Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Gloves Are Off

  Small epiphanies: I wrote in my recent book about how what's hurt and continues to hurt me outwardly in my life hasn't been the bad stuff.  It's been all the nothing.  The empty.  So, abuse, trouble, complications, fighting and conflict don't upset me like they upset most people, because they are a break from being ignored, from being treated like I never existed.  They allow me to connect, to speak, to maybe even be heard. 
  It's always when I am shut out, not given a chance to connect, that I am being hurt worst of all.  You can try to slap me across the face, you can wreck my stuff, but do not ignore me and walk away.  That's what actually does lasting, to-the-quick damage that is hard-wired to all the worst things that ever happened to me, starting at the beginning of me.
  That was the outside.  The inside is related.  What hurts me on the inside is having to keep good stuff inside.  I need to hope more than I need hopes to be fulfilled.  I need to love far more than I need to be loved in return.  I need to give far more than I need to receive. In fact, I need to hope, to love and to give so much more than I need to see them as "good ideas", that it's more than worth it for me to simply love people and things that are incapable of loving me, to hope in things that may never pay off, and to give, even if there is no indication I will ever receive in return. I actually need to do those things to be human and be alive, and I certainly need to do them to be me and even want to live through the day.
  Because not seeing hopes come to fruition, not being loved, not receiving kindness from other people?  All that is a little depressing, but I'm good and used to it, and I can live with it.  I've lived with it my whole life.  The others are deeper.  They are non-negotiable.  Because I need to be myself more than I need to make choices that work out well for me.  I have love to give, I have dreams and aspirations, and I sometimes want to give people stuff.  That's what I need.  It all needs to flow out, no matter what happens next.
  So it's time to be selfish.  I will damn well be myself.  I will damn well go right ahead being me too.  Damn common sense, damn conventional wisdom and damn being cautious and sensible.  Damn looking for guarantees and payoffs and sure-fire things that seem to be working out.  Above all things damn fear.  
  It seems to come down to, sometimes, being sensible or being inspired.  And being inspired looks nothing like being sensible.  And it looks a lot more like whim.  And whim is dangerous and far from guaranteed.  Yet it is essentially human.
  I'm done being sensible.  The gloves are off.

Saturday, 27 April 2013


Ideas are foundational.  We build our futures on them.  Our relationships with ideas is an essential part of who we are, as compared to other people.  There are so many ways people deal with ideas.  Here are only a few:

  Some people collect ideas.  It's like they have glass cases or shelves of them.  Row upon row.  They love to get them out and show them to people.  Old ideas, new ideas.  Sensible ones, odd ones.  Quaint, outmoded ones they kinda miss.  Ones they are proud of the age of, and others they are proud of the exoticness or unorthodoxy of.  Ideas they have names for, little labels.  These people are always looking to find ideas they don't have in their collection, and as soon as they scent one, they need to try to label and categorize it so they know what to do with it, and so they can be certain they won't have "doubles" of it.
  Some people sell ideas.  They know how to package them up so people are most likely to accept them.  They put them into little catchphrases, slogans, sayings or jingles that can go on colourful wristbands, bumper stickers, t-shirts, billboards, fridge magnets and Facebook statuses.  They can have people all over the world buying into an idea, even without quite thinking about it.
  Some people teach ideas.  Old ideas, usually.  They plumb the depths of an idea, they trace the roots from whence it sprang, the effect it had when it first shot up, and what happened next.  They can do PowerPoint about an idea.  They can do an hour-long talk on it, but would want to talk much longer.  They can write books about an idea.  Normally they have one or two about which they are experts, because they are going for depth.  They often aren't much interested in more than a couple, but they're always looking for someone who might listen to them talk about their favourite idea.
  Some people support, follow or fight for ideas.  They start arguments, having identified the enemy ideas that they feel will threaten their mother idea.  They define their identities very much in terms of how they spend their time and hearts and minds in fighting a war intended to get (or keep) their chosen pet ideas on the top of the idea heap.  They don't like people having contradictory ideas in their heads, and they don't like anyone not being blindly, fiercely loyal to their idea, keeping it in a special place of honour.   They didn't think of these ideas of course, but they feel the ideas they support "just make sense."  In fact, supporting these ideas helps them feel like their world makes sense.
  Some people challenge ideas.  They engage and enrage the people who support and fight for ideas, because these people do not respect the Man of One Idea. They feel that ideas should flow and change and grow. So they knock over the carefully constructed edifices built to defend or revere or propagate ideas.  They themselves are often hard to catch supporting or holding any specific idea.  They are delighted to find anyone who is willing to have his or her ideas dismantled.
  And some of us, God help us, seem to have been designed by God Himself to do something altogether less explicable to most people we encounter: we have ideas.  All day long.  About anything and everything. About things we know about and things we don't.  About things that relate to us and things that do not.  And our ideas certainly aren't all sensible or good.  But they never stop.  They pour into us in a never-ending torrent and if we let them slip past in the course of an hour, we just know that we might miss a good one.  We have to choose which ones to try. From one year to the next, we seem to be found trying out completely new, and sometimes completely contradictory ideas.
  And some people don't like this one bit.  Every group claims to be looking for ideas.  Most groups do not like the people who have too many of them.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Giving It Up To Gain It For Real

