Room Inside a Box

"There is no room inside a box." ~Doug Pinnick

Location: Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, United States

I started this blog as a soundboard for some much needed therapy during my separation with my wife throughout much of 2005. It was truly a blessing to get my thoughts out there through the writing process. Thankfully things have worked out between us. I would have continued to blog, but ever since I started my teaching career, I have found it impossible to do as much blogging as I would like to. So now I hope to periodically post as time and energy allow.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Some Random Thoughts

It is Monday evening and I have had a number of ideas brewing in my head all weekend long and all day today. I have not enough time to dedicate fully to each one, so I will do the bad thing and briefly hit each one. If I don't do this I'll forget them and new ideas will supplant them and they'll be lost forever, so without any further ado...

On Sunday my friend and pastor said something toward the close of his sermon that really hit home. He said that there is probably no clearer or more precise or more loving picture of Christ than in Revelation when he says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." This was crazy and insane because I was thinking along these lines all week long with respect to Ann. To me, that passage always meant that Jesus will always be there when we are ready. He doesn't bang the door down or force his way in or scream for us to open it. He just stands there and knocks and waits. Since it's recently been my goal in life to be more like him, I've been waiting for Ann. I stopped trying to force my way in. I stopped trying to force my way in. I stopped screaming for her to open it. Instead I took the advice of my counselor and my heart and have been quietly knocking and waiting. Knock: I make sure she comes home to a clean house. Knock: I make sure she comes home to an organized home. Knock: I make sure I speak kindly to her as much as it is in my power to. Knock: I try to praise her anytime I feel it is necessary, even when it might not be necessary to make up for lost compliments. Knock: I try to joke with her and be friendly with her because she wants to be friendly for the sake of the kids, even though it really hurts me inside. All of these things I do because Jesus would do the same if he fucked up as much as I did. Also implicit in the standing at the door and knocking is the waiting--not just the knocking. The ball is in her court. I am making no moves toward dissolving our marriage. I feel like Lincoln waiting for the South to fire on Ft. Sumter sometimes. If she chooses to go for a full divorce, then I will go along with it not because I want to because that's the last thing on earth I want, but because Christ would if he were in my position. He's in that position all the time, actually. Divorce is one of the ultimate Fuck yous. It says among other things, "I no longer care about us. I care only about me. So good-bye." We say that to Christ all the time. "I don't care if you love me and died for me and created me and sustain me. I only care about me. So good-bye." And Christ says, "Okay, I'm sorry you feel that way, but I'm not going to beat you over the head and force you to love me." That's how I was treating Ann, but those days are gone. Christ lets us leave him and his grace, and I have to let Ann leave me if she so desires. Christ doesn't want this and I don't want this, but that's the price of free will. C.S. Lewis and Thomas Merton both helped out in this line of thinking as well, so they deserve props.

Another thing I was thinking about is right and wrong. I told Ann that one of the conditions for letting her off in non-contested divorce was that she admit how wrong she is for divorcing me, and that we both teach our kids how wrong she was in leaving me. But this was the fear talking again. Damn that fear. It is always getting in the way of life. Just as I learned to give Ann to God and his providence, so I have to give our children to God and his providence. I have to live in the trust and not the fear, which has been my goal recently--to get rid of all fear and let in all trust. So what I need to do is trust that God will work in my children's lives as they grow up, he will work in Ann's and my life as we rear them even if separately, and I need to have the trust in them to decipher for themselves what is right and what is wrong. No one can tell another what is right and what is wrong. God gave us all a conscience and writes on our hearts nowadays, not on tablets of stone. The days of top-down management are over; they were crucified 2,000 years ago. We now live in the age of inside-out management, where instruction is given and the hope that we will listen is offered. It always has been up to us, but at least now God has decided to do away with the law and petty rules and regulations. So I was wrong to force my own regulation on Ann. All rules and laws are fear-based. I need to trust that Ann will do what she thinks is right and I will do what I think is right and I'll leave it up to God to judge us both. I can only now pray that God softens my heart to his will, softens Ann's heart to his will, and puts a hedge around our children no matter what happens, because no matter what it's going to be a battle to do what's right. It always is because there is so much fear involved, so much bullshit caused by the fear to work through. Just as I need the strength to let go of Ann and trust her to make her own decisions--right or wrong--so I need the strength to let go of my kids and trust God to protect them while they are still unable to do much in the way of making right/wrong decisions, and eventually trust them to make these decisions for themselves.

