Universe-Maker (part 2)

This place is all dark and gravity, and almost all of our outward propulsion and explosive movement is limited and measurable and waning, the gravity and its grip is the only constancy, and no one disputes that one day we will all be together in that great cosmic singularity again. God was light. God was you and me, but without the and in between. All electron. All bright, and charged, and fastidious, and unsettling. God was a great big electron with all electrons inside like water in an ocean and it could do nothing but dream. Dinosaurs. Mankind. Amoebas. Oceanic trenches. Gas giants. We’re all filling in forms from that ancient imagination like they were molds in cast iron. Johnny Cake conscious and not much more than a set of eyes trusted more than truth itself. You were there, inside the ball of light, the complete antithesis to the universe we now know. You remember.

When you fall in love. When you lose your you, and let your body carry you miles and miles before you wake up and ask yourself where you’ve taken you. When you cry for pain that isn’t yours. When you lust after joy that isn’t either, and even when you hate, when you hit, the whole world will wear a bruise you intended for you. We are one thing. We know it. We trust our eyes too much, and they don’t show it, but there are more than chemical bonds hovering in the spaces between us. 

We were there. We were just as much God as God ever was. And we grew bored.

Universe-Maker (part 1)

We have to understand earth before we can begin to explore the universe.
We need to study ourselves completely before we can know the difference between that and theology.

Foundation work. It’s not sexy. It’s no trophy. If you build it right, no one will ever see it again or know you did it. Atheism makes no sense to me. It assumes modern religion’s definition of God is accurate, so if the entity described isn’t detected, there’s no God. No God whatsoever because it pretty quantifiably isn’t an old gray headed man in the sky hurling lightning. The word God was intentionally kept small, monosyllabic, open to endless interpretation, definition resistant. No amount of robes, candles, poetic language or colored glass will change your worship of mystic confusion into true worship of creative divinity. God made the universe as we know it. Several cut-rate writers offer versions of a flimsy fallible god going back and doing rewrites. That was their own personal lack of self awareness invading their imagination of limitlessness. Well, I’m not cut-rate, I’m flat out unpaid, unpublished, unknown, and I have started with studying myself and learning the earth and here is what I can tell you about God and our universe.

It died to create us.

The Meal from the Cub (2 of 2)

We all start like seeds in our mother’s soil. 

Eggs are like seeds. So are planets really, bursting with roots of starved gravity.

Electrons are like seeds, the universe itself, spreading out from a mindbogglingly finite point of spatial dimension into this immeasurable, mystifying massiveness. Biology mirrors chemistry like a face in rippled water. There is a God. It was speaking to us in our anatomy long before it ever engraved a tablet or plagued a city. Clearly there is a loosely defined polarity to the universe, a general lightness and heaviness, a fiery push and gravitational pull, a female and male with all sorts of hybridized relationships in between.

The breeding we do just to exist as individuals, this is like a love letter written to us about how power transfers and expands itself within this universe. How much more important and potent relationship is than isolation and independence and general lone wolfedness. Enough so that plants even pretend to care about gender just to attract and entice us. It’s coupling. It’s power play. It’s essentially what happens at the heart of every atomic endeavor, as clouds of swirling electrons push and pull and shape and squeeze protons and neutrons between them, little bonds forming between things being stretched apart to the point of almost bursting and then held here, sustained, unlocking the energetic outpulse that engendered the universe and ultimately led to us: physical conglomerates sustaining projections of consciousness for sustained periods. Awake is something so difficult to do, it requires us to sleep half of every day, and eventually ages our bodies to the point of irrevocable exhaustion. 

I believe electrons are seeds of consciousness. And I believe their nature is agriculture, cultivation, provocation, stimulation. They accomplish a sort of guided husbandry between fertile elements, measuring the couplings and overlappings that work against those that don’t. I believe we, our anatomy, our minds, our instincts, our entire way of life, are organized in a zombie-like obedience to the atomic relationships going on inside of us. 

We see what they want us to see, and remember only what we need. And wouldn’t you know, the light learned early on the added benefits of keeping us in the dark. 

