Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mere Mortals: Collapse.

You know the deal...but if you don't, read this thing here for background on these ramblings. 

Track Ten: Collapse.

I can touch your skin and feel the passing of time. I can stare into your eyes and see you in your prime. I can listen to your stories and hear the struggle of your climb. The weight of the world on your shoulders and still you moved mountains. A god among men, no quandary you couldn't amend. We thought you'd live forever, that you'd carry us into the sunset. We hoped you'd bury us as ash and dust. I’ll never forget that trembling voice that stripped away all illusions. Eternity’s time and pressure exacted in one foul measure. The earth opened up and swallowed my world whole. Will you see me passing time? Will you know me in my prime? Can you help me find the courage, the courage to climb? We thought you'd live forever. We hoped you'd bury us, we hoped you'd bury us as ash and dust. You may be gone but you're no mere mortal in my mind.

It was a regular morning: Stocking products on the shelf, yucking it up with coworkers, drinking too much coffee and scrounging for something that would resemble breakfast. The phone rang. This early in the morning it's usually someone calling in sick. Over the intercom I heard: "Angela, you have a phone call on line one." My heart sunk. If it were a phone call for Ben I would've assumed it was his wife asking him to bring home boneless chicken, or whatever the fuck she calls the store to ask him to bring home, rather than texting him like the rest of us do in 2016. But it wasn't for Ben, it was for Angela. She answered. Her response stopped all of us in our tracks. Something was very wrong. Unsure I was the right person to approach her, I opened the office door to find her on the floor with her head in her hands. Her body trembling, she told me her dad had died.

Not three days prior she'd told me her dad was the sort of man who, still, even in his seventies, worked the farm sun-up to sun-down, ate eggs, bacon, and buttermilk everyday and had a clean bill of health. She jokingly said something along the lines of "I'm pretty sure he'll outlive me."

The past few days I've been tumbling down a nihilistic rabbit hole. Sunday we watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones, now I won't give anything away, but perhaps if you saw it you'll catch my drift. I came away from it imagining a God-like view of humanity, where everyone who has lived, is living, and will live are all scurrying around at the same time, overlapping each other, microscopic dots on a sprawling map fluttering about. Back in my Theology studying days in college we talked about God being outside of time, that everything in the universe is happening at the same time and God knows all the results. This idea of God existing outside of time, our understanding of time that is, is also mashed up with some other ideas relating to God's omnipotence (all-knowing-ness), immutability (un-changeable-ness), and probably a few other large words implying larger ideas in order to have everything make sense with all the other things theologians "know" about God...which for me makes no sense at all. In this God's-eye-view I've been imagining I can't escape a sense of futility. All of us dots, scurrying to find fulfillment, or purpose. Trampling to make our mark, or being trampled bearing the marks of others. Our time, place, and brain-wirings dictating what sort of lives we may be able to lead until life leaves us. Some of us a blip on the radar so quick it hardly registers.

Then some of us, perhaps the luckiest of us, live well and long enough to experience a genuine sense of love. A dot not on some cosmic radar, but on the hearts and minds of some of whom we cross paths with. Some of us leave an impression so dense that our departure rips holes in those who loved us. Perhaps the luckiest of us leave such a mark that even the friends of those who loved us feel inspired to write songs and spend time wondering about our lives. Perhaps we'll be lucky enough to transcend our time and be perceived as no mere mortal in someone's mind. 

(Names above changed for reasons you already understand. Image stolen from here.)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Mere Mortals: Preparing the Way.

Thank you for clicking on this! As I've done before, but can't escape the need to do again, here is a link to the introduction to this series if you'd like some background. 

Track Nine: Preparing the Way

Tonight the soil is cold, the dew is thick. The roots set to remove, unready for uprooting. If I didn't know any better I'd swear this place can't be real. So much growth amidst so much decay. I've seen too many black coats gather in another's name. I've watched tears make mud and heads bow in shame. You're not to blame. You're not to blame. You're not to blame. What am I even doing here? Walking amongst the ghosts, working my hands to the bone, hoping to conceal my regrets in a mausoleum all their own. Who will tell me I'm not to blame? Is there deliverance from this shame? The fog approaches me, it asks I breathe deeply, to fill my cup and drift away. It's not quite winter yet, but I can't shake this chill. Bottoms up I drift away. I never learned how to grieve. The pain I feel leaves me nothing in which to believe. Am I not to blame? Is there no refuge from shame? I'll mourn with you as I prepare the way.

Earlier this week our precious four year old saw her first dead body. Don't worry, she didn't stumble on it like they did in Boyz 'n' the Hood, it was a well-maintained and professionally cared for body of a great uncle she never knew. Which is partly why I was less afraid of it being traumatizing in any way. Loved ones suggested we not let her see him for fear of well...trauma. My wife and I agreed that these situations are possibly more about how we present them than anything else. Though I'll admit my feelings might have been significantly different had it been someone we knew intimately, or someone she knew well. Uncle Randy was known and loved, the eulogy spoke of his boundless love and ability to treat everyone he met as equally important. Stories were shared about how much he gave of himself, how he made it his mission to make all those around him feel special, and how he never had an unkind word to share. In closing the Pastor read something I imagine is somewhat common at funerals, a beautiful essay written about a fictional father whose asked by his kids what he would say at his own funeral. I don't remember all of it, but there was a heavy theme of 'please remember me at my best and forget my worst.' The way he was spoken of it seemed Randy had no worst in him. He was given a military burial, rifles fired, flag folded, it was methodical and beautiful.

The voice in Preparing the Way is the only song on our record that came purely from my imagination. The working title in the writing process was "Gravedigger," something about the riffs just have a gloom about them that was new and different for us. So almost as a creative writing endeavor I tried to run with a story about an actual Gravedigger. The machines nearby at Randy's burial site were a testimony to the need for strength and efficiency in running a graveyard. My imagining of the Gravedigger here is more in line with images I saw on Deadwood: one man digging by hand all night, preparing the way for another out of some idea of responsibility, wracked with his own reasons for choosing this profession, this seclusion. There have been moments, few, but plural none the less, where I've felt I deserved to be secluded. Alone with my thoughts, my demons, my shame. Alone to wrestle with who I am and who I am not. 

The Gravedigger in this song wonders how he got to where he is but also firmly knows that he deserves to be there. He's waiting for relief, waiting for an epiphany, waiting for a sign he can return to the life he once knew. While he can't forget his worst, he's pining for someone to remember his best. But until he finds what he's looking for he'll continue to prepare the way for others who've found one form of deliverance.

Hearing all that was said about Uncle Randy, I can't help but feel if half of those words are applied to me after my time has expired, I'll be a lucky man. In one way or another I think all of us have a piece of the Gravedigger in us. Wondering if we're loved, if we're capable of loving. When I introduced this song last week for the first time I tried to encapsulate it with this: It's extremely hard to love others the way they deserve, sometimes it's even harder to love ourselves the way we deserve. 

And so we peer through the fog, looking for growth, we wash the dirt from our hands with the grass's dew as we wonder about grand ideas of refuge and deliverance amidst all this decay.

(image stolen from here...)