Saturday, January 28, 2017

Once there was a Mormon.


I'm twenty years old.  Sitting in a stranger's home in California.  I'm wearing the white shirt, tie, and black name tag of a Mormon missionary.

Elder Stoddard
The Church of 
Jesus Christ
of Latter Day Saints

My companion is leading the discussion, and I'm doing my best not to zone out.   I haven't yet fully started on my personal path out of this particular religion.  Hell, in this moment, I am balls deep in it. Giving it away for free, to anyone who'd let us in the door. I have however, started asking myself the questions that would get me going down that road.

There are all sorts of neat little psychological tricks we play with ourselves.  Especially when facts and belief don't line up.  It's called a double bind, and I am not very good at it.  I know a lot of people who are.  In fact, most of the people that I've been surrounded by my entire life, are veritable masters.  Not me though.  Right now, in this house in Northern California, that smells of cat piss, and stale kitty litter, I am asking myself all of the questions that we were taught in our youth, to not ask.  To simply accept on faith.  Right now I am putting faith and fact together, and coming up with a whole handful of bullshit.  This bothers me, because if it's not true, then what the fuck am I doing here?  This is not comfortable.  In fact, this is distinctly troubling.  I am in my mind, questioning not my faith, but the very nature of faith. I'm not wondering if I have faith, I'm questioning it's place in thought, reason, intelligence, curiosity...I'm questioning the very philosohpy of faith itself.

I am pulled out of my thoughts, by a familiar sound.  I look at my companion who is still talking.  "Bearing his testimony", in the common church venacular.
He is also doing that thing with his throat, where is seems like he's trying not to cry, but also starting to lose that battle and crying anyway.

"I know this is the true church", he says.

Since my brain is still lingering on my own more private thoughts, everything inside me rises up and screams "HOW?"

How do you know?

I want to stop everything right there.  I want to take him by the face, and look him directly eye to eye and beg him to tell me HOW? How? Please.  Please tell me...because I don't.  I don't know.  I can't say I know with any degree of honesty....

and that's the crux of it all.  I've been saying it all along.

I know this church is true.

I know this church is true.

I'd like to bear my testimony. I know this church is true.

That line.  That sentence.  Repeated over and over and over again, by every member eveywhere, all the time.

I know this church is true.

I know this church is true.

I'd like to bear my testimony.  I know this church is true.

From the time we begin to learn to speak, we are led up to the pulpit.  Placed in front of strangers, and have those words whispered in to our ears to be repeated for the congregation.

Over and over.  Month after month.  Year after year.

I know this church is true.

I know this church is true.

I'd like to bear my testimony.  I know this church is true.

And my own hypocrisy slams me in the stomach.  I feel sick.  I can't breathe.  I've been warned about that too.  That sick, can't breathe feeling we get sometimes when we ask too many questions, or doubt the truth of it all, is Satan.  That's his power, trying to overwhelm you.

Oh yes.  Someone, a very long time ago, figured out that when two truths conflict, and one has to go, and reason finally overcomes unreason, there may likely be a strong physical reaction.  They figured out how to explain that reaction, in such fashion that is will be supported by the standing mythology.

And I want to on my knees BEG my companion to tell me how he knows.  How do you know? You say you know, but HOW do you know...because I ALSO say that I know, and I sure as shit DON'T know.  In fact, I'm pretty sure it's all a load of shit, and if it IS true, then this is the absolute most important truth in existence, and if it isn't true, then what is? What are we doing?  What does it mean?  How do you know?  Are you lying too?  Because...

Because I'm lying.  I don't know.

I don't know this church is true.

I don't know this church is true.

I'd like to bear witness and testimony, that I don't konw anything, and I am a liar.

Instead I smile.  I clutch my scriptures.  I nod my head.  I agree with what he says, and when the time comes, I say the prayer before we leave.


I am 27 years old, I am alone in my car, coming home from work, stuck in traffic, and my brain breaks.  Over the years, I have become less active in church.  I don't enjoy being there.  I don't like the repetitive boredom.  I don't like the us versus them attitude I feel every week.  I have become much more interested in more intellectual pursuits.  Lately I've been reading a lot of Socrates. Plato. Nietzche. I've just finished reading the Tao Te Ching, and the Discordia Principia.  These are words and ideas that I can relate to.  Far more than anything that Joseph Smith or Brigham Young ever committed to paper.

However, I am new to Vegas, and as happens with any life change, my wife had suggested that we start going to church again.  Start over.  Get back to the root of it all.  I agreed, and have been for a while.  It's boring, but as long as they leave me alone it's bearable.  The problem is, recently they've asked my wife and I to teach the eight year old primary class.  Funny thing is, I really do like the little fuckers.  They're full of life and curiosity, and have really warped sense of humor.  But...


But the powers that be, want me to lie to these little hellions.  I don't really have much of a problem teaching them basic Christian concepts like loving one another, and kindness to others, but they're at an age now, where I'm supposed to tell them shit that I don't believe.  I've been able to kind of ride the fence of not believing, but going along with it, in order to not make waves...seems a LOT of people do that...
But now I can't.  Now I'm supposed to indoctrinate these young, impressionable minds, with mormon truth's that aren't.  I've been trying to reconcile some way to do this.  How do I keep my wife happy, while also trying to find a way to disseminate information to kids, while also trying to live my own truth...and...


 I am alone in my car, coming home from work, stuck in traffic, and my brain breaks. The double bind, unbinds. I hear the crack. Reality in front of me shatters like glass, falls to the ground, and in front of me, I now see the world again.  Exactly the same, and brand new.  I laugh.  It is not a gentle laugh. It is the laughter that would be weeping, if I were the type who cries.  I am not.  There is joy in the laughter yes.  There is freedom.  There is the weight of the universe, now lifted, but there is also the pain of 27 wasted years.  All punching me at once.  I laugh.  I laugh and laugh and laugh, and I cannot stop.  I am happy, and I am devistated.  And I laugh.  It came from nowhere, and isn't going anywhere.  It is loud, and it hurts.  I realize, that for my entire life, I have been inside of the world's greatest joke, and right this instant...I finally understand the punchline.

Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.  - William Hazlitt

The foundation of reason, the single block upon which knowledge can be built is the very simple premise,

What is, is.

Only what is, can be known.  It is impossible to know what isn't.

What is, can be seen, measured, tested, verified, reviewed, and repeated.

After what is, is verified, then you can build.  You can structure.  You can extrapolate.  You can predict.  Sometimes, you can even assume.

If you build on what isn't, then what isn't will crumble.

And so to build a bridge into the unknown, it becomes imperative to first establish what is.  Once we have firmly planted on is, then can we travel in to what may be.

And my god did I laugh.

And I pulled in to my driveway.

And although I was wearing the same clothes, and seeing out of the same wonky eyes, and carrying on my face, the familiar crooked grin...I was no longer me.  Now I was I AM.

After nearly three decades of heavy religious study, sometimes getting into the real deep shit, I finally understood I AM.

"Thou art God," Mike repeated serenely. "That which groks. Anne is God. I am God. The happy grass are God, Jill groks in beauty always. Jill is God. All shaping and making and creating together — ." He croaked something in Martian and smiled. - STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

And I walk in to my apartment.  I am new.  I am reborn.  Baptized in brain break and laughter.  I have shrugged off every teaching.  Every rule. Every sin.  Every single thing, that my church had tried to tell me that I could or couldn't do, and knew instantly that I now had only one rule.

For myself, I have only one rule.

Do not, with intent, initiate harm.

That's it.  That is my rule.
I will never allow my desire to become the obligation of another human.
I will never cast moral judgement on another human.
I will never shame another human.
I will never tell another human what to do, what decision to make, or how to behave.
This is my life.  I will do what I want.
It's your life, do what you want.

I will build my actions, and knowledge first, on what is, and then go from there.
And I will love.
Because goddammit...
what else is there?

I tell my wife that I will no longer be going to church.  I am not Mormon anymore.

What are you?


Thursday, January 26, 2017

To live a life.

"That's the most stupid expression in the world. 'I fell in love'  - as if you had no choice. There's a moment, there's always a moment; I can do this, I can give in to this, or I can resist it..." - Alice 'Closer'

I'm writing this on a Thursday night. As always, there is music in my ear.  I never write without the aid of music.  Tonight is Chopin.  That doesn't matter.  As always there in incense burning.  I find this calming.  It helps with the brain stuff.

