Another Night At The Shelter

Overnight shift at the shelter. I’m comin’ here straight from Twitter where I made a statement about how prohibiting abortion wouldn’t work because prohibiting things never works, and how the way to decrease the number of abortions is through education, access to birth control and economic justice. I coulda added “dismantling the patriarchy”, but I only had but so many characters. Within a minute, I got 40 likes and 3 twits who wanted to argue, so I repeated my position and now I’m here. I’ll go back later to find out what the self-proclaimed ‘Texas Nationalist” has to say.

That’s my position. I’m sticking with it. But the thing I was actually planning on writing about was this –

The overnight shift has two staff, one awake and one asleep. The sleeper is there for back-up. In the ten months I’ve been at the shelter, I’ve been woken up twice by the awake person. The first was last spring when the cops came by and dropped off a guy in a wheelchair. The guy was drunk, had shit himself, and couldn’t get out of his chair. The awake person woke me up to figure out what to do. We’re not trained to do direct care. We’re not supposed to admit people who can’t walk or are otherwise severely handicapped. Of course, the cops aren’t supposed to just drop off a wheelchair drunk on our doorstep, either.

We called up the chain, woke up our boss and were told to call the cops to take the guy back. The cops came and said he wasn’t breaking any laws so they couldn’t take him. We literally had to push him out the door so he was drunk in public to get the cops to take him.

The second time I got woke up was last night. The awaker came in and said the cops had dropped off a guy in a wheelchair. We were at our maximum capacity, and not supposed to take him, and she wanted me to help her figure out what to do. I knew it was the same guy, but I also knew it was 18*F outside, so I said “Let him in. We’ll deal with it in the morning.” She couldn’t give him a bed, but at least he was inside.

In the morning, we had to call the cops for something else. When that hassle was over, I talked to one of the cops and asked him to pass the word around that we couldn’t take wheelchair drunk. He said nobody would take wheelchair drunk. Apparently, we’re one of few places in town that hasn’t got a “no trespass” order on the guy because he’s an obnoxious drunk. The hospital has a “no trespass” on him. The cops contacted his family at one point and they don’t want him either.

During the day, I got an email from the boss, who reads our daily notes daily, instructing us to not let the wheelchair dunk in again. I was out doing some errands during the day and I saw him in the parking lot of a convenience store downtown. When I came in to work, the evening shift staff told me the cops tried to drop him off again. It’s 19*F outside.

So, the old bastard might be in jail or he might be out on the street. This is the richest fucking country on God’s green earth and we literally have people dying on the street. And yeah, he did it to himself, just like everyone of these crazy junkie/winos that stay in the shelter every night. But ain’t none of the many, many Biblical injunctions to care for the poor include a caveat about the poor being blameless or deserving or any shit like that.

I don’t see where I can do much or that particular wheelchair drunk. He’ll most likely die of exposure sooner than later. We got a buncha guys here at the shelter that are on their way to that end, alcoholics in their 50s or 60s who’ve burned all their family bridges and got no friends but each other. It’s truly fuckin’ tragic, but there it is. We live in a country that has decided that some people have billions of dollars while others die of exposure, sitting in their shitty wheelchairs. Some people can literally storm the Capitol building, assault police officers, steal shit and not get arrested. Other people get murdered by cops for shoplifting or being black in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some people are afraid of being raped. Other people commit rape knowing their victims’ rape kits, if they’re ever actually used, will sit on shelves for years without ever being processed. Rapists got nothing to worry about in America. Shit, we got one on he Supreme Court.

And I love my job. Hand to God, tragedies and all, I love this job. I never had a job where I felt so surely I was doing His will and making some kinda positive difference in the world. And I’m good at it. Shit, I grew up and lived my young life in so much fuggin’ chaos, this place seems like home. (Right now, a schizophrenic is in the women’s rooms hollerin’ some incoherant shit at imaginary elves or whatever, like family.) What we do here matters. I’m truly grateful that God put me here.

Economic justice, education, dismantling the patriarchy. That’s the way to fix homelessness. Give these people the chance to make $15/hr minimum and they might get jobs. Provide an affordable housing option and they might get off the street. Make healthcare available to everyone and they might get some help with their mental illnesses and substance abuse problems. Even if they all just leech off the system, I’d rather have it, higher taxes and all, just o live in a country that cares about people.

There’s a lot on Twitter about the two systems of justice in America. There are also two kinds of Christianity. I want to be clear that I believe in the one that always takes the side of the oppressed, always helps the poor and always acknowledges that we need to do better.

The Church of Satan

Way, way back in the early ’80s, when I was a kid with a very concrete understanding of spiritual matters, I took the whole Satanism thing very seriously, which is somewhat embarrassing now, but I was just a kid and there were a lotta grown-ass adults who were taking it pretty seriously, so I have an excuse. As my blossoming alcoholism and clinical depression overwhelmed my naïve Christianity, resulting in my becoming a surly, slurring atheist, I started thinking of Satanists more as idiots than agents of evil, self-centered assholes at worst; goth drama queens at best. When I got sober and started trying to find value in all spiritual paths, I didn’t bother reassessing my assessment of Satanism because I didn’t consider it a spiritual path. I still don’t, actually, so if you was thinking this was gonna go toward me learning to respect and appreciate Satanism, please allow me to disabuse of that notion. I have no respect nor appreciation for the Church of Satan, Wicca, Scientology or modern Atheism with a capital A. They’re all fake religions for flaky dumbos.

But the Church of Satan has come up in my consciousness lately, because of a coupla things – there was a post on Bored Panda (https://www.boredpanda.com/) about Satanic groups doing fundraisers for local charities and other altruistic works which I kinda glanced at but didn’t think about because why would I spend any time thinking about some teenagers with eyeliner having a car wash to raise money for the local SPCA in some town in Florida or whatever. Then I was re-watching “Teenage Bounty Hunters”, which a show about a couple sixteen-year-old sisters – rich, white, Christian, southern girls – who become bounty hunters. I think TBH handles some issues very well. The sisters deal with teenage stuff, talk about it, figure things out, and it’s handled pretty well. In one episode, one sister is shunned by her social group and considers hanging out with the “bad” kids, who turn out to be goth teens who are in the church of Satan and who invite her to participate in their altruistic activities. The point there is to make the character think about her assumptions – Christians are “good”, others are “bad”.

These two references to the potential altruism of the members of the church of Satan got sorta stuck in my thoughts which was annoying, but I’ve gotten used to that. Sometimes there’s a reason something is bubbling up in my brain slurry, so I didn’t focus on it much, but figured the possibility was there for some kinda insight, which came about because I was up all night at the shelter with a Bible and I read Matthew 21:28-31 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2021%3A28-31&version=NRSV). All of this was happening at the same time that my Twitter feed was a lotta progressive, white Christians suddenly going “Holy shit! We can’t say this isn’t who we are because this is who we are.” (Full disclosure: I am a progressive, white Christian.) And then I thought “If fucking Satan worshipers are doing good deeds, it’s because Christians have left them undone.”