 

Dear Lord, Let Me Be Wrong

Mist pours in on a comparatively warm November evening, shows me my cross-eyed headlights and blinds me when I click on the brights. Walmart is full of people. At eight on Thanksgiving eve. Full of stink eye and camouflage and middle aged women in pajamas. Our little country corner of the world. Little girls apologize for their father’s scowls with upturned eyes. A grizzled looking gentlemen sights a slender twenty two caliber rifle up at the twenty foot ceiling. Capitalism is most at work when we aren’t. Swiping hours of our lives away with flimsy magnetized plastic, futuristic looking chips embedded in them. There’s a doglegged line in front of the pharmacy. Gigantic Hershey kisses and hollow shepherd crooks full with M&M’s. Grown men wearing flip flops. Little boys in cowboy boots beg beside the bike rack, tears in the corners of their eyes. 

I can’t settle my heart. It liked living outside too much. For my thirties, my eyes and my feet are best friends. They do everything together. Partners witnessing crime. Flying down Old Post I can not help for the life of me the feeling there is hatred and resentment more so than white knuckles and hidden toes powering the machines passing me. It is an old Jeep, I confess, I don’t dare push past the speed limit, so I damn near see the whites in their eyes as they ride my spare tire bumper. There are young men in the Walmart almost through the door when they spot a single lady walk in all by her lonesome and nod their heads together and turn around.

My deepest prayer to date is that I’m wrong. 

Answered by family, warmed by fire, wrapped in mist in the foggy corner of the county we call home. I want to turn around and grab those boys by the scruffs of their necks like tomcats. I want to buy that kid his bike. I want to take the gun out of those paint stained fingers and kiss that man on the cheek if I have to. Wrap him up in a hug and ask him what’s the last thing he forgave. I want to let her know she’s safe, but I don’t have to, anyone wearing pajamas in public is already far more comfortable in their own skin than I ever have been. I want to buy all the milk almost past its date. Tell the people wearing blue vests and name-tags how proud of them I am, how honored I am to be helped along by them, how I never would have found HDMI converters without them. 

As I drive, I get real afraid the mist is smoke. I imagine deer throwing long tan legs out like Rockettes onto the stage. I wince at the sight of roadkill. I throw the Jeep out of gear and coast downhill, thinking how that engine is idling same as if it was sitting still in the driveway, going fifty-five and bouncing across the flimsy bridge at the bottom. If it doesn’t bend it breaks. 

What are we all doing with our life? This is our one shot at the world. What are we all doing at Walmart at eight o clock on a Wednesday night. Looking so sour. Looking down sights. Staring down strangers. 

Strength. True strength. Is not stubbornness, or rigidity. When the man said love your neighbor same as you would love yourself, he could just as easily have said, if a bridge doesn’t bend, it will break.

It has happened before.

Their religion is seizing.
Clear glass mountain view
eyes rolled back like blinds,
fluttering spring green leaves
in rain bearing wind.

It is not dying.
People are not abandoning it.
But giving it space.
Waiting for the episode to pass.
Wondering how long this one will last.
It has happened before.
It is safe for the church to drive a car.
Or operate heavy machinery.

The theology is heavily medicated and loopy.
Like twisted links of chains upholding a red candle.
Loopy like the redundant circular music.
The hymn and hers mind. Kind. Of. Loopy.

Eyes glazed from the cold outside
and the breath off volunteers
and so much mismanaged time
and energy.

Forever-Open

Once I was a week’s vacation for a church janitor. On paper, the position is called sexton. But in truth, I cleaned bathrooms. Lots of other work too. Dusting under stained glass windows. Polishing hundred year old timber. Lightly mopping myself out of the sanctuary. I took the trash. The church was massive and historic. Built in the late eighteen hundreds. Episcopalian. On paper, high church. And it takes a lot of work to hold that title. I was only there a week. But I had just finished spending two and a half months principally living in the woods.

My first day off trail, I held the keys to a century old building.

