You Can’t Repent

You Can’t Repent. You are Irredeemable. Oprah, Queen of Kleenex has declared this. She has sent forth her Amazonian Army to castrate you. You need to get used to being a monster in the eyes of the Queen.  Being castrati won’t be enough. There is another who made a Way. Read on and find out.

Psalm 1:1-4—“1 Blessed is the man[a]
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
   and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”

Matthew 5:6—“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

I lost count the number of Sundays my ass stuck to the lacquer paint of a pew as another pastor droned on about the Beatitudes. This Sunday was one more. The pastor’s frame of reference was that these two passages were about us, about each of us and the ways that we should individually hunger for a deeper discipleship hewing closer to the law. Noble idea. And worthy. And for me . . . a bit annoying.

Israel, when Christ was alive, had the law.  They had/have commentary on the law as given by God. Ask a practicing Jew about how to honor the Sabbath. Though, block out some time for this because it will take a while. All of it focused on trying to get a thick-necked people to behave better. None of it much good for its intended purpose.

Get Out There

There is an introspective aspect to hungering for righteousness. We should deepen our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus of Nazareth. Then we ought to maintain our vigilance in living out that understanding. It doesn’t stop there, however. Jesus wasn’t commissioning a bunch of temple living hermits. He commissioned a bunch of troublemakers like himself who were to make all nations disciples of the Way. So, where activism, social justice work and the lot are within the practices of the Way, we ought to be doing that as well.

Jesus asked us to serve prisoners, the sick, the poor, the persecuted, among others. Go back and read the Sermon on the Mount again. It has both an inward, personal growth aspect and an SJW aspect. It’s not enough to grow personally. We have to get out there, afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

A Kleenex Empire

Lately, after a rousing acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey’s name was bandied about as a possible candidate for President. Oprah is the goddess of Kleenex, of the teary, emotional moment. The Kleenex Goddess made her wealth on leering at the miseries of others. She cannot afford to have a baddy repent. Though, people seem to be an infinite fount of bad behavior. She is in no danger of running out of baddies to excoriate on national TV.

You Can't RepentMy name is Alan Webb and I am a wife-beater. It’s been sixteen years since I last hit my ex-wife. I still worry that it is half-time for me and the next relationship will be just as destructive as my first marriage. For all my therapy, classes and introspection the jury is still out on whether my next girlfriend and I can navigate through a relationship that is safe and healthy for both of us.

You Can’t Repent

I have people in my life who will not let me repent. I am a monster. Nothing I say or do can change that. I learned a long time ago that there is no gain in fighting to a victory with someone who believes my nature as a monster is immutable.  It’s better to let them believe I am a monster and go about living an honorable life.

Two things of note regarding repentance. One, in our ADHD 247365 shitstorm propaganda cycles, repentance takes too long. The data stream we get is tuned to keep us amped on OMG. because while amped our reason is swamped by our reptilian brain. Our reptilian brain wants to stay alive and fuck. High minded ideas like repentance just don’t get on our reptilian radar. It makes us putty in the hands of those who lead us.

Stay Asleep

So, for the dear leaders, us holding resentment is part of the stew that keeps us compliant. To be woke is a thing for some. Let me suggest one way to be woke, to be aware of the ways that you are being led by a bull-ring made up of propaganda delivered through social media and more traditional news sources like print, broadcast and cable TV. That ring feeds you emo stories meant to keep your reptile brain afraid that it might die, might not be able to eat or worst of all, be unable to fuck.

One more thing. I saw this in my 1100 hours at the table at Boaz and Ruth. The guys that fell back into ripping and running were also guys who could not answer this question, “what do you want to do?” They were really good at their chaplain speeches. They were very clear that they did not want to do what got them arrested and a spot at the table at Boaz and Ruth. What did they want? That . . . that question was tough.

I don’t want to be a monster anymore” is an easy answer. Kind of. First, you are not allowed to stop being a monster. If you ever collected the ire of someone who believed you behaved in a monstrous way then you are a monster and like me, you cannot remove that moniker. At best you can gain a grudging trust that you haven’t been monstrous today.

Do What?

Second, you won’t last on the street unless you find your purpose. It’s not always some grand thing. Sometimes it’s as simple as line cooking or sewer pipe trenching. Mike Rowe made 169 episodes of dirty, skilled labor jobs. Those can be a purpose as noble as anything white collar that you think your parents would approve of. It can be something absurd like writing almost a half-million words ranting about what’s wrong with everybody. The key secret to life as a monster is finding that purpose. And . . . do us all a favor and pick something other than predatory behavior. Thanks, bunches.

Last, repentance takes time. Obvi, no? You would think so. But the town criers that fill our social media feed don’t want us calm enough to reflect on the time it takes to give life to a promise to repent. We are more malleable if we stay amped on the latest OMG to drop. It’s better for our dear leaders if we keep eating the bitterness they feed us.

Now, let’s talk about Purpose. This is one of the big hairy questions we all stumble into. I’ll let you in on a secret about me. I have no fucking clue. I made it through nearly six decades of life just following my nose. There are minor purposes, reptilian ones. But a big, elegant, life-giving purpose? Nah. Hold my covfefe. I mean, yeah, contribute to making the world more peas and fewer big-eyed, starving TV kids? Sure. Write too many words on a blog that no one reads. Did that, doing that. Bring a son into this world with a Taiwanese Mafia Princess? Check. Just . . . I never answered the question, “what do you want to do”?

No Answer is an Answer

I still don’t have an answer. I’m a bit like the other guys at that table at Boaz and Ruth. I know I don’t want to do monstrous things and collect prison time. I know I want to live a life that keeps me as safe as possible so the chances of doing monstrous things are minimized. But . . . as to what I want . . . I don’t know.

The small purposes I found, keeping my house and my car, seeking small acts of kindness done with great love, and embracing a stable life, these have been enough. One of the absurdities of God is those Egyptian monks who sought to isolate themselves as completely as possible and left behind words that became world famous. Something cliche and something true, that we are not to worry about what God does with our pittance of a life. We are to simply live. My pedestrian life driven by reptilian desires that sometimes rise to slight elegance in the small acts of kindness I have done will have to be enough.

Purpose, when you are young or misfortune has stolen your position and now your rock must be pushed up the hill one more time, is useful. It helps clarify which choices fit and which don’t. You begin to hear the siren call of the Queen of Kleenex as the dangerous clanging gong that it is. Truth is, we are finite. The day does come when we become legend only alive in the stories of those we leave behind. Choices get made that set a direction. So, being intentional about purpose is useful.

