Tag Archives: God

…it’s a name for a girl – Part 1

I need to caveat, from the start, that I don’t usually write about serious topics here, and don’t plan to make a habit of it.  Not that writing, U2 and the Lakers aren’t serious for me, but they’re not “if we disagree, and keep discussing it, tempers are likely to flare and we’ll both stomp off muttering curses under our breaths, slightly sick from the adrenaline rush of actual emotional conflict” serious.

But that’s sort of where tonight’s post will lead.  It’s not like it’s all that controversial, but I’m also not likely to be in the mood for non-committed back and forth on it.  Most topics, I can take either side, enjoying the effort more than what side the victory is on.  Not this one, I don’t think.

I also need to caveat that I don’t plan to go into detail about any of the tangential topics that this one would naturally raise.  I’m going to give you the minimal amount of background necessary to grok where I’m coming from, and then we’ll move on.

And I finally need to caveat that this post already has two (and now three) caveats more than I like—my blog, I get to do what I want, when I want, and shouldn’t have to explain things.  But as I noted, this is a somewhat serious topic, and since I don’t tend to go publicly diving in those waters that often, I’d like for them to be clear and not open for a variety of troll-baiting interpretations.

And now, with sufficient baggage strapped aboard, we’re off…

So, here’s the background.  Once upon a time, I was very religious.  Serious case of bornagainitis.  Probably because I was first introduced to religion at a critical moment in my life…parents recently divorced, transitioning from elementary school to high school, puberty, intellectual awaking…all that great after school special crap.  My mind and heart were desperate for something deep and involved to sink their teeth in to, and a fervent Born-Again Christian meal just happened to be walking by.

I will now skip ahead 20 years—and easily a couple hundred thousand words, if I just stuck to summarizing the high points—and expect you to keep up.

These days, I don’t like religion.  I don’t think my actual beliefs have changed all that much, but I am a lot clearer on A) what exactly “a belief” is, and B) what mine are.  There’s been a demi-glace-like reduction to the overwhelming symphony of ideas and concepts I first walked into 20 years ago, distilling the core principals to their essences while somehow increasing and balancing their complexity at the same time.

Which are pretty words to sum up something I already posted here a while ago:  Before enlightenment:  chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment:  chop wood, carry water.

To conclude the incredibly-brief background section of this post:  I once was Christian, in an organized fashion, and while I now pursue disorganization (spiritually speaking), my beliefs are rooted in that ground, and despite two decades of scrutiny, and wide-spread exploration into a large number of seemingly-incompatible belief systems, those aspects I’ve identified as the basic principals of Christianity stick with me to this day.

One of which is the topic of the post I’m almost finally about to start writing.

(And no, I’m not talking about the Bud Light version of Christianity, the “Jesus was a cool guy, and what we can really learn from the bible is to be good to each other and love each other and maybe go to church on Easter, but there’s no need to get too bogged down in the details” version…fucking pussies.)

(And, one more [fuck me, does that make four?] caveat:  when I mention the word God, no, I do not mean it the way you think I mean it, except yes, I mean it exactly the way you think I mean it.  Which is to say, I’m not about to get into specific definitions here in this post, and do not assume that I’m being vague because I’m assuming that y’all already know exactly what I’m talking about; I’ve just spent 645 fucking words setting up this post before even mentioning what the post is going to be about.  I’m not leaving out a specific description of God because I’m aiming to be brief.  You want to challenge what I have to say because I mention God, and how absurd is it to believe in a dude with a beard on a throne living up in the clouds?  Well, I don’t believe in that either.  When I say God—at least for the purposes of this post—I could be talking beard-dude, I could be talking Yahweh, I could be talking the Ineffable, I could be talking tP / t…meet me halfway, if you would.)

What I want to talk about is grace, and why it’s a unique concept, one that blows apart the typical Christian-centric structure that usually encloses it.

