Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Yes Man

I went to see Yes Man with Jim Carrey last night somewhat reluctantly, in a bad spot and desperate for diversion. So funny, and well written. Carl (Jim Carrey) is a 'no man;' "Carl, do you want to go out tonight?" No. "Carl, will you approve my loan (he is a loan officer)?" No. Carl... No. No. No. Carl goes to a self-help seminar--"YES is the new no." The pedaled philosophy is to stop saying 'no' to life by saying YES to any opportunity that prevents itself. It gets a little ridiculous, lots of funny scenes.

What struck me is that God, too, wants us to be YES men. Yes Lord, I will go wherever you send me. Yes Lord, I do whatever you ask of me. The saints were serious yes men and women, pedaling the gospel as an affirmative YES to life everlasting, and a firm NO to sin, whatever the circumstances. Yes Man was funny because it took YES to the extreme, throwing caution to the wind and following blindly into the uncertainty that YES promises.

When the Lord said, "quit your job," I quit. When the Lord said, "write a book," I said okay. When the Lord presented a green school bus and said, "Buy it and build it and they will come," I did, and they--press, exposure, curious bystanders--came. Now I am finding myself left out of an essential part of life--work--, dismantling the bus and donating it to charity, and struggling through writing a book that does not write itself...a lonely and rocky endeavor.

Was saying "yes" a mistake. No. I didn't know what I was getting into but when God corners you like he did me, its hard to squirm out with a "no." I don't regret any of it. But in the wake of YES, the path is not so clear where to go next. That's not part and parcel of the gospel philosophy. You need to get acquainted with uncertainty and promises and unknown roads or your YESes will soon slide into NOs.

I will make writing my work. I will trust that building the Green Ark and getting it out to the press was more purposeful than living in the contraption. I will suck up my lot and celebrate uncertainty. I took a beeting last night. But I'm back up again.

Album for the night. Morphine: "Yes"

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Prayer for the evening

I imploded like a black star
on the living room floor
shooting shards of my shattered self in all directions
breaking windows, cutting plaster.
You are the most important thing to me.
In a heap of black fleece and denim,
I fear for my future, wondering
if you had handed me the wheel to drive,
or if I was expected to keep my hands off,
let us roll into a ditch, fold like an accordion into a tree;
give away my ritches,
and be forced daily to beg it back.
Oh happy chance.
When night sets upon me I run to created things,
lighting matches, dialing worthless numbers,
and you chastise me,
My son, why do you run to created things? Am I not enough?
You are! I know that! My reason!
And yet you do not trust me? Why do you turn your back on Me,
when my arms are open to bring you in?
Where are your arms that bind? Where are your hands that caress
matted hair and soaked cheeks?
Someone who offers themselves to a black hole
gets what they deserve, they tell me.
You left Mother in darkness for half her life.
You had your reasons, I suppose. Look at all she laid at your feet,
and you return only darkness. She said
you despised her. What hope is there for me, then?
I am like a crumpled bag, empty and soiled. I ate what was inside,
what I had brought for you, because I was hungry. I wiped myself
with the bag, because I had no toilet paper.
And yet I still consider this a gift worthy to offer to you?
They throw me out out your courts
for insulting you with this filthy gift.
And yet you call me back in, chastise the guards
for how they treat me.
I am disgraced beyond belief by my profane emptiness.
And yet you take it in your hands, smooth out the creases,
erase the stains, anoint it with oil and fill it with good things.
I have nothing to give! I scream and cry,
outraged at your charity,
an affront to my vindictive reason.
I make all things new, you say. I burst into fiery tears that sear
my face, paint me with stripes.
If I loved you, if my words held any integrity,
I would stay in your courts forever,
forsake my plans, crucify my worry.
Living is so painful! And yet I know you planned it this way.
All I have to offer you are my sins and my desire to be good;
everything else is broken beyond repair,
not even worthy of the scrap yard.
Oh, that I could rest in your love forever,
but you push me out into the cold, to fight and make my way
beyond the warming hearth of your house,
among acquaintances and ghosts who do not see me;
to be blown by the gentlest gust
into a wall, to have my hands broken;
to sit on bathroom floors in the damp moonlight;
to collapse on beds of cloth;
to be surrounded by lions which circle me and wait to pounce.
Who will save me from this body of death!
Oh Paul, with hands stained with holy blood.
Are you haunted by your self, by your clinging past?
Have you cut it so far from you that the wives and children
of those who sent to be buried would not recognize your brazen eyes,
your proud zeal and lust for Christian blood.
I know who you are,
who you were.
You are no better than me.
And yet you are a thousand times better than me.
I will let you carry your own yoke.
I must carry my soiled empty bag,
to make an offering to my Lord,
soiled in sin, the stench of which offends him.
He sends for me, draws me close,
and pushes me back into the night.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Poem for the evening: Pilgrim's Lot

Oh, would I throw away my pen,
spit dirty tobacco into my mug,
make up things and jobs to tell women,
as I walk the land lady's dog
in a stained white undershirt and muffled cap.
What kind is he? A rare breed,
rare indeed. Half man-half man;
half a man, actually. He comes
from the coward genus--
notice the sagging hips, the coal eyes
that once ignited everything.
Oh, if you could have seen him! So handsome. Mmm.

Yes, we should have coffee
sometime, or bourbon,
if you are that kind of girl. Back at my place,
I think of things to do.
If you can think for yourself,
perhaps you can unyoke my straining
mind, fishing quickly for things to bring us closer
to our end, turning a blind eye
to the apocalypse.
So, who will take care of your dog?
you ask, putting me in a tight spot.
More ginger ale? I wish I had something

more to offer you. I have one plate
and a bowl, a few forks;
Which would you like?
You frowned when I showed you
my reed mat, where all the harrowing dreams
of my quiet demise hover above my resting corpse
like chunky angels, driving their fish hook arrows
in and through me as i gently move
the hair in my nostrils with tender breath.
All a man needs is two feet
of space in which to lie, I told you. I catch your eyes
flitting towards the door.

A friend told me: all girls make sure they know
where the windows are, how many flights up,
if they could jump and not break anything.
I picked a woman up off the sidewalk once,
I tell you, to put you at ease,
On my way to court. She told me she was raped
in a man's bathroom, and had jumped out the window,
and broken everything.
I set her up and we had lunch
in Love Park, smoking Kool cigarettes, me trying to keep her
sober. But she kept falling.
She was very heavy.

I'll remember your name, of course,
when I am taking my cold morning shower,
watching the sun rise through the window,
wondering where you had gone that night,
when I turned to go to the bathroom.
I wish i could have offered you some reassurance to go
with your dry baguette and mashed beans.
That, of course, I did not plan for company.
I am new to the city, know nothing
but the few blocks from my cell, the corner store.
the paper, morning tea.
A man alone needs rituals, something,

to cut the quiet air with meaning, honing the sharp
edged intellect (such useless tender)
when bread lines stretch around city blocks,
the sound of bloated children wailing.
All the calamity in the world--
I know it will fall right here where I sleep.
So you see, I must keep an eye open,
lest I unravel carelessly like a ball of twine,
my oil lamp spitting out, flicking the last splashes of candlelight
against the white plaster walls.
It is better for a man not to marry, I reassure the chair.
Roll another plug, put out the light.

Chapter __: Passion

"When I have neither pleasure nor pain and have been breathing for a while the lukewarm insipid air of these so-called good and tolerable days, I feel so bad in my childish soul that I smash my moldering lyre of thanksgiving in the face of the slumbering god of contentment and would rather feel the very devil burn in me than this warmth of a well-heated room.”

--Herman Hesse, Steppenwolf



Manic-depression is a passionate disease. It is like a relationship that is bad for you that you just can’t seem to leave. It is utterly paradoxical: as much as you suffer during those most wicked bouts of depression and mania, the strong emotions inherent in both states leave an imprint in the brain. When we are the most emotional—manic, depressed, or otherwise—we feel most alive.
I often catch myself thinking back nostalgically to the days when I was manic because they were some of the most joyful and spirit filled days of my life and I miss them dearly. Depression, strangely enough, is also a tempting mistress. The crushing weight of despair can become like a comfortable blanket to hide from the world under, and the pain of despair is acute enough to be tasted.

The reason I think back nostalgically to those times when I felt most alive is because these days I do not feel alive at all. Biologically I am functioning normally. But my spirit has been subdued, beaten down into silent submission, by an army of medications. I respond to things neither with anger or gladness, but with shrugs and half-smiles; good and bad, it is all the same. Life is a white cake with no icing; a source of calories, but without the pleasure of consuming them. There are times I wish I would choke on it.