The World is Absurd

Lovely, no? I didn’t do that. I did whatever I damned pleased. My life never had a carefully crafted purpose beyond making sure I had a roof over my head and food to eat. I’m not MGTOW by choice. It just sort of worked out that way.

You Can't RepentPut me with those who find this shitshow I was born into to be absurd. Life has no grand purpose. We are pissing, shitting fucking beasts with a remarkable talent for hurting each other. Altruism, when it happens, is great. I’ll grant you that most of the Bell curve is unremarkable and never does anything story worthy. But . . . I am nearer to the monster end of the curve than I am to the untested saint end.

Except . . . this crazy, criminal, ghetto-boy carpenter born to a whore a couple thousand years ago started a revolution that continues to this day. He said we ought to hunger for righteousness. The world is absurd and God sent us an absurd leader of a new kingdom after all else failed. A criminal is crucified by the Romans at the request of his church leadership and three days later is alive? That’s cray-cray right there.

Oprah as president is a leadership rooted in bitter unforgiveness. Remember this? Some who worry that if we truly knew them we’d shun them. To which we in the church reply, if you really knew us you would stop worrying. Jesus offers us a cause to pursue and a purpose for our lives absent from the Kleenex Empire. We meet every Sunday, usually, around 10 am or so. I hope you will join us.

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Money

1 Timotheum 6:10, “Radix enim omnium malorum est cupiditas quam quidam appetentes erraverunt a fide et inseruerunt se doloribus multis.”

Money is neither the answer nor the problem. It is not, by itself, the root of all evil. Money is how we have chosen to conduct our barter to acquire the things we want and need.

Deep in my genealogy is British landed gentry. When times were good and we hadn’t decided to tell the crown to piss off, we didn’t need a job. We had our estates and the staff that ran them. Life was good. Wealth wasn’t defined in terms of the fatness of our wallet. Wealth was defined in terms of your position and the health of your land. We had money but it wasn’t a primary occupation for us.

Then we sided with the more obstreperous minorities within the Reformation and began to insist that the king was apostate. Kings. Kings can kill you because they are the law. We would not shut up. So, out of mercy, the Dutch let us move to Holland. What of our land? Gone. Everything that gave us status was lost. But . . . we were fighting heresy, so we were good with it.

Much happens and we end up in two places, Plymouth, Maine and Jamestown, VA., where many of us die trying to farm strange land using seed and methods from our manner homes. It didn’t help that the staff we had back before our departure to Holland were the subject matter experts. Still, there were heathens to evangelize and a utopia to make. Plus, the King of England wanted us dead. The heathens only wanted us to leave them alone.

This falls to me as a presumption that I am entitled to a certain degree of deference and station. Which, I worked hard at shedding. I was successful enough that I’ve been broke most of my last 36 years with times when I’ve called a shelter home.

I hear this a bunch from some, “If I had money I’d be straight.” To which I want to start talking about the lottery winners and other windfall recipients who blow through the money only to find themselves worse off. Just having money isn’t the answer.

In Christian history are many who read Luke 9:3 and abandon everything for faith that God will provide. Todd White is part of a long tradition of ascetic Christians. Todd is one of the few who succeed at living on 5% of their income. He’s not as extreme as some of the Egyptian Desert Fathers who chose completely inhospitable land to locate their hermitages. It can be done. It is done. Could I do this? No. I’m too soft, too attached to my heritage.

Todd and other ascetics could not survive if there were not a much larger majority of dutiful working stiffs who faithfully tithe, do their annual two weeks of vacationary, serve on church committees and so on. For a time, it was a grudge I held against God that I wasn’t more like Todd. Why didn’t status fall from the sky? Why didn’t someone recognize how awesome I was? Why was I yet again elbow deep in a commercial pot-wash sink cleaning pots after a church supper? Don’t they know who I am?

Yes, they do. Which explains why I end up pot washing. An old aphorism, “Live on 80% of what you earn before taxes. 10% goes to charitable giving and the other 10% goes to savings.” Right. If I did that it would ruin my current financial habits. I could not live as I do on 20% less of what I make.

It is almost the end of 2016. My troubled relationship to money goes way, way back. Money for me, is for spending. A highlight of my week is the Saturday afternoon grocery run where I shop for what my heart desires. Within a few hours I have lots of stuff and less money. Like an old heroin addict I know I have a problem but keep being addicted because it is how I feed the monkey and avoid feeling sick.

I keep having the same conversation with a parade of kin and friends. They ask how much I make and how much my bills are. I answer and the stark truth is there is a wide gap of unaccounted money between what I make and what I say my bills are. My claims at being unable to tithe or save because I can’t afford it don’t ring true. With each conversation the kin or friend walks away suspicious that I am not being completely honest. I’ve been asked many times where the money goes.

You can ask me. I use Quicken diligently. I balance all my accounts to the penny. I make an effort at tracking how I spend my cash. I can almost answer the repeated question with some accuracy. Quicken in its own way embarrasses me because it too can’t figure why I finish each month scrambling to make the rent. It too, though inanimate, wonders where the money goes.

This is the time of the year when I feel the ache of my spendthrift ways rather acutely. I am scratching the itch to once again promise that next year will be different, again again times 36. Rather than iterate the same old tropes about Dave Ramsey‘s Baby Steps, Rockefeller’s 10/10/80, and others I’m spending these 1500 words confessing my failed habits with money.

And talking about some goals which will demand that I do what I have promised for almost 40 years—treat money as something to be saved. My rented house is valued at $33,000.00. Realtor.com pegged it’s sale price at $41,000.00 or so. That works out to around $370.00/month. I pay $600.00/month in rent. There is a lot of room for cost reduction if I am able to buy my house on a 15 year fixed rate mortgage.

All well and good. How much money do I have saved for this? You guessed it. 0 Zero Nada Nothing. Typical me. Great ideas, terrible follow through. And another thing. I like travel. I like the trips to Boston I’ve done for Chinese New Year. This year I am pulling this feat off in a last minute binge of cab driving on the weekends. Why haven’t I saved for this? You don’t know me well enough. I said it above, for me, money is for spending. One more. I ain’t so young anymore. It’s not that long before I am expected to quit my day job and live on my savings. My non-existent savings.