The tick tock of hard heeled boots on marble floors. Bowed in iron floor grates that would take deep spooky breaths ever so often. Seeing stained glass scenes at different times of day. Not just mornings. It was early November, upstate New York. The space was warming. In every way I needed. Empty churches have always felt like home. Growing up the middle son of a Lutheran Pastor, whose ministry crossed several churches and state lines in the course of my childhood. We’d spend a lot of time at a place most people see only once a week. I remember playing hide and seek in graveyards. I think of it now, but in no way back then did I even question for a second if what we were doing was wrong. Proximity. And creativity. The blinders all children see the world within. And here I was again, alone in an intentionally intimidating, hollowed-out space. Empty enough to fill with echoes even of slight gestures. A no whisper space. A better not start unwrapping that cough drop until the hymn starts up again space. And I had it all to myself. Keys in my hand. And a list of chores my credibility was attached to. It was an interesting overlapping of experiences to say the least.

I have known many church janitors, or sextons rather, in my lifetime. Never thought twice about any one of them. Didn’t really process that it was a real job. Definitely refused to recognize a church’s dependence on that position, almost as much as a pastor even. I saw it done to perfection. I saw it taken advantage of. You never could have convinced me to believe I’d be one one day. That guy with the keys dangling from a belt loop. Trust. Access. Responsibility. Fifteen an hour. Fifteen hours. Ornate, immaculate linens with real wax candles in gold colored holders. Dripping. Rafters forty feet, I don’t know, felt like a hundred, maybe somewhere in between, dark stained support beam skeleton and light yellow white painted spaces. Altars etched with latin words. No crucifix. All crosses and cups full with grapes and stained glass scenes with farm animals and children.

The organ made you move with or without making music. A true to form pipe organ. Powerful, to say the very least. A mountain range of volatile motion capable of capturing the most experienced hiker in an off trail outward bound mouth hung down might be drooling a little as I stare off into space mind racing while an organ erases anything that may have previously fulfilled the expectations I had for a word like powerful, to say the most. Boxy boxed off section of pews for the choir. Two pulpits. Or one pulpit, one podium. I believe they corrected me on that too. One of them was an eagle, wings outspread legs arched forward the instant before a strike. A larger than life Holy Bible invitingly spread wide open on its back. Air conditioning screaming up from the basement. Intricate black trails of sediment locked in ancient white sheets of carved up ground smooth granite. The weddings, white dresses starkly contrasted against dark stained wood. Line of men standing shoulder to shoulder nervously smiling and poking each other with elbows to deal with the anxiety. A room full of people. Breathing. Whispering. Passing hard candy down from grandma. Twisting spinal columns to see if the Narthex was loaded, safety off, bride in the chamber, groom sat out a hundred yards like a target. Wavering in the wind of childlike anticipation.

Churches are vessels for memories. God, not so regularly. You get to the afterlife looking for a house of worship, you’ll probably be handed a hammer and nails. We have no evidence whatsoever to believe a divine current running throughout the universe has much if any interest in our buildings. I had just walked eight hundred miles across four states, I spent a little time in the whole east coast’s backyard. Trees blurred together into forests before me, mountains overlapping ranges like skyscraping waves far out in the ocean. Three walls and a tin roof made me feel like royalty. A fire, all alone, out in the woods, kept me in lively company. All my needs fit in tiny waterproof sacks stuffed in a bag on my back. Worship is experience. Church is a hostel. A place for the traveler to find some reprieve. Reflection. Catch your breath. Invest it into a little friendly conversation. But God isn’t like us. It has its own ideas about architecture. Besides, time, nature, weather, inevitability is constantly trying to diminish and tear these places down. There is a literal team of hard fought individuals who show up, clock in, grind gears, push pens, stack paper, answer phones, clean bathrooms, dust windows, shut off the alarm when the new rector accidentally sets it off. Rector. Another word for pastor. And congregation, a word for a herd of fresh shorn, darty eyed, collar throated, had too much corn with a touch of bloat, sheep. Also, God can’t take credit for sheep. Or any domesticated thing. Even feral, untouched by man, there’s a good argument to be had that we can’t rightfully credit a possible creator of the entire universe with the detailed shapes and design of anything we find here on earth. But possibility. Potential. Different. Of this sort of metaphysical work, there is evidence. And one could put up a decent argument that churches operate as modes of restriction imposed on chaos. A roof to block out earth’s roof. Windows that can’t be seen through. Doors that open so wide but with copper locks buried inside intended to keep them closed.