See, just not storming the Capitol waving a confederate flag with one hand and a Christian flag with the other ain’t good enough. Just voting Left, recycling and not being a racist dickhead is not enough. We are called – Christians are called to love, help, heal and restore. If actual fucking Satanists have any opportunity at all to step up and do some kind charitable deed, it’s because actual fucking Christians have failed. That might be a bit extreme. I certainly think that Muslims have first dibs on helping Muslims – Christians should not run around trying to solve everybody’s problems without being invited. But if the local Muslim community is struggling, the Christian thing to do is to offer a little assistance.

Pause for a moment for an aside. Most of the meals at the shelter are brought in by church groups who also serve the meals. Sometimes – very rarely – some of the church volunteers will come out and interact with the guests. T’other night, when I wasn’t working, a bus load of church youth showed up from some local church that’s all rapture this and rapture that, dished out some food and then went around bothering the guests: asking ’em personal questions like “Why are you homeless?” and “Have you thought about turning to Jesus instead of heroin?” They pissed everybody off and had one trans guest in tears. Hopefully, they won’t be allowed to bring meals again. But what the living fuck? How is it possible to be so insensitive and self-righteous? Especially when you’re a Christian whose Christianity is based on some bullshit that ain’t even in the Bible? Nutjob rapture Christians are just like Scientologists and Satanists in my book.

Okay, back to the main rant, which is really the same rant. Christianity has become a blight in America because some Christians have aligned themselves with white nationalism and other Christians have stood by going “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes, you are. Yes, we are. We, progressive, white Christians, are fully responsible for the fact that we did fuck all while the message of Christ was hijacked by white supremacists. We are Cain standing on Abel’s grave saying “It wasn’t me” and God ain’t that dumb.

And then fucking Satanists stepped in to do the work that Christians shoulda been doing. Dang. Harken ye back to that passage from Matthew, sisters and brothers, because the church of Satan fits into the role of the brother who said, “Nope” and then went to the vineyard, while Christians are a lot more like the dude who said “Yes, Father, I will” and then spent a hundred years saying “Well, I’m not a racist, but…”

I truly hate that. It really grinds my gears or twists my nipples or whatever. But I can’t pretend it ain’t true. Yes, some Christians have been doing very good work all along, probably with full awareness of their neighbors who weren’t walking the walk, prob’ly hoping to lead by example, yadda yadda. It is kinda tacky to point out other people faults and I fully understand the thought process that goes “I’ll just do the right thing and hope other people catch on.” That didn’t work in Germany when the OG Nazis came out from under rocks and it ain’t gonna work now.

I’m not shocked by the presence of racism in America’s churches. I knew it was there. Still, the image of that buffalo-hatted shit-fer-brains with the white power tattoo invoking Christ’s name in the middle of an attempted coup….. that is so fucking ridiculous. Compared to that, goth teens with eyeliner and Baphomet t-shirts are fucking respectable.

American Christians. Time to do the right thing. That’s either A) stand up and proclaim the message of Christ in word and deed; or B) join the church of Satan and help your neighbor.

PRS

I’ve completed the 72-hours of training and aced the exam which means I am now officially a Peer Recovery Specialist. I’ve not found employment with my new title, but that’ll maybe happen sooner or later, if at all. And at some point, after I’ve logged the necessary hours, I’ll take the Commonweal’s exam and get certified. All this plays into the larger goal of my ministry as I will here elucidate, but first I mayhap oughta explain “Peer Recovery”.

The old model of treating nutters and dope fiends was to have shrinks tell them what to do and then be exasperated when they didn’t listen, which was an improvement on the older model which was locking them up, drugging and electrocuting them. In recent years, some fuggin’ genius realized that people who have gotten sober might be able to help other people get sober – which is actually the basic premise of all the “Anonymous” organizations, which is possibly why those were generally more successful. So the mental health field in USA began to integrate some of the principles and practices of the Anonymouses, which worked, blah blah, somebody figured out how to bill insurance companies and now there is a job called “Peer Recovery Specialist”.

The PRS job basically comes down to somebody who has some successful recovery from substance abuse disorder and/or some other mental health issue gets some training and then tries to get a job working with other people who have the same or similar issues and works with them to figure out how they, too, can achieve some successful recovery. Pretty straightforward. It’s a combo of modeling the way, being a listening ear, offering hope and a little bit of providing information, but the person receiving the service is always at least an equal partner in the process. This is because the old model was grossly disempowering and the recovery model includes the idea that people can figger shit out for themselves given the chance and maybe a little information here and there. It’s important – mandatory – for a PRS to be able to work with people who have differing views. F’r example, I’m a Christian and my faith is part of my recovery, but I might work with an alcoholic who is an atheist in which case I would have to help them find a way to stay sober that didn’t include a personal God. They know what’s best for them. The PRS is just there to help.

Now we’re gonna hard left into my theology.

We’re all sinners. We all fall short and commit all kindsa filthy and awful sins all the time. This is a common idea among all Christians, but some denominations harp on it a lot more than others and some folks seem to forget that they are too, possibly because they’re a mite too distracted by the filthy sins of other people who they enjoy looking down on. Lutherans don’t go too wild with the whole we’re-all-disgusting-sinners thing, but we do like to talk about grace a lot – like, a lot – and our horrible sinfulness is a prerequisite for God’s abundant grace, so it’s there even though we kinda like to downplay it. We do acknowledge it at every Sunday service – the Pastor leads the congregation in a general confession, which goes kinda like this –

Confession and Forgiveness
L: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit.
C: Amen
L: Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our
hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly
love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Jesus
Christ our Lord.
C: Amen
L: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth
is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and
just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(Silence for reflection and personal confession.)
L: Most merciful God,
C: we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free
ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word,
and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left
undone. We have not loved you with our whole hearts; we
have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of
your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us,
renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will
and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen

L: In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die
for us, and for his sake God forgives us all our sins. To those
who believe in Jesus Christ he gives the power to become the
children of God and bestows on them the Holy Spirit.
C: Amen

Actually, it goes exactly like that ’cause I cutted and pasted that from a source which shall remain nameless. The actual service begins after the confession and forgiveness, which I rather like. Actually, the confession and forgiveness part is my second favorite part – the Lord’s meal being no. 1 and the sermon ranking not last, because that’s where the singing is. I don’t like congregational singing. And of course, the Pastor is confessing right along with everybody else because we know our Pastors are sinners and we want to make sure they don’t forget it.

Applying the recovery model to sin – that’s what this has all been headed towards, the whole time. I am a particularly loathesome sinner, a vile wretch, though I’m not arrogant enough to claim to be the “chief of sinners”, unlike a certain epistle writer who shall remain nameless. I am quite aware of how utterly sickeningly sinful I am, but also aware of God’s abundant and amazing grace which covers even repulsive nogoodniks such as meself.

