Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mere Mortals: Gutted.

So, here we are, the home stretch. The eighth track on the record. If you've stumbled onto this for the first time and would like some background on this series, check this out. If you're returning to read my latest babblings on things I think are important but probably aren't, thank you. 

Track Eight: Gutted.

I used to be a man of faith. I used to have faith in man. I used to believe I had a purpose and time would reveal its plan. In St. Louis reading 'Catcher in the Rye' I conceded to the persevering "why?" Disregarding what my gut told me was best, I up and followed romance to the West. On the ferry only red before my eyes, heart in pieces with no comfort from the skies. At the harbor fresh epiphanies arrest, a new life a new love coalesce. And now how do I reconcile the man I was to the man I am now? "Faith" and "purpose," just words - that I can't escape.

I can still feel the crisp fall air and dew on the picnic table trying to soak my sleeves. Though I had a stack of books and writing pads, I mostly just stared into the haze, wondering where I'd went wrong. So much had changed so quickly. A romance dissolved in a single, fevered, phone call. A dream dashed, a future abandoned. So much of me had been wrapped up in ideas of what was supposed to be. As I look back on it, it may be this moment of disillusion that showed me just how easily I'd had it in life; A romantic betrayal had been the worst experience of my life. 

After a regretfully public display of mourning, dramatic song lyrics addressed to the not-so-ambiguous "you" on Myspace included, I moved away again, and moved on. I tried to focus on myself in positive ways, rigorously combatting the self-blame I was inclined toward. I mastered push-ups for the first time. I rode my bike far and long, late into the night and early morning. I read books and debated faiths. I figured out how to laugh again. I guarded my heart. Then, after nearly a year, I met her. Well, met her again. What started out as a merely a place to stay while visiting the Big Apple turned into my future. A new love then, and now my life. 

I've written about faith and purpose quite a bit over the course of this blog. I have no new thoughts on these just yet. However, I can say this heartache changed my feelings about them. Until this happened, life had pretty much left me unchallenged. I had prior experiences that caused heartache and suggested doubt, but this upended things for me. It gave me a new, raw wound that for the first time couldn't seem to be healed with hugs from Mom and Dad, inspirational cliches, or nuggets of wisdom plucked from sacred books. It's been over ten years and I still dream about some of the events that damaged my heart. Up until this happened, faith in the great, 'too-wild-to-be-made-up' story, seemed feasible; to believe without seeing, without feeling was feasible, it was all I had ever known. This faith gave life to the idea of a grand sense of purpose, a God-given purpose. But the faith I'd been born into gave me no more comfort than the friends who told me "time heals all things." The purpose I was told god had for me never felt real, never felt true. What helped me was meeting others who were open and forthright with their thoughts, feelings, and doubts about life. What helped was truly acknowledging this thorn, this nagging whisper, this persevering "why," and realizing that indulging it didn't mean the end of the world.

I've had the hardest time writing this piece because it seems trivial to say that a lover's betrayal made me lose my faith. That's the simplest way to interpret this situation, but of course it's more complicated than that. It did help me see through a new lens. Having the wool pulled over my eyes so brazenly helped me lift veils I'd been I'd been giving weight to for longer than I wish I had. While I fear it hardened my heart in certain ways that ten years later I'm still massaging, it gave way to a more authentic version of myself; A self that became comfortable living without conclusions. But of course I'm still haunted by the wants of a neat, tidy narrative that allows me to feel individually special in all of the world's existence. But I find living and letting live more rewarding, though my mind struggles to allow that every day. The ghosts of former know-it-all belief systems rattle their shackles through my mind. And so I live now, trying to find comfort in questions without answers, loving what is here before me, knowing that it will all leave me, and I it, sooner than I think.

(Image stolen from here, the title of the song comes from a Deadwood quote by Cy Tolliver, the character pictured.)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Mere Mortals: Colosseum.

This is the start of the Side B portion of "Mere Mortals." If you're stumbling upon this for the first time and would like to know what in the heck this series is about, I'll refer you to my introduction from track one

Track Seven: Colosseum.

"All you want is to hear my voice, and how could you not? As long as your ears have heard I've been singing my songs of hope and woe. The sacred harmonies of reformation and regret, weaving my story into your bones. Weaving my story into your soul, you cry out, and how could you not? But I need a moment, just a moment to breathe, because today I can't find the man you love, and I'm armed to the teeth. All you want is to hear my voice, my body reacts like I have no choice. My best intentions possessed. Love resisting arrest. Wisdom held hostage at my own behest. There's no cover from the storm. Tears concealed in the rain, you pray for the end. As the clouds part and words return, we whisper 'goodnight.*' Let us slip into silent night where blades retract and no flames alight, now doused in silence while dreams abound until with the dawn solace resounds. **“The sun sets on the war, the day breaks and everything is new.'"

(*written by Greg Bennick, a guest contribution.)
(**Borrowed from 'Winning a Battle, Losing a War' by Kings of Convenience.)

A few nights ago our beloved four-and-a-half year old (she insists the 'half' must be included...) was having a hard night. She was stuck. We were stuck. It's hard to admit, especially because I may be a contributing factor, but she may have an anger problem, and her angry reactions make us all spin into a cycle. A cycle we're aware of even when deep in the throes and reacting in all the ways we know we shouldn't be reacting. My wife and I were stuck. Exhausted of all the reasonable solutions we could conjure, I felt like I was at the end of my rope. Something needed to change and we couldn't figure out what it was. Then, literally out of the sky fell a strobing zap of lightning followed by a game-winning strike in god's bowling alley. Her anger changed to fear. Her precious little brain was instantaneously reformed with a new concern. She suddenly needed to have us close again. Though it rained all night, that was the only boom of thunder we heard. As hoped for, she awoke requiring her mandatory 'family hug,' all smiles, like the anger and fear had never happened.

Colosseum, as opposed to "Coliseum," has won out as the preferred spelling to reference the Roman structure we all know mostly through movie depictions. The violence, the gore, the twisted form of entertainment that seems so barbaric to our sensibilities now, is gone. All that stands is a testament to what was. A testament to newer and kinder ways. A testament to our ability to forsake behaviors and ideas that no longer suit our understanding of how to treat each other. We still see variations of this barbarism in other parts of culture around the world, but not there, not in that place. 

The words of this song pay homage to my need to acknowledge weakness and struggle to find better ways when what I'm inclined toward simply isn't working. It asks me to retract blades when my mind and body seek to maim, to re-possess intentions when they're lost in the clouds, and allow love and wisdom to arrest when I've tried to turn them into history. It implores me to let the sun set on my wars so I can have a chance to renew.

(Image stolen from: