The Knowns (part 1)

All concentration of power is corrupt. Like how you can’t take a footstep without crushing something. So all footsteps are corrupt, says the ant. Intentions be damned. When deciding whether or not to trust someone, don’t take their promises for proof. Do they have the right to say sorry to you. Do you trust them to fail, knowing their failure is the progenitor of more than a thousand successes. We all make mistakes. Kings. Governments. Corporations. Gods have apologized before. The more power you give a person, an office, a title, only increases the consequences of their carelessness.

Who knows if we’ll cure cancer, or learn how to postpone old age, or master nuclear energy or muster a flying car in our lifetime, we’re still struggling to build better batteries but the propaganda of our society would have us believe we’re on the precipice of answering the mystery of the universe like it was a multiple choice question. See. Progress. I don’t know. Some things aren’t happening because they just plain won’t. Cancer is harmful mutation, life is what, positive mutation? How do you cure your source?

I say we put it on hold, because we are like children in the knife drawer, we aren’t ready, as a people, for the technology we’ve begun to explore. I say we focus on the knowns. In two hundred years we’ll be as hungry for fresh air as we are now for food. Clean water will entail a chemical equation. We’ll exclusively have picnics on rainy days. The sun will eventually become the bright cloud looming over all our nightmares. There will be no new magical source of food. It will be the same as it ever was. Alongside iron, steel, plastic zip ties, sustenance will be reshaped into shackles.

Universe-Maker (Final – Part 5)

Our eyes saw no need to show us this, but there are two worlds laid out on top of one another to form our one. What part of God was alive died for this one to give us our first fertilizer and seeds. But the energetic dimension laid on top of it, God is very much alive in, and only able to manipulate and make changes imperceptibly through the microscopic pinholes of electrons. There is a God. And you pray to it with every choice you make, every step you take, the things you call dinner, the memories you have of others, and the stories they tell of you. 

God is still building, and the human being is a special sort of sentimental brick. This isn’t designed for happiness, heaven is not a reward, and hell is probably the furthest you can get from failure. 

Nothing happens without purpose. God did not give up its form because it was bored. I can only tell you that while energy moves and gravity pulls the universe is churning toward something. And we are not an accident. We are not a frivolous experience. We are a tool. We are resource. 

Being a good person is like being a good hammer.
Study yourself. Get to know your form. Take measurement.
You will find whose grip you were shaped for. 

You won’t miss the nail anymore.

Universe-Maker (part 4)

I don’t want to uplift your story if you’re unrepentantly racist and hateful. I don’t care who you like or don’t, rights are universal, existence comes from God and is not subject to critique, which would be like one chair leg accusing the other three of being wobbly. No one is going to select out your experience and give you credit and credence and apologize for your motives. You’re going to always be treated by the universe the way you’ve treated it. Always. No arguments. You know your heart is stagnate water, every time you brush against a running stream or silt choked river, you can feel your destiny is birthing mosquitoes and a sanctuary of scum.

It’s not that you’re a bad person, it’s just that you do things to others you actively pray never happen to you. The universe is confounded by you. It seeks to quarantine you and your toxicity like crude oil miles below the surface, or an infection buried in blister. No heart is broken because you’re bad, although religion has us thinking it was supposed to. In truth, no one cares. The instant you evaporate or rejoin a tributary back into moving water, we accept you no questions asked. The punishment should not prevent rejoining the herd. All crime and consequence religion does is feed the wolves.

Universe-Maker (part 3)

Tired of dreaming, there was only one way to wake up. One direction to move in. The wave of light already crashing, we decided to stop fighting and let it take us a different way. We died. Collapsed. Buried. Super nova implosion. And the instance we have referred to as ‘The Big Bang’ was the very first resurrection and ascension afterward. Life after death. Electrons fired from the grave like bullets from a gun and the age of material had begun. Weight. Separation. And gravity. Longing. Attraction. 

Matter is being farmed into atoms by hives of furiously swarming particles. Pushed and pulled and blended and churned. We’re not so different from carbon and hydrogen, you and I. God, however, is from another place and absence of time. What power it had to influence your life or address your prayers directly, is gone. It only exists after you have long studied and intentionalized your self and found the inert seed of God buried inside and given it up to soft soil and hard water. God didn’t give you a good world or a bad draw, just a self. And it’s mind blowing for a human to consider creating something without means of controlling it, but God did just that. God made true unadulterated freedom. Good. Evil. Right. Wrong. Timing and temperature and quantities and recipes. Evil is a handful of garlic instead of a pinch. Right is likely to be nothing, to do less, as in the greatest gesture of kindness and thanks we could offer the earth is to simply step more lightly on her. Doing less would be more righteous, but the absolute, anecdotal versions of these words would have you imagining a more oil and water situation, black and white, one or the other, all or nothing. I can not for the life of me find those clean dichotomies occurring naturally. I find spectrum. I find contingencies and potentialities based on unpredictable environmental factors such as timing and temperature and holding your mouth just the right way. 

Morality has nothing to do with God. 

Morality has more to do with gardening. Who wants to eat a rotten tomato?

