So, I haven’t written in a while. There’s really no reason for that. I’ve been writing, just not online. But the other day, a Dave Ramsey video (linked above) in one of the Facebook groups I happen to belong to, caught my eye. I watched the video. In it, Ramsey makes a case for why capitalism is a better governmental system that socialism, never mind that these are both economic systems that aren’t systems of government in themselves. But I digress… The proceeds to make the claim that the reason capitalism works is because the United States and its economic policy are founded upon a core Christian ethic. I was raised in an environment where Christianity reigned supreme, I’m well aware of what the Christian ethic is supposed to be. But last night, as I was coming back from the laundromat, I saw to homeless people getting into a couple of sleeping bags at a crosswalk, presumably to settle in for the night. And I thought to myself… Surely, if this nation was founded upon a Christian ethic, and that is why capitalism works because the Christianity involved in that ethic keeps greed in check, there would be no homelessness. “I must have it wrong.” That’s what I was thinking to myself on the way home last night.
Maybe the things he thinks of as being the core of the Christian ethic are different from the things that I think are at its core. Things like love your neighbor as yourself, or the story of the widow who gave all she could while other people gave substantially more in terms of the amount of money, but not in terms of how much they were able to give. or maybe I misinterpreted the story of the good Samaritan. Or just maybe, I misunderstood the point of the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. Wait a minute, that’s not what he’s talking about… Whether or not he chooses to say it out loud, people like Ramsey are espousing a form of Christianity that says if you work hard “in service of the Lord”, God will bless you. If you believe in that sort of thing, it is true… But you also have to remember the other side of the coin. If you visit someone while imprisoned, give food and shelter to the homeless, console the grieving of someone… You give that act to God. If you do none of those things, you give that to God also.
If you chastise someone and hold hatred in your heart during that chastisement, you give that to God. Here’s the funny thing about the Bible… With as many fantastic parables, Psalms, and other forms of universal lessons that are applicable to daily life… There are also stories of genocides, and trickery, usurping of birthright, and many other things that in the light of reason would normally be considered a crime. But because it is in the Bible, we tend to minimize those things because it is achieved historical status as one of the holiest and best-known books throughout the world. But we can’t forget the other side also, what I’m trying to say is this: it takes a human mind to make otherwise non-cohesive pieces of literature have cohesion of any sort. This is why I stopped reading it long ago, because I realized that everything I needed to know in order to try to live a good life as a good human being, I learned when I was a child.
I don’t go to church anymore. I haven’t for a long time… I’ve been afraid to call myself a Christian for a long time, because as far as my theology is concerned, I find a belief in God to be unnecessary. I do believe, however, that Jesus taught us everything we needed to know. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do so unto me.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Judge not lest ye be judged, for by the same measure which you judge others, so to you shall be judged.” I’m only saying these things to ask your question: if you’re an American, and you believe that this country was founded at its core on a Christian ethic, what sort of Christian ethic do you believe in? Is it one that believes in condemnation of people for circumstances beyond their control, without having any direct knowledge of the entirety of their situation? Or is it one that believes that we ought to love one another as much as humanly possible, perfecting that capacity throughout a single lifetime? Do you believe in a kind of Christian ethic that would allow you to truly love someone you size and outcast, as Jesus did on many occasions? Or do you see yourself is better than them for whatever reason? Are you the follower of a pastor who claims to know the Bible, or are you a follower of Christ? And if you are a follower of Christ, and if this country is truly founded on the Christian ethic, why is it that
Saint Francis of Assisi wrote this prayer of song in which he recognized the inherent unity of creation with the spirit of the creator. This long venerated saint of the catholic church found himself at home in the natural world. Not commonly what one thinks of when one often thinks of christian orthodoxy, and I really wanted to share it with all of you. Hail! The Jewel in the Lotus.
PS. I’ve chosen to remove one line near the end as the idea it points to has been theologized beyond any useful purpose in meaning, and doesn’t in turn help the canticle’s message.
Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.
To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.