I'm reading Søren Kierkegaard (kierkegaard means "graveyard" or "church/kirk yard"), the inventor of existential angst ("Why am I here?  What is the purpose in my being given this life?").  I read a bit about him first.  Turns out that Kierkegaard was a 19th century Danish philosopher/Christian. He was born into a fairly pre-determined, comfortable, uneventful, boring life. The most interesting thing he did was write things which attacked the Christian culture in which he grew up.  He felt he had to deal with the following:

-everyone born into his culture was simply assumed to be Christian, just by being born into it, and you didn't have to be part of anything that might change you or make you grow,
-being Christian in a given week merely involved going to church and listening to people say things that were quite abstracted from anything real that the people might personally be actually wrestling with,
-"thinking" in a Christian way, in his culture, merely involved that aforementioned passive listening to sermons or lectures and saying you mostly believed whatever was said, as your culture by now had it all figured out, (And it was easy.  You'd been told that it was all very certain, it was sure, and there was a guarantee being offered you that it would work out well.)
-He felt if he became simply yet another preacher, he'd not actually be changing anything, but he'd only be adding to the din, and people would still never think or feel or believe personally and inwardly, and at most would only listen to him and decide they outwardly believed everything he said, (there were enough preachers, he felt, and they weren't doing much good),
-so he decided to convey various extreme, not-good-enough viewpoints on issues by writing things under various pseudonyms.  This means he wrote as various made up characters and had them disagree passionately as they overstated different incompatible sides of issues.  He hoped then no one could possibly simply passively agree with any of the viewpoints, but that the readers would have to sort through it all personally, because it wasn't "prepackaged" and ready for them to claim to believe.  He meant it to retain both the nuances of the issues, and also was making clear what made it so dubious to oversimplify and take a hard line on things,
-he felt that genuine faith was almost impossible to find in his culture, because everyone was being handed a substitute for the individual, hard-won, inward journey that he felt genuine faith has to be.  He felt impersonal, easy faith is quickly revealed to simply not run deep enough to do much of anything genuine, and therefore does not work in any real sense, on the personal, nor at the community level,
-Kierkegaard believed that faith was about making a very difficult "leap," (he coined that phrase "leap of faith," but meant something other than merely believing something wild sounding) which involved being willing to risk/give up everything you have been handed freely, with the specific intent to get it all back and then truly "have it" in a way you had not formally.  So, what had been easy lip service, or mere assent to ideas before, has now been risked and pretty much lost, and is then won back in a more personal, individual, genuine way.  Essentially, "It only looks like you have it, as you were given it.  To really have it, you must give it up for/to God and then, even harder, win it back personally, for real," (he used the story of Abraham giving up Isaac, his future hope, and then receiving him again with joy, because God gave Isaac back to him).  There are also bible verses about he that wants to keep his life will lose it, and he that is willing to give his life will save it,
-so he only really believed, trust, admired and respected Christians for whom their Christianity was a hard-won inner battle, because that was the only kind of Christianity he believed was genuine,
-he "gave up" the woman he loved, so as to "get" her (and an understanding of women, as well as the male/female dynamic) in a deeper way.  This did not work out, really.  He died alone and his understanding of women is idealized and abstracted from any actual, real, flesh and blood women as a result,
-he felt that people like Abraham or Moses weren't preachers, but were live-ers.  They did not leave us books of religious thought, but rather, their actual lives, with the nigh-impossible situations and decisions that faced them, and what happened when they chose poorly or well.
-he felt that Christians are judged, not on what they point to as their prepackaged set of beliefs, but on who they spend their lives becoming.  He felt that Christian existence involves becoming someone individual (through balancing what is ultimately wholly uncertain outwardly, yet which you are nonetheless passionately pursuing inwardly without that outward guarantee that it will work), become your self, and then if/when God calls you to do something, because He needs a specific person to do it, you will have become someone, and will be able to simply say "Here I am." (send me)