There are times in depression in which the pain is so acute that suicide seems like the only viable respite. In mania one is less likely to be preoccupied by death but may die as a result of some reckless activity. But for one who has known thick passion, residing in the gray nothing of passionless existence is like being in a kind of cool hell. It induces a collected panic, like when a paralyzed person tries to move her limbs for the first time. Feeling the movement of limbs had been taken for granted for so long; that is, until they no longer move on command.

It seems that God is not so fond of this gray state either. In the book of Revelations, the Spirit of God says: “I know your works; I know that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were either hot or cold.” Such half-hearted commitment to the faith is nauseating to God: “So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you from my mouth” (Rev 3:16).

The expression “hot and cold” usually refers to the act of vacillating between two extremes; a cycle manic depressives are especially familiar with. This can be between being passionate and frigid, generous and stingy, angry and gentle, loving and hating. So when God seems to be approving of this being “hot or cold,” does that mean that the disposition of manic-depressives has special favor in the eyes of God? I think it does.

If we are looking at the gifts mental illness brings into the world—rather than just its deficits—the disposition towards passion is one that can work favorably for us in our spiritual lives. God does not call us to do average things for Him; He calls us to great things. The ability to do great things depends on having a great spirit, a great vision, and the fortitude to carry it out.

When I was manic, I felt fortified to do great things for God. I had towering vision, and a burning energy to actualize those plans. But as is the case during these mental conditions, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” My mind was too fractured to follow through on any of the grand plans I had made to bring the Kingdom of God closer to earth. I wrote a manifesto. I still don’t know if it was God speaking through me during that time, making me work in the heat of my mania. I don’t think my mental condition detracted from my being a willing servant of God. If anything, the burning passion I laid before God’s feet constituted a “holy oblation,” the willingness to serve with zeal that God found so admirable in David.

When I was severely depressed a few years ago and seeing a new therapist, I mentioned that I was distressed at my lack of passion. After listening to me talk about how I was feeling for a few minutes he said, “I don’t think you have a lack of passion at all. In fact, you have very strong passion. It is just a negative passion.”

He was right. My life at that time was filled with the pain of emptiness, loneliness, worthlessness, guilt, despair—all those demons that accompany acute depression. They were like searing wounds that split open and festered on all parts of my body. Was this some commission from God to share in the sufferings of Christ? I doubted it. It did feel like a mental crucifixion, and I did feel completely abandoned by God at this Golgotha. But in my suffering, I at least felt human.
The Desert Fathers espoused a state of being which they referred to as “dispassion,” or apatheia. In this state the intellect is not made a slave to the passions of the senses, nor of the imagination, but is rather brought back into proper alignment with the Divine Intellect. Cultivating this state requires mortification and self-control, detachment from material possessions, prayer, and, of course, grace.

The medication-induced passionlessness I live in now is not a venerable state. It is not the result of fervent mortification or prayer. It is simply a state in which my emotional responses have been dulled and muted. My tears ducts may have dried up and my sex drive may have gone into hibernation, but I still experience the passions of desire in subtler ways. The craving for comfort, praise, and substances is still strong; I notice it the most when I deny it what it wants. With a recent switch in medication I have regained a healthy appetite and so food has become a source of craving. I have strong urges to nap during the day that are hard to resist. I do not consider any of these things as harmful in and of themselves. But it is the attachment to them, and the treating them as idols, which bring us farther away from the path God wants us to tread.
A perfect example of such raving, sinful passion, comes from one of my favorite books, Zorba the Greek. Zorba relates his father’s passion for smoking and how he overcame it in this vibrant excerpt:

“Well, he had all the vices, but he'd slash them, as you would with a sword. For instance, he smoked like a chimney. One morning he…took out his pouch and found it was empty. He'd forgotten to fill it before leaving the house. He foamed with rage, let out a roar, and then bounded away towards the village. His passion for smoking completely unbalanced his reason, you see. But suddenly he stopped, filled with shame, pulled out his pouch and tore it to shreds with his teeth, then stamped it in the ground and spat on it. ‘Filth! Filth!’ he bellowed. ‘Dirty slut!’ And from that hour, until the end of his days, he never put another cigarette between his lips. That's the way real men behave boss.”

God wants us to be passionate people, not lukewarm. But He wants our passions to be directed to the things of the spirit, not the flesh. In this way I feel that the fire of passion and desire which burns so hot in the souls of manic-depressives is advantageous to spiritual development. The key is exercising the will in a way that directs it towards the ways of holiness, not sin. Unlike the flaring of passions and emotions, how we direct our will is completely in our control.

The subduing of passion by medication is a kind of death, one that needs to be grieved, but that inevitably leads to a deeper, more mature faith less dependent on emotion-based response. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). I have come to terms with this crucifixion of my emotions by medication and my faith life has adjusted accordingly. As in the parable of the two sons in Mt 21:28-32, what one feels towards God is less important than what one does for God.

letters to Norma

hey love,

i got hit by a car (cop car no less) a few weeks ago so i'm holed up for a bit but would love to get together when im all well and my bike is all black and sleek looking at me puppyeyed saying, "well?" i'll grab my hat off its hook and hop on and glide down ridge ave in north philly dusk like a fabulous ice skater draped in pink spandex caressing the mic at woody's singing an old rendition of "where oh where has my norma gone?" you will get up, brown and glowing and all teeth and sex "to hell with this job" you will say and we will spend the day buying hot dogs from vendor carts watching babies bundled up in itchy wool flap hats waddling and careening across frozen rittenhouse fountain carousels hit the night with a bottle and ill watch you sing, maybe...

Marriage

One of my favorites by Gregory Corso:


Should I get married? Should I be Good?
Astound the girl next door with my velvet suit and faustaus hood?
Don't take her to movies but to cemeteries
tell all about werewolf bathtubs and forked clarinets
then desire her and kiss her and all the preliminaries
and she going just so far and I understanding why
not getting angry saying You must feel! It's beautiful to feel!
Instead take her in my arms lean against an old crooked tombstone
and woo her the entire night the constellations in the sky--
When she introduces me to her parents
back straightened, hair finally combed, strangled by a tie,
should I sit knees together on their 3rd degree sofa
and not ask Where's the bathroom?
How else to feel other than I am,
often thinking Flash Gordon soap--
O how terrible it must be for a young man
seated before a family and the family thinking
We never saw him before! He wants our Mary Lou!
After tea and homemade cookies they ask What do you do for a living?
Should I tell them? Would they like me then?
Say All right get married, we're losing a daughter
but we're gaining a son--
And should I then ask Where's the bathroom?
O God, and the wedding! All her family and her friends
and only a handful of mine all scroungy and bearded
just waiting to get at the drinks and food--
And the priest! He looking at me if I masturbated
asking me Do you take this woman for your lawful wedded wife?
And I trembling what to say say Pie Glue!
I kiss the bride all those corny men slapping me on the back
She's all yours, boy! Ha-ha-ha!
And in their eyes you could see some obscene honeymoon going on--
then all that absurd rice and clanky cans and shoes
Niagara Falls! Hordes of us! Husbands! Wives! Flowers! Chocolates!
All streaming into cozy hotels
All going to do the same thing tonight
The indifferent clerk he knowing what was going to happen
The lobby zombies they knowing what
The whistling elevator man he knowing
The winking bellboy knowing
Everybody knowing! I'd be almost inclined not to do anything!
Stay up all night! Stare that hotel clerk in the eye!
Screaming: I deny honeymoon! I deny honeymoon!
running rampant into those almost climatic suites
yelling Radio belly! Cat shovel!
O I'd live in Niagara forever! in a dark cave beneath the Falls
I'd sit there the Mad Honeymooner devising ways to break marriages, a scourge of bigamy a saint of divorce--
But I should get married I should be good
How nice it'd be to come home to her
and sit by the fireplace and she in the kitchen
aproned young and lovely wanting by baby
and so happy about me she burns the roast beef
and comes crying to me and I get up from my big papa chair
saying Christmas teeth! Radiant brains! Apple deaf!
God what a husband I'd make! Yes, I should get married!
So much to do! like sneaking into Mr Jones' house late at night
and cover his golf clubs with 1920 Norwegian books
Like hanging a picture of Rimbaud on the lawnmower
like pasting Tannu Tuva postage stamps all over the picket fence
like when Mrs Kindhead comes to collect for the Community Chest
grab her and tell her There are unfavorable omens in the sky!
And when the mayor comes to get my vote tell him
When are you going to stop people killing whales!
And when the milkman comes leave him a note in the bottle
Penguin dust, bring me penguin dust, I want penguin dust--
Yet if I should get married and it's Connecticut and snow
and she gives birth to a child and I am sleepless, worn,
up for nights, head bowed against a quiet window, the past behind me,
finding myself in the most common of situations a trembling man
knowledged with responsibility not twig-smear not Roman coin soup--
O what would that be like!
Surely I'd give it for a nipple a rubber Tacitus
For a rattle bag of broken Bach records
Tack Della Francesca all over its crib
Sew the Greek alphabet on its bib
And build for its playpen a roofless Parthenon
No, I doubt I'd be that kind of father
not rural not snow no quiet window
but hot smelly New York City
seven flights up, roaches and rats in the walls
a fat Reichian wife screeching over potatoes Get a job!
And five nose running brats in love with Batman
And the neighbors all toothless and dry haired
like those hag masses of the 18th century
all wanting to come in and watch TV
The landlord wants his rent
Grocery store Blue Cross Gas & Electric Knights of Columbus
Impossible to lie back and dream Telephone snow, ghost parking--
No! I should not get married and I should never get married!
But--imagine if I were to marry a beautiful sophisticated woman
tall and pale wearing an elegant black dress and long black gloves
holding a cigarette holder in one hand and highball in the other
and we lived high up a penthouse with a huge window
from which we could see all of New York and even farther on clearer days
No I can't imagine myself married to that pleasant prison dream--
O but what about love? I forget love
not that I am incapable of love
it's just that I see love as odd as wearing shoes--
I never wanted to marry a girl who was like my mother
And Ingrid Bergman was always impossible
And there maybe a girl now but she's already married
And I don't like men and--
but there's got to be somebody!
Because what if I'm 60 years old and not married,
all alone in furnished room with pee stains on my underwear
and everybody else is married! All in the universe married but me!
Ah, yet well I know that were a woman possible as I am possible
then marriage would be possible--
Like SHE in her lonely alien gaud waiting her Egyptian lover
so I wait--bereft of 2,000 years and the bath of life.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Joan Miro Christmas in Hell Extravaganza