I think I can say—without tempting too much in the way of debate—that as long as we’re moving along through the dimension of time, we’re all heading from something to something else.  There is an ideal, no matter how minor, vague or undefined, that we’re moving towards.  It can be superficially consumerist (“I’m not thin enough,” or “I’m not rich enough.”), it can be more personally meaningful (“I don’t take good enough care of myself,” or “I need to treat the people I care about better.”), or overtly hedonistic (“I am not nearly as baked as I should be,” or “I have not slept with nearly enough girls as I’d like to.”) ,or overtly spiritual (“I am not yet as far down the Eightfold Path as I aim to be,” or “I have yet to properly give Satan his full due.”), or any of a million different variations of all of the thoughts that pass through our heads in any given day.  And it doesn’t necessarily have to be fully conscious:  dropping trou and squatting is moving you closer from the present state of stomach cramps to the ideal of “deuce successfully dropped,” no matter how consciously you’re staking out those milestones.  We’re talking prime mathematic givens here, not specific recipes.

When the spiritual aspect is considered, just about every possible path (I hesitate to call them “religions,” since there are far more people pursuing spiritual paths without the trappings of religion than there are people genuinely pursuing a religiously-defined path, as opposed to giving that religion lip service while more actively following one of the consumerist/personal/hedonistic/etc. paths already mentioned) is just that:  a path.  Today, you are Here.  Tomorrow, you will be There.  If successful, that There will be closer to the ultimate goal than Here is.  And most of the time spent walking that spiritual path is focused on defining the steps needing to take you from Here to There, and monitoring your progress.

This is true even for most Christian paths, which to my mind completely misses the point.

See, Christianity has this unique concept, one that none others have or embrace, called grace.

Grace is a gift.  Grace is something un-asked for, given regardless of whether or not it’s deserved or has been earned.  Grace is, in the context of the notion of a path described above, a profoundly disturbing disruption of the basic understanding of how things work.

Put another way, grace is the fucked-up quantum entanglement to traditional religious Newtonian processes.

In the specific context of Christianity, grace is the given forgiveness of your sins before you can ask for it and with zero comprehension or concern for the notion of atonement.  Grace is the gift given by God that removes the need to walk any distance down a spiritual path.  Grace says that you do not have to earn the ideal you are pursuing by measuring yourself against some external spiritual yardstick—you already have it.  Grace says “I have a pancake on my head; your argument is invalid.”

Enough with the platitudes:  let’s get down to business.

Here’s what’s amazing about the concept of grace:  because it cannot be earned, it is given to everyone.  That fat fuck next to you on the bus, the one you caught staring at your ass, making you wish you hadn’t worn the low-riding jeans, knowing he’s saving up the brief, furtive views for his spank-bank later?  Yeah, he’s been given grace.  Your boss, the one who gave you a list of things to do today, and then kept passing on emergency requests from his boss, and then spends his time in the break room bitching about how you’re too lazy to get through the short list of easy tasks he gave you earlier?  Yup, he’s been given grace too.

…That guy who screamed out something in Farsi before triggering the ball-bearing-laced plastic explosive he has strapped to his chest in the midst of a crowded market?  Again, yes, he’s been given grace.

Which is kinda the point:  if grace can’t be earned, then when given, it’s given to everyone.  There’s no criteria for being an eligible receiver.  That’s what’s beautiful about it:  the drunk puking on himself in the gutter is as beloved and worthy of grace as you are, and while that might feel like a bit of a raw deal for you and your paid-my-rent-on-time-no-speeding-tickets-in-two-years self-esteem right now, it very profoundly says that all of the joy and wonders of God and the universe are equally available to both of you.  All of you.  All of us.

Which is how it should be, or else what’s the point?  I don’t want to believe in a God that would pick and choose which people are worthy of Him based on an ever-changing, semi-objective matrix.  I mean, are we to assume that God was okay with Abraham having multiple wives back then but isn’t in favor of it now?  That’s too much like trying to get into the right clique in high school.  Sure, he might like caring for puppies now, but who’s to say he won’t like people who paint their dicks blue later?  Sure, that sounds absurd…but it fits within the set.

It’s far more likely that the ultimate point of convergence with God isn’t defined by nor dependant upon details like that.

But that makes for a difficult follow-up question:  if everyone has been given grace, does it matter what we do?  Are we all going to heaven (or whatever you want to interpret that particular phrase to mean)?  And if we are, then does it matter one bit what we actually do?  Can those people doing what strikes us to our core as evil be just as promised the Promised Land as those of us who try each day to do more good than harm?  And the people who aren’t even paying attention, who are wandering through life in a self-induced haze, do they get to wake up at the pearly gates and say, “Hey, there’s a heaven.  Who knew?”

