to be starving? How long are wars suppose to rage? How long are families going to be torn apart by unfaithfulness? How long will teenagers take their own lives? How long am I supposed to fall short? How long am I supposed to see the glory you so obviously have given us and, yet so obviously have not yet fully given? How long am I supposed to suffer, to repent of my constant unfaithfulness? When will I no longer be made perfect by repentance, but instead by uninterrupted righteousness?

You have promised you will come back, so do it. Prepare the way. Make every crooked path straight and every mountain a valley. Comfort your people. Give the young men visions and the old men dreams. And give us, these artists, these writers, these creators, the means by which we can make these visions realities.

How I wish I could have met Borges in heaven. If only you had saved him, Father. It would not have been a confrontation. It would have been a hug, a kiss, and a laugh over a feast.

But I am left here for a little bit more time, blinded by gratitude.

………………

Rules for Watching People

1. Do not laugh at them more than you might laugh at yourself.

2. Do not watch them if they can watch you.

3. Do not comment on them if it makes them appear fictional.

4. Stare.

5. Keep it to yourself.

6. Relate their humanity to yours.

 

Suggestions

1. It is best done as a passenger in a car on a highway.

2. Wear sunglasses.

 

Summer Break

I will be posting nothing for the next two months. Instead, I am happy to announce that four projects will be semi-completed:

I. [Boxed Up Visions]

“[Boxed Up Visions]” is a collection of thirteen short stories I wrote from ages fifteen to sixteen. I admire them fondly, but not for their quality. They are the best I could do at those ages. I left one in “Do Comedies End with Weddings? No! They End with Steve Buscemi.” as a joke. It was written as a comedy and, darn it all, it is funny. But it is so, so bad. I am more proud of others, like “Your Room, Our Womb” and “The Same Fire That Keeps Us Alive”. That, in my opinion, is the best of the bunch. There is one from the perspective of a five year old who stays hiding in a cave, “A Secret Place,” but it is only a mild success. My earlier short stories relied heavily on metaphor, repeated phrases, obscurity, and vivid but vague mental images. There are two stories written by a guest author, the Mighty Talon of Ashurbibi. He has since fallen asleep.

[Boxed Up Visions] is more of a farewell than anything else. Goodbye, visions.

The front cover, I hope, will be the image of a man in a blue suit with a brown tie. His head is a white cube.

II. Day by Day I; falling, dying, rising 

“Day by Day I” is a collection of multiple essays and book-ended by two poems (never before released!!! WOW!). Many of them have been on the blog, but many of them have also not been read. And that is a shame, quite frankly, because I love a lot of these. I wrote some of them when I was fifteen-sixteen (The Age of Metaphor, Progressive Rock Influence, and Existential Angst), but those will be brought up to speed with a more modern seventeen-eighteen edit (The Age of Proverbial Prose and Setting). Unlike [Boxed Up Visions], it has no table of contents. It follows a linear path from satiric and pagan romance (exemplified in the only poem I ever wrote in fifteen-sixteen that was good), to the search for satisfaction and community, to contentment and devotion in the midst of suffering (seen in the only poem that I ever wrote in seventeen-eighteen, called “Before Sleep”).

In many ways, “Day by Day I” is a discussion between Man, his fictional wife, and God. The Man and his wife spend the entire day in bed, waking, reminiscing, thinking, discussing, wondering, and finally falling asleep.

I take “Day by Day I” seriously, but not too seriously. If I did, I would leave too much room for myself. It needs two light revisions before the linear theme is clear, but I like how it looks.

The front cover, I hope, will be the image of a dark sun (the moon, maybe?) on the lower left corner and a bright vegetable sun in the top right corner. Also, if I haven’t mentioned it, all books will have no titles on the front. Only the images. And the books will be pure white.

These are home-brewed things and I am having fun. I can do whatever I want.

III. Spring; The Cycle is Ending

     Oh, Spring! I am not sure what to even do or think about this monster. It exists, but I need finish birthing it. It is a mammoth and uncomfortable mess. It looks in the mirror and gets confused. The main character, Abraham Whitely, does that often. Sometimes he looks in the mirror and tries to make himself cry. He is an emotional guy, but he has been through a lot. As a little kid, he was haunted by a host of demons and some talk-less girl.