I don't dream much. So when I do it feels significant, whether it is or not. Asleep on the couch, surrounded by presents and chocolat liquor and gladness, slightly drugged by pain and perkocete, i had a dream that i was in hell. it was a butcher shop a la Miro's 'Carnival of Harlequin,' with screaming cow heads on the floor prophesying...a workshop of torture and chaos. in the groggy horror upon waking up, egg nog and 24/7 jolly carols on the radio, snoop dogg at the lakers-celtics game, i had a vision of our home, a la hiroshema, a la Job...todd, dead. dad, missing right arm crying over john's missing left leg. mom also missing limbs. the pot roast, not quite done. "Quelle Catastrophe!" the comfort and safety of candles and frosty christmas wreaths...illusion! warsaw, nagasake, quernica...horror a moment from the front door, waiting to be answered, three doors down. i have not been so shaken by a dream in a long time. no one is safe from the revolving one way doors of Hell, butcher shop of eternal torture. O Lady, pray for us!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chapter __: A Place Apart

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

--Mk 12:10


Since I was in college, I have always wanted to be a monk. The Benedictines who staffed our Catholic community gave me my first exposure to monasticism and filled me with the desire to commit myself to God in a radical way. I visited the Archabbey where the monks lived a number of times and became more and more drawn to the simple, vibrant rhythm of Benedictine work and prayer.

I discerned this call for more than ten years, visiting monasteries across the country and abroad. I even made a two week retreat at a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, and was struck by how similar their daily routine was to the monks’ back home. I dated, partied, and traveled, but when I reflected on my path of discipleship, it always led back to the monastery.

In 2008, as I was heading into my final semester of graduate school, I decided it was time to make a commitment to what I felt was my calling. I wrote to the abbot of a contemplative Benedictine monastery in New Mexico that I had visited a few years before and asked to be considered as a postulant. The abbot wrote back cordially and said I was an ideal candidate, aside from one thing: my diagnosis of manic-depression.

After conferring with other communities, he told me that ninety-nine percent of monasteries would not accept someone with bi-polar disorder. He said that personally, he did not like to rule anyone out on this basis alone, and that they had in fact admitted a man with bi polar disorder recently. It was not, however, a positive experience for either party, and the man left before professing his simple vows. It seems the experience of living with a manic depressive had left a bad taste in all the monks’ mouths. As the old saying goes, “one bad apple spoils the barrel.”

I was devastated. While the abbot insisted that this did not rule me out for consideration all together, my diagnosis made him cautious when considering my application. And rightfully so. The abbot was not ignorant of the fact that stress is a major trigger for people with bi polar disorder, and living in community had plenty of stress to offer.

Manic depression is a kind of “original sin.” It is something you are born with, it is often inherited, and its reputation tends to proceeds you. It does not prevent one from being mentally balanced, but by nature it makes it that much more difficult.

When I was told I may not be able to become a monk on account of my condition, I felt like a gentile, excluded from a community which was promised salvation. It felt unfair, but I knew that St. Benedict and all the Desert Fathers held obedience as one of the highest virtues without which no monk could expect to get far up the ladder of divine ascent. I submitted, trusting that when God closes one door, he opens another. What the abbot said about stress was true, at least in my own life. I know there are certain jobs that would preclude me on account of my mental condition. It didn’t take long in teaching 7th grade for me to crumble under the stress that teaching demands.

I had long entertained the idea of marriage, even while I explored my monastic vocation, and was in fact, at one point, engaged. This, too, was a great source of stress and while I don’t rule out being married all together, I know that the stress of living in this kind of two person community is not to be taken lightly.

It takes humility to accept the fact that we will not always be able to live the kinds of lives we wish to live. If you wear glasses, you will probably never be an Air Force fighter pilot. If you are five foot four, a career in the NBA may not be in the cards for you. Being what we want to be is not something a Christian should aspire to. Being what God wants us to be, however, is the mark of a true disciple. The best part is that when we aspire to be what God wants us to be, He opens all the doors for us. I may never be a monk. But there is nothing standing in the way of my being a saint but myself…manic depressive or otherwise.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I was in prison...

Christopher Carter
#ES-3597
SCI Smithfield
Huntingdon, PA

18 Dec 2008


Dear Chris,

Thanks for your letter. I recently got hit by a car and broke my hand and collarbone so I can’t type much so forgive me for that.

Do know St Paul was in prison? He suffered there. He said it is a good thing to suffer when you have done no wrong. Prison can be just or unjust but it sounds like for you it is just punishment; that is, you did wrong, committed a crime, and now the state is making you pay for it. You must accept this but know that no man is bound to his past. Whatever you did, good or bad, it is over and done. This day commit yourself to the Lord and endure your suffering knowing this, like all things, will come to an end.

I have been blessed with a loving family and good childhood, but that is not the case with everyone, including you. But remember those who are most forsaken by men are loved the more by God.

Do you know how I pray? The Psalmist says: “ponder on your bed and be still.” This is what I do. It is listening for God, rather than running my mouth (which is fine also).It is written: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” And Samuel heard God’s call and responded: “Here I am!” God speaks very silently. Lie on you bed and follow your breath. Quiet your insides. You are surrounded by walls but you are free. There is nothing keeping you from God but yourself and your sin. You are blessed!

I will end here. You are in my thoughts and prayers this Christmas. Remember...you hold the key to your freedom.

All my friends will soon be strangers...

I am back in germantown after a few days of recovery from my hand surgery at my parents' house. i heard a saying once: "if you think you are enlightened, spend a week with your parents." so true. funny how you get used to walking around with a broken collarbone when there's nothing you can do about it. the protrusion has become like a pet parrot, always perched on my shoulder. when i start talking to it, though, then i am in trouble.

now i am back awaiting my second surgery and feeling like a single mother or widow, alone in my apt, struggling in my impotence to open a can of beans. there is a quiet desperation at times like this, the mild shame of dependency. true love is wiping your lover's ass when they cant manage to do it themselves. i am glad to be back, if only for a change of scenary, in a place with less baggage, where i can pray and not feel the act to be so foreign as it is in the house i grew up in.

as i reflect more during this 'benching,' i am becoming more resigned to the fact that i will probably never marry, and what this means for my future. if i cant open my own beans, who will? in this way it makes sense to marry. but i remember what the Apostle says, that, spiritually speaking, "it is better to be unmarried, since he who marries is concerned with worldly things, how to please his wife," while an unmarried man is concerned with the Lord's affairs.