I wanted to try something a little different today. I somewhat recently decided to take a philosophy of literature class, and one of the secondary readings assigned was “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke. The translation I have personally is a little clumsy, making for really bad English grammar. But he says many things in the second half of that collection with which I tend to agree. This letter particularly deals with some issues having to do with life and love. This man was a writer and poet to the core, and as such sometimes he’s difficult to understand even if you understand the words he’s using. But sometimes it takes the soul of a poet to bring light to certain aspects of our lives. My dear readers, I present you with letter seven from Rainer Maria Rilke.
May 14, 1904
My dear Mr. Kappus,
Much time has passed since I received your last letter. Please don’t hold that against me; first it was work, then a number of interruptions, and finally poor health that again and again kept me from answering, because I wanted my answer to come to you out of peaceful and happy days. Now I feel somewhat better again (the beginning of spring with its moody, bad-tempered transitions was hard to bear here too) and once again, dear Mr. Kappus, I can greet you and talk to you (which I do with real pleasure) about this and that in response to your letter, as well as I can.
You see: I have copied out your sonnet, because I found that it is lovely and simple and born in the shape that it moves in with such quiet decorum. It is the best poem of yours that you have let me read. And now I am giving you this copy because I know that it is important and full of new experience to rediscover a work of one’s own in someone else’s handwriting. Read the poem as if you had never seen it before, and you will feel in your innermost being how very much it is your own.
It was a pleasure for me to read this sonnet and your letter, often; I thank you for both.
And you should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is some thing in you that wants to move out of it. This very wish, if you use it calmly and prudently and like a tool, will help you spread out your solitude over a great distance. Most people have (with the help of conventions) turned their solutions toward what is easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must trust in what is difficult; everything alive trusts in it, everything, in Nature grows and defends itself any way it can and is spontaneously itself, tries to be itself at all costs and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it.
It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and therefore loving, for a long time ahead and far on into life, is: solitude, a heightened and deepened kind of aloneness for the person who loves. Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances. Only in this sense, as the task of working on themselves (“to hearken and to hammer day and night”), may young people use the love that is given to them. Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must still, for a long, long time, save and gather themselves); it is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives are as yet barely large enough.
But this is what young people are so often and so disastrously wrong in doing: they (who by their very nature are impatient) fling themselves at each other when love takes hold of them, they scatter themselves, just as they are, in all their messiness, disorder, bewilderment. And what can happen then? What can life do with this heap of half-broken things that they call their communion and that they would like to call their happiness, if that were possible, and their future? And so each of them loses himself for the sake of the other person, and loses the other, and many others who still wanted to come. And loses the vast distances and possibilities, gives up the approaching and fleeing of gentle, prescient Things in exchange for an unfruitful confusion, out of which nothing more can come; nothing but a bit of disgust, disappointment, and poverty, and the escape into one of the many conventions that have been put up in great numbers like public shelters on this most dangerous road. No area of human experience is so extensively provided with conventions as this one is: there are life-preservers of the most varied invention, boats and water wings; society has been able to create refuges of every sort, for since it preferred to take love life as an amusement, it also had to give it an easy form, cheap, safe, and sure, as public amusements are.
It is true that many young people who love falsely, i.e., simply surrendering themselves and giving up their solitude (the average person will of course always go on doing that), feel oppressed by their failure and want to make the situation they have landed in livable and fruitful in their own, personal way. For their nature tells them that the questions of love, even more than everything else that is important, cannot be resolved publicly and according to this or that agreement; that they are questions, intimate questions from one human being to another, which in any case require a new, special, wholly personal answer. But how can they, who have already flung themselves together and can no longer tell whose outlines are whose, who thus no longer possess anything of their own, how can they find a way out of themselves, out of the depths of their already buried solitude?
They act out of mutual helplessness, and then if, with the best of intentions, they try to escape the convention that is approaching them (marriage, for example), they fall into the clutches of some less obvious but just as deadly conventional solution. For then everything around them is convention. Wherever people act out of a prematurely fused, muddy communion, every action is conventional: every relation that such confusion leads to has its own convention, how ever unusual (i.e., in the ordinary sense immoral) it may be; even separating would be a conventional step, an impersonal, accidental decision without strength and without fruit.
