27 September 2013

9 Commandments

or, why I don't call.

1. Consider your flesh. When you think about talking to them, how tight does your chest get? How hard do you have to swallow to pull breath past the scar tissue still forming in your throat?

2. Consider objectivity. Your fear is irrational. It is a ghost. It is a shadow, and no more substantial than that. It has form only in your body. Return to step 1.

3. Consider ghosts. There is a story of a monk who knew he would be visited by a spirit. He tattooed protective runes into his skin, but could not finish his ears before night fell. The spirit grasped him as sound does, and entered him as sound does, and hollowed him as sound does. Only the runes remained. Return to step 2.

4. Consider your triggers. Consider cost. Consider recovery. Consider that time functions both as line and as circle. Consider that remembering is revisiting. Consider how long it's taken you to escape. Return to step 3.

5. Consider their voices. Return to step 3. Return to step 4.

6. Consider the difference between lancing a boil and cutting through a still-healing wound. Return to step 5.

7. Consider that meaning does not exist without difference. Return to step 6.

8. Consider how long it will be until a conversation is not a trigger pull, until you will be safe from ghosts. Consider that you tried to think objectively once.

9. Put down the phone. Walk away. You are not strong enough to speak yet, or to breathe through your listening.

12 September 2013

Twelve Lessons I Learned as a Church Kid

1. "The two most important things in the world, in order, are God and family."

2. Sex will both ruin my life and separate me from God, unless I get the pastor's permission first, in which case it's both holy and the most fun thing ever.

3. The pastor is the arbiter of what people, and what kinds of people, I can have sex with. Even wanting to have sex with anyone else will ruin my life and separate me from God.

4. If I'm a fourteen-year-old boy and I don't want to have sex with girls, the youth pastor will make fun of me, and encourage the other fourteen-year-old boys to make fun of me.

I'm sorry, []. I should have said something. I was too afraid.

5. If I'm a different fourteen-year-old boy, who grew up in a different church in a different part of the country, and I also don't want to have sex with girls, the only safe thing to do is to learn how to lie and say that I do so that the youth pastor and the other fourteen-year-old boys won't make fun of me.

6. Lying will both ruin my life and separate me from God, but there are different levels of separation, and different levels of ruining my life. Lying isn't as bad as having sex with people I'm supposed to have sex with early, which isn't as bad as wanting to have sex with people I'm not supposed to, which isn't as bad as actually having sex with the kinds of people I'm not supposed to. Any of these will ruin my life, and all of them will separate me from God, but they're arranged on a ranking scale. Everybody lies. Lots of people have sex at the wrong time. Only wilfully evil people want to have sex with the kinds of people they're not supposed to.

7. If I lie, I am turning my back on God's will for my life.

8. If I don't lie, then I am confessing to turning my back on God's will for my life. If, when I confess, I don't lie and say that because I've confessed, everything is magically different now, I am turning my back on God's will for my life.

9. God is Love. Every question has an answer through him. If I ask, and ask, and keep ramming my head into a paradox, and can't find an answer, there's something wrong with me, and I am turning my back on God's will for my life. If I become angry because I can't find an answer, my anger is a sin and will separate me from God.

10. The only way to have a family is to have sex with the pastor's permission. If I don't want to have sex with the kind of people the pastor gives me permission to, then I can't have a family.

11. "The two most important things in the world, in order, are God and family."

12. If I am not continually grateful for the perfect peace the Lord has given me, then I am turning my back on God's will for my life.

20 July 2013

If I Were Kim Kardashian...

    So the other day, I was talking to a friend when, apropos of nothing, she put one hand on her hip, pointed at me, and said “If I was Kim Kardashian, I wouldn't have named my baby “North”, because, like, “North West” is a stupid name.”
    To which I didn't but should have responded, “Actually, you completely would have named your baby North, because if you were Kim Kardashian, you would actually BE KIM KARDASHIAN, with the same experiences, the same voice, and the same perspective on the world and your place in it. What you are describing is not you being Kim Kardashian, but rather some Freaky Friday shit where you are wearing Kim Kardashian's single decision like a meat puppet cut from the flesh of her actual life.”
    This is something that I'm actually kind of serious about. Especially the meat-puppet bit, and the “some Freaky Friday shit” line, which took me like a solid five minutes to work in. But also the bit where I become incensed when anyone tries to say, for example, and this is purely hypothetical, and in no way meant to be indicative that I am talking about current events, that if they were Trayvon Martin, then they would not have been wearing a hoodie.
    Or that if they were George Zimmerman, then they would have stopped following Trayvon Martin when they were told to by the 911 dispatcher.
    No. If you were in Trayvon Martin's position that night, you might not have been wearing a hoodie. You might therefore have not been followed by George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman might also have chosen not to follow you because you were WHITE. Or because you wouldn't have been there at all, since your name is JACOB and you live in ATLANTA. YOU ARE NOT TRAYVON MARTIN. YOU ARE NOT GEORGE ZIMMERMAN. You never were.
    (I'm tempted to throw a YOU WEREN'T THERE, MAN, YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE” in at this point, but I feel like doing so would break the intensity of what I'm saying. So I won't do that.)
    If I were the sun, I wouldn't say any words to anybody, because I would be an enormous ball of hydrogen. I'd mostly just make explody noises.
    If I were black, then I would, I am certain, have had different experiences that would have sent my life, and therefore my perspective, in very different directions than it has gone. It is unreasonable for me to say that if I were any black person who has done or not done anything that I find problematic or worthy of criticism, then I would have done anything different than the actual person did or didn't, and I would probably therefore not have found my actions or inactions problematic in the slightest.
    If I were a woman, I don't know what kind of lover I would be, or how receptive I would be to the sexual advances of the men who are apparently hitting on me. I don't know if I'd be gay, straight, bi, queer, other, luscious, lusty, lascivious, a lady on the streets but a freak in the sheets, I don't know if my hips would lie or not, and the mental calculations required to remove some essence that is called “I” and track it full-detailed and impeccable through every experience this new, female “I” would have are way, way too complex for me to follow through.
    So far as I can tell, they're also way, way too complex for most of the people who claim to be doing it. I have a hunch that they're taking the meat-puppet shortcut. “If I were a girl, I'd be flattered when people cat-called me.” NO. STOP IT. YOU DON'T KNOW IF YOU WOULD OR NOT. I don't know if I would or not. My guess is that I wouldn't be flattered, but my certainty is that I have never seen or heard anyone cat-call a meat-puppet, except once, and that was a really freaky Friday night that I doubt will ever happen again.
    If I were a meat-puppet? I probably wouldn't name my child North West. I don't think meat-puppets have children.

01 February 2013

A meditation on sculpture

Every sculpture begins larger than its ending. The chisel chips away one unneeded thing after another, filling the air with dust and the ground with memories of a former wholeness.

Bricks of marble do not worry that they will be diminished, only that the craftsman will be unskilled, or, worse, unimaginative.

If a piece of stone could take the chisel to itself, how much would remain when it stopped cutting itself away? It is likely that the pieces on the floor would add up to a greater mass than the sculpture that would be produced. Any work of art can be judged by its absences.