Tuesday morning, I woke up with a clarity.  A strange little focus I haven't had in a while.  There were no bells.  No alarms.  There was no particular event.  There was nothing that should have instigated this clarity.  It was just there.  Like an old friend who calls when least expected.

In the time between my literal and metaphorical waking on Tuesday, I have been to work three times.  I have smoked 60 and 80 cigarettes.  I have been to rehearsal.  I have eaten.  I have showered.  I have written a few texts here and there.  Posted some insignigicant shit to my facebook. In other words...outwardly...I have not changed at all.

Inside, I am entirely new.  Or rather...a return to the old.  I am...renewed to what once was, and is again.  I feel better about that.

There is, it's hard to describe, a strange emptiness, but also...freedom.  Untethered to a certain fiction, that eventually I discover, is really more burden than is necessary.

And I am once again the me that I prefer.  

I am calculated.
I am calm.
I am the lone traveller of the path, I intentionally forge.

Without the weight of unrealistic fantasy, I find myself flying again.  Things have returned to the familiar color of my personal reality.

And I sleep again.
I did miss sleep.
And it is sleep that restores my absolute knowledge that in 2012, the life defining decision I made, was without question, the right one.  Sometimes I get distracted.  I guess that's okay...but distraction doesn't come without price.

That's okay.  There is no price I'm not willing to pay, if there is something of value in return.
And there was.
And there is.

But that's all tedious, and specific, and...really uninteresting.
So lets get to the crux of it.

I have been consistently acting since I was five years old.  For most of my young life, I thought that's what I was. What I was going to be. What I was going to do.  It was the only thing that I loved to do.  There were many other things that I loved...but...
I did a LOT of things.  Explored so many various interests.  There were so many things that I enjoyed doing...but only one thing I LOVED doing.

In my early years of college, I took a directing class.  This was something new...the first thing in over a decade that I also LOVED doing.  Acting. Directing.  Both within a particular medium, but requiring different skill sets.  I loved it no more...but especially no less than acting.  It was oh so fulfilling in entirely different ways.

Toward the later years of my college experience, I discovered playwriting.  And there it was again. A thing to do, that could also be loved.  Different....but the same.  Acting/Directing/Writing.  I loved it so much, I ended up the TA for the playwriting class for three semesters, before I left school.  Script analysis became another passion.  All of these things, within the theatre world, that fulfilled me like nothing else in my personal existence.

For a very long time, I called this a general love of theatre.  I didn't really get it.  I was still keeping these things an entirely different moment of clarity I realized that it was not that at all.  I didn't love theatre.  I didn't love acting or directing or writing.  I mean...I did...I do...still more than anything...but

Also not.  Yes...but the deeper truth is, it's not any one of those things,  I love storytelling. Theatre, and those various aspects of it, are simply the medium most accessible to me, to explore it.  And I do. And I will. I can't....not.

I am a storyteller.  This is what I do.  This is who I am.  I am a collector of stories. I have dedicated my entire life, to the process, science, art, philosophy, and craft, of telling stories.  This is where my passion lies, and I do.  I love it.  I love it in every aspect and regard.  Music. Novels, Paintings. Photos, Dance, Everything. And I realize that storytelling.

Everything is narrative.  The story changes, depending on the narrator, but we are all of us, the stories we tell.  The costumes we wear. The masks we craft.  We build lives, and careers, and homes, and even other humans, all within the narrative we present to the world, and the ones we keep to ourselves.

Our communities.  Our societies. Our rules. Our politics. Our gods. Our love. Our pain. Our sorrow. Our little daily deaths and devices, are all stories told...or waiting to be told.

And in my moment of clarity...I remember...that I am best suited to stand outside of it.  To remain less involved in the intricacies.  To forgo some of the simpler...more human pleasures...sometimes at certain personal instead...



Attempt to understand.

To craft from what I see, the stories I wish to tell, and the manner in which I wish to tell them.  I am not for some things, because I am instead for other things.  I get to observe. I get to build.  I get to design.  I get to be the architect of something different.  I get to chronicle our little tragedies.  And yes...



Sometimes it hurts like a motherfucker...but...


This is a choice.  This is intentional.  I am not complaining.  I am not whining.  

I am grateful.  I am celebratory.