I don’t think so.  It’s not that it isn’t there, waiting for them; it’s that, fundamentally, gift giving requires two people.

Anyone who’s been a scout of any kind (boy, girl, whatever) or had a father/relative/etc. teach them more “traditional” skills will know what an Active Transfer of Control is, even if that particular name wasn’t used.  It’s the first lesson of knife safety.  When someone is handing you a knife, they hold it out and say, “I’m giving you this knife.”  You reach out, put your hand on it, and once you have a firm hold of it say, “I have the knife,” at which point that someone lets go, and the knife is yours.  Or there’s the rock climbing ritual of “On Belay?” “Belay On.”

What it comes down to is a clear, active decision with awareness of what that decision means, with no unstated assumptions.  And that’s the second half of the grace equation:  the gift has been given, but you still have to accept it.

And really, the only way to do so is with a prayer I learned long ago, when I first joined the Church, just read along and say the words out loud as you do, “Heavenly Father, in Jesus’ name I repent of my sins and open my heart…”

Ah, I’m just fucking with you.

Not to say that that particular method isn’t perfectly and completely valid.  Here’s where that thing I said earlier, that I “hate religion”, is proven to be not entirely accurate.  You certainly won’t hear me speaking against—especially to denigrate—anyone’s particular religious beliefs (unless there’s a joke to be made, because one of my most profoundly-held beliefs is, if you can’t take a joke, fuck off).

The flip side of grace being available to everyone means that everyone has to be able to receive it, if they’re willing, and that notion is incompatible with having a single, set, pre-defined path for doing so.  Which does mean that all paths are valid, including the familiar, stereotypical ones you all already know about…

…within reason.

Because—and here another traditionally-Christian tradition pops its useful head up—words are cheap.  Or as a youth pastor back in my high school days (for reals…which may help explain my willingness to do some desert wandering, given his mentorship) quoted to me, “Money talks and bullshit walks.”

You know and I know that unless you’re dealing with a world-class actor—or you’re intentionally willing to deceive yourself because of some unresolved and possibly unrelated issue—it’s pretty damn easy to tell when someone’s going through the motions.  My six year-old daughter may say “Sorry” for sticking her fingers all through my rice, but she was laughing when she did it, and sullen when she says it, and I know the only reason she’s saying “Sorry” is because she doesn’t want to get punished again, not because she’s honestly understood that her actions have negatively impacted another’s life and desires to communicate to that person her awareness of the consequences of her actions, both empirical and emotional, and regrets her actions, and her willingness to make amends.

And she’s a lot better at faking it than most people I know my own age.

There’s a reason you don’t handle knives with just anyone, and why you don’t rock climb with people you don’t know.  The giving-accepting relationship requires trust, since the only definitive proof you’re going to get of the other person’s trustworthiness is when you pull your hand away, and either the knife falls to the ground, possibly impaling your foot, or slices your fingers as the other person fails to release it, or when your handhold slips and the rope that’s supposed to catch you shortly after you fall whistles through the carabineer loud enough for you to hear the entire way down.

To sum up the point of these analogies, it’s pretty obvious to God, however you define Him…and to yourself, really…whether or not you’re telling the truth when you consciously decide to accept the grace that’s been given.

I’m not going to tell you what specific fruit will be borne when you do that.  I have my own thoughts on the matter, but there’s a reason I ultimately decided against going to seminary and becoming a preacher, and it’s because I have a hard enough time sorting this shit out for myself, and the most difficult thing to do was de-brainwash myself from all the rules and regulations other people had posted on my walls.  I’m not about to just switch seats here.

But I can at least tell you what I think are some pretty critical components of the process, however they end up manifesting themselves:

You have to know yourself.  More importantly, you have to be willing to know yourself.  Borrowing from David Brin here when I say that the greatest inherited skill human beings have today is self-deception, especially rationalization.  You take the dumbest motherfucker off the streets right now, hand him one more beer than he knows he should really drink tonight, and he’ll find some way to convince himself that not only is it okay to drink that beer, but the world is a better place because of it.