So, I figger the recovery model can work as well with transgressions as it can with meth addiction and/or borderline personality disorder. I am a sinner who has been redeemed, so I can help other sinners realize that they have also been redeemed. And that’s what it comes to – just realizing it. Understanding that the Author of all that is seen and all that is unseen has already flooded Creation with wonderous and mind-boggling grace. My ministry, in addition to prob’ly having somewhat to do with helping the poor, will be about using the recovery model, and my training as a PRS to help other grotesque sinners become aware of that grace. Of course, in ministry I’ll be able to be a bit more up front about my bias toward Christianity, though I do know a wee bit about other paths. If somebody is sure that Buddhism is right for them, I can converse on that subject without embarrassing myself.

Those who feel that they themselves are not sinners and are therefore not in need of grace will be wished all the best. I have nothing to offer thems. I’m called to work with the scum.

That’s that, then. I’ll start looking about for open positions, and I really oughta do something abou finishing the Bachelors. But first, Bored Panda.

20 + C + M + B + 21 Addendum

So I wrote a post on Epiphany, took a nap and when I woke up there was a white supremacist Trumpster fire happening in the Capitol. I was a little surprised, but not a whole lot. This is the kind thing I’ve learned to expect from Team MAGA. I’ll admit, I was a little taken aback by the footage of DC police moving the barricades aside so the crowd could go through, but only because I’d’ve expected them to be a bit more subtle. I was a lot more surprised when the Nazi-wannabes just left. I’m guessing it was a dress rehearsal. The real show will be in a couple weeks, more or less.

My little corner of Twitter is densely populated with LGBT pastors, because that’s what I wanted, so I’ve been engaging with a lot of righteous indignation, lamentation and repentance, all of which is apropos. And I’ve been saying, yes, absolutely, but we should also be girding our loins because the events of 6 January 2021 were a fucking dry run. And somebody said something about Christians being complicit which caused me to respond with some dumb “not all Christians…” which got smacked down right quick. Damn straight, because I was wrong.

We, Christians, have passively allowed white supremacists to take over. We have not pushed back. We have not stood up. Sure, some of attended a BLM march or two, but that ain’t enough. Exactly what more we oughta be doing, I do not, at this moment, know. But condemning white supremacy in no uncertain terms is a start. Demanding Trump’s immediate removal from office and arrest is another. Rounding up, charging and prosecuting everyone who illegally entered the Capitol is another – though that would’ve been a lot easier if the DC cops ad done their jobs at the time.

We might also want to seriously consider the fact that the reason the DC cops didn’t do their jobs is that they were either in on it, or in support of it. And while we’re looking at cops, let’s go ahead and acknowledge the fucking obvious fact that the reason cops handle mass-murders like Dylann Roof with kid gloves and themselves murder black people is that they’re fucking racists doing a fucking racist job. Honest to God, they literally can’t go a week without murdering a black person someplace in Amerikkka.

The Grand Old Party has been instrumental in all of this, of course, and they’re not sorry now. They’re currently saying “Oh, what a terrible thing – it was Antifa, by the way” and trying to distance themselves from Trump, who they’ve supported and protected for four years. If next week’s Beerhall Putsch goes as planned, they’ll be right behind the Orange Fuhrer again.

I have very little confidence in the Democrats. Biden is a Milquetoast, middle-of-the-roader who will come out of his corner yakking about reconciliation because if he was to hold people accountable there’d be guns a’blazin’, as if we don’t already have that. As if it can be avoided.

Christians must oppose what is wrong. We should be the first to the barricades, and first to the gallows if it comes to that. The terrorists built a gallows at the Capitol, noose and all.

“But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:36.

20 + C + M + B + 21

I’m writing on 6 Jan 2021, which many in Christendom celebrate as Epiphany, aka Three Kings Day despite the fact that there is nothing in the Bible that indicates that the Magi were kings, or that there were three of them or that they were male. The significance of Epiphany is that the Infant Christ was revealed to, and recognized by, the Magi, who were not Jews and therefore were Gentiles. This is the first indication that Jesus was born not to redeem the House of Israel, but to be the Savior of all. After seeing the Holy Child and presenting Him with gold, frankincense and myrrh – the three gifts are the reason people assume three Magi – they swung by Herod’s palace to report what they’d experienced unaware that Herod was an asshole. Herod’s response was to order a massacre – the Slaughter of the Innocents.

The official position, since Augustine*, if not longer, is that the Bible records actual events – Mary’s hymen was literally intact when Christ was conceived – and that it is right to interpret the Bible as symbolism because God ordered events in such a way as to provide instruction. We should then take the Slaughter of the Innocents as an event that occurred, and as a symbol.

Another thing happening today is the results are coming in about the Senatorial race in Georgia. The Democrats appear to be winning down in Peachland, and the progressive Christians I follow on Twitter** are jumping for joy. I’m on their side, but with less enthusiasm. From where I’m sitting, the Dems are the lesser of two evils, nothing more nor less. I’m glad they’re flipping the Senate and very glad to see Mitch McTurtle*** ousted, but I am under no delusions that the Dems are going to usher in a Golden Age of economic justice, affordable healthcare, racial reconciliation or equality for all because I don’t smoke that shit no mo’.

1 Samuel 8 is where God clearly and unequivocally states His position on kings, which we can extend to any human rulers, and tells us what to expect of them. He hasn’t been proven wrong. Some rulers have been worse than others, but in all cases government of/by/for the people is not what God wanted us to have.

Fortunately, God is willing to put up with our shit. The Christian**** university where I got my Bachelors***** introduced me to the concept of God’s Remedial Plan, which is basically God’s plan with edits. See, God had a plan for how things would go here on His footstool Earth, but people showed themselves capable of fucking up everything they touched, so God has had to change the plan to accommodate our constant bungling. That’s why we ain’t living happily and naked in the woods, eating pineapples and letting our toddlers play with lions and vipers. The entire OT is God giving clear directions and people saying “Nah, we’ll do it our way” with disastrous results. Over and over. But God keeps on saying, “Okay. It’d be better if you didn’t, but…” and continuing to be our God.

Y’all, fr’real, I’da pulled the plug on the whole human race sometime in the Bronze Age. God is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more tolerant of stupid than me.

On 25 December, we celebrate the birth of this incredibly patient and loving God in the form of a human baby, and on 6 January, we celebrate the fact that He expanded his “chosen people” to include all of us, including those of us whose ancestors were wandering around the low portion of central Europe wearing deer skins and eating sauerkraut****** when He was laid in a manger. God is God for us all. Jesus is Savior for us all.

I spent a bit of my morning in the back yard, burning stuff in the cracked chiminea and thinking about the presence of God in the world, and about Ash Wednesday, when some of Christendom gets the sign of the Cross smudged on their foreheads and gets reminded that they are dust and to dust will return. I don’t know how that ceremony will happen this year, with COVID19 still happening. If the Virginia Synod decides not to do the thing, I’ll get ashes from the chiminea and smudge my own head. I ain’t proud. Or scared. I’ve got an idea for how it could be done without turning it into a super-spreader – I should email somebody about that.

The world we live in is not the world God intended, whether the Dems have control or not. We cannot truly live as God would have us do because we are stuck in a context that prevents it. Shit, we can’t even be martyrs for the Faith because the secular powers figured out a long time ago that co-opting Christianity was better for them than persecuting it. We can do our best, but we cannot attain to anything like righteousness.