Some days I feel such an aversion to the world and temporal things; i wonder how it is that any man lives in it as he does. ignorance is like a soft blanket i want to crawl into, stripping off the rough raw hide the Lord issues his followers. i told my father in the car that this world holds nothing for me, that i would be glad to leave it. Buddha said: "I consider the positions of kings and rulers as that of dust motes. I perceive the teachings of the world to be the illusion of magicians. I see meditation as a pillar of a mountain, Nirvana as a nightmare of daytime."

monks make sand mandalas and blow them away; i have shaved my beard. beards, like comfort and suffering, come and go "as the serpentine dance of a dragon...traces left by the four seasons." besides i was beginning to scare mothers and their small children.

Of a Pure Mind and a Simple Intention

"When a man begins to grow dull and slow in spiritual matters, then a little labor greatly frightens him, and he gladly seeks outward comfort from the world and the flesh. But when he begins perfectly to overcome himself and to walk strongly in the way of God, then he little considers those labors he before thought troublesome and insupportable."

--Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Of the Remembrance of Death

"Now while you are in good health you may do many good deeds; if you fall sick, I cannot tell what you may do, for few are made better through sickness. Do not put your trust in your friends and neighbors, and do not put off your good deeds until after your death, for you shall be sooner forgotten than you think. It is better to provide for yourself ahead of time and to send some good deeds before you than to trust to others who very likely will easily forget you. For the common proverb is true: Today a man; tomorrow none."

--Thomas a Kempis

Monday, December 15, 2008

Of Inordinate Affections

"When a man desires anything inordinately, he is at once unquiet in himself. A man not mortified to himself is easily tempted and overcome by little and small temptations. And he who is weak in spirit and is somewhat carnal and inclined to worldly things can with difficulty withdraw himself from worldly desires; when he does withdraw himself from them, he often has great grief and heaviness of heart and rebels if any man resists him. And if he obtains what he desires, he is disquieted by remorse of conscience, for he has followed hi passion which has not helped at all in winning the peace he desired.

There is, therefore, no peace in the heart of a carnal man or in the heart of a man who gives himself all to outward things. But in the heart of spiritual men and women who have their delight in God great peace and inward quiet are found."

--Thomas a Kempis

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Ponder on your bed and be still..."

i am typing with one finger on account of the fact that i was hit by a car (a police car, no less) yesterday, endowing me with a broken right hand and collarbone. needless to say i will be taking a break from writing for a short while, but am grateful for the extra time to be able to listen to God in the silence of my room.

i thank God for everything. i thank Him when he fills me with light, i thank Him when He breaks my bones, for "He is lavishing His hesed on me." was i supposed to be hit by a car? what a silly question. sometimes we forget that we breathe borrowed air on borrowed time. i suppose i was overdue for a reminder...

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Single Life

A Celebration:

  • I whistle to the tune of "Three Blind Mice" while washing the dishes, enjoying the pleasure of warm water running over the back of my hands.
  • I read. I read Hesse, Kerouac, Mother Teresa, St. Neilos, National Geographic cupped in an easy chair, my leg dangling over the side.
  • I make tea, a ceremony for one.
  • I lie on my reed mat in the day, in the night and listen for God to speak, lighting candles, blowing them out, the brattle of cars on cobblestone and steel track.
  • I make an event out of going to the store, like going to the movies, and ponder unhurried over what kind of bread to buy as if I were buying a new car.
  • I look at my body in the mirror and think 'no one will see me naked,' and sigh and smile.
  • I grow a beard.
  • I sit in the back pews in church hoping a pretty quiet girl might walk in and she never does.
  • I ride my bike in the quiet cold to watch Battle Star Galactica with my ever-there teacher and friend, to relax and smoke, communing without speaking.
  • I hang my colored tee shirts and socks and underwear in the evening when I am alone, and imagine I am drying wet cotton diapers as my son sleeps in the next room.
  • I sit on the porch and smoke and watch things like the king of a great fiefdom.
  • When I am lonely I look for couples with painfully bored faces sitting across from each other in stale silence over cold food, having run out of words to exchange.
  • When I am horny I think of sex after-the-fact, of sighing and getting out of bed to make a sandwich and thinking about work the next day and wondering in the light of the refrigerator if this is all there is to life, this coming and going.
  • Sometimes I act like a perfect gentleman, just for fun.
  • I read about great stoic hermits and feel ashamed at my need to socialize.
  • I rent movies and eat ice cream in polyester Adidas pants, indulging myself in everything I deserve.
  • I shave my face, cut my hair, and celebrate the fact that I am a man.
  • I think about my future as if I am looking out over miles of Montana scrub, the wind catching my ear, and the nape of my neck.
  • I go out to meet friends as a representative of my self, and usually leave early.
  • I fantasize about giving my life as ransom for another.
  • On Saturdays I don't sleep late but I smile devilishly in the fact that I can.
  • I listen to classical music in the kitchen over the crackling of bacon, and the smell of grease.
  • My days are like brilliant sheets of white paper, a few notes scratched here and there.
  • I think about Thailand, Greece, Madrid, drinking glasses of fruit juice in the Dominican Republic, sitting silently in open air zendos in Japan, without longing, only curiosity.
  • I offer myself to the world as a free agent...

Do you like my new hat?


I thought you would. I do too! Though I am not really this surly NYC-cabby looking in real life. The hat is actually my roommate Chris', but he said I could borrow it. Ever since I saw Newsies I wanted one. But I'm afraid of wearing it outside for fear of attracting hipsters!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I found this little excerpt I had written in an email and thought I would post it. Not reflective of how I feel now, though. Now that I have phased out Lithium I feel like a fiddlehead fern starting to unravel towards the light...

3/21/05- My depths promised to bring me to summits of hope, where I could look out and down and at all the places where I had been during those times. It was simply cause and effect. But rather, now, I have been brought up to and placed in a state with nothing real to complain about, and nothing to aspire to. A dead gray filled with unredeemed suffering, like a clay-filled pie with a beautiful glistening crust.

Tonight I received a message...

"This is where you are supposed to be."

Friday, December 5, 2008

Chchchanges

I have been struck with the "omgwhatamidoingwithmylife!?" recently. I have started sending out resumes to local Catholic colleges for campus ministry positions with the hopes that something would materialize by next fall. I want to stay in the area. I am okay for money for a while but would like to know that I would be able to do something worthwhile, something I want to be doing, sometime in the near future.

This lack of control is humiliating, in the sense that it inspires humility. I don't know where my life is going or what I'm supposed to be doing. I am completely dependent on God for my future while having to actualize it myself. I am scared, nervous, though I shouldn't be, if I had faith that God had something in store for me. Reading Mother Theresa's letters, my own issues and fears wilt like dying flowers from the radiance of her trust in Providence.

I have also decided to sell the bus. It is a very good bus but I do not want to live in a bus. It would have made more sense for me to know that before I bought and converted a bus...but I wouldn't have known until I did it. I have a guy coming to look at it on Sunday. When I thought, "I'm going to sell the bus," it seemed right. Poor bus, so much love and attention and publicity, only to be passed off to some guy...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Letter to Dom Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB

3 December 2008


Fr. Philip,

Thank you for writing back. I do not know why Fr. Orthmann's has not written. I actually called Holy Cross and left a message for him but never heard back. I would like to speak with Fr. Genovesi again and take some more time with this issue of entering monastic life. I think he saw my last request as somewhat impulsive though of course as I mentioned to you before, I have been considering this call for some time.

I remember years ago when I graduated college, not knowing what to do with my life, I applied to Teach For America. I thought I would teach, that this was what I was called to do. I received a letter of rejection and was devastated, though I know now that when God closes one door He opens another. At the time, though, it was very dark. This is how I feel now



I trust in the obedience Benedict espoused, and i also trust in your judgment, and in the judgment of Fr. Genovesi. As I said, I would like to speak to him more, flush this out a little. I would also like to take you up on your invitation to visit next spring, to speak with you in person. So much is lost via email. I would hope that in meeting you would be able to help me discern whether this calling to monastic life is a real calling or not. I do know my desire is genuine. I want to do great things for God as HE wants me to do them. My career goal is to be a saint, a faceless one, known only to Him.

Living a monastic life is very hard on one's own. I feel like despite whatever difficulties might arise for me in community, the need for guidance and support of a community is strong. I have very few Christian friends and live out my life for Christ very much alone. I don't know if this is my calling or not, but to be surrounded and supported by Christian fathers and brothers...who knows what things I could do for God in community that I could not do by my weak self?