In order to accept grace, you have to be able to know if you’re telling the truth or not.  You can ask any smoker who’s in the car on the way to 7-11 even though they’re trying to quit how hard that can be.  I found it through the progressive mind-clearing zazen of Zen.  Others find it through prayer and bible study.  Others find it through rigorous adherence to the scientific method, even when their pet theory—the one that’s going to get them tenure and an extra zero on the end of the grant check, maybe even that ½ paragraph blurb in Time magazine’s year-end round ups of the “best of” in science—turns out, by the evidence, to be completely wrong, and not in the “well, then the opposite must be true” way, but in the “wow, I have no fucking idea what’s going on here” way.

It just requires an acceptance that most of what you think you know about yourself is completely, flatteringly wrong, and a willingness to turn that laser-sharp ability to dissect others’ faults onto yourself.

Simple, right?

Next time:  so you’re willing to examine how much of a shit you are…what’s next?

Advertisements

Voice and Doubt – A Tale of Attempted Artistic Suicide – Part 5

And now, finally, here’s Part 5, which concludes this saga.  What started off as an idle response to an innocent question–“Hey, where’d that new story come from?”–has grown all out of proportion…but hopefully not to its detriment.

So, thanks for sticking with me through this (those of you who have); regular P.E.M posting should resume within a few days.

Read:  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4


Part 5 – Wherein the author does everything possible to sell out, and discovers it’s not as easy as people think.

It’s amazing what one little line can do to change how a query letter for a novel is received.

Before winning the On Writing contest, my queries had contained all the usual drek:  stories written, collegiate contests won, the one-act play I wrote that was performed by a theatre company…and all of them garnered one of the following responses:  a form letter (not really even a letter, just part of a page, photocopied and envelope-stuffed by some intern) saying “Thanks, but no thanks”; the same form letter, but with a brief personal note added that they like what I’d sent, but it just didn’t fit with them; or the aforementioned scam.  Responses usually took 2-3 months, and after a while you tend to get numb to them, expecting very little, hoping for little more.

And then, after the contest, I was able to add some variation on the following line:  “And my short story ‘The Maid’ was recently chosen by Stephen King as one of the winners of the On Writing contest.”

Oh, and how things changed.

I sent out 3 queries the day after I found out that I’d won the contest.  If I remember correctly, I found out about winning the contest on a Thursday, and sent out those queries the next day, on a Friday.

The following Tuesday, I got a phone call—at work, at ye olde chain coffee shop, meaning they’d done more than their fair share of research in a short amount of time—from one of the three agents I’d queried in New York.  They asked me for the full manuscript of my novel, and exclusive rights to consider the novel for a week.

The other two agencies followed up within a day or two, via email, asking for the same:  full novel manuscript, and a period of exclusivity.  I had the odd dilemma of trying to explain to the agents I had been pursuing so diligently for so many years, “Sorry, there’s a line, it starts over there, I’ll get to you in the order you arrived.”

Imagine being at a High School dance, and you’re sitting or standing on the sidelines…you’ve asked a few girls to dance, and counted yourself lucky that when you were rejected, at least they didn’t laugh in your face.  And then, a group of the hottest girls you’ve ever seen walk into the gym, and they come right up to you, and start arguing amongst themselves about which one is going to fuck you first.  That’s what it was like.

And here we come to the great sticking point in my writing career:  my novel.

It’s called 40, and for all of its faults and failures, I still love it, in the way I imagine that Dahmer’s parents still feel some sort of parental concern for their killing and cannibalizing son.

The basic notion for it came to me all at once, on April 20th, 1996—Earth Day, which was being celebrated particularly hard on a university campus as liberal/socialistic as the one I was on…and also 4/20, a date of particular note for stoners (which I most definitely was) (and this was several years before Columbine, so there was no morbid attachment to the date yet).  I remember taking a heavy dose of mushrooms that morning, then joining the festivities on the campus quad, enjoying the vibes like only a stoner surrounded by hundreds of other stoners can.

It all came to me in a bit of a chaotic rush:  not quite a full Idea Bomb, but close to it.  Legend holds that prior to his crucifixion, Jesus was sentenced—amongst other punishments—to 39 lashes with a whip.  40 lashes was assigned as a death sentence, the assumption being that no one could survive that many lashes with a whip…so 39 lashes was the equivalent of saying, “Whip him until he’s 99.9% dead, then we’ll figure out something else to do to him.”