Ok, one trope, forgive me. Us who have hurts, habits or hangups have a high tolerance for pain. We continue our malfunction way past when most people would have sought help changing. It has to hurt bad enough that we are moved to not just initiate change, but stick with it. 36 years living this way is a lot of stubborn loyalty to being a spendthrift. So . . . saying here that 2017 will be different doesn’t mean much.

Rehab, hospital, jail, or all three repeatedly until something changes or the something that changes is a move to the morgue. There may not be as severe a risk with money that there is with other hurts, habits or hangups. Still, I’ve been homeless more than once living as I have. You would think I’d have ached bad enough to keep behaving better. You would think.

This week the press will exult in all the promises we make for 2017 that we made for 2016 and kept up for a month or so. Gym memberships will spike and then collapse by March. Some of us devote hours to lovely looking spreadsheets projecting great progress on our debt and spending habits which become so much bullshit almost as fast as we upload them to the cloud.

The end of this story can be told in two years. If, by then I have changed my ways and spent 24 months using money as something to be saved it will be a trend worth noting. It’s been almost 40 years like this. Two years of fiscal responsibility will be something radical for me. If I am only my past then in two years I’ll have yet more stories to tell of FUB‘s and near disasters as I keep doing the painful things I’ve done so far with my money. Mark your calendars. My history isn’t encouraging.

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Is There a God?

1 Corintios 2:14 “El que no tiene el Espíritu no acepta lo que procede del Espíritu de Dios, pues para él es locura. No puede entenderlo, porque hay que discernirlo espiritualmente.”

Right. An omniscient, omnipotent diety gives a shit about me. That’s not crazy. Nope. This diety won’t interfere with my choice to act out and will keep me from harm even though I am causing harm to myself and maybe others. He (?He? not s/he, s/him, or whatever?) What kind of patricarchical, obtuse, obscene, oppressive, phallic bullshit is this that God has to be a cis-guy? How do we know that this is all an illusion. That I am alone in my world, there are no others, what I percieve is wind, water, smoke, mirrors or all of that? Why would solipsism be false?

We have science. For 800 years the record has been corrected. Truth identified and documented. The farce of the bible exposed. Nietzsche is deep, “God is Dead.” Can we just get on with it and dispense with all this religious folly?

To which I have questions. What of women? Women are emotional, irrational, demanding, frustrating and desirous beyond reason. Some wicked demon made it such that a pleasure equal to eating demands that we deal with women. How sick is that?  Women are trouble. Yet, they are inescapable. More of the shitshow we arrived in. Woo. More questions. Are there exceptions to the law of causality? How does the quantum description of reality give rise to the reality we perceive?

I’m a bard, a bad one at that. I succeeded in my effort to avoid science as much as possible in college. My drunk alien RayRoberta Bob as god is almost plausable to me were it not a lifetime of indoctrination in the Reformed Tradition of the Presbyterian Church. So, I am going to add to my list of literary offenses and fail to answer the questions I posed.

My failure is not without purpose. First, I can’t begin to answer the physics questions I pose. I’m a stupid English major from a California State University in a time frame when degrees were being granted to proud C- students like myself. I graduated, but barely. Second, my world is absurd and mysterious. I’ve given up debating with God over whether the seven creation epochs were 7 Gregorian Calendar days of 24 hours each. The Bible and much more fails when made to survive an examination through Western scientific methods. I surrendered and in that surrender found my life to be better. God made the world in six phases and rested on the seventh. Good enough for me.

I mentioned Inger in a previous post. Inger, along with her self-serving approval of mincome, is annoyed with truth. The world consistently disobeys here desire for a modern, angular exegesis of reality. Absurdity and mystery piss her off. It should make sense. Everything should make sense. That it doesn’t is an affront to her stainless steel and concrete aesthetic.

Inger has not yet given up her fight with the universe. She means to win this one or die trying. So, all the kings men who have tried to put her back together in a less intense and more curved shape have failed. OCD much? Yeah.

I quit fighting my past. I am the dutiful first born son of a Presbyterian mother and Methodist father who became Presbyterian when he began dating my Mom. The older I get the more comfortable my same spot in the pews has become. Presbyterian Orthodoxy is an inescapable part of who I am.

So, my direct answer to the question of the existence of God is a reflexive, “yes.” No, it isn’t well-reasoned any more than my annual itches for an impossibly perfect Christmas that rattle about thanks to my Mom’s life-long fight with her sister for approval from their Mom. My belief in the existence of God is an act of faith, irrational and at odds with the world Inger wishes for. There are very few truly straight lines in my world.

Nothing I say can convince you of the existence of God. Either you agree he exists or you don’t. I’ve also lost my taste for winning the argument on this. I am quite happy in my little shack on a less traveled road in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. My call is to serve regardless of the object of my service’s beliefs regarding God. Sometimes, when you are hungry, a hot meal is the best altar call possible.

Wikipedia has an article on the question here. Allow me to offer a chain of reasoning that is weak but for me, worthy. First, does love exist? If it does and God is love, then since love exists God must also exist. Further. Love is a verb and by inference we witness the existence of God in his actions demonstrating his love for us.

Love is a weak voice shouted down by all the dissonant noise alive in the lives of us who found comfort on the shores of the River Styx. Crazy is our normal. Altruism, true altruism, triggers suspicion for us. There has to be something behind it, some gain or motive, some desire that drives the act of kindness. We find it hard to believe that self-less acts of kindness are possible. That there could be a deity who would want us to experience altruism seems impossible.

Hebreos 4:1-2, “Cuidémonos, por tanto, no sea que, aunque la promesa de entrar en su reposo sigue vigente, alguno de ustedes parezca quedarse atrás.Porque a nosotros, lo mismo que a ellos, se nos ha anunciado la buena noticia; pero el mensaje que escucharon no les sirvió de nada, porque no se unieron en la fe a los que habían prestado atención a ese mensaje.”

Yet, we live insane lives so Inger’s desire for a rational world hits our ears as a dissonant minor chord. The God I know fights being contained in a bakelite trimmed stainless steel and concrete temple. Left alone Chernobyl is overrun by moss and plants that ruin its modern architecture. His world is at least fractal in its complexity. He made a world in which Quantum theory helps make the calculus work. Why not an insane, absurd God for this shitshow?

I believe God exists for completely selfish reasons. I grew up in a house infested with mental illness. I was tormented by anxiety from a very early age. Anger became my binky. I could have what I wanted because I was able to cajole my parents into indulging me. This lasted until 1979 or so and my initial years with my paternal grandmother. I returned to Earl Palmer and the First Presbyterian of Berkeley seeking answers. I wanted something of home, even as fucked up as home was. Earl is brilliant and patient with yungins. It was after many Sundays listening to him preach that my heart was softened and I was ready to let God in. I believe God exists because that belief keeps me sane.