I wonder if you could share a little what it is about bi polar disorder that would bar someone like myself from so many communities, and maybe a little about this man who left the monastery, and how his illness affected the community. I know I cannot change the fact that I have bi polar disorder, but I would just hope that whatever it is that would preclude me from community life would be valid and accurate, not based on preconcpttions. It would also help me understand more how my illness affects my spiritual life and the difficulties it would present in living in community. If anything, my medications have been doing a good job of keeping mania and depression from occurring. The downside of this neutralization, this "lack" of moods, is that I feel empty, a little less than human. My emotions suppressed by this, I have been forced to relate to God in emptiness.

I have started reading the secret writings of Mother Teresa. They have been very good for me to read. Since I have just started most of the writing is about the beginning of her mission and her locutions and her unbelievable fire and desire to please God. When I read her I feel ashamed at my lukewarmness and all the "no"s that I answer God with. But all this is in a good way. It pushes me. I have started fasting recently, only in the sense of eating in between meals, and my weakness is astounding. i feel like the little drummer boy having nothing to bring God but my weakness and sins. But I know this is a source of grace itself.

Please write. I hope to hear from you, since your direction and support helps me in this time where there are not many lights leading my way.

In Xto,

RM

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Spirit is Willing...

I have started reading the private writings of Mother Teresa of Calcutta elucidating her "spiritual darkness" she endured for close to fifty years.

There is a great amount of will that goes into achieving great things for God. The directions are clear enough: follow the commandments. become like a little one. give all to the poor. take up your cross. like the so called "american dream," sainthood is an invitation extended (and encouraged) to all. There is nothing preventing anyone from being great for God except themselves. Loving is an act of the will and in our complete freedom we are free to exercise it as we want.

The only constriction on this is sin, and that itself is encouraged and cultured in our personal lives; the accumulating darkness is welcomed on our behalf by what we commit in darkness. When we sow sin, we reap sin. If we sow love, we reap love. Our outwards lives are a direct reflection of the work we have put into them, what we have chosen, i.e., Sin and Death, or Love and Life.

I will never be a star athlete. I will never be the president of a company or a great scientist or rich or famous. Perhaps the 'power of positive intention' people will disagree that these things are beyond my grasp. Whether they are or not is moot to me. What I want is to dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, for "one day in your courts is better than a thousand spent elsewhere."

Many things prevent me from becoming a star athlete, or a president, or a rich man. But nothing prevents me from being a saint except myself. The formula is easy: God wills us to be with Him. God gives us everything we need to do so. I have complete freedom to choose to sin or not, but this is impossible without grace. God gives us everything we need to make this happen...nothing can be achieved without this grace but it is not denied to anyone. Sin separates us from God. I choose sin over God day after day. There is nothing preventing me from being a saint, from doing great things for God, except myself. The flesh may be weak but it is not completely compromised so as to be immune to the exercise of the will. This is why sloth and gluttony are sins: they sow laziness in choosing to do the work of the Lord, attacking from the inside, our disposition.

Working out is hard for a reason. I don't like working out because it is hard. But if you want to become strong you have to do the work. My sloth, gluttony, laziness is an embarrassment. Sin is like candy...it is easy to keep eating it, for it does not fill up and it is always sweet. I hope to diet to make my insides like my outside, to take responsibility for my salvation, to eschew cheap grace, and to work towards the only thing worth anything in this life: becoming a servant unto the Lord.

Fat Albert

I found the following article on weight gain as a side effect of Zyprexa. After putting on 30 lbs. in less than a month the claim that the drug causes "substantial weight gain" has been substantiated in my mind. I would like to switch to Abilify but it is very expensive and until I can get samples I will continue taking the Zyprexa.

So I have decided for the first time in my life (besides my days trying to make weight for wrestling in high school) to start dieting. I don't know if it will stick or not, but I will try to eat a healthy and modest breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with no snacking in between. This fasting will be a very difficult discipline, with my appetite out of control (it seems that Zyprexa affects the enzyme that regulates eating "behavior," which is probably responsible for this).

Zyprexa: Study Finds Reason for Weight Gain

According to a recent report, the drug increases the activity of an enzyme called AMPK in cells in the part of the brain that regulates eating behavior. AMPK is shorthand for the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). The cells that make up our bodies need a constant supply of energy to function. AMPK is key in regulating cellular energy, and serves as a gas gauge by sensing how much energy a cell has.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

AMPK's increase was because the antipsychotic drugs were interfering with the important protein histamine.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chapter __: The Little Way

In depression, everything is too much. Walking is too much. Talking is too much. And doing great things for the Lord feels like just too much. In this I can share with Therese of Liseux the belief that "there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by." The depressed lie in the shadows of the great.

When I was going through my first suicidal depression, even the most basic functions required too much of what I did not have. My father would take me out on walks to get me out of the house and I would walk behind him like Frankenstein, my feet sliding like sandbags across the sidewalk. In public, my eyes never lifted from the floor. Conversation became an excruciating task. When it came to eating and drinking I wished for an IV since, as Virginia Woolfe wrote, I found myself "hating the need to swallow."

A friend of mine had driven up from D.C. to be with me during this dark hour. When he offered himself as a personal servant and asked what might make me feel better, the only thing that held any promise was something smaller than me, something so easy and undemanding that I could not fail at it, or be overwhelmed by it. We decided to go to Home Depot and buy some vegetable seeds.

When I felt like I could do nothing else, when my life seemed so big and broken that I felt incapable of ever accomplishing anything again, I found that in nurturing and bringing to life these little seeds I was able to restore a sense of competence and self worth that eluded me in bigger tasks. I planted them in potting soil in little dixie cups and watered them twice a day. When they started to sprout, I felt a glimmer of hope that things could get better, that life could emerge from a hard shell. I watched them grow bigger each day like a proud father. When spring came, I gave them to my mother to plant outside. Later in the summer, my parents were eating the tomatoes from the vine that grew from the tiny seeds I had planted that winter.

(cont)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Sins

St. Teresa of Liseux was a scrupulous girl. She used to lament and confess her sins, which to the commoner would seem hardly worthy of being called imperfections. Saying a mean word to one of her sisters or grumbling when given a task to do were perceived as the most mortal of sins.

Teresa's sins seem ridiculous, hardly worthy of confession. But the weight of such imperfections is in the eye of the beholder. While adultery and idolatry might be avoided by those climbing the ladder of divine ascent, other, more particular sins, take their place. Like the gophers at Chuck-E-Cheese, you hit one, and another pops up in a different place.

In attempting to exercise control over my sexual appetite, I have been suffering more now from the sins of gluttony and sloth. St. John Cassian refers to this in his "Eight Vices" as the demons of the belly and of listlessness. After a change in my medication I have gotten my appetite back and eat with enthusiasm, putting on thirty pounds in the last month. But I often eat out of boredom, or to fulfil some (as Evagrius puts it) "sensual desire." An exercise in self control with regards to eating would be eating a modest breakfast lunch and dinner, and eating nothing in between. This is a form of fasting, and Jesus extols fasting as a means of driving out demons. Even though I hate fasting, it might be worth my while to practice it to guard my passions and exercise control over my will, if not to lose weight.

Thanksgiving is a time for feasting, but that time is over now. But I continue to eat voraciously at all hours, even waking up in the middle of the night and making my way to the refrigerator. A full belly invites the listlessness that John Cassian condemns. I eat, then sleep, getting up only to eat again. I may have work to do but I don't want to do it, and nap instead. Fullness of the belly causes heavy eyelids, and the cycle continues. Oh, what a bad monk I would make. But I will continue to practice, and will not be dejected at my weakness. I will keep my eye on the prize.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day Thus Far

Open eyes
Replace open cell foam scraps under reed mat with closed cell mat
Wash
Take laundry off drying rack, fold
Light incense, meditate
Stretch
Make tea
Eat breakfast--oatmeal and bread with cream cheese and strawberry jam
Clean turkey carcass, chop vegetables for soup
Wash dishes
Take out recycling and compost
Write.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Excerpts from a letter to M.B., 24 Nov.

i don't think the monks will take me, did you hear? maybe i am not supposed to be a little monk, maybe some voluptuous lip smacking gold and purple flashing supertramp will scoop me up in some bar, some dance hall, some mountaintop. maybe i will burn with lust and love and renounce all my monkey business and devote myself wholehearted to copulating and the fine art of cleaning up dirty dishes after dinner.

i see tattooed arms and necks on the street, so crass, and imagine myself lying naked in my coffin, an untouched canvas of skin stretched on a frame of polished whitewashed bone struts. beds are made for two but coffins for one. my bus feels like a coffin, polished with little dishes and bed and chair, a place where wills go to die. poor bhikku, clutching white-knuckled the world.

when i see tattoos and eternal ink i get visions of altars where people stand side by side like pencils or fence pickets, smelting each other with golden brands, life bracelets, covenant bands. a wife, an inked arm, a coffin, hold places in eternity as my mind pants in indignation and unbelief.

