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.


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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