Later in life, as I came to understand that my life was going to collapse again and I’d have to rebuild for the fourth time, I needed a family. I found that in St. Giles, in the Men’s Fellowship. Without them I’d either be dead or in prison. Along the way I’ve experienced miracles of grace and mercy that knit well with my Protestant upbringing.

I believe God exists for irrational reasons. I attribute some of my experiences to him against reasoned deduction. It is a knowledge I have always had and found comfort in. Mine is not the place to win the argument. Mine is to serve you anyway, to share and walk with you as we count down our sunrises until we are rowed to the far shore of the River Styx.

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What’s the Point?

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope . . . Jeremiah 29:11, ESV

I am not sure there is a point, or a purpose to this shit-show we are born in to. I’m over late night tossing & turning wondering why I was born. I’m here and it ain’t over yet. I’ve still got time to do and while the sun still traverses the sky I need shit and have ambitions. There is world peas to attend to and those kids on TV who look so hungry. Oh and those deplorable white folk who treat black folk like range targets. I mean, somebody needs to do something, seriously.

Dumpf got elected. They are going to build a pipeline across Indian land and ruin it. I saw that kid on TV and this time the voice-over is asking me to donate to UNESCO. I don’t have a job, my girlfriend kicked me out, and breakfast this morning happened at the Grace Cathedral on California street. I tried begging and got arrested. I had to pawn my guitar to get a room for the night. I’m out of meds and the voices lately are really hard to ignore. Maybe I should just eat worms and die.

The depths of my angst never got that deep. My troubles are trifling compared to those of many. There was an afternoon at my paternal grandmother’s house where the huge problem was a lack of a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. There is a kid in my life who is twenty-something and followed a familiar narrative arc for an African American youth living in the inner city. He achieved early success as a drug dealer, gained tremendous wealth and notoriety and now, is living in public housing. The devil gaveth and the devil took it all away.

After two twelve-hour shifts driving a cab recently I arrived at Monday morning, back at my desk, with a feeling of futility. All that work and what I had to show for it was a couple Jacksons. I had magnanimous dreams. I was going to make beaucoup benjamins. I had plans for my hard earned cash. What a waste.

Wikipedia’s article on the meaning of life. You have the Dalai Lama saying that we should seek to be happy. I suspect that the full weight of his words isn’t getting through in English. Tibetan Buddhist happiness is a deep conversation. It’s one of many things that seems simple at the surface but can consume a lifetime trying to know it deeply. So, there is that. Wikipedia tries to provide a broad survey of answers. I need to warn you. This space isn’t good for you if you were looking for comfort and safety. The answers I have here are troubling.

On with it. I’d say that life does not have a purpose. Your reason to be doesn’t exist. All this angst over why you were born is neurotic, narcissistic wind and water. You are alive. ’nuff said. So, average life-span being 70-80 years, or 4 generations or so, you have time on your hands. The first couple decades happen because of your parents. After that, with some exceptions, it’s on you. A reason to be and a purpose to pursue. Well, you are here. There really isn’t a reason why you are here. So, that leaves the next 40 years or so and a purpose to pursue.

Why not 60 years?. Our lives are bookended by childhood and old age. As children we have no choice but to rely on the adults in our lives to care for us. Without them, without their support, we are fucked. Argue all you want about the oppressive tradition of a nuclear family, how it traps women into the oppression of patriarchy. I’ll grant you that embedding that oppression in law and policy is a bad idea. Women should have a voice, have agency and the freedom to pursue their chosen purpose. Please, though, if you are pregnant, or you are a Mom, it’s really important that you put your kids first, even though that limits you. Kids need parents that love and care for them.

Moving on. At the other end, at the phase of my life I am growing in to, is increasing loss. We become more dependent on the people around us for basic needs. Starting at around age 60 things escalate. We become more and more feeble until our time comes and we become epitaph. So, our purpose becomes merely breathing until death kindly stops for us. We come full circle and need to be taken care of.

That leaves the years between 20 or so and age 60 where life happens. That’s the window in which our purpose will be fulfilled. That’s the years in which your story is told. Maybe there isn’t a reason why you were born. I’ll leave the answer to that, to why you were born, to better minds than mine. It is enough that you are alive and beyond the first four levels of Maslow’s hierarchy what you do has an impact, though perhaps small. Your impact matters, thus, you matter.

This space is the house of the odd ones, the trolls, the people who generate regrets. It’d be nice if my readership had a comfortable spot on the fat part of the curve. But . . . I’d have to write about something else if that became the case. From what I know of history I’ll never run out of odd stuff to write about. So, yeah, causes to pursue . . . all that Maslow hierarchy stuff helps a lot. Unfulfilled essential needs can become a consuming purpose leaving you without much bandwidth for anything else.

There is also Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities . . . all is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” Yeah, that’s all warm & fuzzy. Thank you for sharing, Solomon.

Without God, without some sense of identity outside ourselves, life has no meaning. The nihilists are right. Solipsism is epiphany. Death after a meal of earthworms would be mercy. Without God we are supper for Satan and his minions. Things get increasingly morose. Suicide begins to feel like a plan.

God is weird. There is this book that is full of nonsense and ancient myth that some promulgate as the word of God. He leaves behind the words of St. Paul, Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” That’s not crazy, right? Who writes stuff like, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” As if we are twigs. This god that these people believe in is whom I am to find a purpose to my life? I may be crazy but that’s epic.

Does Life Have a Purpose?” Maybe not. But, I am here and the clock has not run down to zero for me yet. If I live to age 90 there are still over 12,000 sunrises to get through. Might as well do something to pass the time. Of suicide, I believe you freeze yourself in the angst that drove you to take your own life. Because you are then frozen in your misery, death offers no relief. In life there is hope. As long as there are more sunrises there are more chances to break out of a solipsistic mood and leave a legacy of light and salt.

My answer to the troubles is a little more village and a little less delicate snowflake. If we allow a more collectivist view of our identity then it’s harder to point a quivering, accusing finger at some boogeyman who has called us a poopy-head. This is a bottom-up thing, not some dictate handed down by a bloated bureaucracy. This is you making a choice to locate your identity in something greater than yourself. When it comes in the form of a dictate from Caesar it’s not the same. With this more collectivist view our purpose isn’t good self-esteem or the markers of success envied by some. It is the well being of our kin and village.