* * *

i am getting heavy. i have gained back all the weight i lost since i was picking my ribs a month ago. i carry myself like an old jake lamata, wife beater and belly. after thanksgiving i think it would be time to start the fasts. i am not afraid of losing what i have at this point. fat to burn and money saved no rob will not starve this winter in his green bus, pockets full of rice.

when i think about being a bachelor i feel good. it would be a wretched state if i lived for myself but since i live for Christ (or have the audacity to claim so) such a wretched life does not belong to me. i am being leased. for a time i operate, performing this or that task, making a slight dent in the gluttonous appetite of despair, returning to my hut, my room, my cell to count my breath. is this a life? is there anything else worth working for? write soon.

r

On Dejection

St. John Cassian is becoming one of my favorite saints. The following is taken from his treatise "On the Eight Vices" from the first volume of the Philokalia, and are speaking to me in the present state of my spirit:

"Just as a moth devours clothing and a worm devours wood, so dejection devours a man's soul. Seizing the entire soul, it fills it with bitterness and listlessness. Then it suggests to the soul that we should go away from other people, since they are the cause of its agitation. It does not allow the soul to understand that its sickness does not come from without, but lies hidden within, only manifesting itself when temptations attack the soul because of our ascetic efforts. It is for this reason that God does not tell us to forsake the company of men; He tells us to root out the causes of evil within us and to recognize that the soul's health is achieved not by a man's separating himself from his fellows, but by his living the ascetic life in the compnay of holy men."

Friday, November 21, 2008

"All my selves will soon be steepenwolves"

"Let suicide be as stupid, cowardly, shabby as you please, call it an infamous and ignominious escape; still, any escape, even the most ignominious, from this treadmill of suffering was the only thing to wish for." (69)

"I had in my medicine chest an excellent means of stilling pain--an unusually strong tincture of laudanum. Once when despair had again got the better of me I had swallowed a big dose of it--enough to kill six men, and yet it had not killed me. I fell asleep, it is true, and lay for several hours completely stupefied. My empty brain was burning and I had almost lost my memory. Apart from a spell of insomnia and severe pains in the stomach no trace of the poison was left." (70)

"I had no motives, no incentives to exert myself, no duties." (74)

"We went into the dining room, and while I racked my brains again and again for something harmless to say, I ate more than I was accustomed to do and felt myself growing more wretched every moment. Good heavens, I thought all the while, why do we put ourselves to such exertions?" (80)

First Snow

Our words fall carelessly like salt
upon a virgin snow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Basho in the Evening

Tired of cherry,
Tired of this whole world,
I sit facing muddy sake
And black rice.

--Basho, 1682

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Slamtastic

"I work in sporadic fits of manic productivity." --Felix Giordano

I competed in my first Poetry Slam at Infusion last night, taking fourth place out of four, but to my credit when the judges were holding up their 7.1s and 8.2s the crowd was booing for a higher score. Two of the slammers were amazing. It was fun after I got over my social anxiety.

Progress on the book is going very slowly. I want to give up. Slowly slowly. Bird by Bird.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Poems for the Evening

The Rain

the rain pitter-patters
and I wish I had a kitty
or something.
Why Every Civilized Person in America Should Use Fenders When Riding Their Bicycle In The Rain

Oh, I remember it:
the icy finger,
the sopping solitary vine
climbing my back,
an unwitting canvas
speckled with grit
and freckles of mud.

When I realized I could
not outrun the Rain,
I resigned myself
to not ride at all,
to take the bus
with the rest of America,
and their umbrellas

sitting in puddles on the floor.
Claustrophobic, I smear a porthole
through the window fogged with breath
only to see an old man gliding
alongside our wheeled submarine,
pedaling his bicycle
like it was a great black Cadillac.

His machine seemed welded to the road;
fifty pounds of steel wheeled through the night
with a slight hand, and a steady clip.
He wore a tan coat that did not bear
the indignant stripe of one made
a slave to the elements,
as I had become, in my humid metal box.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Poem for the Evening

Epilogue

A plate of fried rice,
a cold cup of water,
a handrolled cigarette,
and pleasure
nowhere
to be found.

Into the Wild

In the final scene of Into the Wild, an emaciated and poisoned Chris McCandless lies sprawled out on the floor of his abandoned schoolbus-turned-home, breathing his last breaths on earth. It is an incredibly moving scene. There were clouds, and Chris' Christ-like beard. I cried as I watched him die because I knew it could be me. He ran off to chase dreams of Alaska and ended up starving to death. Alaska never moved me, but I have chased a lot of stupid dreams, certainly none worth dying for. It was speculated whether McCandless was looking for a death wish, or if he was just naive. He definitely was naive, but he also wanted to survive, and he couldn't. He died defeated. It was the shame that made me cry. That, and that his suffering was so beautiful. He had no one--not his mom or dad to hold his hand, no one to stroke his hair. I have premonitions of my own desolate death and all I can do is cry and hope God will hold my hand. He denied God and died by his own stupid hand and He was the only one left looking down in the end. It was over. It was dreadfully over.


I can see my breath, but it is surprisingly not that cold. Maybe the bus holds the heat from my little scrap-made candle pretty well. It puts off a pretty good light with its thick wick in the jar but the light inside is still dim. It is like a cave. I set up my books, put my clothes and food away, take out my contacts. I am alone. Why does it feel different when I am physically alone, removed like this...and yet all those times I felt I was in a void in a crowded bar, with friends, suffering from the vastness of space and choking nothingness? I WANT TO DO GREAT THINGS WITH MY LIFE. And I want it to COUNT for something. I will lie down on my mat and pray my beads until I fall asleep. Then hopefully I will have the discicpline to do it again tomorrow. And then maybe something will seep in, and take over, and consume me until there is nothing left.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

3:30 to close

i am not under the influence of drugs, or any other substance other than espresso and caramel corn. writing til close.

i cannot decide whether i would like to see david byrne in concert. he is a stranger bird and his eyes are like great swirling ego fleshpot, threatening to swirl around and around my ankles ti i scream, 'david, no more!' to sit and watch david byrne even for a one-on-one show...i would probably scalp my ticket for a pack of cigarettes.

* * *

these are just nonsense words. it is so hard to write when everthing is nonsense. and by nonsense i don't mean jibjabyabyab; i mean that the letters stand together as empty shells, like those russian egg dolls; they are pretty, so pretty and intriciate with old russian peasant women paining so delicately with old wrinckled thick dog skin and leather hand chapped with a tiny tiny painbrush so much care...but it is a shell. there may be another doll inside (baby doll!), and another, but then the dolls will get so small there will be no more, and we have reached the eschaton, the omega point where there are no more words....they have simply run out.

it is hard to write when the words have run out. but when the meaning and grand importance of all words have bled out onto the floor in a puddle of convolution and the newsboys run out into the street screaming "WHAT TO PRINT!? WHAT TO PRINT!?" people speak and their words are worth naught; the bottom has dropped out. What does one say? Hold up a flower. Then what does one do? Put down a flower. What is the essence of language. Pick up the sack. What is the nature of language? Put down the sack. I wish I were an enlightened chinaman. then i could give little cakes and donuts to children all day fat and happy. no. i don't want that. let's investigate that...

* * *

Let's talk about the killers first.

save some face you know you've got one change your ways while youre young boy, one day you'll be man oh girl, he'll help you understand smile like you mean it looking back at sunsets on the east side we lost track of the time dreams aren't what they used to be some things slide by so carelessly smile like you mean it and some one is calling my name from the back of the restaruaant and someone is playing a game in the house that i grew up in and someone will drive her around down the streets that i did on the same streets that i did smile like you mean it

* * *

back to words and their empty currency. if words express an essence, and true essence is nothingness, what can be said? what word can i squeeze out between my lips like a larvae discharged into the world, to be let writhing? to smash? to hold between the fingers? ah radiohead, such beautiful music. i will never be a beautiful radiohead. because my words are empty larvae currency. i am like the worthless steward who buries his words in the ground and when the master digs them up and his eyes light wild FIRE like Zeus and exclaims, "What's THIS!? A thousand rascals beneath your eyelids!" Zeus holds the words of every lasting life, and I bury mine like smoldering chunks of charcoal, modest black turds to refill the earth's coffers.

* * *
I have started working out again, a little; pushups and situps. i want abs like 50. I may start boxing again. I'm sure I could muster some rage up somewhere down there. Dark basement, musty wraps, and bricks wrapped in sofa cushions and ducktaped, rattling like an abused ghost from the rafters above. Smashing until the arms come off.