And there are many who would argue that perhaps I could have both.  That many others before me have found a way to make it work. Make it happen...and that may be...but...

I haven't.

And I have left destruction in the attempt.
Sometimes other...
Sometimes self...
I'd rather avoid both.

This is how I find the things I'm looking for.  This is where I discover the beauty that gives my life substance.  I know that I am not meant for some things...
and in not having those things...
I get to craft the stories about those things.

I get to see from the outside, all of the wonder that is less visible from inside.

Although sometimes...I can be distracted by some desire...
It is always in letting go, that I can see there is 



Our stories may one day be our salvation.
I have no hope or pretense that I will write, act, or create anything so significant...

But if I find the one that is mine...


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

More things than are dreamt of...

In his mind, he has with her, all the conversations that he never will.  She asks him the questions, that will never actually cross her lips, and he tells her the things, he could never truly say.  In his mind, he is honest, and in his mind she cares.

The funny thing is, that even in his most vivid, his most intricate, and his most detailed fantasy of her...they still can't be.  He cannot, even with the permission he gives himself, in the freedom of imagination, believe that there is a chance.

Because always in there, no matter how he tries to forget...
No matter how he tries to run from it...
No matter how many times he has ignored it.

That warning.
That message.
Those words from the unseen guide, as he stood in the gray of the swamp.

"If you love her, you must leave her."

Leave her alone.
Lever her to her own life.
Leave her far....far away from you.

But only if you love her.

And he does.
And so he does.

There are, it is postulated, worlds and dimensions, parallel and paradigm, without number.  In this moment, he simutaneously visits each one of them.  He sees a himself fractured. Split into a billion pieces of his own image, scattered upon each word identical. He is he is he is he is he ad nauseum, and with each he, is she.

She. Laying next to him in bed. The morning sun, elastic on her skin. His fingertips tracing her shoulder blades as she sleeps,  Her hair covering her face, and he has never known such peace.  In this world, he wishes he could freeze time.

She, Walking the midway of the carnival.  Mocking him, for how miserable he failed in winning her the oversized stuffed hippo.  He takes the mockery, and laughs with her. Knowing his lack of talent with his own hands. He has never known such peace.  In this world, he wishes he could freeze time.

She. Wrapped with him in a blanket. The small Christmas tree, sparsely decorated, with but a few small boxes beneath. Unopened.  They are not in a hurry, because they are together, and it is morning, and they have nothing to do, and the day is their own.  He has never known such peace.  In this world, he wishes he could freeze time.

She. Sitting in a chair.  Reading a book. Their baby daughter in her arms, asleep.  They have each others eyes.  Eyes that he has known, and drowned in.  He is overwhelmed with this thing that never seemed real, and it is real.  Here, it is real, and in this world, he wishes he could freeze time.

She.  Holding his hand. His breathing becoming more and more shallow.  The light in his eyes fading. He won't be here much longer, he seems already gone, except for the fact that each time she speaks...he smiles, and in this world, she wishes she could freeze time.

And in each world, the single thing they have in common, is the smell of the incense burning on the nightstand in this world.

He pulls back in to himself.  He leaves his parallels and paradigms behind.  He wishes each him, in each world the increase of joy he has witnessed.

"If you love her, you must leave her."

Leave her alone.
Leave her to her freedom.
Leave her to her life.
Leave her free from the pain of you.

And he does.
And so he does.

He steps outside. The rain and snow both, falling slowly from the calm night.  Decorating the landscape in a fleeting pristine, and although he hates the cold...tonight he finds comfort in it.

He takes notice of each piece of wet, striking his face.  He listens to the empty sound of nothing, and takes a breath.

He wishes he could freeze time...and so he does.

He sees the flake of white frozen water in front of him. He whispers to it, her name. He lets time resume, and watches the flake hit the ground. He watches it melt. He watches it become water with the rest. He wonders how far her name in that water, will spread across this planet.

And he does.
And so he does.

Monday, January 2, 2017

All for the best

Sometime in the early 90's, actress Sharon Stone said in interview, "My mind is a dark alley, you should never go in there alone."

I liked that when I first read it.  I thought it was clever, and fun.  I also thought I related.  Perhaps I did.  Perhaps I want to.