Whoever looks seriously will find that neither for death, which is difficult, nor for difficult love has any clarification, any solution, any hint of a path been perceived; and for both these tasks, which we carry wrapped up and hand, on without opening, there is no general, agreed-upon rule that can be discovered. But in the same measure in which we begin to test life as individuals, these great Things will come to meet us, the individuals, with greater intimacy. The claims that the difficult work of love makes upon our development are greater than life, and we, as beginners, are not equal to them. But if we nevertheless endure and take this love upon us as burden and apprenticeship, instead of losing ourselves in the whole easy and frivolous game behind which people have hidden from the most solemn solemnity of their being, then a small advance and a lightening will perhaps be perceptible to those who come long after us. That would be much.
We are only just now beginning to consider the relation of one individual to a second individual objectively and without prejudice, and our attempts to live such relationships have no model before them. And yet in the changes that time has brought about there are already many things that can help our timid novitiate.
The girl and the woman, in their new, individual unfolding, will only in passing be imitators of male behavior and misbehavior and repeaters of male professions. After the uncertainty of such transitions, it will become obvious that women were going through the abundance and variation of those (often ridiculous) disguises just so that they could purify their own essential nature and wash out the deforming influences of the other sex. Women, in whom life lingers and dwells more immediately , more fruitfully, and more confidently, must surely have become riper and more human in their depths than light, easygoing man, who is not pulled down beneath the surface of life by the weight of any bodily fruit and who, arrogant and hasty, undervalues what he thinks he loves. This humanity of woman, carried in her womb through all her suffering and humiliation, will come to light when she has stripped off the conventions of mere femaleness in the transformations of her outward status, and those men who do not yet feel it approaching will be astonished by it. Someday (and even now, especially in the countries of northern Europe, trustworthy signs are already speaking and shining), someday there will be girls and women whose name will no longer mean the mere opposite of the male, but something in itself, something that makes one think not of any complement and limit, but only of life and reality: the female human being.
This advance (at first very much against the will of the outdistanced men) will transform the love experience, which is now filled with error, will change it from the ground up, and reshape it into a relationship that is meant to be between one human being and another, no longer one that flows from man to woman. And this more human love (which will fulfill itself with infinite consideration and gentleness, and kindness and clarity in binding and releasing) will resemble what we are now preparing painfully and with great struggle: the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other.
And one more thing: Don’t think that the great love which was once granted to you, when you were a boy, has been lost; how can you know whether vast and generous wishes didn’t ripen in you at that time, and purposes by which you are still living today? I believe that that love remains so strong and intense in your memory because it was your first deep aloneness and the first inner work that you did on your life. – All good wishes to you, dear Mr. Kappus!
I’ve seen wars, famine, death, birth, love, and utter hatred. I have seen the rise of angelic humans, and some that would make Lucifer himself cringe in complete disgust, and quite possibly even lose his lunch. Who am I, you ask? I’m not even sure I know anymore, not after all the garbage I’ve seen; but here’s who I used to be… absolutely no one special; I was just a web monkey and a painfully average college student. I’m a guy
who would spend half of my time in front of a PC, and the other half buried in a book, all the while thinking about two things: sex and the fact that my life had no real purpose.
But one day, as I sat in a coffee shop contemplating my “oh so wonderful life,” as was a usual part of my everyday routine, I noticed this guy staring at me as I sat down with my coffee. I tried to ignore it, but he kept on looking at me, and this wasn’t just a normal look, it was a look that said, “I want some of that homemade sausage and eggs you’ve got going on.” That look made me extremely uncomfortable, so eventually I walked over to him to find out exactly what his problem was.
“Dude! What is your deal?” I asked under my breath.
“I don’t have a ‘deal’ except for the one I’m about to make you, boy.”
I didn’t even know this guy, and here he was assuming that I would take whatever twisted deal he had in his demented ass mind. He looked like a cross between something out of GQ magazine, and Professor Snape from Harry Potter! He wore all black, as if he were part of some Gothic reject movement; some kids that needed to grow up and get a real damned job. He wore black slacks, and a formfitting black button up. And to be honest, as much as I wanted to hate this guy, he always seemed to speak in a calm, authoritative tone.
“What makes you think I need some kind of deal, dude? I asked dubiously.