* * *

Taking a bottle of benzos was fun, I have to admit. I knew it wouldn't kill me, though it was kind of dicey, since I didn't know the dosage one can O.D. on. I have been drunk enough a few times to have had to had the night recollected to me; that was pretty much the picture here. I took four, then five, then another three pills i think, then rode my bike to kate's. she said i was about half an hour late and that i told her it was kept falling off my bike. then i fell off my bike in her front yard. then i was aparently talking enough nonsense that she thought i should go to the hospital. so her and her roomate took me to chestnut hill, where they admitted me. apparently i kept trying to break out. i also kept tying to get kate's roomate to smoke a bowl with me in the E.R. When they tried to take me to Friends Psychiatric I wouldn't let them, i guess i was lucid enough to have convinced them. I'm afraid to say I don't remember anything after that, where i slept, where i woke up. It's past history now. I don't know if i have a substance abuse problem, but i would not be surprised. i will eat up drugs like candy if they are given to me. so i try not to have them given to me. but those benzos were just sitting on my counter and being careless with my life at the moment i was not surprised they made their way down the hatch, or rather, i put them down there. Although I knew they wouldn't kill me, and I knew I was too much of a coward to play that one out, I still wanted, without a doubt, to be taken out of the picture.

* * *

What now, what other nonsense can I write about? There is a girl in front of me drinking a tea in a tan pea coat. i don't know if she is attractive or not. i have never met anyone in a coffee shop like tom waits says, 'you don't meet nice girls in coffee shops.' but i keep trying, except that i don't really try, i just scope out possibilities. and i think, 'hm, what would i say? hello, i am a complete stranger and i don't know why i am talking to you in particular, but here i am. so what do you say, do you want to go out on a date with me?' No, I think my dating days are numbered.

* * *

Fuck this I'm leaving, fucking coffeeshop and their red stools and their peacoat wearing girls that won't talk to grizzly Rob. How will I ever procreate? Maybe it is best that it is as difficult as it is.

I will go back to the bus and stay for a while. Maybe I will fast, but I will probably not be able to cut that. Maybe I will eat rice balls. I will read St. Nelios the Ascetic and hang my head when I think of donuts and la-z-boys and 401ks and breasts. I will gather my supplies, I will pack tight my rucksack. I will eat rice balls and tea and soup. Maybe someone could come visit me. No. This place is for one. Maybe I will die in my bus, just like Chris McCandless. I am sure I am as big a fool.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Half a bottle of Klonopin
and I'm still here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Windowsill Tablet

i have just swallowed a half bottle of benfoes (klonopn); it was there, an innocent bystander. but i am ravished and empty and looking to consume. I am a failure as an ascetic; I love the world's filthy bedclothes too much, and are repelled by their deceptive and this world lies my eternal agnst.

I dismantle a bic pen and make a cigarette holder. I plug the end with the thin garlic white stub and light and blow through the screen. They are released, and I am set here on this windowsill looking for ways to die, acceptable ways that would not be an embarrassing abomination to the people who are left to have to pick up the pieces. I am close to tears when i think of my parents havin to picks flecks of crainaiel matter from the wallk dicinsfinct the pooldof blood seeping into the bone white lineoulisum. Churchbells hammer softly in the distance, calling us all to prayer, and no one pays it mind. It is nice background music in the damp October air, the slick of maple leaves covering the glazed trollertracks.

* * *

Living is a bad accident. Please let me out, please, give me a pass. I will gladly give my life for anyone who needs it, just give me a name. This medicoracy is nauseating. I smell it over flapjacks and coffee at breakfast when I did Sunday moning, to get nourishment, to live another day, to want to die another day. Wouldn't it make more sense to stop eating? That is alwyas a possibility.

I run from suffering like a scared boy but i wish someone would just grab my wrist and have a wail a nail into it, ripping the ligaments, and flushing me with red, with what it means to really suffer. Mhyl lfe drainign at fieet my feet n bluddles. My little play life, with its play crucficionl

My friends are playing pool, or drinking beers. Oh God, can I trust the, If i was on the bathroom floor (what else is in the medicine cabinent there to the stomach...ah, aspirin), who would find me? If i had a dog it would be gnawing on my corpse trying to get help, but he would know where to go, would probably forget, and go roaming over the great concrete escape, up Price St., to meet up with other dogs and cats in their lot, an animal fellowship. I have no trust in animals. He will say, "my master is dead," and they will all nod in great solemnity, because prayer is beyond animals; it is a foregin thing. But I will still be on the floor, breathing my last.

* * *

I get up, head pounding. i am not dead dammit. i throw myself into one wall limply, then another hoping to crumble the plaster, and decide to do jumping jacks and other aerobic workouts until the blood in my head becomes too sick and i collapse once again; and once again, there is no one to pick me up, so i make my existence on the hardwood floor. If i was in with God no place would be everyplace; but since i am not, it is a wretched geographic boredom, like waiting for buses in Mexico and Thailand, buses that came "when you did not know the time nor place." Then they come and you are taken up into the four wheeled ship among strangers, a vessel to someplace else.

I took ten benzos and I feel the same as an hour ago. Mybe I will have to finish the bottle. Wicked side effects. Memories of happiness are my crown of thorns and puple rose. Really, I don't remember them anymore, they are snipets in a fog in folders titled 'happiness' and 'suffering.' I don't reach into the anymore; I can't. They are lies and spectres of things that dont exist. And yet they constituted the marrow of my being, these experiences. Sometimes I think of my brothers and cry--when such crying comes--Because they are mykin foreever and as long as they live I am more than myself. I have few lasting connections in the world--they are two.

* * *
I woud like to have sex for a night, someone who I can commune and exchange energy with. I want to taste a woman's lips and feel heat.

I am a wretced ascetic. I want to have fun and enjoy life. I see hipserts outsie the artists studios talking and smoking and realize this a 'group,' I group I can ejoy. But when i talk about the uncomfreheiblse ness of God I see we are at differet places. To my credit I have been tryig very god with my vices; I am tryig.

* * *

But what do I do? It is the plaguig question. I know who I am, or am working on it. I read books durig the day and makr coffee oin the morning. Is this the extent of my life? Being so worthles, I pray with all my streanth to be taken out of it all--the nights watchig tv with friends, the drinking, the rorced nsumation with another to bring children in teh world to go through this same suffering. Is it reasonable to put a cap on babies. Women love their babies, so I dont' tknow how this strongodl could be breached. I pot on my wool har at set off for the north, boarding in a fishman's inn on the Pacific Ocean in Maine. I set in the armcair and watch the Olwsehead sadld slake and thik the cofoglomation of thoughs brewing from monelines--how does one kil oneself in a way less embarassting to those to thom it mattes to.

My mom doesnt want me to do it. She is invested in me, her flesh an all. A son's suicde to a mother is

Steppenwolf--On Suicide (cont.)

"On the other hand, all suicides have the responsibility of fighting against the temptation of suicide. Every one of them knows very well in some corner of his soul that suicide, though a way out, is rather a mean and shabby one, and that it is nobler and finer to be conquered by life than to fall by one's own hand. Knowing this, with a morbid conscience whose source is much the same as that of the militant conscience of so-called self-contented persons, the majority of suicides are left to a protracted struggle against their temptation. They struggle as the kleptomaniac struggles against his own vice." (49)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Steppenwolf--Another Excerpt

"In this aspect suicides present themselves as those who are overtaken by the sense of guilt inherent in individuals, those souls that find the aim of life not in the perfecting and molding of the self, but in liberating themselves by going back to the mother, back to God, back to the all. Many of these natures are wholly incapable of ever having recourse to real suicide, because they have a profound consciousness of the sin of doing so. For us they are suicides nonetheless; for they see death and not life as the releaser. They are ready to cast themselves away in surrender, to be extinguished and to go back to the beginning." (48)
My beard is long, and I am still a chaste bhikku. But I would really, really like to make love tonight.

Economy

In the spirit of Thoreau, I'm taking stock of my finances in my attempts to get a hold on what it costs to live. The following are monthly expenses.

Food and misc. expenses are estimates, and would probably be more in actuality. I have been trying to eat simpler fare--beans, rice, potatoes, bread--and try to shop for most things at the Russian produce market, which sells bags of potatoes for $1, bags of onions for $1, etc. I am also going to see about getting food at the food pantry at St. Vincent's.