I've come to realize though, that my mind is more like the Room of Requirement. I have to walk past the doorway to the deeper recesses, concentrating intensely on the thing I want to access.  I have to make a number of passes before the door opens.

Typically once I get inside, I find...

...every time...

A very long hallway.  More doors, on either side.  Stretching for miles.  Or...further.  Who knows.  If there is limit to imagination, then that's where the hallway stops.  Each side of the hallway lined with doors, going as far as the mind's eye can see.

There is a room at the top of the hallway.  This room is a lounge.  This is where I begin my jourey, if indeed I wish to travel.  Sometimes, just coming in this room is enough.  In this room are two large leather chairs adjacent each other.  Between them is chessboard.  This is where I sit when I need to meditate.

The chess board is dusty.  I think about blowing it off, and taking a seat.  This would probably be for the best. I look at the single white knight on the board, and feel the pull.  I know this would be the better choice right now.  There is a tempest beneath my surface, and I can almost hear the words of the old sage, "Peace. Be still."

I tell that old jew bastard to fuck off.  Sometimes we need the tempest.  Sometimes we need the chaos.  Sometimes we need the raging storm to come in and tear it all down.  Peace comes after the storm.  Not during.  There is a clarity that can only come while being battered by the forces we can't control.  Let chaos reign.

I turn from the chessboard.  Maybe tomorrow.  Maybe another day.  Not tonight though.  Tonight I need to check on something.

I start toward the hallway of many doors.

Just to the left, of the hallway entrance, there is a large counter.  Very much like where once checks out books in a library.  And behind the counter is Beatrice.  Very much like a librarian.

(Yes, there is a guardian of memories in my brain, and yes her name is Beatrice.  You do what you want with your own brain.)

Beatrice is older than time.  Beatrice was there to witness the war between the Titans and the Gods.  Beatrice watched through thin wire frame glasses, as Centurions nailed that skinny kid to a cross.  Beatrice once punched Ben Franklin in the nose, but he was a little drunk, and he was a little horny.

Beatrice is surly. She is mine while I am alive, and then she will move on.  I am just another blip to her.  She is everything to me.

"Are you here to see Barnabus?" She asks me.

(I also have a Barnabus, but he's a different character for a different time.)

"You know why I'm here."

"You should really see Barnabus.  He's pissed."

I just look at her. We lock in a staredown, and she's much better at this than I am.

"Please." I whisper.  "I just need to check."

"No you don't." She tells me.  "It has been making some noise, but it's fine."

"I believe you.  I do.  I just..." I trail off.

"Fine. You know what to do."

And I do.  I've done this before.

"Thank you." I tell her, and then step in to the hallway.

Once I cross the threshold, I no longer need to walk.  The corridor does the work.

The doors on each side fly past me.  A blur.  Everything in my head cosmos moves at indecribable speed.  The doors a blur.  Each one a passage to a different place.  Some real.  Some very much not.  I see all the people I have known.  I see all the people who have existed in my life.  I see all the people who have only ever existed in my mind.  Some smile and say hello. Some scream at me to stop and listen to them.  

I don't.

I see  Barnabus in his room.  He's drinking coffee. Black. He gives me a glance, but then turns away.  We'll have our discussion later.  He's going to rip me a new fucking asshole....

...and I really deserve it.

I'll take that beat down, but not tonight.

The rooms continue to fly past.  Millions of them.  Each one full to bursting. Some I've never been in.  Some I'll never go into again.  Many need attention.  Many, I'd like to throw a grenade into.

I feel like I'm standing there forever...but...I'm in there now, and time doesn't exist.  It's very likely that when I finally come out of all of this, real time will not even notice that I've been gone.  Here though, I stand, and watch the memories, and the lives, and the people, and the faces. I see them all.  So...

So much.

I have to close my eyes.  It's too distracting.  It's too painful.  It's too happy, and sad, and full, and I need to shut it out.

Finally I hear it.  The sound I've been waiting for.

The steady thump thump.  The pulse of me.  The rhythm of my existence.

Funny isn't it?

We have from the beginning of us, associated all the things we feel, with that thumping bumping lump of flesh....but really...

Really it's all through the brain.  Everything real and imagined starts first in the mind.  And through the mind, we reach the heart.  The heart of us.  The heart of me.  The room....