Saturday, 13 April 2013


Most people with my experience of Christianity do not keep a blog.  Most do not write songs and books and have conversations about it all, looking to arrive at conclusions about much of it.  And I'm continually asked the same thing (and anyone who knows me is asked the same thing too):
  The words "Why can't you/he just...," followed by whatever they themselves have done.  
  Why can't I just forget about Christianity and 'live my life.'  
  Because of Christ himself.  

  Why can't I just forget about my own church and go to a different one, one which won't shun me and punish any quest to try to find God in a more authentic way?
  Because it is my roots, it formed me, and my parents and many of my relatives and friends are either 'in it' in terms of being in membership and bound by the constraints of that human system, or their hearts and heads, much like my own, are trapped in that kind of thing and are trying to escape it inwardly and find God. I meet Sikhs, Muslims, orthodox Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses, and whether they stay in it, or "leave," they have head-work and heart-work to do, and work that doesn't go well if attempted in solitude. I have family members and friends who tried to "run" from what had been planted inside them.  It has never worked out well.

  Why can't I just find another church that I like?
  God has increasingly made me believe that "church" is, sadly, what we do instead of Church.  Because we refuse to assemble together with all the Christians in our vicinity, no matter how few there are.  No, we have to measure them against ourselves and decide they are very, very like the precise kind of Christians we ourselves are, or we're not letting them in the door.  My own subdivided and resubdivided Christian corner of the Christian Church always taught me that there was One Body of Christians.  And I think that was right.  They spoke very frowningly against doing anything that might be an action which suggested, more loudly than words could, that maybe there wasn't One Body.  They warned against 'denying' that there was One Body.  And I think that was right too.  So, Second Baptist Megachurch of Houston, we have a problem.