My rent is incredibly cheap because my housemate Chris is incredibly gracious. He did not allow me to pay more even though I offered. He pays $750/mo for a nice two-bedroom apartment. I guess it is offset by my staying in the bus 2-3 days per week. We do not pay for internet, as we pick up a wireless signal from the guy living above us.

The kicker is my medications. I got spoiled by my prescription plan at work; now I have a $500 deductible and they only cover 60% of generics and 40% of brand name drugs after that. I have averaged the deductible over a 12 month period, which is included in the list. This does not include the medication that is $440 for 30 pills, which I am going to try to go off of.

Health Insurance: $162
Car Insurance: $75
Rent: $160
Phone: $63
Groceries: $70
Coffeeshop: $15
Food (out)/misc.: $40
Medication: $80
Transportation: $7

for a total of:

$672 per month

What could be cut out of this? the coffeeshop is my place of work, but i guess i could just as easily go to the library. If I got food at the food pantry that would cut that $70 in half. Eating out and getting donuts at the donut shop down the street could be cut out. Phone could not, and rent could possibly if I lived in the bus full time. Medication could not, neither could health insurance. I wish I could cancel my car insurance since I don't drive the bus, but apparently it has to have it. Pretty cheap by most standards, but also pretty expensive by many in the world.

First Light

It is a mild morning at first light. The bus windows above the bed--four dark blue panes of muted dawn hanging like portraits on a wall--are my first indication that I am opening my eyes 'somewhere else,' that is, in an alien bed. The day is right there, segregated from me by two thin walls of metal and a few inches of rotted fiberglass insulation. I remember the wind howling last night as the rain tentatively spattered against the roof. But I didn't feel a thing. Nature was like a bratty nephew...I liked to be close to it. But not too close. The bus seemed to be just fine.

I put water in the charred pot for tea. I had tried heating the pot over the 9-wick candle I had made last night, a snarling medievil candle snorting wicks as thick as fingers. The water in the pot boiled fast but the candle creamed the bottom with soot. When I went to clean the soot in the dishpan, it made the water black. I poured the dirty water in the sink for the first test of the sand filter. It failed. The water came out just as soapy and black as it was before The sand and charcoal is in a two liter bottle and I am guessing it is not enough to clean the water. Luckily I have another hundred pounds of sand I can use to make a bigger filter. The sink also leaked around the base, so I will have to caulk that today.

I slept well, did not fall off the bed. It seemed to be a mild night, no need for the heater. I wore a wife beater to bed and when I got up to pee in the carbon/sand urinal, I was not cold. To save on propane when it gets colder I am going to run the car heater and the 12v heater while the alternator is running. I need to start the bus once a week anyway since it is just sitting.

The guy who owns the lot left a note for me and wanted to tow my bus. I talked to the other guy in the building, since he parks there too, and he said he would give him a call. After speaking with him, the guy said we can park in the far corner of the lot, which is fine with me. The front windshield and right side windows (including the side door) will not have to be covered since they face a fence-full of vines and scrubs. The rear windows face the street and will probably have to be covered, as will the left side windows.

I had to go to the bathroom this morning--of the solid nature--so it was time to test the sawdust-toilet theory. I lined the 5 gallon bucket with a trashcan and did what needed to be done. I was concerned at first since it smelled pretty bad. But after I had covered it with a few inches of potash and put the lid on the bucket, I couldn't smell a thing. I was very impressed. When I left the bus this morning I threw it in the trash like all those dog owners slyly dropping their doggy's business in unsuspecting trashcans.

The inside of the bus is not spacious, but it is not cramped either. I took the driver's seat out and put it in the basement just to free up some space. I slept well on the bed with the bamboo mat last night, and there is now plenty of room for storage of clothes and food and other things. At this point, I could probably put everything I own in it comfortably.

My food is simple fair for two to three days. Canned soup, bread, jam, rice krispie treats, tea, soy milk, peanuts. Nothing really needs refrigeration, which means it does not need electricity, which is nice. I dismantled and sold the solar panel; I ended up not needing it, but it was good experience building it. I light my space by candlelight and am very happy this way. I will probably bring in the battery packs next week just to give the computers some juice, but I am off to the coffee shop now to write and will charge them up there.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Into the Wild

When I was in Paris I walked through the cemetery in Montemarte. There are lots of impressive tombs and monuments. Each tomb I came to, whether the stained glass windows were broken and it was filled with leaves and bugs, I pointed it out to Jeannie and told her how much I would love to spend a night in one of those creepy tombs. I can even see them now in my mind.

I will be spending my first night in the bus tonight. I have my rucksack filled with my sleeping bag, clothes, books, and food. To be honest I don't really want to go; it is cozy here in the house, and it is raining outside. I will stay in the bus through Thursday or Friday. I will pray and read, make tea and eat bread, wash dishes, write. Not much to do. If I was going to be an anchorite, this is what it would look like. So we'll try a couple nights and see how things go. Society is corrupting, but I am even more corrupting to my self. I will pray to St. Julian of Norwich, the Anchoress, for strength in prayer and for direction in a life I don't feel much like living these days.

Treatise on the Steppenwolf

"Sometimes, indeed, he seemed positively happy. This does not mean that a new and heavy depression did not follow immediately. All day long he lay in bed. He had no desire for food. At that time the young lady appeared once more on the scene, and an extremely violent, I may even say brutal, quarrel occurred which upset the whole house and for which Haller begged my aunt's pardon for days after. No, I am sure he has not taken his life. He is still alive, and somewhere wearily goes up and down the stairs of strange houses, stares somewhere at clean-scoured parquet floors and carefully tended araucarias, sits for days in libraries and nights in taverns, or lying on a hired sofa, listens to the world beneath his window and the hum of human life from which he knows that he is excluded." (20)

"Rather, it had been just one of those days which for a long while now had fallen to my lot; the moderately pleasant, the wholly bearable and tolerable, lukewarm days of a discontented middle-aged man; days without special pains, without special cares, without particular worry, without despair; days when I calmly wonder, objective and fearless, whether it isn't time to follow the example of Adalbert Stifter and have an accident while shaving." (26)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Poem for the Evening

Do you want to die?
What kind of question
is that. Of course
I want to die.
As soon as possible.
I'm going to have 'D.N.R.'
tattooed between my knuckles."
Why would you say something like that?
Because I'm tired godammit. This life
is a sentence
and I want parole. I just hope
someone will put in
a good word for me.
When they lead
the dead past the block,
shuffling his feet,
I burn with envy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

New 'Fu

This is my new zafu. I made it with scrap fabric; it is filled with beans, lentils, and sawdust. I hope it will keep me sittin' pretty.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

what do you Do?

If my identity depended on my occupation, I would not have much of an existence to write from at the moment. But since I refuse to be fenced in by such a narrow self-definition, I am free to live anonymously. I am very happy to do so.

So what do I do in this year off from working? My daily routine is flexible, but in general it is divided between writing, schoolwork, cooking, reading, and prayer and meditation.

In order to fight the upcoming winter blues, I usually do some lying meditation and go to be bed early, around 8 or 9 o'clock. I get up early too, anywhere between 5 and 7 o'clock, make tea or coffee, and do the dishes. Then I try to do twenty minutes of sitting meditation. I will eat some breakfast and then on Mondays and Wednesdays will go to tutor at St. Vincent's until 11:30. Then I will come back and do some pleasure reading, or maybe reading for school. I've also been doing some work on the bus.

At least four days a week I ride my bike to the coffee shop in Mt. Airy to log in a few hours of work on the book, and to drink coffee. On the way back I will stop at the Acme and pick up some groceries, loading them into my saddlebags, or go to the post office, or run errands.

Tuesday nights I have class; other nights I will read, write, and fill in with meditation during the times when I might be tempted to watch tv or get into trouble. I have also started cooking again, since I have the time, which saves me money on eating out and helps in gaining back the twenty pounds I have lost in the past few months. I made a sweet potato pie recently, and an 18-bean with bacon soup; both turned out well.

My days do not feel rushed, nor do I feel the pressure of a lack of time. I will most likely start working again after I graduate in the Spring, when I will not be in school. I feel I have a good balance now and I hope to maintain that. Letting go of a lot of projects has kept me from always "doing" something, leaving me free to do nothing in particular.

One of my favorite stories is about a fisherman who was leaning against his boat on the shore, napping. A businessman saw him and asked, "why are you not out fishing?"

The fisherman replied, "I have caught enough fish today."

The business man replied, "Yes, but if you go out and catch more fish you will make more money. Then you can buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish and make more money."

"Then what would I do?" the fisherman asked.

The businessman tugged at his lapels. "Then you could enjoy yourself."

The fisherman replied, "What do you think I am doing now?"