History Repeats Itself?

The Macman, circa 1978.

2/11/1978 – San Francisco, CA. It is 4 a.m. and the City is not yet moved. Cold, quiet in a City way (never totally). I have been sick for ten straight days with acute bronchitis.

New to the City, I am alone is most every way, laying on my bunk for endless hours. The pain, coughing and lack of any energy is ceaseless.

I came here because I love God and want to know Him better. But I am unsure now. There is a “game” going on around me I do not understand. I am an outsider, like a rough wet dog that has been let in and has slumped down on the oriental carpet.

Down the hallway from my room is an older 26 year old man. His floor and shelves are covered with Bible encyclopedias, lexicons and Greek tools*. I know nothing except they are important to study., which I have not been well enough to do.

There are no women here – or at least none that interest me. There is one, but she is out of my league. God the age difference! She is 25!

The San Francisco skyline is actually far below me, off West near City College. I justwantto be well so I can learn and serve. I want to know God better.

I am reading “Humility Against Despair” by a Catholic writer named Thomas Merton. Mitch gave me the book recently. It’s okay I guess.

 

The Macman, circa 2011.

2/22/2011 – Portland, OR.

It is 4 a.m. and the city is not yet moved. Cold, wet, and loud with the noise of construction, generators and men in cranes. I have been sick for 21 straight days with pneumonia, then acute bronchitis – the first time since I had it at Simpson Bible College in the late 70s.

I came to CityTeam and Portland because I love God and have allowed other things to eclipse this. I need a total stripping down and humiliation not at my own hand, but as fits pride.  I want to know God more intimately and I am undeterred in this.

But there is a game going on, even here, which I do not understand. I have to navigate solely by Word and faith (and sacrament soon). I am an outsider, the quintessential kind. A rough dog, wet and slumped down on matted carpet.

Down the hallway from my room is younger 26 year old man. His floor and shelves are covered with Bible encyclopedias, lexicons and Greek tools**. I know exactly how to use all of these being richly steeped in exegesis and hermeneutics the last 33 years. It is one of the things I do best.

The Stacks in The Hole.

Despite being sick for three weeks I manage to study hard, do art, fulfill a 63 hour a week schedule, counsel others, pray, serve…endure hardship.

There are no women here, so I am oddly at peace. There is one out of my league but my God the age difference! She is like 40!

The Portland skyline is actually below me and City College is to the West. I just want to be well so I can learn and serve better. I want to know God deeper, colser and sweeter. This does not require perfect health.

I am re-reading “Humility Aggainst Despair”. No one can see God until ego is deposed to some degree and the heart is pure. Purity of heart in our age means to be stripped bare, made of “no account” – to become truly silent and allow God to remove what He wills and sweep the beautiful empty floor that is left.

Poverty is useful. It does not lie if you listen to simple instruction. To be sure, some measure of this poverty should be chosen (I can leave at any time); but other parts must be imposed because we will not choose it.

This monk’s life is 30 times harder than I thought it would be. Not 100, nor 1,000 times. Just 30 (or maybe 33?)

*******

* notably Kittel’s 10 Vol. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.

** notably missing Kittel’s 10 Vol. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament so far.

*******

Zen Greek Calligraphy

Christ “Phos”

“Phos” is “Light” and Christ is the Light of the Cosmos (John 1;8) He is the Outer Light and the Inner Light – the Sun without; the Son within – We the Moon both inside and out. Zen poem:

Christ φως

Zen Greek

Good Miso

Empty Bowl

Prayer Now.

 

* Underwear Lost.

Underwear Lost

I often say Zen is my vaccine against Commercial Christianity – what Kierkegaard called “Christendom”. Zen brings clarity, experience, seriousness and humor. So when I was first sick I attempted to do my laundry four floors down. I did not finish and half my belongings (including my underwear) were given away to the homeless (all clean now).

I find this funny, even though I now have no underwear.

Zen Greek

Robert The Gangl (my patowan) is prying me constantly for useful knowledge.  He setup a white board in his room for Greek studies. I made him some flash cards and photocopied the alphabet and phonetics. He is already reading F.F. Bruce. I mentioned the author and he found a book on the Canon of the New Testament. He has the guft (he’s a Jedi) and the desire. I spend no time motivating him. If anything, he motivates me!

Yesterday I started in earnest on Zen calligraphy with Greek texts. I have been preparing, studying and doing some practice for a month. Yesterday I woke up and it clicked! I started immediately and worked hard for hours.

"Treasures" from Colossians 2.

I made my own Zen brushes (I have no art budget..or any budget really). I cut some soft brushes with my exacto.

(My apologies. My camera SUCKS. I know you are all use to decades of top notch pix. Sorry.)

Good Miso

Diet is my next issue. Solution is Miso soup. Simple, meditative. It is delicious, poor and beautiful.

The dark seaweed leaves under the green onions like a koi pond. Smell of bonita and weight of Miso paste.

Japanese garden, Portland. Monday.

Prayer Now.

And not now – then again – then drifting like wind. The boomerang of Self. God waits. Sorry Father. I may yet begin the small sounds of Your heaven.

*******

I am better now. Not recovered by any means but I have some energy. I have vision and He renews my strength in the morning…this morning. I go to bed a heap of frayed nerve endings and wake up 5 hours later new.

The Monster is on the run after 21 straight days. i endured it well I think – certainly faithfully for a change.

I was attacked by others when really sick and they almost had me ousted. I would have had to leave if I would not/could not work the full schedule.

I am a tough son of a bitch when backed into a corner. I worked. Plus, with no shame in my life, I am a bit of a lion. I would not wanna F with me, even though I am compassionate.

Empty Bowl

I AM that same man/boy of 1978/2011. “We” love Christ for Christ’s own sake; find all religion highly suspect at best and want to love God and people. I am a very young man in an old body just as I was an old soul in a young body. Same man, yet different. Now a Jedi.