And I didn’t even mention the amount of women he has been with! I should just go ahead and call him “Israel”.

“Spring” is my first and – currently – only novel. It is what got me interested in writing in the first place. It scares me. I keep it far enough from me, so I can laugh at it. I keep it close enough to me, so I can pet it. It is…

Ah, well, to be honest it is not finished yet. I am going to do that this Summer, the second draft anyway. It only has four chapters, but they vary drastically in size. The sizes are based on word counts, but I am just too shy to share that with you now. Let it be said, it is novel length but it is not Ulysses length. Okay? Okay.

The four chapters are the four seasons; Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring. I have capitalized seasons in my writing ever since.

“Spring”, in many ways, has influenced me. I started it as a personal challenge and I figured that I would not finish it. Well, the finish line is almost in sight. I vividly remember all the occasions when I wrote the separate parts. There is his vision of the crow, then the talk-less girl at the playground. There is the scene of his parents telling him that the whole family is going on vacation. There is the birth scene – which has been revised about fifteen times and it is only two paragraphs long. There is the scene when he is in California, at the toll booth, telling his parents what he had done. He also gets evicted. Adrasta leaves him (I need to change that name, seriously. I am not sure what I was thinking. I told myself that she is Greek, but that makes no sense, because Adrasta is a Middle Eastern demon). He finds the other girl who eats him alive (essentially). He remarks on his love of old things. He tries to save his Mom from hundreds of miles away.

And, suddenly, the perspective breaks apart. God has something to say in the matter and so does his father, his mother, and his future wife, Lucy (I seriously need to change that name, too. Who am I, Charles Dickens?).

The longest chapter – by far - is Summer. It is nearly one half of the book. That chapter is finished and so is Fall. I have started on Winter, but it is turbulent waters. Spring frightens me, but I take hope in the old journal-entry trick. You will see.

The front cover, I hope, will be the image of one cherry blossom tree.

IV. Neat Fiction

“Neat Fiction” is a collection of short stories. While “[Boxed Up Visions]” is from fifteen-sixteen, “Neat fiction” is from seventeen-eighteen. Not only do I like the stories better, the stories are better that I like. There will be more of them, some will be longer, some shorter. Some are finished, some are unfinished. They are wilder, shakier, solid…er. Here are some titles:

“Warn Them to Live and Dance into the Darkest Night”

“Fly, Timmy, Fly!”

“Hess Lewis”

“Aster and the Diamond Ruff”

“Rejoice, o Manly Queen!”

“The Epic of a Child’s Mess”

The collection was founded on the loose idea that advertisements are the most vivacious art form of our age. It is the Age of Adz. The way I figured it was that our lives need their own commercial breaks – so turn on a short story!

The front cover, I hope, will be of a 50′s brown television with three tan oblong legs, a gold lining, and a bubble screen with the faces of old men tearing out of it.

_____

After all of this, I will begin work on “Caught in the Whirlwind” (yes!) and finish work on the “Reformed Monastic Rule”. These are both uncharted territory, but I am thrilled out of my mind to finish Spring and Neat Fiction and begin on the next projects.

……………..

I need my own voice to be silent.

I need to tame my tongue and train my words, because I speak too freely and use too many.

I need to know that others are more important than myself, because they are. I need to be awake for other people.

I need a quiet place to dream. I need everything to go to sleep, so I can stay awake dreaming.

I need a house of one hundred square feet, hidden by a garden and a tall concrete wall.

I need a gate.

I need no music, unless I give an hour to listen.

I need nine books, four on various subjects, five of fiction.

I need money, so I have money to give.

I need a horse of a dog and bones left from my small meal of chicken and green beans.

I need a pile of one hundred pieces of paper, housing the ink of three ballpoint pens.

I need to pray every hour, the Old Testament in the morning, the New Testament in the afternoon, and the Gospel before bed. I need to be reminded of the hope of the Resurrection before I fall asleep.

I need a quiet and peaceful life.

I need other people for me to serve and for them to preserve me.

I need Christ and I need Him to be crucified and to resurrect.

I need to die, so I have something to rise from.

I need to request grace in the darkness, which in contentment I can devote myself, so Our Father can fill me with grace, so the grace can rise in me like bread.