“Well, first off, here in a coffee shop 11 AM… when most people your age would either be at work, or in some godforsaken college class trying to figure what the hell they want to do with their lives. And if you must know, the most obvious sign that your life utterly lacks purpose is the fact that you’re clutching a copy of the Purpose Driven Life, as if it were an inner tube being thrown out to a drowning child.”
Who was this guy? And what gives them the right to say things like that about me after only having talked to him for about five minutes? As if someone were pushing my shoulders down, commanding me to sit, I took the seat across from him.
“I see that finally got your attention boy, or should I say Zak.”
“Wait… How did you know my name? “I asked in a nervous tone.
“I know great many things about you and a great many things in general… it comes with the territory. For example, you were born October 8, 1993, in Stockton California. You were born to parents who you feel don’t understand you at all, mostly because of your random “gifts” that you tend to see as a curse. And that woman over there has been looking at the both of us for the past 15 minutes, and she’s wondering if you can last longer than her two-minute boyfriend… not that that concerns you, as the last time you had sex you nearly suffocated in your ex-girlfriend’s Venus fly trap. You’re thinking about giving up sex altogether after that, and I can’t say I blame you.”
I studied this guy closer, and I noticed the shiny silvery light emanating from within him.
“Oh, I see you finally noticed it… my aura. Now takes a closer look.” He demanded firmly, yet calmly.
It can’t be! I started noticing something that looked like wings made of energy. I’ve seen these before, on myself in dreams and visions.
“It can’t be! I started noticing something that looked like wings made of energy. I’ve seen these before, on myself in dreams and visions.” He said mockingly, as the words ran rapidly through my head.
“Do you have any doubts now boy?” He snapped in a sarcastic tone.
“Who are you?” I asked nervously, yet again.
“I don’t really have a name, but my function is to usher souls who are stuck, either here, or in what your people would call limbo, into the next life, whether it be for punishment or reward.”
“Wait, so you’re telling me that you’re the God damned angel of death?”
“Well Zak, you’ve got it half right, but I don’t think God has damned me just yet.”
“Now I’d like to talk to you about the deal, boy. You see, I’ve been very… busy for the past 40 millennia, and I need to take a vacation. So I was thinking I could give you this ring, which you haven’t noticed has frozen time…”
He’s not kidding! Everyone in the coffee shop is frozen their tracks! He’s not trying to mess with my head. He’s been completely serious, and come to think of it, what the hell am I doing with a copy of the Purpose Driven Life anyway? He interrupts my soliloquy yet again,
“I’ll tell you what you’re doing with that book. You’re thinking maybe it will give you some sort of guiding principle with which you can discern your life’s purpose. But let me tell you something, young one. No one man, no matter how wise can tell another what he is destined to become. But you will learn that in time. Do we have a deal?”
Before I could voice my answer aloud, he calmly removed the ring from his ring finger, and placed upon mine. Suddenly, I was overcome with a sense of dread, but it wasn’t as though it was entirely overwhelming… there was a kind of peace intermingled with it. I felt stronger, somehow.
“10 years then, my young prince.” He muttered self-assuredly.
“Oh, and I forgot to tell you; the reason I chose you, that is. You said it yourself… you’ve seen yourself emitting the same type of energy as I do, you say all the time in jest: Genesis 6. You are one of the few creatures left on this planet who can handle the ring at its full capacity. I’ll see you soon, young prince. And before I go, don’t forget to snap your fingers. They don’t like it much when we stop time for this long.”
I looked around the motionless coffee shop, and I notice that same girl who was looking at me before was still staring at me, only she was stopped right in the middle of licking her lips. It almost looked as though she was sticking her tongue out at me. I wouldn’t mind seeing that again somewhere else, but I’ll have to check on that later. I quickly snapped my fingers, and the little café in which I found myself soon returned to life with the kind of vibrant exuberance that only Mother Nature herself could have ordered. No lie, I felt like a God. But I told myself, with this piece of tacky looking costume jewelry came a responsibility. I left the coffee shop and decided to head home for the night.