My pastor says in his sermon on this that we need a reason to be and a cause to pursue. There is no reason for me. I exist. For the next 12,000 days or so I am going to rise each morning needing things and wanting to have some purpose to this shit-show I was born into. Now that I am off the ridge and walking into the Valley of the River Styx my legacy, the story I leave behind, is what worries me.

I hope I have served, have touched some and been a point of light that illuminates hope for the hopeless. I am saved. I was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see. It’s been 4,380 days since I last confessed my faith to my Christian brethren at St. Giles Church. The trans-formative moment for me was a phone call from Darlene. I was to go to work for God with no hope of return or desired outcome. It’s my cause to pursue.

While your sun’s rise and fall to greet the moon I have a request. While you cower in your safe spaces at us the grownups who want you to do annoying self-care things like clean your room and wash some dishes, do a little more than that. Rather than litter the South Dakota desert with your detritus from protesting capitalist oil pigs, volunteer locally. There is something you can do, some place that would love your angst and youthful energy. Use your phone, google stuff, an NGO out there is looking for some help. Go help.

Of worm eating . . . it’s a metaphor. Just saying.

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F R E E D O M ! ! !

Explore God: Is Christianity Too Narrow?

Christianity has too many rules. If I want to party all night long to loud music while my buddy boffs a hot chick, why not? I mean, it’s my life. Fuck off!

Let’s see . . . creepy fifty-something guy trying to relive his despicable twenties. That’s not a problem. No. It’s fine. Yeah. Totally fine.

Some two-year old’s discover a certain word and find it to the the most powerful spell they can utter. It’s one syllable. It’s total bad-ass magic. What’s the word? “No.” That child utters that word and suddenly the world stops. All the grownups perk up. Some of them freeze. It’s awesome.

Right around puberty we learn a word-storm that boils down to, “the grownups are stupid. I’m old enough. I should be able to do what I want.” Some of us do and get noticed by this space. Those that do make great copy. We love them.

The question for today in church was, “Is Christianity too Narrow?” I had a reflexive, “no” come out of my mouth before I had a chance to stop it. You can click away now because I’m going to say triggering and macro-aggressive things next. Gone yet? Go. Git. Seriously, this is not the blog post you should be reading. Go back to YouTube for more kitten videos.

The ones I want gone are the ones who will not listen to what’s next. According to them I am intolerant, racist, misogynist, lbgt hater, alt-right freak, etc. Because of my adjectives I am innately at odds with the orthodoxy of the day. Because of my history I cannot shed the scarlet letter that binds me to shame. Nothing I can say is sufficient. It is I who has to change, who has to behave in a way amenable to the haters of this blog. It is I that must continue to ask for supplication from my haters and fail to get it. So, I’m not talking to my haters.

I loved the word, “no” so much I kept saying it all the way to my grandma’s house in Albany, CA where I found someone who had me before I could say it. It wasn’t until I was fifty-something that I could sing, “I’m Trading My Sorrows” and feel it deep in my belly.

It was once I began to say, “Yes Lord” that a lifetime of Sunday’s in worship began to make an impact on my life. None of the altar-calls before the last one stuck. I’m alive today because of Jesus.

Tommy Nance gave the message last Sunday. He made a challenge to those present. He asked us if worship could be a sin. He asked us to wonder if all we do is warm a pew on Sunday whether our comfort in that pew could be used to coddle us into a dead reflection of God’s image birthed in us when sperm & egg became zygote. He challenged us to get out of the church and be the church in our communities. He accused us of brilliantly winning debates against unbelievers who challenge our exegesis. He described listening evangelism where we let people tell us about God.

You have met us before. You know us better than we know ourselves. You see us come down the street and go inside your homes to wait us out. We are the traveling sales people of the church. We door-knock, bibles at the ready, locked & loaded to capture more heathens. The only win is one where you give your life to Jesus right then. What we want is to close the sale, win the deal and bring home another buck for the church.

That isn’t me. I wasn’t asked to sell you so you become a Christian. I was asked to shut my pie hole and serve you. I am narrow in my beliefs. I do believe that a lot of the current orthodoxy about inclusion is the very opposite of inclusion. I don’t get what I want most of the time because my way of life as a Christian forces some difficult choices.

I’ve had it good. There is very little I can’t have or do if I set about to accomplish it. I’m almost 15 years into boot-strapping myself to where I am today. The devil’s buffet was a delight for some of my years. Until I pushed away from it and left my dirty plate and half-empty soda-pop at the table. To root myself in a 2,000 year tradition, to know that many have gone before me with similar questions, didn’t become a reason to reject my heritage. It has become a comfort.

When you have privilege, when the world is your oyster, your presence as a citizen of a first world nation gives you access to uncountable wealth. Oh stop. I know. The vast majority of the world lives on a few dollars a day. Our richest 1% controls an obscene percentage of the world’s wealth. I won’t hear a pitch that the answer is to take all that wealth and give it to the 99%. Go away.

Well, not yet. The wealth redistribution project that has been under way for almost a century has cost in the hundreds of trillions. We have sent boatloads of cash to that doe-eyed kid on TV who just wants a few cents a day from us to be able to eat a couple crumbs of leftover UNESCO rice. That kid is still in the late-night TV ads with a tear in his (?her?) cheek. Multi-trillions of dollars later and the claim is that we have not done enough. I’m in my mid-fifties. I first saw that ad as a teenager. That kid is old enough to be a grandparent. Somebody must not think I am very bright.

I need to stop at one paragraph of that. This is what I want to say. My privilege did not fix my major malfunctions. Quite the opposite. My privilege enabled me to have my major malfunctions. I could, to a great extent, use my position to insulate myself from misery. The idea that the answer for that doe-eyed kid is a first world life of privilege is an idea ripe for this space in its absurdity and folly. What I need is structure. It is miserable to choose a life which demands I wake at 4am for chapel and includes a reading schedule that will get me through the Psalms in a week. I count that misery as joy compared to having tasted the Devil’s buffet and pushed away from the table.

All of what the Devil has to offer has a short half-life. Early on it is grand. You want that early experience. Soon enough, though, his appetite for your soul begins to drain the euphoria out of his buffet and the bleed of your joy and spirit begins. Each attempt at recovering that early ecstasy diminishes the pleasure and increases the soul-sucking pain. These should be familiar outcomes: morgue, hospital, rehab and prison or jail. Some or all of those happen more than once except the morgue. If you are there then you have been eaten and there is nothing left to eat.