I need to know when to go and tell this to everyone and then to tell this to no one. I need to know when to use my voice and when to remain silent.

I need my own voice to be silent.

The Twelve Marks of New Monasticism – What a Bunch of Hippies

1.  Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.

2.  Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.

3.  Hospitality to the stranger.

4.  Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.

5.  Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church.

6.  Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community along the lines of the old novitiate.

7.  Nurturing common life among members of intentional community.

8.  Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.

9.  Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.

10.  Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economics.

11.  Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18.

12.  Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.

 

Why not try writing a Rule then, brothers?

 

A Prayer of Someone Who Knows He Cannot Write Well

Dear God,

I am beginning to realize (how often I use that phrase!) that I know nothing, nor am I wise.

When people ask me for advice, I have absolutely nothing to say. Words fly in front of me like mosquitoes.

I am not only bad at giving advice, but a repeating offender at leaving questions unanswered. I could justify this by claiming that most questions are vapid, but other people are never vapid. They exist as themselves, where no one before or after ever will. Even the worst criminal deserves a response to his questions, whether or not the answer is satisfying.

When I am young, it is so easy to look at old sages and say, “Yes, but I could be wise too if I just had words.”

I used to think that wisdom was a set of words. As long as I could speak words or mold some clever statement, then I was wise. Wisdom is a turn of a phrase.

How wise we would all be if we memorized the Proverbs!

But now I am beginning to see that wisdom is not words, but life. To be wise, I must be alive, I must have experienced and felt.

Wisdom is empathy.

It is the experience of traveling through some dark valley and living through it. Or so, wisdom appears to be empathy in this small passage of time.

Wisdom is not witticisms.

Sometimes, it is a nod of the head and a hand on the shoulder. Sometimes, it is saying, “I know what you’re going through. But trust me, God bestows grace on those that request it.”

Lord God, if those words don’t sound cliche to my ears, I don’t know what does. I don’t know what that means, I couldn’t possibly know what that means, because I have experienced so little. I haven’t experienced anything in my shortened life.

I could easily say words, but there would be little wisdom in them if I have gone through nothing. They would be empty; vain promises. I would be like the unregenerate sinner declaring, “Don’t worry, you’re forgiven.” There is a superficial truth to it, but damn it, how does he know?

I am foolish, especially in the realm of the skill I think I am good at. I have at least some remote facility with the skill of writing. It is equal folly to look at a basket of fresh apples and say, “Oh, God, how they are all so woefully rotten! Piety, God, piety! I am so…so wormish!” Christ did not say that the mark of a true disciple is guilt. He said that His disciples will bear fruit and grow, not live in constant ignorance of the work of the Holy Spirit.

But each day I learn something new and am reminded how little I can do.

We are all in the process of quickly forgetting whatever comes into our heads. We might know many things, but those things are hidden away in our subconsciousness and temporarily forgotten. We cannot remember everything all at once.

All of the worlds that I see in my head are vague and foggy – my imagination, Lord.

But are you beginning the process, where my imagination is illuminated? Let me see the worlds with clarity and sharpness.

Continue your work, so I can continue mine.

One small fruit: I am beginning to forgo the training wheels of literary allusion and metaphor in favor of the more advanced and difficult wheels of actually describing and relaying a story.

This is difficult, but is evidently the heart of writing – the ability to see things and then show them to people.

I must show myself first. I must be able to see a world and continue describing it.

I am on track and balanced and feel as though I am alive – that I am finally above the clouds and seeing the world for what it really is – but as soon as my mind stops or I lose track, I have trouble lifting off the ground. It takes days or weeks to get back to that place.

That place of creative exhaustion is the place that I long for more often, but remains a subjective and elusive process, whereby I merely bare my soul and never focus on the quality and quantity of my discipline.

How I wish I could!

Perhaps, the answer to this problem is to stop thinking of writing as an elusive and subjective thing.

Writing is a place.

Let me remember the painting. Let me remember what I am seeing.

If writing is a place – the place of imagination – then I can return to it. I am either there or not.

It should be more difficult to leave than to enter.

Do not write. Imagine. As soon as I can imagine entirely – if I can imagine rooms and worlds and places and things and people – inside my head, then I have written a book. If I faithfully explore and visit these worlds, the more quickly I can enter.

