What I wouldn’t give to drop down and hike on all fours like a dog. Or push off each step like that young woman ahead of me. I’m trying not to look at her backside. But she is young, and strong, and bold, to be out here almost all alone. A girl and her dog. Disappear into a fog. And I follow. A fire to sit beside and dry my socks and blur my mind in a sip of whiskey and a cup of wine and speak for a few minutes with company of like-mind and listen to problems like mine and sleep as if no morning will ever come again. Wrapped tight like a mummy, no plan for resurrection. Not only is tomorrow going to be a new day, it is going to require a new John.
This old one isn’t cutting it.
Shake your head. Shake it out. Shudder. The best way to unshutter. Open up why don’t you. Talking to yourself again. Out loud. On “paper”. Jesus Christ I have changed quickly. Same as it has ever been. I keep waking up while I’m already awake and realizing how many years I slept through fully conscious with eyes open. Dead-eyed asleep and ceaseless dreaming. What do I want out of life? What do I want out of a deer my brother killed. Everything I can get but I’m not ready for yet. I feel like the animals I’ve ended surely sit patiently waiting on the jury that judges me into whatever hereafter. I want them to look at the work, and feel maybe less hate and resentment than I would. We’re always counting on other people to be better than we are. Why does anyone ever ask why did everyone pile onto the short cut and traffic jam it into engine-idling oblivion. The long way is the short way again, because the numbers have shifted, and the only way to think nature isn’t on top is to bury your head in her. We will, all of us, die, and in doing the things we describe as life, learn to live again. You’ll shake your head. Shake out the you. The me. I. Whatever ridiculous code name you’ve been called your whole life. For me. I’m shaking out a Jeremy. I’m waking up all Jeremiah and feisty. A hammer in the hand of the carpenter was once a tree with roots cupped in the palm of the earth, and metal nestled deeper than that. If you want to know the creator, you have got to start thinking elemental.
You’ve got to start thinking. Now.
I have no clue about what the afterlife will look or feel like. But. I have every clue imaginable regarding how I entered, and my full understanding, of this one. And I can dream, without much difficulty, that being reborn into the next world will generally be similar to our entrance into this one. You had zero control. Absolutely no say in how you survived the first years of life. The most you knew to do was cry, and another being, better or worse, sought to silence you. Protected you. Ushered you every step to your current high-priced ticket seat. How do you find your way in the afterlife? The same way you made it to this one.
You scream, and cry.
Then something pities you, and keeps you alive.
I know it may not seem exciting, but to me it is like living scripture, I am walking twenty miles on faith that another traveler left a message in a journal that will inform me which direction to head for the next twenty. I quite possibly have never worried about my son’s safety more so than I am being gripped to shreds by right now.
Worry is the lightest thing that’s too heavy to carry. I decide to leave it here in this shelter, in this journal, where I snored so hard I shook the mice from the rafters and awoke with a black bear cub and its mama curled up beside me in our den. I burnt the paper that held my breakfast. I filled every watertight container I have brimming with the lifeblood of this magical, wonder-filled forest.
And before she left, pack on, boots laced tight, hiking poles in one hand, Hailey hugged me, a good hug, full of that same lightning that passed through her hand into me last night. When that insurmountable intergenerational distance melts away at warp speed and through so much time and experience, we stand equals, young and old, both able to imbue one another with the exact form of energy the other needs. She may as well have thrown gasoline on the fire last night. She made this old footsore man feel young again. For a flash in a pan. For five minutes. And she got to see her father, in me. Hundreds, no, thousands of miles, distance be damned, it’s all distorted through the filter of emotions. Every mile. So many thousands of feet, maybe ten thousand or more foot steps.
Knowing that doesn’t make taking one any easier.
“Jeremiah can. He believes the church is keeping people from going after God. We’re ruining Jesus’ philosophy by presenting him as untouchable, unrealistic, embodied in sacred language, with you, pastors, up on a pulpit preaching and us, sheep, facing forward. These long diatribes about sanctuary design. Mobile benches and picnic tables. Every service a different array. Giant stone fireplaces with rocking chairs in front, and the pastor walks around serving food and refilling cups. More than doors, he wants open windows, giant tents, walls that roll up and fire-pits in fields and secondary sermons, conversations and getting lost in the woods. He wants church equal parts daycare, assisted living, community rehabilitation, mixed with everything national parks and campgrounds already are. He says there will be gardens and goats and chickens and the church, an immortal food source for community.
He says we got it wrong. Jesus worshiped us. He died to feed us, to strengthen us, called himself our lamb. Jeremiah says Jesus was communicating to him specifically, for him to hear these ideas. He says every true Christian feels like that, like Christ specifically lived and died to transmit a powerful, revolutionary message direct to their heart. To shake us awake, not to worship, but to be the new Jesus in the world.
John, he says this enough that I remember it all. He says there aren’t enough crosses. If we all walk toward love with determination, knowing we will likely be persecuted in the process, there aren’t enough crosses, aren’t enough Romans, for all of us. As long as good people are afraid to suffer for goodness, good people will be props for bad people. He says all this to our therapist. And the man just nods. Nods and doesn’t respond.
John, I know I’ve said too much, but your son told me God put a shroud over him, and he doesn’t know what people hear and see when they look at him, the truth is masked, they don’t actually hear his words, or see his face. He calls it his veil. He calls himself the loneliest man in existence. He says, with full confidence, he’s never been happy. Not once. He knows happiness exists, he’s seen it in our faces. But believes he’s never felt it himself.
How can someone say that, and think it’s true?”
I often tell myself, they see the world through their own eyes. They lay themselves down at night. We judge how a window views solely through a filter: distance. But when it comes to ourselves, there is none. We can not without consequence deem ourselves unworthy, as if we’re in the center of an ocean in a sinking boat with a spare one to climb into handy. For lack of the existence of a better word, you’re stuck. With you. I’m not. Love your enemy, as you love yourself. Thank you Professor Jesus. Let’s say this another way. The people who are good at chess play both sides of the table. Enemy is a storytelling device, a two dimensional rendering of a far more dangerous four dimensional threat. You are someone’s enemy. Often, more importantly, your enemy, is someone else’s you. Thinking.
Emotions, empathy, if this isn’t a human generated wireless exchange of energy, I don’t know what could be. But just because you look at someone and feel something does not mean that feeling has anything to do with that someone. It’s you. Your brain looks out at a larger world it can not control and paints in the blank, dimly lit spaces with you, your worst fears, hidden desires. Other people are fun-house mirrors, they shrink the mountains in our eyes into scarce specks of dust inside their own. And through that window, distance, you glimpse you in the face of someone you call you.
You sentence them to death.
Because deepest, within each tiny heart cell that beats same as your heart,
you sentence yourself.
Revenge just feels right in way justice never does.
Because revenge has distance in it.
And justice only exists inside of us.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.