And so I wanted to tell the story of someone who was pushed to the absolute edge—39 lashes worth, with the 40th hovering constantly over him—and the rest proceeded from there.

It took me a little over six months to complete, and as I believe I’ve already mentioned, this was the exception that proved the rule:  as good as it felt to write it, the end result was an absolute disaster.  You could say I survived the experience—after all, I did actually finish it, which 99 out of 100 writers never do—but the end result was as awkward and amateurish an effort as has ever been committed to the page.

There are some brilliant moments, but by and large, it’s clearly not something that any self-respecting publisher would want to put between two embossed covers.  Still, it was what I had, and I was running with it, regardless.  Most writers never publish their first-written novel, and many more get an agent based on a novel, fail to place it, and later manage to get their second or third one published via that same agent.  I was just hoping for a bite, a relationship:  someone in my corner who wanted to help me get where I wanted to go, whether it was with this first novel or something better that was yet to come.

But it was no surprise when the first agency, after reading the whole manuscript, decided to pass.  And then the second, and third did.  And another 3 queries went out, with similar drooling responses…and passes.  And on it went, for a couple of months.  Take that same situation, those incredibly hot girls arguing over who’s going to fuck you first, and then one of them wins out, and gets you alone in your room, and the pants come off…and she takes one look and starts to laugh.  And then the next girl comes in, all hot and bothered…and she laughs too.  Over and over again.

It gets so you start to feel a bit desperate.  To be so close, and keep failing.  And a lot is possible for someone when desperation kicks in, things that you’d never even consider otherwise.

A few months into this rejection process, I was at work one night, and talking about winning the contest with one of my co-workers, and someone who was standing in line overheard the conversation, and interrupted us.

“My name’s so-and-so, and I work for [insert big-time LA-based agency here].  Here’s my card; give me a call tomorrow and we’ll set something up.”

I don’t normally buy the cliché of sitting in a soda shop on Hollywood Boulevard, waiting for a producer to walk by and “discover” you…but it’s a cliché because, on occasion, it actually happens.

I feel like I’m getting a bit bogged down in the narrative here, so let’s cut to the chase:  I had a meeting with them a week later, and then another meeting, and then another.  I brought them my novel, and just about every story I’d written to that point that I thought might be “marketable”.  They asked me to write a treatment for the novel, and then a treatment for “The Maid”, and then treatments for a few of my other stories.

I do now, incidentally, curl fetal whenever I hear someone discussing a treatment for a script…sometimes I vomit, sometimes I don’t.  It’s unpleasant either way.

And so I wrote those treatments, those 2-3 page abominations.  I knew I was close, I was an active account, they were billing hours to my meetings…I was just desperately trying to move past the Meetings stage and into a Lunch Meeting (meaning a hefty expense report would be filled out and submitted, and there had better be a paying client to justify it), or even, god help me, a Meeting with Friends I’d Like You To Meet…which is where all the actual work gets done in LA, and where the checkbooks burn very, very close to the surface.

And if you’ll excuse the vulgarity…I got down on my knees, with absolutely no hesitation or shame (at least then), and sucked their root.  Sucked it hard.

I took my novel (which, remember, was Not Very Good), and “The Maid”, and half a dozen of my other stories, and just flat out prostituted them.  Twisted their souls, throwing out everything that had been important about them to me, mangling them as I tried to fit them into some semblance of a 90-minute three-act structure.  And while I did a pretty good job with those particular goals, well…if you put lipstick on a pig, but also cut that pig’s throat and gut them, stringing their innards all about like rotting decorations, pig or no pig, no one’s lining up for a kiss.  It’s just a dead pig.

And after a few months of back and forth, the agency stopped returning my calls.  And emails.  I didn’t take the final crazy step of dropping by their offices without an appointment, but I imagine Security would have thrown me out if I had.

It didn’t take very long for me to take the hint…I grew up here, after all, and while I’d gotten plenty wrapped up in what I thought was happening, and how close I was to finally breaking through to the inner system…I know when someone’s holding their breath, sitting still, hoping I’ll give up and go away.