Some people find that kinda talk discouraging. I find great comfort in our powerlessness, much more in God’s Grace, which makes up for all our fails. I am quite happy to do what little I can, knowing that the Divine, having been a human and experiencing our sorry lot, understands what we’re up against and continues to love us. The Creator and Sustainer of all possible worlds knows that while I’m working at the homeless shelter I’m frequently cussing the homeless in my head for being incapable of following the shelter rules, and He makes that okay. this is important to me because I am very conscious of the fact that I am a miserable sinner – made miserable by my sins and apparently incapable of doing better. The willing sacrifice of the Christ makes it all okay. I don’t even have to understand how.

Christ appeared and He did so for us all, which is a thing we should celebrate.

*You say “uh-GUST-in”, I say “AWE-gust-een”, let’s call the whole thing off.

**Follow me @LutherWolfen. They stole my “von”.

***I sincerely believe the best time to kick a man is when he’s down.

****Anabaptist, but it still counts.

*****I don’t technically have my Bachelors yet. I’m a few credits short.

******I keep meaning to get some cabbage and start a batch of ‘kraut, but I also keep not actually doing it. The same is occurring regarding those few credits I’m short on.

Self-Awareness

“Well, I never killed a man

because I haven’t got the guts

and that won’t get me to Heaven

but it’ll keep me outta jail

because there’s no law against self-repression.”

– “Self-Repression”, Friendly

Richmond, VA, was a hub of a very weird and tragically unknown underground music scene in the early ’90s, and Friendly was part of it. I looked for the video for “Self-Repression” to post it here, but it don’t appear to have made it to the interwebs, which is your loss. I have the cd. I was involved in that scene. Hell, I lived with one of the founding members of Eeyore Power Tool, who was also one of the founding members of Eerie Materials, the record label chiefly responsible for documenting the scene. That’s not quite true – the scene was mostly self-documenting: weirdos from all corners making strange music, recording themselves on boomboxes and mailing dubbed cassettes to anybody who would have ’em. There was an insane amount of creativity in that scene – musically and visually – and the people involved displayed no desire to be famous or “successful” in any monetary way. It was beautiful. I could’ve been more of a player, but I was too drunk, angry, depressed, chaotic, unreliable and afraid to participate much. I was included in a recording session or two, but mostly I was just lurking around. Anyway, “Self-Repression” would’ve been a good song to put here.

I work at a homeless shelter. Part of the job is enforcing discipline, maintaining some degree of order. I find it very difficult to do this. Like I struggle with it. And I’m in total awe of the women who work there – no-nonsense women who won’t hesitate to yell across the room the instant someone is doing something they oughtn’t be doing. I love bitches who ain’t havin’ none of that shit, always have. T’other day, some dots connected and I realized that my timidity and my love of bold women are connected. See, I made a decision many moons ago to allow people to think that I’m just another cis-het guy because that seemed easier than being out about being trans-lesbian, and that decision had consequences which I’m still figuring out. The fact that I’ve started creeping out of the closet certainly is why I’m now figuring things out.

On some level, I feel like I can’t be direct and forceful because I’m not perceived as female. That seems counter-intuitive, I know, because the stereotype is that women aren’t direct and forceful, but the stereotype is bullshit. A lotta women are direct and forceful and I’ve been attracted to them all me life. “Attracted” like I see them and want to be nearer to them, not sexually attracted, though sometimes that too. Deep down, I feel like if I had tits and a vagina, I’d be able to stand up and confront any situation. When I was writing that intro bit about Eerie Materials, I wondered if tits and a vag might’ve made a difference in my ability to be actively involved in that scene, and the answer is blatantly “yes”. Most of the weird punk/noise bands I like have female singers – or are all female – and I have a very clear sense that female singers are better, that if I was perceived as female, I could be a terrifying screamer in a noise-punk band.

The decision to play the part of a cis-het male has caused me to be unable to do a lot of things. I’m just now understanding this. And this isn’t about blaming myself or regretting what coulda/woulda/shoulda been – that’s poison. This is just me coming to an awareness. It’s like how I believed for years that drugs and alcohol were helping me deal with my problems and then, after I got clean/sober, I realized that drugs and alcohol were actually causing most of my problems and were preventing me from fixing the rest.

This doesn’t mean I’ma start hormones or change my name to Lutie – which I am making up as the female version of “Luther”. Reacting is not the same as acting and I aim to be somewhat deliberate in how I express my trans-lesbianity. But self-awareness is liberating in some ways even if we don’t make obvious changes in how we present ourselves. Being conscious of our motivations and fears helps us to choose wisely, and to live the best lives possible.

I think of that long-haired punk I was, stoned, drunk, confused, angry, unable to comprehend why everything was so scary and difficult…. I can’t blame that dumbass for not being able to announce to the world that s/he was a queer woman with a dick. People in Virginia just didn’t do that kinda shit back in them days.

This is now. And in this now, I’m a Christian, on my way to seminary. As I’ve stated here numerous times, my ministry will be based on three key concepts – A) Everything works out better when God is in charge; B) God wants individual relationships with individuals; and C) Help the poor. A and C are pretty clear. When I’m drilling down, I’m usually focusing on C because that one wants attention.

God likes diversity. We can infer that from God’s creation. Humans display more diversity than other creatures. The properest relationship a human creature can have with God is total giving of self. Just let God have it all. I’m learning how to do this, but I took a major step early in 2020 when I just gave up for Lent. I was experiencing an episode of major depression and I just let Jesus take the wheel. Things got better and I’m not stupid enough to say “Okay, Lord, I’ll take it from here.” I’m perfectly content to be in the passenger seat of my life. But as I let Jesus call the shots, I’m still supposed to do what He instructs me to do, and right now, that’s homeless shelter work. I’m supposed to actually dote job, learn from it and carry what I’ve learned into my next assignment. I’m very aware that my job is training me for future work, in addition to paying my bills.

So. I’ve learned that taking the “easier” way regarding being trans-lesbian is not helping me to do my job well, or to live my best life. The self I’m giving to God is a somewhat self-repressed self. The Parable of the Talents comes to mind – Matthew 25:14-30. That one seems a bit harsh, but my take on it is that God has given us gifts – talents – and we are to use them. It follows that God doesn’t want us to repress what He has given us.

I’m a Lutheran, so I believe in grace. I believe that God understands our limitations and doesn’t hold it against us when we aren’t aware of our shit. I also believe that He continues to speak to us, to teach and reveal. To lead us closer to Him. (I’m using male pronouns – God is beyond gender.)

So, I’ll be thinking about this and trying to figure out how I can better use the talents God has given me, and how I can become more fully the self I’m giving to God.

But first, I’ma get some sleep.