Jesus offers us an examined, disciplined life of self-sacrificing love. Those aspects of our lives that need to die are offered up to the cross in repentance. Christian life is a constant sacrifice of those aspects of ourselves which hinder a deeper relationship to Christ. It is narrow by design. And their lies the problem for anyone like myself that has a first-world life. We are asked to give up all the perks that come with being who we are in this time and place.

I part company with evangelists because they run right past this truth: this life isn’t for everyone. Christ died to live and to be his disciple we must also die to the world in order to live in Him. It is a high price to pay for a life that does not assure comfort. No, actually, being Christian has been and continues to be a miserable life for many. Saying the prayer and joining us isn’t ipso-facto, life-time warranty, 100% guarantee acquistion in 5 easy payments of a release from strife. Nope. I did both. I supped at the Devil’s buffet and realized he was eating me. Then I knocked on Heaven’s Door and Jesus let me in. That has made all the difference.

 

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You Might Be a Christian

Stealing a prompt from Jeff Foxworthy and David Letterman. Jeff’s, “You Might be a Redneck” is on YouTube and also below:

Ok, without further, you might be a Christian if:

  1. You have lost everything and somehow recovered, transformed.
  2. You do random acts of kindness as a matter of habit.
  3. You have forgiven that asshat (again, again, again) more than 70 times 7.
  4. You have prepared a meal for guests, including some who showed up uninvited, wondered if you had prepared enough and there were leftovers.
  5. You sometimes break out into song in public at really strange times with old school stuff like Aretha Franklin.
  6. Words, the right words, matter.
  7. You care about a person’s deeds while you also are gracious toward them.
  8. You have fasted four meals a week as a spiritual practice.
  9. A friend has reported that they were healed after you touched them. You didn’t tell them that as you touched them you also accidentally prayed for said healing.
  10. You tend to be in trouble with the local parish because your “speaking truth to power” is treated like blasphemy.

Christianity was a “Dao”, a way (道), before it became the religion of the empire. It is a dissident life with origins in what we know of as Israel. Those that call themselves fundamentalist ought to be wearing prayer shawls, growing their beard, eating kosher, singing hymns in Hebrew and listening to 109FM, Tel Aviv. Christianity pervades the culture of every people who were once touched by the Roman empire. You may not like church. I’m with you there. There is still too much of Rome in it. Jesus of Nazareth has had a bigger influence on life than any king in history. You might be a Christian and not know it.

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Truth is Fungible

First Posted 23-Apr-2015

Yeah. Truth. Kind of a no brainer, right? I mean, truth is fact, yes? Isn’t natural law self-evident? For the guy that prompted this post, natural law is beyond debate. Heh. He said that to a story-teller. He said that to me, who spins tales of emperors who believe that they are the Imperial power in charge of the city of Berkeley, Ca. He said that to me, who believes in the Holy Trinity, in the resurrection and the life ever lasting. Tin hat stuff. I couldn’t resist turning that premise into a blog post.

truth1How much debate on truth can there be? Can you really argue about the color of the sky or the lunar calendar? It’s settled science that the dangerous climate changes are due to human malfeasance, you can’t debate that. As one of the malcontents and from personal experience, yes, you can. Sadly, truth is not just fungible, it is absurd.

For us Christians, the Bible is the word of God and is thus true in a deep way. End of argument, right? Uhm, no, sadly. Any quick study of church history will show that if there is any common theme to the church it is that we fight. Our founder, Jesus of Nazareth, started this out of a dispute with the church of his day. St. Paul’s letters are testimony to the disputes of the early church. The last serious debate over what to include in the canon was the First Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. The bickering did not stop there. Hear in the good old U.S. of A. we had the great awakening and all the utopian movements of the 19th Century. More recently has been the strife over the definition of marriage, abortion, and standards of ordination. I’d like to say the answer to, “what do we believe” was a settled question. I can’t.

I am a member of St. Giles Church. We are one of the churches that left PCUSA over conflict on abortion, ordination and marriage. I come from a family that has been in the thick of the debate over doctrine for a few hundred years. If I were to stay true to what my family believes I’d still be in a church that is part of PCUSA and cool with letting individual congregations decide some of these issues. I’d be more gay friendly. I’d not plant my flag on saying that abortion is murder. It’d not trouble me so much if my pastor had another bolt as a life-partner. I didn’t stay true to my family. My father is not pleased with me.

His truth and mine differ. Something is definitely wrong. Truth is self-evident, no? Sorry, no. Haven’t punched the monitor yet? Let me help you with that. Let’s mash up your definition of self-evident truths with the philosophical term solipsism. If nothing exists beyond the present moment and it is all just me, what is true? We do have a problem. What of my buddy who throws down the phrase “natural law” as a vicious roundhouse intended to deliver a debate ending knockout punch?Truth is annoyingly fungible even with the “natural law” punch thrown. I mean, “absurdism” is a thing.

The word “truth” in American English is another inadequate word to cover its multitude of meanings. A syllogism is true if it is constructed correctly. That truth held until the Kierkegaard in the 19th Century. Heads exploded. Challenging Aristotle was blasphemy. Yet we went there. You can get good replacement monitors at New Egg. Merriam Webster gives 9 definitions of the word truth. I don’t talk about truth in this space as a certainty. The truth here is that of the bard, of story and poetry. It defies being anchored in fact. The truth discussed in this space is the set of narratives and beliefs people use to inform their behavior. My grandma never bought chicken pieces. She always bought a whole chicken and cut it up herself. Her truth was that she felt it was cheaper to buy the whole chicken. That’s a small example. Whole books have been written trying to untie the Gordian knot within the question, “what is truth?” The definition isn’t static, either. It changes, has changed over the generations. We had a huge upheaval in our understanding of truth and philosophy over 300 years ago with the arrival of modernism. Then again with postmodernism. What my dissident denomination believes to be orthodox doctrine is distinct in important essentials from the Catholic Church and PCUSA. Each of the Great Awakenings within the church since the 1800’s has marked a changed understanding of what truth is.