I won’t lie:  I’m not entirely sure how to describe how I felt when that realization sunk in.  Because I don’t really remember.  It’s a bit of a black hole…I remember everything else that was going on at the time—getting ready for a wedding, injuring my knee…I remember just about everything else with detailed recall.  But about my Writing, my one true passion…I remember the last meeting I had with the agency, and the next thing I remember is about two years later, and realizing that I hadn’t written anything new in a very long time.

It’s no joke that, for any kind of tragedy, the longest stage of the grieving process is denial.  Sometimes there are outside factors that can help prompt you out of that stage and into the next…shit like an open coffin funeral, for instance…but sometimes there aren’t.  I’ve always been private with my Writing (at least until now), only sharing it with people—or even the fact that I was working on something in the first place—when it was finished.  So those closest to me were already trained to not ask me about what I was or wasn’t working on…no matter how long the silence continued.

And it’s not like I had folks on the outside banging at my door, wondering where the next great Hunt story was…form rejection letters don’t generally lead to a wide fan base, not without a few critical intermediate steps along the way.

Truth be told, I’m not sure, even today, almost nine years later, that I’ve completely moved out of the denial stage; I suppose this absurdly-long accidental confession might be part of the process.  And the pretentiously-eloquent microfiction is, more than anything, a cranky rejection of all the work I used to do…and most importantly, the perversions I foisted upon it all in the name of potential success.  The story “edge”, which I published an excerpt of here about two weeks ago…that’s the first complete written work of consequence that I’ve finished since 2001.  I’ve had a few half-assed false starts in the years since, but until two weeks ago it was nothing more than some self-indulgent lines hinting at something that I knew would never actually come to life.

But “edge” is done, as is “Two Deserts Returned”… and “Love Story” is in progress, and hopefully finished in the next few days (I’ve been a bit pre-occupied finishing this saga).  And this work somehow feels different…like it’s been freed from some sort of external set of conditions that it’s supposed to adhere to.  All of my previous work was measured against this mysterious standard, and I had to waste so much energy defending it, hoping by sheer force of will to prove that it was good, despite how badly it failed to measure up.

I’m writing again…something, somewhere, has forgiven me, and freed me from whatever prison I was rightfully sent to after treating the work I’d done with such disdain…I’m not sure anything else about it matters.

I’ve thought a lot over the last few weeks about why it appears that I’ve actually started writing again.  I’d like to know, if for no other reason than to have some sort of road map in case I ever hit another drought like the one I’ve been living through.

I know why I stopped writing, that’s pretty obvious, in retrospect.

I’m not sure I’ve adequately explained just how grievous my sins were, and how much I brutalized my work back then.  I took the things in my life that were most precious to me, the stories I’d written, the work I’d done that I knew God had put me on this earth to do, and mangled them, dismembered them, like a killer trying to fit a body into a trunk.  All in the hope that someone would pass me a piece of paper and say, “Here, sign this…your check will arrive in the mail in a few weeks.”

And I’ve been grieving that loss, that self-inflicted mutilation, ever since.

But as to why I’ve finally started writing again…that, I don’t know.  There are plenty of “reasons”, but none of them add up very well, the total falling well short of the sum of its parts.

There is one phrase, though, that’s kept returning to me recently, and if there’s any secret here, any lesson to be learned…well, let me tell you one last story.

I wasn’t raised religious, but came to the Christian church of my own accord in Junior High.  I consider my current religion to be a variation on Recovering Born-Again, because back in those days, I was seriously hard-core.  My church and my fellowship with those around me were my life.  I entertained very serious thoughts of entering the ministry.

And there came a point where that wasn’t viable anymore.  A point where my perspective on the entire business underwent a subtle but fundamental shift.

I was about a year removed from college, having dropped out to finish writing my novel.  I was laying back on my bed, smoking a cigarette, and was hit by an Idea Bomb.  It’s only happened to me twice in my life…the first time was when I got the idea for my novel, but that was muddied by all of the psychedelics I was on at the time.  This time, I was completely sober, and if you’ve never experienced it yourself, then there’s no real way I’m going to be able to describe it to you.

I was thinking through some of the stories I’d written, and some of the ideas I was still working on, waiting for them to gestate enough that they’d be ready to commit to the page.  And all at once—might have taken a few seconds, might have been several minutes, there was no sense of time passing at all—I saw a common thread.  I saw a Story, something that tied it all together, a fundamental truth underlying all the work I had done and was about to do.