Ramble

I dunno what happent that I hain’t writ here for a month. Or I do – I stumbled onto a site called by the name “Bored Panda”- https://www.boredpanda.com/ – and got distracted. Also, I started a training course to become a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist which takes up a bit of time and also I am as lazy as I am able to be. So there. But here I’m is, sitting up all night at ye olde low-barrier homeless shelter while the homeless sleep, except for the ones that are currently tweakin’. There’s on less of those because she left her kit on the counter in the women’s bathroom and a staff member found it and then waited to see who would come runnin’ to the can like they lost somethin’, which she did, but at least she had the decency to not deny that it was her shit. Most of the time, people here will lie right at yer face, but she didn’t. Maybe she thought she could get her meth back if she was honest. As it turned out, she’s in jail now.

The homeless are exactly what people think they are – drunk, on drugs, mentally ill, ready to steal anything that ain’t nailed down and pry up what is. Every so often, some touching tale about a hobo with a heart of gold will come floatin’ around and the moral will be some shite about how everybody deserves kindness because that poor misfortunate tramp might be an angel in disguise. Don’t you believe it. No one “deserves” any fuggin’ thing, least of all these bums. I’m fairly sure I’ve riffed on the fallacy of people getting what they deserve in this space before, so I ain’t gonna go that road, but I will freely admit hat most of the time when I start writing here I have no idea what I’ma be going on about and this time is no different. Here’s a song whilst I organize my thorts:

Another thing I did was start a Twitter. I don’t actually know what to do with it or why one would want to, but it did come in handy because I checked on a podcast I like, but which hasn’t had any new episodes on their website for longer than it’s been since I wrote anything here, which is Cafeteria Christian. I tweeted @ one of the hosts, Pastor Emmy Kegler, who tweeted back informing me that the podcast has been truckin’ right along. Apparently whoever updates the site fell asleep at the wheel. Never occurred to me. But now I got a buncha episodes of Cafeteria Christian to listen to whilst I do art. Oh yeh, I put a buncha art up on the place where I store art – https://www.deviantart.com/luthervanwolfen – so y’all can look at that if ya wanna. I dunno why I did “van” instead of “von” there. It’s “von”. Then again, the Twitterati dropped the whole word – it’s @LutherWolfen over there.

Meanwhile, the Xmas thing is happening. “Xmas” is a perfectly acceptable and proper abbreviation, by the way, as “X” has been a short for “Christ” since the Middle Ages or thereabouts. I had the pleasure of being behind some dumbo with a placard on his truck t’other day which read “Keep Christ in Christmas” as if that was a thing. Me personally, I do appreciate and enjoy the opportunity to celebrate the birth of Our Savior with other Xians when I’m able to do so, but I want no part of the disgusting display of consumerism that happens outside of church. I find the entire thing reprehensible and crass – not in a good way – and would prefer to not be exposed to any of it, including the garish and wasteful orgies of yard decorations. Feh. In recent years, the presence of my offspring has made some aspects of the season enjoyable for me, but I don’t have that one around this year. (Aside: I have frequently referred to my progeny as “the grrrl” in this space and others, but will have to cease and desist as they have informed me they prefer the pronoun “they” be applied to them and I am assuming that “the grrrl” is more gendered than they would like. They have no idea that I write this, so wouldn’t know if I continued to use “the grrrl” or “the little queerdo” or “the purple-haired nerd”, but I’ma respect their preference anyhoo, even if I do find the singular “they” somewhat awkward.) I got the little queerdo a ukulele. And a couple other odds’n’ends.

The birth of Christ is a thing to be celebrated. It would be nice if more people did celebrate it, but the whole thing has been hijacked for quite a long while. If I had my druthers, I’druther the world just change the name of their 25 December holiday to something else and stop taking Jesus’ name in vain. I’m reminded of another thing I been wastin’ time on – “The Handmaid’s Tale”. I ran outta shit to watch on Netflix, which I do not pay for, so I signed up for the Hulu 30-day free trial, which was worth what I paid. I’d heard about “The Handmaid’s Tale”, and I saw the movie version that came out in the ’80s, so I figured I’d check out the series. And what a furgin’ piece of shit that turned out to be. I watched up to the middle of the second season thinking that they were gonna get feminist at some point, then I quit. The whole thing was just negative stereotypes of women being tortured and raped. The fuck is that? Also, does anybody actually think that the so-called “evangelical Christians” in America are actually that awful? ‘Cause they ain’t. They’re not exactly wonderful and they’re not even close to “evangelical” though they may think of themselves as Christian, but they ain’t that bad. So I cancelled the free trial a few weeks early.

But then the purple-haired nerd told me about a show on Netflix, which I steal, called “Hilda”, so I started watching that and it’s pretty good. Especially after that “Handmaid” bullshit. I like shows that have grrrls being resourceful and having adventures. I will certainly do some art related to “Hilda”.

I also been taking steps to return to making music which is a thing I did in my ecumenical pagan days, under a different fake name. I got two projects in mind – one, a free jazz/noise/psych thing that I am trying to gather musicians for, because I enjoy the process of making a terrible din with no net and no plan; and t’other, a song-based project that’ll involve a friend who can actually sing. My musical past includes a song or two, but a whole lot more of the improv shizzle, so this’ll be kinda new for me. Fortunately, any dumbass can record any kinda noise and put it on Bandcamp so I’ll be able to link to more shit soon enough. I also have a raft of old Christian albums, mostly family groups, that I picked up at thrift stores for $.50/ea., that I been meaning to mine for compilation material. Feck – I’ma have to come up with a name for my music label. I would use Dorcas Records, after the Apostle mentioned in Acts, but I happen to know that name has been taken. Again, I say “Feh”.

Above, I said the bums here at the shelter don’t “deserve” anything. Neither do I. Nevertheless, I have been abundantly blessed. Luke 12:32 informs us that it is “(our) Father’s good pleasure to give (us) the kingdom” and it must be because there ain’t no other reason for Him to do it. The Bible has a few things to say about helping the bums too https://www.openbible.info/topics/helping_the_homeless – so I do. What anybody deserves is irrelevant. And a real waste of energy.

Aight. I’m end this ramble. Prob’ly won’t be back ’til after Xmas, but I’m up tomorrow night too, so it could happen.

Unity

You get a handfulla little kids from anywhere in the world and show them how to play the Keep The Balloon Off The Floor Game and they will fall all over themselves playing until they’re exhausted or the balloon pops, whichever comes first. It’s the best game. In addition to being really simple, it is entirely cooperative. I suppose some sick asshole could find a way to introduce competition into Keep The Balloon Off The Floor, but as it is generally understood, there is no competition, only cooperation. Little kids cooperate, and enjoy it, because they haven’t been taught not to.

Cooperation, unity, people working together in harmony – that is how God wants us to live. Competition, division, people squabbling and fighting over resources – that is the corruption of the Enemy. The Creation stories in Genesis differ dramatically, but they both present God creating a world in which all creatures get along and live in abundance, until the Evil One enters the scene and introduces conflict. Skipping ahead to the New Testament, we find Jesus, the new Adam, preaching unity, harmony, sharing and love. Yeah, Jesus said he wasn’t bringing peace (Matthew 10:34) but the only way to make sense of that within the context of everything else Jesus said, is to take it as referring to the split between the followers of Christ and those who prefer the world’s way. The two are kinda irreconcilable. The very little bit we’re told about Heaven seems to indicate that things are pretty calm there.