Today as I was walking toward one of Reading High's faculty lounges I saw in one computer lab a young girl typing away and she reminded me of Ann. I quickly went to a picture of Ann that is down in our basement that I saw as I was digging out stuff for a yard sale two weekends ago and how this high school picture of her looked so sweet and innocent, just like this girl did. Reading High is filled with students trying to be cool or strong or defensive or better than the other and this girl struck me as just being. I'm sure she wasn't, but who knows. All I know is she looked like my wife did when she was in ninth grade or so and a picture of innocence struck my mind so strongly. As I continued to walk the hall I thought of human innocence. We are fucked up creatures because we are raised by fucked up people because we live in a fucked up world because we decided we wanted to be God and God said, "There's only room on this planet for one God and that's me so have fun trying to be what you are not and when you are tired of that then I'll be waiting for you on the other side of this door which I'll be knocking on and will only be open when you are ready to open it." So we're not innocent, but I'm not talking about our state of being--I'm talking about certain moments in our lives where we're innocently living our lives in a state of grace. Perhaps this girl was in that state when I saw her typing for all of one second in that computer lab. (That's right, I only saw her for one second at the most and I'm getting all this from that.) Perhaps Ann was in this state as the photographer snapped her picture all those years ago in high school. And then the defilement happens. That brief time in her life cannot last. Of course, if we lived in an eternal present as God does and we will, then that state of grace will go on forever, but as it is now, time marches on and innocent moment is followed by innocent moment until--BANG--innocence is lost. And that is what I mean by our state of noninnocence versus our moments of innocence. So anyway, what I thought was this: I defiled Ann. She would be in a moment of innocence and--BANG--I would cut her down or I would be rude to her or I would deny her a request or I would ignore her or whatever the fuck I would do to piss her off or make her sad or make her lose that moment. We all live in these moments and it is so fucking hard to keep them. If we could all slow down--like really slow down--perhaps we would all be more aware of each other's moments and not be so eager to trample on them.

And here's the thing: It is a lack of knowledge and a lack of understanding and a lack of compassion that all human sadness stems from. If we could really see--I mean REALLY FUCKING SEE--what we do to hurt one another, we would stop dead in our tracks. But we don't see what we do to each other. We can't. We see through a glass darkly. This is why--in getting back to Revelation--we need eyes that see and ears that hear. Actually, that's what I pray for every day: eyes to see and ears to hear. I don't pray for any specifics because if I have ears and eyes then I will know what to do and when to do it and how. If I have ears and eyes then I can be more in tune with Ann and what she needs and how she needs it. I can be more in tune with my children and other family members and friends. We can't see and we can't hear--this is what causes all human suffering. It's not even natural disasters. It's us.

It's never about the things of this world. Now this is something I was thinking about for years now, at least dating back to 1997 or so. I noticed something about myself back then. You see, I was strongly attracted to this young lady, Jen M. Man, did I have the hugest crush on her. Anyway, there was this album by Steve Earle that just came out called El Corazon and as you can imagine there were some love songs in there that I really, really got into. I was also heavy into Rush at the time--still am, but not as much as back then--and I noticed that sometimes I was really into some songs on some days and not into others on other days. So I had this tucked away in my mind, this whole thing about getting into "Tom Sawyer" or "Red Barchetta" more on some days than on others, when one night I was listening to Steve Earle and I just wasn't into that night. I was like, "What causes this? Why am I not in the mood for this when every other night I am?" And then the thought hit me: It's not the songs themselves I am getting into; rather, it's the feelings inside me that these songs arouse and since I am not feeling happy toward Jen M. right now I am not feeling keen on listening to that which usually arouse good feelings in me toward her. So then I realized it's not the thing itself. It's about me. Then I started thinking about art in general and how it's never the art itself, but about that feeling that it generates in us. If it was about the art, then we would always feel the same about it all the time and it would never wax or wane. I want to write more on this, and perhaps I will at a later date because this idea I had way back when is important, but fast-forward to today and I read the following in Thomas Merton: "All the parents of the children were there, sitting on benches, literally choked with emotion at the fact that their children should be acting in a play: but that was not the thing. For, as I say, they knew that the play was nothing, and that all the plays of the white people are more or less nothing. They were not taken in by that. Underneath it was something deep and wonderful and positive and true and overwhelming: their gratitude for even so small a sign of love as this, that someone should at least make some kind of gesture that said: 'This sort of thing cannot make anybody happy, but it is a way of saying: "I wish you were happy." ' " I realized that among other things that I do not have time to get into (this is such a loaded passage) that Merton was verifying what I have been thinking all these years. It's never about the thing itself. This is why words are not important, but the meaning of them is. Words are not bad in and of themselves. Music is not bad in and of itself. Nothing is bad in and of itself. It's what is behind the words or music or art, what we make of it, how we interpret it, what it arouses in us. If it causes us to sin, then it is wrong. If it causes us to rejoice, then it is good. It's never about the thing itself, but always about our reaction to it. Even something as wrong as a rich, white person's stuffy and self-righteous play being acted out on the streets of Harlem by poor-as-dirt black kids can be right if viewed through the eyes that see and ears that hear. That is what I believe Merton is getting at, in my humble opinion. Call it liberal all you want, but the Apostle Paul talks about this very same thing, and so does Jesus for that matter, so you might as well call them liberals, too.

I think there was one more thing I wanted to briefly touch on but it is escaping me at the moment and I have reading I have to do before I go to bed. It can wait until tomorrow or perhaps the next day if I run out of time tomorrow. Just some random thoughts that have been brewing that I'm finally glad to be able to work through, if only very roughly here.


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