  But here's the big one:  Why can't you just shut up and go away?
  That's fair.  I am not universally enjoyed by content Plymouth Brethren people.  So why am I "troubling" people?  Is it a venomously vindictive spirit? Am I "telling it in Gath"?  (if I recall the bible story aright, what was referred to in that little axiom was already common knowledge in Gath, just like in this case.)  Something I created was once described as "a burr under the Saddle of the Church."  This all deserves due consideration.
  In the 80s, I saw bad things happening in my Christian circle.  Also, fake things.  And things that were headed in a bad direction, it turned out.  And if I pointed at them, or mentioned them, I was made to feel like I was lying, delusional and just causing trouble for no reason.  And definitely like I was certainly the only person ever who'd ever, ever thought (and felt and experienced and said and done) any of it.  I was made to feel like that fairy tale character who thought he was the only one who couldn't see the Emperor's new clothes, and was, therefore, missing something.
  Thing is, that wasn't true at all.  It wasn't just one fairy tale character anyway. It was every single person in that story who was seeing the same thing every single other person was.  Only, it took a simple-minded child to point the reality out, with no regard for his own dignity or the social consequences of his actions.  No idea what it "costs" you in human terms, to deal with what is, rather than what helps you politically.  Real cluelessness.  Maybe that child is me.  
  I suffered alone (and I did suffer...). I felt like a freak, like not-a-real-Christian, and certainly "unworthy of the calling to which we are called" and all for no reason whatsoever.  And it wasn't a tiny bit of malaise.  It was huge.  It was sanity-shattering.  Nowadays, I'm a pretty solidly sane person (I've done ten years of high school teaching without aid of any mood-altering substance, prescription or otherwise), but I wanted to be dead a lot, back when I attended Brethren meetings in my youth. Because I attended them.  Because of how tight that vise placed around my temples really was.  Because of how dwarfed and stunted my heart had always been kept.  I was being rejected for not being moldable enough.  For not being content.  For rocking the canoe I was being cast into the river from.  For being different.  And if it was just me wanting to be dead, and if it was just me being rejected for being different and made to feel like I wasn't a real Christian, I probably should shut up.
  But this isn't the case at all, either.  There are untold, uncountable human offscatterings of the movement.  Flotsam and jetsam washed up at the base of Orthanc, like Merry and Pippin.  There are uncountable numbers of us who were all alike different, and damned for so being.  It is actually starting to look like there were more people who were different than ones who were the same.
  When I was caught right in the thicket of it, I felt wholly, everlastingly alone.  Of course I still feel like that sometimes.  Too often.  But now I am starting to meet those many, many others who were alike alone, made to feel and required to think the precise same things, with much the same results.  (And some I will never meet because they are dead.)
  Our stricter Brethren cousins to the right (the Ravens, the Taylors and so on) have ex-members making forums and websites.  They have grievances.  Legal ones, in some cases.  And they get sued for talking about the truth. They get 'cease and desist' orders.  They simply don't have the kind of money and power their church elders do, to guarantee they can speak with impunity.  They talk to me on the Internet.  They are almost alike all atheists now.  And they are all, to varying degrees, victims.  One would almost think that maybe God didn't want it to end up this way, either.  But the degree to which God will allow us to screw up, and screw each other up has me terrified lately.  It's one thing to believe He simple isn't there, and that we're doing all of this.  Far less comforting to believe that He is, and is letting all of this go on.
  No number of encouraging verse shards torn from the bible and photoshopped onto pictures of sunsets, rainbows or adorably crucified kittens is ever going to reach these folks anything like how Jesus (remember him?) did when he sat down with people, or literally touched them (no hand sanitizer around) and let them talk, showed he understood what sucked and why about being them, that he saw their flaws and mistakes and was willing to still talk to them. (that was one big run-on sentence.)  But what is likely to reach them, if the happy-burbly songs, quotes and t-shirts aren't cutting it?  What can help heal what was done to their souls by those who felt they did God-service?  I'm trying to find that out.  And the modern world works like this: I write things and others skim them, and then talk or think about it all alone, or certainly without involving me in that process.
  People read stuff I write because I know a tiny bit how a leper might feel.  Because I have been purposely made to feel like one.  (Outcast and unclean!)  I have come to the conclusion that it's not me doing it.  It is being done to me.  My hideous disfigurement is that I am not a Happy Church Christian™.  It is the lack of a stoned-looking smile when someone references or links to a Christian song, quotes a verse about being happy, or takes a stand against gay marriage.  And I am not, like most pastors of my experience, like a doctor with but a single prescription bottle for every single human malady, including church abuse: a great like big bottle with the word "church" written on it, with the small 'c.'
"Get over yourself and get into that church.  Don't you love Jesus? Now where's your smile?"

  Even lepers need a place to live.  And they need to not be ignored when they talk to someone, even if he isn't Jesus.  Of course they are repugnant to perfumed, serene, affluent sensibilities.  Of course it would be easier if they went away and died.  And believe me when I say they can feel that push to "get a smile or get lost."
  This is for them. 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

"The Songs of Peter Grey" Book and T-shirt Giveaway

A contest? Well, this is exciting!  The first three entrants who send an email to wikkidperson@hotmail.com, explaining why they want and should receive their very own hardcover copy of The Songs of Peter Grey will each receive one, free of charge!  And the first respondent will also get his or her choice of Peter Grey art t-shirt*.
  Don't delay.  Servers are standing by.

*If you want something else from CafePress, like a Peter Grey Kindle, iMac or iPhone case, or a coffee mug, hat or something like that, substitutions will be allowed.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

It's New! It's Exciting! It's T-Shirts With Art From "The Songs of Peter Grey"!

A truly improbably large assortment of items can be purchased here, including drinking glasses, iPhone cases, journals, t-shirts and even thong underwear.  Just click on a t-shirt image to go to it.


Ain't the Internet grand?