Of course, we’re in the world now. We have very little opportunity to live as Christ instructed us to live.

______________________________________________________________________________

Okay, so I wrote that far a few days ago and then got distracted by some something or other here at ye olde homeless shelter, and I’m not inclined to try to pick up the thread, which wasn’t all that ground-breaking anyhoo. Pretty typical for me, actually – resorting to Scripture to point out the most obvious observations – things would be better if people got along and shared shit. Capitalism is the devil’s wishbone, catbox, zoot suit, hot house. Meh. True, of course, but if saying it made a difference, that difference would’ve been made a long time ago.

More relevant to me in this, the year of our Lord, 2020, is how forgiven I am. If you go back to February, when I wasn’t really writing in this, I left the restaurant where I was a worker/owner and spiraled into a bog of depression. On Shrove Tuesday, I went over to the Shrove Tuesday All-You-Can-Eat Pancake Dinner at the church, and I was lookin’ around at the Lutherans and thinkin’ “These people are not cool at all, but I like them anyway”. And I realized that I hadn’t decided what to give up for Lent, which is tough one – I’m clean and sober, celibate and vegetarian. The obvious things for me to give up for Lent would be coffee and cigarettes and that’s a hard “no” followed by a hard “no”. Then I thought, “What if I just give up?” Like, give up, admit defeat, quit trying to do whatever it was I was trying to do, and I decided to do that, and went home with no plan and no ideas.

The depression went away. I got the job here at the shelter a few days later, basically the first job I ever had that gave me any kind of fulfillment on top of paying enough to live on. When the shelter closed for the summer, people offered me all the work I could show up for, and I had a bit of time to play in creeks, shoot guns, and really hone my laziness. Made a lotta art, went antiquing with dykes, completed a Bachelor’s degree program, got a new tattoo, was approved for seminary by the committee that does that. And all that without a return of the depression, which is real weird since I’m pecking this out in late November, when I’m normally about halfway down the spiral.

I just keep reminding myself that I gave up. I’m not trying. If something doesn’t just happen, I’m not gonna be bothered. It does come natural to me to show up to work, do the shit I gotta do to keep myself sober and on the beam, that kinda thing – I’m doing things, but I ain’t gettin’ het up about it. And I ain’t letting myself beat meself up over the raft of truly petty sins I commit every single fergin’ day. Because I’m forgiven and I can’t change that, so I don’t have to worry about it. Really – God knows what He’s doing. If He wanted to call somebody to ministry who made sense, He would’ve done that. Instead, He called me. And He loves me, so they say, and if God loves me, who am I to not love me? So I’m workin’ on gettin’ my head around that. And on living in the now. Because if I start thinking about the future, then I’ll start thinkin’ I know what God’s plan is and when I think I know that, I start fuckin’ shit up. I don’t know the plan. I’ve never known the plan. When I remember that I haven’t got the foggiest notion what’s going on, I’m pretty content.

Then I went outside to smoke and there’s a couple guys out there – can’t let ’em in because they weren’t here to be med-screened for covid which we have to do everyday. One of ’em’s passed out and the other is tweakin’ – he yammered at me for a few minutes about he was trained as a boxer by a Green Beret but he had to retire because he killed two opponents in consecutive fights with his lethal skills and everybody abuses him because he’s so kind – he actually said that he’s like Christ, giving to everyone and being hated for it – but no more because he ain’t putting up with that shit no more, man, and on and on, tweaker bullshit. I gave him some snacks and apple juice.

Now I’ma watch a Buster Keaton movie. I’m really into Buster Keaton right now.

Ecclesiastes

14 November, 2020, in the very wee hours. I’m a tad more’n halfway through a double shift here at the shelter, which was s’posed to work out so I was the sleeper during the second part, but somebody didn’t show up so one of our administrative staff came in on the condition that she got to sleep, so I’m awake. See, we gotta have two staff on duty, but only one has to be awake – the other is here just in case something happens which has only happened once since I been around. There’s an appreciable difference in pay rate for awake vs. sleeper, so while I would like to get some sleep, I can console meself with the fact that I’m bringing home the scrillas. I’m actually financially stable these days, which is crazy considering I got the house payment and utilities plus the occasional check toward my higher education – I make just enough payments that they don’t come and repossess.

‘S been a night so far. There was a bit of drama between various guests that centered on one old codger who apparently threatened to hit his lady friend with his cane which some other guys thought wasn’t okay which led to him threatening to hit them with his cane which then turned into him getting kicked out, but then she followed him outside and they were hollerin’ some more and then she smacked him upside the head and I’ll just spare ya all the details, but we had cops and EMT’s – codger claimed he was suicidal and that he broke his kneecap a few days ago because he’d rather go to the hospital than the drunk tank. We’re evicting her too, but she was barely able to walk for being drunk and it’s kinda cold, so we’re letting her stay tonight and her eviction starts tomorrow. Three-night eviction for both of ’em. Three nights is our usual eviction. We can evict people permanently, but for most cases, three nights is enough to get them to think a bit and make some kinda effort to act better. For a while, at least. And it ain’t like we got high standards here at the low-barrier shelter. Motherfuckers could literally walk in here and say “Hello, I’m wanted in four states for touching babies and I’m tweakin’ on meth.” and we’d say “Aight – you’re in bed #32.” I mean, we are the shelter that you go to when the Salvation Amy won’t have you. We’ve had cops show up and try to foist off people they didn’t want to deal with – and we would take ’em if we didn’t have to be stricter because of the whole covid thing. Last thing we need is covid sweeping through.

I’m drinking the cold dregs of the first urn of coffee and I got “Ray-O-Vac” by Royal Trux on repeat in my head – which is a nice change, actually. I had Die Antwoord’s “Cookie Thumper” going around in there earlier. At least I can understand the words to “Ray-O-Vac”.

So yeah, all that happened. And there was a mouse in the women’s area. First time we had a mouse. we recently moved into a new location – a closed grocery store. It’s a good move – solved a lotta problems – but we’re still getting used to it and figuring out how things’re gonna work here, and apparently mouses is a thing we gonna have to deal with. That’s not a bad night – not by a long sight.

We have some drunks. They’re easy. They stumble in, mumble some gibberish, eat dinner and pass out. the druggies mostly just stare off into space or talk to each other. I overheard a conversation between two burnouts earlier that was kind of amazing in a tragic way – they were yammering at each other two streams of stoner-consciousness that didn’t make a lick of sense, but they were totally groovin’. There’s one guy who comes in occasionally who’s usually coming off heroin, but sometimes coming off meth. He’s not a behavior problem, but sometimes we gotta call the EMT’s. The shit starts when a bunch of ’em get fuct up on K2, which is one bonehead drug as far as I can see. I mean, I did a buncha drugs, but even I don’t see the attraction for that one. I guess it makes ya feel really good before you start seizing up and vomiting. Pretty much when one person is smoking K2, a bunch are, and none are tonight.