Lord, thank you for all of this. Thank you for staying with me through all of my idiocy, folly, and sin. May I be a help to the poor and needy and may I not grumble and complain. May I not lose track of the end goal, but may I also stay firmly in the present, where your servants stay and lay and die. May I go into that Room of Dreams and leave, refreshed to do your work.

May I not become a curmudgeon, nor may I become too full of myself. May I be a good friend. May I accept what you tell me, may you give me the answers you wish to give me, and may I learn and grow to trim them and train them to share them with this world and your servants. May you teach me what good writing is. I do not know.

Fill me with wisdom, so that I can think less of myself and more of the sufferings of others. Put me in a valley, so I can look up to you. And when I come out of it, may I be full of joy and words to share that only experience bear.

Lovingly,

Trustingly,

Your Servant,

Your Image,

Man

 

…………….

A word about all-nighters:

They should be pulled only when you are in the most undire of situations. They should be completely your choice, free entirely of all pain and guilt.

If you have a lot of school to do, then go to bed.

If you have nothing to do, stay up. And do something.

Last night was my first official all-nighter. It has been pulled.

I now exist in a strange dream state where the past day is still existing. It has not stopped existing. I have not passed on into that dark ether; it has not past on in death.

I once pulled a half-nighter. I told myself it was to bring in the First Snow, to consecrate the Winter. I had plans to go on a snow walk at 2 in the morning. Really, the point was to finish reading for the class in the morning. This pressure contributed to the feeling of standing on the edge of a cliff. Or, maybe, I felt like I had already fallen. I did the very not good thing. I actually took the little step forward.

Last night was my first official all-nighter.

I used it to read On Writing by Stephen King.

What a gorgeous day!

I am now at a coffee shop and I cannot help but see everyone as a potential character. This is not something King mentions at all, but I feel a hope in my legs. Maybe they are falling asleep, or maybe I am again realizing the possibilities in front of me. Anything can be written about – and with love! Who cares about the man who wrote 500 mystery novels and not a single one was born out of a specific love?

Do you want to know how to deal with someone who is annoying?

Look at them like a character in a novel.

I could have gotten annoyed, but instead I laughed and bantered.

______

He had a bear for a dog, I mentioned. Yeah, so much when he took his dog to Yosemite National Park, four little Indian girls jumped out of their car and pointed and said, “Bear!” And they wanted to take a picture with his dog, so they could go back home and show all their friends that they got a picture with a bear.

“You could have told them that it was Yogi.” A woman with short cropped hair and a yellow blouse with an over-sized stitched flower on it said.

“Should’a put a hat on him!” I said as I walked away. He didn’t hear, but she did and she laughed.

The man reminded me a lot of my grandfather. Perhaps back when he had to work – say, thirty years ago – he made things. He might have built a screened-in porch off the bedroom for his wife. He wore rectangular glasses and was somehow confident wearing pulled-up tube socks and short denim shorts…

like my grandfather; the man, I have been told, who I resemble so strongly in mannerism and thought. One key difference is our sock drawers. He had one drawer chock full of unmatched white socks. I also do not own as many knives nor do I share his passion for bacon grease.

This new man – a distant reincarnation, perhaps, of my grandfather – sat facing an empty chair. He talked to the empty chair.

“Yeah, we are going on a grand adventure. Ten months in Europe…You know, people who visit France always complain that they are not treated nicely, but I just had a fine time in Paris! The Parisians and us got a long fine…my daughter, she, you know, got her degree in Germany and says that in the local area of her college…”

I thought he was talking to his bear of a dog, that black and shaggy oaf. Don’t worry, he doesn’t bite. [insert other cliches]

Upon closer examination, he was talking to a woman behind him, who also faced an empty chair. He talked to her like she did not exist.

After a further discussion of his past visits to Europe and train problems during riots, she said, “Well, I better get back to my books.”

“Yeah, me too, I have my little computer here to do things…” he said.

“Yeah…” she laughed.

What an end! Fireworks everywhere! The end of a dialog the likes of which the world has never seen.

I love you, hun, the old man with stale muffin cheeks said, patting the underside of the bear.

I sat in silence and in the morning sun, waiting eagerly to see who would be his next conduit for information.

A woman entered.

Her.

I must go take a nap now.