I didn’t sleep much at all; I kept hearing the screams of people all around me. I began to wonder if it was the ring that brought the curse upon me, but then I thought maybe it isn’t a curse. Screw it, time to return to old habits. I sat in zazen position, as I’d been accustomed to in my days of martial arts training, and began to quiet my mind. Soon the screams became echoes, and soon I focused in on one. When I open my eyes to wake from my meditation, I found myself in the same stupid coffee shop that I had been in prior. And I was wearing that same ridiculous metrosexual all black outfit that the angel of death had been wearing during the day I encountered him. Great, I put on a ring and all of a sudden, I look like a Gothic Prince. No time to think about that now.
There was a man sitting across from me at the table at which I was seated. He was in his mid-30s, of Asian or Pacific Island descent, with broad shoulders, and Manny Pacquiao mustache that made me laugh. I reached out to shake his hand and introduce myself, and as soon as our hands grasped one another, I knew why he was here; I was supposed to usher his soul into the afterlife wherever that may be. It’s strange, I felt a link between us like I can never remember feeling with another human being. It was as if I could sense my relationship to him, as well as his relationship to everything else… and when I say everything, I mean everything. Suddenly knew what I had to do.
“You know why you’re here, don’t you Ramon?” I asked in a calm tone.
“Yes, God has decided to take me home. And you are his ambassador.”
His degree of self-assuredness was startling; I had no idea what to tell this man. I had no idea how to explain to him that I had no idea where the hell he was going, that it wasn’t up to me, or even God. His judge would be the universe; fair, impartial, and sometimes even downright cold. But how do I know this? I think I’m beginning to understand why that guy needed a break. That question alone is both nerve-racking and unavoidable. I guess that explains why most people don’t bother to think about it, it makes life so much simpler. So I kept my mouth shut and got up from the table and proceeded to walk to what look like a staff entrance into the kitchen area, as if I were being led by instinct. Ramon followed me, and I opened the door and took his hand. I led him down what I can only describe as a gigantic stereotype… a long tunnel, with the light at the end of it. I kept thinking to myself, “big deal this is.” We get to the end of the tunnel, and all of a sudden the look of fear and shame flashes across Ramon’s face.
“Ambassador of our Lord, I have a favor to ask of you, though I’m not worthy to ask it.”
“What is it Ramon?”
Too ashamed to speak, I placed my hand upon his forehead, and suddenly a bunch of random events, seemingly scattered, rushed into my mind. It seems our Manny Pacquiao wannabe had a gambling problem, and he left his family with nothing. Wait a minute, maybe I’m wrong… it seems Ramon had a plan.
“You want to go back and find the money you hid away for your family, don’t you?” “But why did you hide it from them?”
Ramon sat silently for a second, and replied, “You see, I know I haven’t been a perfect man and I know that I’ve done a lot of wrongs to my family, but I won really big last time, $20,000… but I knew if my mother-in-law found out, she would take it and tell my wife that I was a good for nothing, and that I would just spend it. If that happened, they would have nothing.
I closed my eyes and tried to fix my mind on the location of the money, and before I knew it, both Ramon and I were standing over the spot where his little treasure was buried, and I could suddenly feel the energy of the universe coursing through my veins as if to tell me, “hey moron, this is the spot you’re looking for.” I reached deep within, then cleared away the dirt revealing a small box made of wood. The second Ramon touched it, we were transported to his deathbed, and I could see his spirit returning to his dying body, surrounded by his family. His family turned to look at me. Shit, I didn’t think anyone could see me. This must be part of the deal. I had to make something up, so I told them I was Ramon’s bookie and that I had owed him a payout that he hadn’t come to collect, and that judging by the situation, he wasn’t going to need it. I left the $20,000 in the capable hands of his loving family, and when Ramon’s spirit finally passed… I. guided it toward that oh so cliché tunnel. And his soul was finally at rest.