I’m out of my league when it comes to theological or philosophical discussions of truth. I know a little. I know enough to get myself in trouble. I do know, though, as a storyteller, that the realm of truth held by fiction is distinct from that of the priests or secular philosophers. Ours is the truth of metaphor and parable. Absurdism lives here. The question then, is one I’ve spoken of elsewhere. What are the beliefs we hold that drive our choices and behavior? Are they working for you? What is your orthodoxy? How does that affect your orthopraxy? Mine start with this, “to love God with all my heart and soul, to love neighbors and enemies alike, to treat others as I wish to be treated and finally, to be the change I wish to see through small acts of kindness done with great love.” Matthew 7:12, 22:36-40, Mahatma Ghandi and Mother Theresa. My story has forced limits on my behavior such that I do better if I live an examined, intentional life.

I posted this the first time because I ran into a friend who was really bothered that I might not be on the same page with him when it comes to truth. For him, you can’t argue the tenets of natural law. He didn’t like it that I live behind the looking glass with Alice and Lewis Carol. I’m not alone. My current problem? I’ve written over a thousand words and I don’t have a way to end this. Let’s end it this way: truth may be absurdly fungible but the world seems to manage anyway.

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The Twenty Percent

Old habits die hard. I’m trying in 2016 to break the habit of preaching. The ethic among those in recovery is to share. It’s a good ethic. This post is a fail in that regard. A couple years ago I was in love with yelling at anybody in earshot that if they had a dollar they could tithe a dime. Most of my ire was directed at a particular friend who had kept up his hungry maw ways. The Calvary came for him, helped out, and he iterated.

by Ken Rockwell
by Ken Rockwell©

Next month, same thing. A poor-mouth speech about how he couldn’t afford his bills and the man was oppressing him and if he could just get that one big score or the man would cut him a check, he’d be straight. Next month, +1 iteration. It got old. He has a late model Cadillac. Whatever thrift store he shops at must have friends in expensive places. His clothes have that “Pimp Daddy” vibe to them. I thought I had him checkmated with the premise that everybody, no matter how broke, can tithe a dime on a dollar. I thought this move was brilliant. It isn’t. The point then was that you can’t really say you can’t afford to tithe. So . . . how did that work for me? Not so well.

Looking at all my income sources last year, I had a decent year. I made $4,000.00 above my 7 year average income. I had that job at Bing Maps and Uber Map Improvement which paid about double what I usually make. With all my bluster about having a dollar and giving a dime, how did I do? meep. Charitable giving was 2%. I gave 2¢ on each dollar I earned.

Let’s make things worse while that turd sits on the screen and reveals me to be the hypocrite. How about savings? Dave Ramsey in his book, “Financial Peace”, recommends that we save 15% of our income. Did I save $5,000.00? Nope. There is a difference between depositing money in an account and saving. I deposited $2600 in my investment banking account. I have $8.00 in that account. In a previous post I gloried in depositing enough money in that account to have Baby Step 1 done. $8.00 of that money is left. So, I have saved $8.00 (0.025%) of my $2600.00. Woo.

Here is what I shoulda, woulda, coulda done, what you can do (sorry, sermonizing). Live on under 80% of what you make. Give 10% to charity and save the other 10%. Yeah, I have that rant in my head, that our tax burden can be a big hit on our net income. If we pay child support that can be a big hurt on the budget. Minimum wage isn’t enough, the job you have isn’t enough. My bills average about $1100.00/month, or about a 40% of what I usually make.

The other turd in my life is that every time I compare my income and expense averages the claim that I can’t afford to live on 80% shows up as a lie. Last year I spent $1200.00 on dining out. I gave fast food restaurants 10¢ of my dollar earned, five times what I gave in charity. Another fine, oft spoken trope about us spendthrifts, if we just stop with the Starbucks and McDonald’s we could easily afford a 20% cut in our spendable cash. I know, we know. It’s not about knowledge. It’s about making the choice (again) and doing it.

You and I that run from paycheck to paycheck, always chasing bills, never quite able to get ahead, perhaps envying the 1%, we have to decide. Do we want to keep being miserable this way or are we willing to invest in a little more misery for the short term to make a change? No, no, I won’t listen to a rant about how if the 1% just cut you a check you’d be fine. Go look at my “Big Score” post if you have forgotten.

I have a nice little thing running. I get a job, I get money, I spend money, the job ends, I cry wolf, the Calvary comes, we eat wolf steak for a bit, rinse & repeat. I’ve slowly climbed from a cot in a church social hall as a client of Richmond’s CARITAS to sitting in the second bedroom of a single family home with all my toys. Yes, it’s a gap time and for now, I am broke as a joke. Some bills will not get paid until I find money for them. As things sit it looks like I might lose my cable TV and wired Internet access. It’s a pause in my growth curve. But as things sit it doesn’t look like I’ll fall as far as CARITAS.

The standing question I haven’t answered, though, is whether I will rinse & repeat or I’ll break my rhythm and do what I so proudly declaim as the right thing to do? Will I live on 80% of what I make, even now, as I am broke as a joke. One of those Twelve Step clichés: nothing changes if nothing changes. I totally get you reading this and snorting with sarcastic derision at me because it’s another iteration of, “I’ll do better this time.” Will I? Will you?

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The Big Score

First Posted 26-Feb-2015

This one is as nuts as some of my recent posts, maybe more. A friend of mine, who did a long bit in prison, still wants to hit the big score and dump a bunch of cash into his neighborhood. His idea is that if the score was big enough he could buy off all the poor people and in one fell swoop, fix the problems in his neighborhood. People would love him, he’d get his (new) Cadillac, young women would want to be with him, and so on. It’s a fantasy that only works on TV or in Hollywood. In Real Life, it’s a non-starter.

diamond_dollarThese ideas come up. It’s a popular fantasy that you could dump enough cash into one locality to end poverty there. Let’s play with it for a bit. To make the score big enough we are talking $32.1 billion or so. There are roughly 26,000 people in this guy’s neighborhood. It’s a nice mix, with the median income being about $28,000.00/year. To make the math easy, we’ll say the median income is $30,000.00/year. Median age is 38. So, we are talking about $30,000/year for almost 40 years for 26,000 people. $31,200,000,000 to create enough cash that all 26,000 could spend $30,000.00/year for 40 years and not be broke. Show me a single crime that can pay off 31.2 billion in once score. IMHO, doesn’t exist. So, the size of the score is one problem.