Over the summer, I got to messin’ around on some dating websites. I haven’t been involved with anybody in eight years and I wasn’t really trying hard to start anything – more like I was bored and figured I might as well see who was out there. I had a couple interesting exchanges with ladies in Virginia before I got bored with the whole online dating thing and deleted my accounts. In both cases, when I told them that I work in a homeless shelter, they commended me on doing good work, and in both cases I said uh, thanks, and shifted the conversation to anything else.

I understand that people who don’t work in a homeless shelter think that it’s commendable. I assure you that it looks different from where I’m sitting. For one thing, it looks like my job. I’m here so I can pay my bills so I can keep my house. Yeah, it’s also part of what God has called me to do – this is the job that God has given me, I assume so I can make a living and get some knowledge and experience that I’ll need for whatever job He gives me when I finally get through seminary. Shit, I wouldn’t be surprised if I got assigned to a homeless shelter. Hey, maybe I’ll be the executive director of this homeless shelter. So far, the board of directors has been partial to Brethren pastors, but they might take a chance on a Lutheran with experience.

I’d rather do interfaith bridge-building. Or take LGBTQ teens on Christian retreats in the George Washington Nat’l Forest. I’m sure God will take my preferences into account when He sends me to work in a low-barrier homeless shelter in Nineveh.

I get along with all the guests. I think they find it a little easier to take direction from me than from some of the other staff. I’m a middle-aged, tattooed guy who smokes with them and generally seems to have been around a few blocks. The rest of the shelter managers are females in their twenties who don’t give off an air of having ever dumpstered dinner. There isn’t any obvious difference in how those girls get along with the guests most of the time, I guess. The guests know I’m in recovery and that I’m a Christian. I’ve had a couple conversation this week on those topics. I’m happy to tell somebody where and how I’ve gotten help with my alcoholism and mental illness, and to talk about what it means to try to follow Jesus in this post-modern Babylon. I found a guy a Bible yesterday – I gotta remember to pick up a few up next time I’m at a thrift store.

But I don’t honestly think a buncha commendations’re in order. I don’t feel like I’m some kinda saint just ’cause I keep showing up to walk around and make sure the local homeless ain’t smokin’ shit in the bathroom or whackin’ their lady friends with their canes. It ain’t a hard job or anything – especially now that it’s getting cold out. Real old nights do a lot toward making homeless people behave in the only place that’ll take ’em in. Of course, we are talking about a population that’s known for making bad choices, so I’m sure I’ll have to kick a few out into the cold, but whaddaya gonna do?

That old codger earlier was all “I ain’t got no place to go”, as if it was my fault. Is it commendable that I didn’t say “Well, maybe if you weren’t an abusive redneck asshole drunk you’d be able to get a fuckin’ job and pay some fuckin’ rent for a change?”, because that’s what I was thinking.

Or check this – a guy just asked me to refill the sugar shaker. Homeless people use a lotta fuggin’ sugar. This guy’s been sitting at a table all night drinking coffee with enough sugar to make it syrup, and he told me a bit ago he doesn’t know why he can’t sleep. Inside my head: “What the fuck is wrong with these idiots? Gotta build your rock on the Ray-O-Vac, gotta build your rock….”

So many people walk around with the expectation that they should be all fulfilled and happy all the furkin’ time and if they’re not then something must be wrong. I know a postal worker, a mail carrier, who picks up extra hours delivering for Amazon. He says he delivers to the same houses multiple times a week. “It’s these rich fuckers – they don’t need anything. They just buy more shit because they think it’ll make ’em happy.” My friend is low-income enough to refer to the middle-middleclass as “rich fuckers”. But that’s one of the fundamental premises of capitalism right there. Even people who know how bad Amazon is, who know the horrible working conditions in Amazon shops, will look ya right in the face and say “I know it’s wrong to get stuff from Amazon, but what can you do?” and I’m thinking “Well, you could not get shit from Amazon, ya fuckin’ dummy”, but I don’t say that because I don’t think it would do any good. There’s no difference between trying to fill the gaping hole in your soul with more stuff and with trying to fill it with K2. Well, K2 has less of a negative impact on the environment.

I don’t think that I should be happy and fulfilled all the time. I flat out reject the popular, white people paradigm that says I should have it all, go for the gusto, maximize my potential and do the Dew. I will not tweet, nor will I follow those who do. I will not craft fake images of my perfect family to post on Instagram, nor will I participate in the sucking hole of Facebook. I won’t get a smart phone, go to hot yoga, run when there’s no one chasing me, know anything about Tik Tok, drink 4 Loco, bang meth or smoke K2 and get myself kicked out of the low-barrier homeless shelter in November.

None of that works. None of that shit does anything but make you feel good for 8 seconds and then want more. Oh, hey – that’s exactly my experience with powder cocaine. And at the same time, I’m happier and more fulfilled than I ever been, so I’ma go ahead and assume that there’s some sorta relationship there and say that if ya wanna be happy for the rest of your life never make a pretty woman your wife, and also forget about being happy and start doing something that does anybody any good. If you can arrange to have God give you specific instructions, that might help, but in the absence of that, caring for the poor is always in alignment with God’s plan for humanity, so go do that. DO NOT expect thanks. My mom recently told me about some charitable donations she made and she was totally bummed out that those people didn’t say “thank you” or anything, and I was sitting there staring at her thinking “Shit – my mom’s one of them.” because I work in a place where people show up randomly to donate stuff we don’t want and then stand there like they should get a gold star or some shit. If you want to donate – donate cash. We don’t need your old clothes.

The poor are unfuckinglikely to thank you for caring for them. If you’re expecting that, you gonna be disappointed. Help the poor because it’s the right thing to do. Or get a job in a homeless shelter and do it because it’s the right thing to do and it’s how you pay your bills.

We aren’t designed to be self-centered. Homo sapiens sapiens has survived because a) God willed it, and b) people learned to care for each other. Individuality is all fine and good, but individualism, especially as it’s understood in the US of A, is a fuckin’ disaster. Be as individual as you want – shave yr fuggin’ eyebrows and look creepy like Yolandi Visser, for all I care – but let your individuality serve something bigger than you – God, your community, the environment, whatever floats yr boat. Put anything in the center except yourself. Me, personally, I’ma continue with this whole Christian Lutheran become-a-minister thing that I been doing, and the Daddy job, and I’ll keep showing up here at the old grocery store to stay up all night while bums either sleep or don’t. And I’ll keep on telling my cats they’re annoying, fat jerks, hanging out with lesbians, reading “Watership Down” to my purple-haired queer kid via Zoom and generally living the good life.

It is a good life. If ya don’t want a whole lot and if you don’t expect even that.