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.

Section from ‘Father and Son’

Up early working on a novel I’m really excited about, I call it ‘Father and Son’, for now. It’s an atypical journey on the Appalachian Trail, in which a son takes off on a thru hike without talking to anyone, and his father decides to put his career on hold and go after him. Dad and I mapped it out when he hiked with me the first 90 miles of my trip to NY, and I’ve been working on it, slow yet steady, ever since. Here’s a little piece:

“There is a free ride in pride, but not even a chance of one on a hike. You are going to carry yourself and everything you own for every single one of these miles, or you are going to call the endeavor by a different title. Stroll, perhaps. Good heart healthy, low impact exercise, maybe. A walk in the woods, for the short sighted and uncreative. But a hike. To call it a hike. To take a hike. It is not about valley views. It is not about making big miles. It is about needing to be someplace you aren’t already, and employing the cheapest mode of transportation available, your feet, as the principle vehicle to carry you there. The beauty of it, is that it does not get any simpler, or more complex than that. If you’re out for twenty miles, you’re on a twenty miler.

You’re only on a hike if your goal is big adventure.”

Bargain and Roll – One of my very first short stories

I woke up sweating while it was dark out. In a dream, I cracked open shell after shell pouring perfectly cooked scrambled eggs from them. With each orange yellow fluff my disbelief and doubt grew, leading me to another. When I woke I asked myself in a whisper why a grown man would dream about eggs. Then I laughed in my head for calling myself grown. I laid my head back on the pillow and solved all the world’s problems until I fell back to sleep. 

In the morning light I walked into the Carolina room and searched out the windows at the lake. The sun was dancing on water and I thought about our neighbor, swimming back and forth across it every morning even into his nineties. I made coffee. I sat and read a book in front of the window, distracted by crests of small, wind-blown waves throwing light off the lake. Jeremiah shuffled into the hallway from the guest bedroom and I thought I should have made more coffee.

“Dad,” Jeremiah said shortly.

“Make some,” I said.

“Good morning,” he said. I continued to read. “Want some eggs?” he asked.

“Not really.” I turned the page. Jeremiah set his plate down and returned to the kitchen to get his mug. 

“I made extra, we’re out of eggs,” he said. “When will mom be home?”

“Later.” I was staring at the first sentence of a new chapter. Jeremiah was being sarcastic.

“Something strike you father?” he asked.

“This question,” I said. I was looking down at it.

“Easy. That question is the hard one,” Jeremiah said.

“Can God make a rock so big he can’t pick it up?” I asked. Jeremiah hummed and I looked at him. Moments like these set in stone that I had truly made him.

“Yes,” Jeremiah said. My eyes remained focused on his, but I lowered my forehead.

“How?” I asked.

“It already has,” Jeremiah said. I asked him what he meant and his phone started to vibrate loudly against the table. He picked it up and left the room. The sun was beginning to gain height in the sky and I knew by twelve the air would be too hot to work in. I donned my overalls and went outside. 

In my small, backyard garden there were high, green corn stalks with fat cobs getting fatter, squash fading yellow from white striped green, and almost certainly flesh and red colored potatoes no bigger than pebbles underground. I sucked in loudly through my nose.


 

As my father and I walk past the dollar store we see a man selling watermelons. Dad walks toward him but says nothing to me. 

“Morning,” the man offered us. He is a fat man, wearing a shirt with two front pockets on his chest, tucked into dark blue, denim Dickies work pants. I want to tell my Dad the strained buttons on the man’s shirt make sideways looking mouths where cloth stretched into arches struggling to stay connected while watermelon man’s mass pulls the fabric almost skin tight. I like him. His cheeks were red as the inside of his produce.

“Watermelon crop,” Dad says.

“Yessir, good looking too. Fifty cent,” the fat man says. I look up at my dad and see him touch his chin. 

Dad hums and we turn around. I do not know why, but I feel like crying. I don’t necessarily want a watermelon, but not buying one upsets me.

“Fifty cent isn’t bad daddy,” I say. Dad makes a little noise but never turns down. We walk into the dollar store. Dad examines, in his palm, a list written out by my mother. We walk the aisles, every single one of them, and approach the checkout. Dad shakes his head as he pays and I stare at his hands as he drops two quarters into his left pocket. We leave the store, pass the mustard yellow chevy truck, and slowly veer toward the watermelon man. I can see him shuffle his feet in the distance but I do not turn my head away. Dad faces him. I follow.

“Twenty five,” Dad says. He hands the watermelon man a quarter and me the melon. It hurts my hands but I can not stop smiling. When we get home mom scolds us for not needing a watermelon, and I never get a chance tell her what a bargain.



I tried to grow watermelons the summer after dad died and they never panned out fully. Jeremiah walked up from the backyard and stood beside me. He handed me a jar of water. I told him thank you and we stood silent for a few minutes.

“This looks good,” he said.

“I’d pay you to sit out here with your slingshot.”

“Probably shoot you.”