Memory. Not creation. Canon fired, for fear of allowing any more genesis to take place. Heels echoing against hundred year old paint still streaked with the brush strokes of hands upheld sixty feet up a ladder now buried in the ground. A brass lettered placard in the Narthex tells the church’s story, lists crucial dates, responsible parties. Behind the altar, a musky sacristy. Silver orbs on silver chains to swing burning sage. Choir robes. A refrigerator full of holy wine. Crackers in the cabinet. Crackers on the cross. Crackers in the pews. I was never a fan of that point of view. Can’t get comfortable in an audience. Felt fine polishing where they sit though. Sweeping off where their feet had been. Mopping away the winter boot prints. Running a bleach soaked rag over their toilet seats, where their naked bodies had touched down, where the holy leftovers of water were graciously offered, stagnate in the corner of the stall. Wondering if they realize there is wine in there. The wine in our urine. The blood in the wine. The wafer. The meal heard round the world, still got deposited down the side of some tree, or planted into empty space beneath an overturned boulder.

“We are called to the table,” I spoke out loud, my deepest booming voice directly into the cold embrace of this massive historic church’s hollow breast. “Later on, we’ll be called to the bathroom.” The rounded trailing sounds of once-words fizzle and fuse into the wood grain, the three inch thick stained glass window panes, down, into imperceptible spaces in pristine, glass-faced marble, inhaled by raspy high heel hungry grates embedded in the floor up front.

“We are called to this table, to eat, drink, and prepare to be called away from this table.”

I am standing as upright as I possibly can behind the widespread wings of a golden eagle, heavy book on its back like a turtle shell. All alone in a titanically empty room. The keys that unlock it are in my pocket. I was thin. Hardened. Incorrigible. Feeling invincible. Called. Walked to the very hostel I’ve spent my entire life arguing with and running away from. Not to talk, or lecture, or give a sermon, or even edit one. But to sweep. Mop. Clean bathrooms. I remember thinking as I worked one day in the sanctuary, how every person who pursues a pastoral ministry, should start by cleaning a church, head to toe. From the altar, to the restroom. Body of Christ, indeed.

“The point was not so we could come here and be given the tiniest proportion of bread and wine to take a little slack off our worried minds about where we go when we die. The point was, we’re already dying. Hunger is your daily reminder. Thirst, a warning sign. It’s unavoidable. We all extend out and can be traced back to the table like a vine. We are mutually severed. Every time.”

Lights turn on in the hallway. Doors that enter from the back of the giant room are suddenly traced by bright rectangles.

“This place. This is the hostel. At the base of the mountain. It is not the mountain top. We’ve taken a hiking, walking, working person’s philosophy, as a reason to stop. Rest. Reprieve. Take in the view. If you like it well enough, you never have to leave.”

The light go off. That side of the sanctuary returns to dark. I lean a little forward, both fists resting on the pages of a tremendous bible, on the back of a golden eagle. The light is fading from the darkest stained glass first, the reds have gone brown, the purple and royal blue now black, only yellow and white still allow the light of a quickly setting sun to pass.

“The point was not to forsake knowledge in pursuit of belief. Jesus, of all people, knew you’d be hungry again tomorrow. And the next day. If we’re lucky, there will always be more work to do. This place is a hostel, a temporary relief along a journey. Church is something you carry with you. Into the world. Over the mountains.”

“Worship is simply a quieted, hollowed-out space inside yourself.
Where the doors are forever-open and bear no locks.”