I am not here to go in to that room.  I just need to check.  I need to see for myself.  Beatrice reassured me that all is well, and to my knowledge, Beatrice has never been wrong.  

But that's how we are.  That's who we are.  When we need to know...REALLY need to know...all the reassurance in the world, doesn't hold a candle to self assurance.  Everyone in the world can tell me that New York exists, but until I put my feet on the asphalt of it, it was never really real.  And I need to make sure this door is really real. In the sense that it is really real in the realm of my imagination.

(Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on Earth should that mean that it is not real?)

And there it is.  The last door in the corridor, marking the end of it all.  Not on either side, but directly in front of me.

And there they are. The chains and locks around the door.  Criss crossing from top to bottom.  Across from side to side.  Motherfucking Jacob Marley chains.  Thick.  Sturdy.  Each one secured with multiple locks.  Hundreds of locks.  Thousands.  Combination locks.  Key locks.  Riddle locks.  Puzzle locks.  Each link of each chain, locked, and secure.

I check each one.  I pull.  I twist.  I make sure they are all holding.  I have to be sure.

I take my time.  I am meticulous.  The sound is overwhelming.  Hypnotic.  That steady thump.  In here it is larger than me.  Each thump rattles each chain, and each lock, threatening to burst through...but...

So far...holding steady.

I turn my back to the door.  I sit on the floor and rest against it.

I know why I have done what I have done.

I don't doubt my decision.

I ruminate on the cost.

And I listen.

I listen.

I listen to that thump.
I listen to those chains.

And when I listen past the thumps and the chains, I hear...


I hear her.

And that is the sound that penetrates deeper that any thump, or chain rattle.

There she is.

And all I have to do, is let her out.  To let her in.

And I sit.

And I listen.

And she...

She is speaking to me.  Words that I won't share.
They are not words of hate, or anger.  It would be so much easier if they were.


She is speaking in metaphor of hope.
And Fantasy.
And I know she lies.

Or maybe I hope they are lies.

Maybe I am the liar.  Truth is, that's far more likely.  I've had more practice.

And this is my torture.
This is my moment.
This is the gift I give myself tonight, so that I can wear my mask tomorrow.

I stand up.  I turn toward the door, and place my forehead against it.  Links of chain digging in to my flesh.  I listen to her.  She knows I'm there.  Her voice is close.  As though she too is leaning against the door, just the other side.

I apologize.

I offer grattitude.

And benediction.

And then there is silence.

The doors begin again.  Flying past me.  This time the opposite direction.  I am going back. In here my face is wet.  When I return, it won't be.

I close my eyes again.  This time blocking out all the passing doors.  I need to hold this on my breath.  I know the chains are on the locked door, and I know that I will be better in the morning.  But right now, in this timeless passage, I need this solitary moment to not be okay.

And that's okay.

And it is doors. And stars. And planets. And galaxies. And I see it all.  All of my creations that may or may not someday see light beyond this corridor.  I am weightless, and I see that I am bigger than everything, and smaller than it all.  I am in the storm, and I am the storm.  I am the creator of these worlds, and they have created me.  I am the stories I will tell, and they are the stories need told.

And I am again, now outside the corridor.  It is finished.  I am satisfied.  I have accomplished what I've come to do.  My worlds are safe.  The pulsating room at the end, is secure.  All is well.

"Did you get what you came for?" Beatrice asks, with more than a hint of sarcasm.

"You know I did."

"You remind me of someone." She tells me. "You are quite a bit different, but there are ghosts of the familiar.  He was a bit mad.  A bit bad.  Dangerous to know."

"He also became legend." I reply.  "I'm happy in smaller ponds."

"He let himself have more fun than you do." Her eyes are twinkling.  She knows my weakness.

"I hope to not hurt anyone in the ways he did." I tell her.

"He hurt nobody more than himself." She's baiting me, but I don't feel like biting.

"I dunno.  He's not the one who committed suicide."

"That's what I mean." She says.

"Fuck you Beatrice." 

I hear her laughing as I go to leave.  The gravel voice of an old woman in my head, and...

And I am laughing too.

I have checked.
I have verified.

I am the monster that I need to be, for me to live in a monstrous world. Peace be still and all that jazz.

Now if only Barnabus would get that stick out of his ass.