Example?

Yesterday I walked past a row of flowers in pots. 99 cents each. I could have bought one but thought “why rush? Best to plant seeds and grow them from there.” Thus have I changed. I am more interested in the process than the result (though I shall have that too).

This is my life now. Growing and waiting for the end of Spring…yet utterly aware NOW. Cultivating, drinking soup from the same black bowl; drawing ancient texts with a Zen brush, and walking.

Theos (God), Thesauroi (Treasures), Thanatos Ou (Death Not)

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Almost Booted for getting Bronchitus

I had pneumonia last week and it slid back hard into bronchitis over the weekend. So, knowing the politics around here (anarchy meets the suck-of-self) I asked to go to the ER immediately to get a real doctor’s diagnosis. Safe right?

Naw…

I was given an ultimatum in a “Big Meeting” (that is four or more staff. Less than four is just a meeting) which is meant to intimidate the person called in. I am nearly impossible to intimidate. I remain calm which always results in others losing it like 14 year-old boys (which I am used to since half the guys in program are functioning like 14 year-old boys…It’s like being at Calvin Crest in the Summer only most of these guys are criminals…see “I’m gonna stick him” article).

Anyway, “work sick and do your 12-hour days or get well and pack it up and leave after that”. Oh, and you gotta love this…they offered to allow me to stay and get well (before booting me out) out  of “Christian charity.” (More on this at the end).

Caveat: I really do not know how people navigate without divine help. Without it I would be reduced to something akin to a jellyfish with the inner constitution of tapioca pudding. But, with real direction I am ridiculously calm, strong and intent.

So I had this dream the night before. I had gone to sleep thinking about the vast difference between isolation and solitude. One is destructive, life-denying and alienating. The other is life-affirming, open, peaceful and connecting. I am a big fan of the latter. I also have formed the habit of discussing my day with my Creator as I fall asleep. There is this remarkably clean and simple passage in the Psalms (27) where God basically says “Hey, come on over here and talk to me:” and David says “I’mma com’n”. So it is a lot like that.

I talk over the solitude/isolation thing, then I drift off into a dream in which I had just walked over the Sierras and there was a vast plain of sand that went for hundreds of miles. I started to walk and realized, in the dream mind you, that it would take me 90 days to cross.

So my dream was cross-referencing with my reality for I am looking down the barrel of 90 “Groundhog Days” here at the Mission before I hit the next phase and start to enter work-phase (and freedom with some limits). I call them Groundhog Days for obvious reasons..every day is just like the one before it and the next will be the same…seemingly endlessly. I see myself from above, at the end of the walk. My hair is four inches longer and braided on the sides. I am thinner (hooray!) and I look peaceful and strong. It FEELS right.

I have my cool hat in the dream and the long coat I love so much. I am wearing my bright green KEDS with the Zen patches. I am obviously traveling very “lite”.

Comes the morning and the threat.

This is not new territory except for one thing: I haven’t done anything but be human and get sick. In most every other case when I have been summoned I can pretty much always find “my part” in it. More often than not I am the SOLE reason for the meeting and I am busted.

Because of that, I generally have a working level of shame as I go in. Interesting, I also have a near equal  of personal arrogance that rides shotgun in those cases. See how that works?

Well this time I have neither. It’s freeing. No shame, no arrogance.

I take the meeting. I do very well and actually have the wherewithal to listen carefully to other points of view. In the end, it’s a flat choice: “Our way or the highway?”

This actually makes me happy, not because it is fair, “Christian” or comfortable. No, it makes me happy because I have grown new muscles in my soul that can handle this. Even a few years back and something like this would send me tumbling down a vortex of self-mutilating destruction that I might or might not recover from.

Now? “Eh.” I handle it, then do the Jeb Bartlett line from West Wing “what’s next?”

The one benefit of a life given wholly over to God (and every area of my life is right now in an unprecedented way…to GOD, not religion) is that it is no longer your life. I don’t need to defend myself. Tell the truth? Yes; Defend myself? No.

Christian mystics have always understood this…how suffering and deprivation lead to greater life and fulness. If it helps think of it simply as “pruning”.

Well, enough of all that. I am staying. I have 90 days of GroundHog desert walk to do alone. I am still sick (I just hacked up a lung unloading a truck) but my spirit is upbeat and at peace. My body will recover in time. I will lose 40 pounds and my hair will grown out another 4 inches and take some braids down one side. The Groundhog Days will dwindle; I’ll get work, teach a class at church, meet new friends..get a bicycle. Before I know it Summer will be here and my life will be very different and I will have changed too…in ways I cannot change if I leave.

God is good. I trust God. People? Naw.

*******

“Christians” is a horrible word. I cringe when I hear it ballied about in a sea of ignorance, misuse and abuse. It should simply be banned along with the word “contemporary”. It all depends on who is saying it. In that it is a unique word. Originally it was a term of derision in the Book of Acts. We should have settled for that and used other terms like “Believer”, “Follower of Jesus”, “Disciple of Christ”, hell…even “Jesus Freak” is better.

Recently, Semi-Stalker Woman texted me and said I was a “so-called Christian man”. I don’t call myself a Christian often, and usually it is in the form of “Non-asshole Christian”. If anyone calls me a Christian it would have to be the Risen Christ Himself. That would seem to make it more meaningful.

By “Christian” people refer to a gooey-semi-moralistic substance that reeks of blatant hypocrisy. You definitely do not wanna get any on ya!  So I personally bypass any talk of “Christian” things. Biblical? Sure…there ya go.

Which explains how a large number of people who identify themselves as “Christians” vote for a “Christian” like George W. Bush. It’s sociology nor spirituality; it’s fear not faith.