The Carrot

These are serious questions we’re asking. To no one.
For no reason. Just asking. Deeply insinuates, we do not already understand.
If we took our conscious state as evidence, we’d know the secret of the universe.
It’s confused.
Sunlight is confused.
Hydrogen commiserated in the arms of oxygen.
It makes molecules of confusion.

If empty bare bones black space could speak it would sound just like me.
Scattered.
Incoherent.
Incapable of the task before it.
Attempting it anyway.
Great capital I It.
All of It.

The answer behind the question we’ve been asking in complete contradiction
of the true state of existence which, by all means, we should have taken at face.
From the start. If we knew, what would we do.

If there was nothing left to ask, why have we all been put to task.
The mere existence of an answer would negate the treasure trove of motivation
uncovered in an unrepentant state of childlike bewilderment and confusion.

Asking all the serious unanswerable questions. Full with so much expectations.
Hope. That this is not the way It really is.
Some better, clearer, simpler destiny must exist. It doesn’t.

It is a carrot dangled dangerously in front of the whiskered nose of a mule.

One taste.
Is all it takes.
And believe me, we wouldn’t walk again.
Not another step.

For Mankind is a stubborn animal.

Please Pass the Plate

We have a universal religion. Survival. No matter your belief system, to even have the conversation, we all have had to eat a little, drink a little, and especially this time of year, we had to sleep inside out of the weather. Just to have functional ears, and flowing blood, and eyes absorbing. No matter the particulars of your faith, figures, mantras, customs, symbols, traditions, if there is a creator, it commanded we all first work diligently at the sacraments required for maintaining alive, before all else. Or, if you do not believe in a creator, you still did a lot of work to come to that conclusion, and you share all of that labor with every single believer, of any faith whatsoever.

We have differences. We have cultural divisions. We have distinctions, and arguments, and logical impasses, and even judgments standing solid between us. But not dinner. Not hunger. That is a custom we all share. Like thirst. Like exhaustion, and exposure. We could build an entire way of life, distributing basic resources, instilling simple agriculture economies, connecting neighbors and communities in small, cyclical food and barter systems, before we ever even have a good enough reason to discuss our differences. We don’t live and die by our divisions, until a human being decides so. But whatever led to this, the universe, and life as we know it, did want us all to sit down at a dinner table first. We all live near a well, or some kind of straw connected big sloshy tanks at the tops of towers, or held in reserve in reservoirs full with fish.

My point is not that anyone is right or wrong in comparing religions, belief systems, political pursuits, ideologies.

My point is that the argument starts after dinner.

After everyone has eaten.

It is impossible to have a healthy discussion of religion with someone who is starving.

No matter the faith, its first commandment must be, please pass the plate.

And the sun sits. While the earth turns.

What do we believe? So we’ve skipped right past knowing, have we.
To have faith. Or be had by one. Buyer’s choice.

To the chagrin of mainstream religion.
God gave dominion broken up equally among all the living.
And doesn’t much care who wears white collars.
It isn’t likely to care too much about any one us at all.
Just lucky to be lumped in with the rest of the universe.

I believe.

If language fails to articulate the relationship we have with our creator.
The flaw is in language.
We are here. We exist.
Some thing. Some it.
Some process led to all this.

God is the three-lettered word we use to discuss whatever that is.
Whatever It it turns out to be. Or doesn’t.

Even if It only happened once.
And now It isn’t in existence.

Belief.
I believe.
I know.

There will be a tomorrow.
The sun doesn’t rise to convince me.

I can see it in the stars.
The entire earth is turning.

Of Theologians and Farmers Alike

My God is the heart of the universe.
My God radiates gravity like it was light.
It started to hold the whole lot of us together
as soon as It figured out how to let us go.

We are held in mighty arms, like infants,
by a God that can not stoop to know us.

We are related.
But we are not of a kind. You see.
We do not belong in the house. Not yet.

We are like a supernatural child’s pet.
Arguing against Its parents
for our existence
since the very beginning.

We are God’s garden.
Its favorite pet project.
We enter the house at dinner time.

And are kept
in a kennel
in the backyard.

See.
Daddy didn’t want to get a dog.

My God
is a mom
who got one
anyway.