“Not while I’m out here. To watch for rabbits.” He told me I should get a good snake population going and I wondered what had made his generation so different than mine. I smiled though, and wanted to tell him I loved him. “Turn on that hose,” I said. He mumbled something around the phrase ‘turned on’ but I took the hose and watered my cabbage. Jeremiah went inside and I thought about my next sermon, which remained unwritten. The gospel was Pentecostal and I wanted it to be a hair raiser. I went inside at four thirty and Jeremiah had just showered. Judy was not home yet and it was all the same to me. I took a shower in my bathroom. Feeling fresh I sat down on the couch and my half Siamese cat Theodore curled up beside my knee. I could feel him purring and I stared in the direction of old television shows. Theo’s eyes half-closed and Andy Griffith carried me back to my childhood.



I love making music because it simplifies the equation. It cancels out my thoughts and forces my brain and hands to behave simultaneously; mouth vibrating, diaphragm stretched and shrinking, arm and limp wrist bent or pushing. The little black dots connected by thin black lines bring purpose and art to my rural soul. Playing my trombone makes me feel like even though I can not impress people every moment, I am doing something primarily unachievable to most. I do marching band and it makes me feel like an athlete. My peers remind me I am not. If I knew when to cry I would. But something powerful pushes me. When I play the horn, it works better than crying.



I was in front of my computer watching the cursor blink. I put a sentence down, then another, and soon I was done and off to bed. Judy only woke me when she first laid down. I kissed her face and slept again.

In a dream I saw my dad sitting at my table in the Carolina room, dark out, moon bright and greenish yellow. I saw my garden through the window, but the corn was even taller. 

“God built us a rock,” dad said. 

“Can he pick it up?” I asked.

“Too big.”

“What does that mean?”

“He can roll it though.”

“Roll it?”

“Along. But it’s too big to carry.”

“Can he control it?”

“Generally.”

“What about the bible? Church? Faith?”

“Well. One quarter’s a better bargain than two.”

I woke up sweating. When I preached later that morning I could see Jeremiah’s eyes.
He never looked away. I love my son, and he drove back to college right after church. Judy and I ate lunch out in town after the service. That night, when I undressed, I unfolded the bulletin that had been in my pocket. On the back, in blank space, I had written the words ‘bargain and roll’. I thought about my sermon and wanted to quit my job. But I looked at Judy, snoring softly, and fell straight to sleep.

Dialogue from a novel I’m currently working on, called ‘Fathers and Sons’

“Set that chicken and…what do you call that other stuff down here again, I should know this.” Carol loops around the island and has her hands rested against the immaculate greyscale marble on the other side, lips pushed out while she looks up squinting at the ceiling.

“Fixin’s,” I say with a forced southern twang. 

“Fixings, exactly, right there on the island if you don’t mind. I hear Bob getting his self together, he should be in here shortly and we’ll all fix a plate. Fix a plate. Hey, maybe that’s where that comes from!”

“Maybe!” I offer excitedly. “Dad always said it came from the Great Depression, when you couldn’t necessarily count on the quality of the meat, or meat altogether. He said a good set of sides could ‘fix’ that for you.” I’m ruffling the plastic and pretending like I’m doing something to prepare this piping hot food sealed in styrofoam and plastic and grease soaked cardboard lined in shiny white wax. 

“Is that true Pastor, or one of your tall tales?” Carol speaks as she truly dissects the flimsy plastic bags and begins arranging the containers in a line, potatoes beside the gravy, green beans popped open and steaming, biscuit box beside the chicken bucket and the crinkly bag balled and buried in the trash inside a cabinet at her feet. 

“True, that he said it, yes, but beyond that there’s no telling. Dad doesn’t really speak in plain fact. You’re always kind of trying to discern just how tall the story he’s telling is.”

“Oooo,” she exclaimed, “I’d love to meet that man sometime. Sounds like such a character.”

“Yes, and some characters are best known by their stories rather than in person. He can be a handful, so to speak.”

On Us

At some point, you submit. If it is happening this way, then it is on purpose, there was never any other order of things. I don’t know what this is, just what it isn’t, and primarily, this is not an accident. I know that is hard to read. I’ve lost people. I’ve failed at things. I know you may have told yourself it was a deviation from the plan, but it wasn’t. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and God what is God’s. And blame for the things we do to one another falls in no way on the divine. Though the humans who use them would have you believe it’s out of their hands, all weapons are shaped for them. A thousand ways to feel washed clean. One form of filth.

The only sin is born in a decision you know you shouldn’t make as you make it. That’s it.
It has always been up to you. No matter how fervently you deny it.

Maybe God made a lumpy rock with saltwater licking shorelines. But it did not invent America. Or life. Or humans. Or the disgusting way a millipede’s legs all work together in waves.

Maybe God invented the perfect atom, brick, building block, with just enough consciousness written within, that this brick is one part mason, one part chemist, one part pragmatic technician, one part way back in the rear, engineer. Brick all the same.

Which would mean we truly own our choices.
Our hardfought, often unnested consequences.

I know this hurts. But we are doing this to ourselves.

I blame God for creating potential.
But this, reality, all of this.

This is on us.