Recipe for Transzendentale

An article about Pauline Oliveros (https://www.autostraddle.com/staying-sane-while-staying-connected-with-pauline-oliveross-queer-lineage-of-deep-listening/) reminded me to listen. I’ve been binging Netflix, podcasts, Borbetomagus and the Petrol Girls, and forgot to sit with “silence” and hear all the sounds there – neighbor hammering, distant motors, truck backing up, wind, siren, car door, house settling, cat snoring in sunbeam, electric heat humming, cat eating crunchy food, my ankles cracking as I shift, refrigerator humming, my breathing, cats tussling on sofa, cat sneeze, cats grooming each other, cricket, unidentifiable clicking…

Deep listening is one way to meditate, which is a fine thing to do, no matter how rapidly the world is going to hell in a handbasket on any given day. I’m firmly convinced that we are all rooted in the Sacred, and we would be fully aware of that if we weren’t being constantly distracted by the collective screams of Babylon in our ears 24/7. I take the story in Genesis about Adam and Eve falling from grace and being kicked out of Eden as being more about the rise of “civilization” (aka “Babylon”) than about the tragic consequences of eating a magic apple (Elizabeth Reames has some interesting thoughts on that story – https://www.blessedarethefeminists.com/listen-now/episode-28-a-conversation-with-elizabeth-reames) Reconnecting with the Sacred (the etymology of “religion” is disputed, but some sources trace it to “re-“, Latin “again”, and “ligare”, Latin “connect”, hence “reconnection”), may take on many forms and involve many practices, but just sitting quietly is cheap, and is recommended by all religious traditions.

Note that I described just sitting as “cheap”. I almost said “cheap and easy” because I really like it when things are both of those, but I stopped myself because just sitting is actually not as easy as it should be – not at first, at least. It gets easier with practice. (Aside – I also like it when things are “quick and dirty”. One of the many phrases that I coined is “quick and dirty wins the race”.) Here’s another phrase that seems like it should be inserted here somewhere, even though I didn’t coin it – “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”, Blaise Pascal. Whenever I encounter big, blanket statements like that, I assume that they aren’t true, but may refer to some aspect of truth. In this case, the “all” is absolutely warranted.

Imagine a spiritually advanced person.

Most people, if they performed the above exercise, would think of a bearded sage on a mountain in the Himalayas. That is the automatic go-to for spiritually advanced people. What do those sages do? That’s right, they sit quietly.

We are told a little about Jesus’ prayers, but really just a little. He prayed at Gethsemane (Mark, 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46 and Matthew 26:36-56, though how the Gospel writers would know what Jesus said, when He was alone, is not explained), but He was apparently alone longer than it would take to speak the words attributed to Him, since Peter, James and John couldn’t stay awake while He was alone – He said “one hour” (in Matthew), but I don’t think that should be taken as a literal hour. I suspect that our Redeemer was just sitting quietly for some of that time, though not in a relaxed way – we’re told He prayed so hard the sweat stood out on His forehead like drops of blood (Luke). There’s also the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness (Matthew, Mark and Luke – you can look it up), during which He exchanged a few words with the Tempter, but otherwise, apparently, was just hanging out. There are many images of this scene, all of which portray Jesus just sitting there. Here’s one –

Raining Truth: JESUS PRAYED

I like this one because He looks contemplative, but not sad. Many of the other images that I found googling “jesus in the wilderness” had Jesus looking pretty morose, which prob’ly reflects the artist’s attitude about solitude more than anything else. I have to assume that Jesus was totally fine with being alone with God – and away from people – for a while, based on the fact that He was at one with God to the point of being God, and on His occasional expressions of annoyance with the people around Him. So, I picture Jesus in the wilderness about like this, calm, serene, relaxed, sitting quietly. (Though He most likely had a slightly darker complexion than that.)

Why, though? What is so great about sitting quietly? Why is this activity engaged in by spiritual seekers in all of the world’s faith traditions? (All that I know of – which is many, but there may be some that I’m shockingly ignorant of.) I’m gonna go right ahead and do that really annoying thing that religiosos do when they can’t explain something, which is fall back to the some-things-transcend-words position because it’s true. Also redundant – when something is described as “transcendent”, words are among the things that it transcends. (In my former career as a cook, I invented a meal which I titled “Transzendentale”: 2 eggs over easy, sauerkraut, siracha, between two buttermilk pancakes, topped with butter and maple syrup.) (You’re welcome.)

If you try sitting quietly, and I have no reason to suspect you will, the first thing that will happen is you will think of some reason why you should do something else. You, me and everyone we know has been conditioned to believe that we “should” be useful and productive every fuggin’ minute of every fuggin’ day, by people who did not have our best interests at heart. Certainly, one may benefit from engaging in activity from time to time, and more importantly, one may be of benefit to others, but being active all the time must needs result in pointless activity at best. We are driven by our conditioning to clean things that aren’t dirty, buy things we don’t want and come up with elaborate explanations for our lack of constant happiness. Beneath all that, there is the nasty little shit we call the “ego”, which wants to believe that it is important, that its actions have meaning, whether they do or not. Here, I can tell you one of the benefits of sitting quietly: you’ll figure out that nothing really changes when you aren’t involved. Seriously – you can sit there and do nothing for an hour and it won’t have any effect on the world whatsoever. Actually, the world didn’t even notice that you were not running around doing stuff for a little while.

There’s an election happening in a couple days, which a lotta people want us to believe is the most important election in our lifetimes. They say that every four years. The truth is that you can vote or not and it won’t matter at all. Your vote has absolutely zero effect on the outcome. You can literally sit quietly in a room instead of voting and it won’t change anything.

The realization that your actions are quite inconsequential is unbelievably liberating. I worked on that for twenty years and wasn’t able to fully grasp it until it was given to me by the Holy Spirit. Don’t worry that realizing how meaningless your actions are will lead to despair – despair is actually a form of frustration which is based on the belief that your actions should have some consequence, which is false. If you really get it, the result is a sense of limitless freedom.

Something exists which does have meaning. Up to here, I coulda been arguing for Buddhism, but I departed from the Tathagata when I asserted that meaning does exist. I am willing to make that assertion because there are things that are meaningful to me. What is the source – or Source – of that meaning? For me, the answer is the Source of meaning is the Source of all things, which I refer to as “God” and which I relate to in the style of the twenty-first century Evangelical Lutheran Church in America because that’s what I was instructed to do.

I did not choose to be an ELCA Christian – I was drafted. (John 15:16) I do not do anything, but things are done through me. (John 5:30) I got nothin’ to worry about. (Matthew 6:34) It’s a pretty sweet life.

I do stuff, of course, but I don’t have to attach any meaning to it. Other people seem to think that it’s somehow admirable that I work with the homeless. Piffle. I show up to work because it’s my job. That’s all there is to it. It’s the most meaningful job I ever had, and it pays my bills – including my mortgage, which is sorta like ironic – but it ain’t like I’m totally jazzed up everyday about working with homeless people, many of whom are right irritating. It’s the job I was given, so I do it.

I wish I could give other people what I’ve got. It would solve a lotta problems. But I can’t and that’s okay too because it ain’t my responsibility. But if you are interested, I suggest you start by sitting quietly for a while. You could think about some bit of verse -poetry, song or Bible, whatever – or focus on your breathing, or just listen to all the sounds that are in the “silence” – that’s the one I do. It really doesn’t matter what’s happening inside your head.

One more thing – many folks in various traditions had the idea that going to sleep while sitting quietly was a thing to be avoided. I wholeheartedly disagree.