Steve King has described the experience of having an Idea Bomb hit you as something like having a tactical nuke go off inside your head.  What happens is that—usually completely unprovoked—all of these disparate ideas that you’ve been carrying together in your head suddenly form up and lock into place in a way that you’d never even come close to considering before.  The difference between Before and After is like the difference between a long string of proteins and Life, Created and evolving towards the Godhead.

So I’m lying there, and this Idea Bomb hits me, and it’s a physical experience.  My entire body is tingling, like I’m recovering from the single greatest orgasm any human being has ever experienced.  I actually had to check myself to make sure I wasn’t levitating inches above the bed…and I’m not speaking metaphorically.  At that point, had you brought the crippled to me, I could have motherfucking healed them.  Levitating was a parlor trick, barely enough to hold my curiosity for a minute or two.

And afterwards, when trying to describe it, a phrase came to me, the same one that’s pinging around inside my head right now when I try to figure out why I have been silent for so long, and now have started to write again:  God-breathed.

The bulk of the New Testament is comprised of letters, mostly from Paul to various communities (thus Romans, Colossians, etc.), but occasionally to specific people, to help them in their ministry.  And in the second letter that he wrote to Timothy (thus, 2 Timothy), he says:

“All Scripture is God-breathed…”

There’s entire dissertations as to exactly what that phrase means…and by all means, discussion and debate is wonderful fun.  But it can never replace personal experience.  And one of the things in life that I know to be true, beyond any amount of discussion or debate is this:  when he says that all Scripture is God-breathed, what he means is, “That dude, when he sat down to write…he got hit by an Idea Bomb.”

The experience pushed me down a train of thought that led to my departure from the church, but closer to God.  If the people who wrote the scriptures—real, normal people—had been touched by God…why would God stop doing that?  Was there a finite window during which he was rushing to get his message down on paper, after which he put his feet up, opened a beer, and took the next two thousands years off?  I doubt it.  Any realistic definition of God places him outside of any time-limited definition anyway…there’s just no conceivable way that one aspect of his impact on human lives would be limited to a narrow window of linear history.

I think that all through history, people have written God-breathed work.  And by that, I mean that people have somehow, for a brief moment in time, managed to hew closer to the truth than any of us can purely on our own.  The details of that truth are colored by the vessel doing the work…so, Ayn Rand, her work is God-breathed, no matter how secular-humanist her subject matter.  Same with U2, Steinbeck, Stephen King, Tolkien, and Glen Greenwald, and Brecht, and Thomas Aquinas, and the Bee-Gees…no matter the specifics of the work, the Truth of it burns through with white-hot intensity.

In that moment, when that Idea Bomb hit me…God breathed upon me.  And I was unable to read the Bible—or take part in any organized religious activities, which all have their foundation in something from the Bible—in the same way again.  After all, if God had breathed upon the Bible’s authors, well, he’d breathed upon me too.  Which meant that my pursuit of insights into the nature of God, the universe and everything were just as valid, and just as likely to result in Truth as anything I could read in the New International Version.

That specific Idea Bomb, it did end up undergoing some revisions…the yet-to-be-written stories that were tied up in it were eventually written, and differed from their internal concepts once they were finally down on the page, as often happens, so the idea evolved, and adapted…but it ultimately, years later, resulted in the only formally published work I’ve got out there:  The Messy Divorce of Faith and Belief.

(If you click the tab at the top of this blog with that name, you’ll find a link to purchase it.  I encourage you to do so…it’s good, and I have bills to pay.)

And when I try to think through possible reasons why I’ve started writing again, it’s that phrase, God-breathed, that keeps popping up.

A breath doesn’t have to hit you all at once…it can flow in quietly, cooling and gentle.

I don’t know why I’m writing again now…but I do know that I can feel the breath of God upon me again.  Megalomania is a good thing, in small doses (and as long as you’re not a high ranking member of either the clergy or the military).  God—whatever your definition, whether he has a long white beard, or like the Tao is everything you don’t say and nothing you do—has a personal, vested interest in everything.  And that includes each of us.  It includes me.

For whatever reason, I was blind, but now I see.  Lost and am found.

I can write again.

It might have something to do with Grace…but that’s a story for another time.