The other concern is 26,000 instant millionaires who may not have the life skills necessary to be disciplined with $1,200,000.00. The feeding frenzy potential here is pretty intense. 26,000 to 1 that everyone would behave with their 1.5 million is lottery odds. If 1,300 (5%) misbehave that’s still $1,560,000,000.00 worth of cash dumped into the grey & black market economies. The possibilities are scary.

that’s the number in play if we are going to give everyone in his neighborhood enough money to retire comfortably. It is that much money. Enough that the size of the wad of cash starts twinkling in the eyes of the politicians and the one holding that bankroll suddenly has friends in high places he didn’t have before. It is a big impact on the social and political scene in which it appears.

That’s enough cash dumped into one zip code that it would change the character of the neighborhood. Before the money Highland Park is perceived as a a ghetto. It isn’t, actually. The medium income is decent and the majority of the folk in the area work. It’s only a small number of bad actors that get the attention and drive the news narrative about this zip code. After dumping $31.2 billion into it and just the cash makes it a desirable place to be. Suddenly lots of folks want to buy the 19th century homes in the area, driving property values and initiating the sort of gentrification that would permanently alter the character of Highland Park.

It would mean my friend could not live there and pay the same rent he currently pays. I reckon he includes himself in the group of folk who would collect their $1.2 million so maybe this doesn’t matter. My friend, in his naiveté, believes that he could do this and it would come out the way he wanted it to. People would behave, invest the money wisely, and be able to afford a reasonable income for the rest of their lives. I disagree.

This is so much cash that it would take on a life of its own. The challenge of mastering it rather than becoming a slave to it is daunting. With this much money in play could he live a disciplined life? He could totally, stupidly indulge every one of the seven deadly sins and have plenty of money left over for his philanthropic largess. Right now, he’s living on Social Security Disability. There isn’t enough money in his life for him to get into much trouble. $31.2 billion, though, is a lot of potential mischief. It’d take a remarkable person not to be drawn into at least a little excessive behavior. He’s not that remarkable. He’d do something and depending on what he did, make a mess of it, maybe a irrecoverable mess. This too, $1,560,000,000.00 given to the drug & crime lords in his neighborhood from a guy whose expressed purpose is to eliminate economic misery and the monetary motivation to commit crime. Somehow, having 1,560,000,000.00 loose in the black market doesn’t seem like a crime reduction plan. It seems like a cash fueled bacchanal that would spike crime and have the opposite result from what is intended. Then, the cash would be gone at some point and what then?

That 5% that fueled the bacchanal would have to deal with a community hangover of prodigious size. The money is gone so the lifestyle it supported would collapse. The support systems that existed before the windfall may have been pushed aside by all that cash and thus, wouldn’t be there when the hangover began. It would be an epic economic crash, an epic community hangover. You can poke around to find stories of lottery winners or others that had a sudden windfall of cash and instead of it solving problems, it creates them. I don’t see any difference here. Even if 95% of the folk who got their $1.5 million dollar gift from my bank robber friend did behave, the other 5% that didn’t would still have a big effect on the community. 2,000 people in a small geographic area who are suddenly rich and then suddenly facing Sunday morning, hungry, broke, hung-over and in trouble. Bad news, I’d say. I made much of Robert Lupton’s, “Toxic Charity“ and Dambisa Moyo’s, “Dead Aid“ last year. These two writers talk about the damage that can be done by ignorant resource dumps of the sort that my friend imagines as the answer. More money isn’t the answer. Intelligent engagement with the community and a long term plan for micro-investment to promote economic development is a better answer than $32,100,000,000.00 dropped into the ghetto he lives in. One last thing. Alongside this wish for the one big score is a core belief that he doesn’t want to do more time. If he did pull off a $32,100,000,000.00 job, he’d be prime beef for the FBI. He’s already done 30 years in prison. He’s in his 60’s. If he did this, he’d die in prison. There is no way they’d let him get away with it. So, the two don’t go together. He can’t have his big score without doing big time. The whole thing is nuts.

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You Do It

So, no kidding there are assholes and you can arrange your life in ways that push away all others so only the assholes are left. There are self-help books and whole bunches of fans of “The Law of Attraction“. It’s old news, that you get what you give. If you put out spiritual dung and behave in ways that are dissonant, your life tends to be filled with events and people who are spiritual dung and dissonant. I hope that is obvious. If it isn’t, go on Amazon and start reading. I don’t have to be the one to explain it to you.

oh-noOne thought that feels reasonable is to diagnose the problem as the assholes. If they would stop being assholes then we would be fine. But, and this is where codependents get into trouble, assholes are consistent. Relying on assholes to behave in desirous ways so that we can have the life we wish for is a recipe for disaster. By definition, assholes don’t behave in desirous ways. If they did, they wouldn’t be assholes, would they?

You hear this from addicts. If some sumbeach would behave as I want them to then I could stop using, stop being an addict. But, that sumbeach probably doesn’t and won’t behave so the misery will continue. I also hear this from yungins, that someone else is the cause of their misery so what has to happen is that the someone else has to change so that the yungin can be less miserable. It’s the same reasoning destined to fail. Remember this prayer? “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can’t change, and the wisdom to know the difference.” You are not changing assholes. It’s what they do. So, the task is to figure out what it means to accept assholes as something you cannot change.

To the “Law of Attraction” folks. This is true up to a point. God made this world. He is in charge. We do have an influence over the direction of our lives. We can make things better or worse for ourselves by the choices we make. But there are things we cannot change. There are aspects of our lives in the hands of God. He made us, we didn’t make Him. So, yes, you can improve things a bit but ultimately, we are powerless. Our incantations and prayers only go so far. God does answer prayer. Whether he answers it in ways we desire is another matter. This amuses me: the thought that one could name God an asshole because he chooses to either ignore our prayer or answer it in a way we dislike.

It’s age-old. The more modern model for it is in the 12 Steps. You admit your powerlessness, surrender to God, do the inventory to identify what you can change, do the changes, offer reconciliation where possible, then seek ways to serve others. Another age-old practice: treat others as you wish to be treated, love God, love your neighbor and your enemies, serve others through small things done with great love. Not my ideas but ideas I live by.

And . . . sorry, I don’t want the world where there are no assholes. Most if the innovation that has occurred through recorded history has come because someone decided to swim upstream when everybody else was swimming for the ocean. This site is a celebration of assholes. We are where the malcontents live. Jesus was one of us, a malcontent who defied the church of his day. He died a martyr unjustly crucified by the Romans. If it ended there we would have forgotten him by now. It has not ended there. IMHO, the world is better for his defiance. You may not be able to change the assholes in your life. You don’t have to. Once you change the way you treat them so they don’t get traction by being assholes you may find that they move on to other targets. It really is that simple.

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