It’s been almost 10 years since that first day, and I’ve seen a lot of shit. I’ve seen a woman who wouldn’t cross over until her cat got out of a tree, I’ve seen a man wouldn’t leave until he relived his last spectacular murder of a 16-year-old girl, where he raped her, killed her, ground her body up into a fine mess of human meat, and then proceeded to feed it to the neighborhood dogs. I once ushered the soul of a Wall Street bigwig who refused to pass on, until he knew that final trade had gone through. None of this is making any sense to me. What the hell is the point of all this? I mean, one of these guys is clearly going to hell, but why are there so many different ways to end a life? Why is it that some souls want something profound and lasting, while others are perfectly content to pass on? And others still, want to have one last epic moment before they go on to the afterlife. These were things I would have to talk to death about, along with one other thing; each time that I touched a passing soul, my being was filled with energy unlike any I’ve ever felt, and for some reason I kept having flashbacks to the moment of creation… weird. One day left, and one more soul to collect.
As I have done countless times before for damn near a decade now, I put myself into a meditative trance, focused on my target soul, and transported myself to that cliché of a coffee shop that somehow served as limbo and conference hall to the newly departed. God must have a sense of humor, because he for damn sure knew that I was way too addicted to coffee for my own good. Sitting before me this time was not an old woman, or a man who had lived well beyond his years, nor was this an individual who had clearly bore the marks of too much time under intense stress. Standing before me was a young 18-year-old girl, with skin a golden brown, with wavy hair that reached to about shoulder length. She had beautiful, big hazel eyes, and as soon as I set out to introduce myself and take her hand… I saw everything. A tear came to my eye, I couldn’t take this soul. She died of a rare kind of lymphoma, her parents subjected her to countless rounds of chemo in order to preserve her life, but it only made her sicker, the harder they fought to keep her alive, the more pain they unwittingly put her through, and the more she yearned for release.
I also saw her as a little girl, playing happily with dump trucks and G.I. Joe’s, all the while playing house, wrestling with her brothers, and throwing down on some Halo as she grew older. I saw all of her aspirations, she wanted to become a doctor and treat cancer in Third World countries. Her mission was to become part of Doctors without Borders. But she knew that was a long way off, so she told herself that if she survived this ordeal, she would become part of a cancer awareness group and talk to young kids about what it was like. And for the past three years of her life, she had been active as a counselor for a summer camp comprised of California area cancer patients. This young girl was the closest thing I’ve ever witnessed to a living saint, only technically she wasn’t living anymore. I was the angel of death, and I could not bring death to this girl. That’s the tricky thing about knowing everything about someone; you either instantly loved them, or hated them within five minutes of meeting. And I think I loved her. Or at least I felt guilty of robbing the world of something so good, beautiful, and pure. There was another thing too; I knew what she wanted in order to pass on. You see, being diagnosed at a young age, and going through chemo for so many years, had pretty much shot her immune system to hell. Most of the time she was kept in a sterile environment. She was 18 years old and had never had sex. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that. Weren’t there rules or something? I thought back to the movie dogma, and about how angels had no dicks, and I’d mistakenly chuckled out loud. Apparently, she was also special in another way… when I touched her to read her, she could also read me. She knew what I was thinking too. She knew just as much about me as I knew about her and that scared the crap out of me.
“So, is that a yes or no?” Corrine asked impatiently, her voice was surprisingly angelic. Her words seemed to float from her mouth, like the notes of an outdoor orchestra floating into the midnight air.
“I don’t know. To be honest with you, you scare me… a lot. I’ve never had anyone read me before, not in my entire life. And the truth is, with you knowing so much about me, and I about you, I don’t know of any other response other than to love you. But it seems stupid, we have communicated mentally, with the other 50% comprising of a mix between verbal and nonverbal communication apart from that, it’s been two hours… by now I’d normally be home and finished.”
“Don’t you realize that you’re a treasure to this universe too? And to me? You’re the only person who hasn’t looked at me as just some pity case. And the worst part is, I don’t even know if I can technically call you a person. I mean, you are the angel of death after all.” She looked down slightly, searching for courage.
“Only for another 24 hours.” I thought to myself.
“You thought your life had no meaning before, that creepy guy really gave you a gift. You’re different now.”
I finally decided to speak, “you know, if we decide to do this I don’t know what will happen to me, but I can tell this is what you really want. And all I want is for you to know that before you died, someone somewhere loved you deeply.” I closed my eyes, and tried to find a suitable location, and before I knew it, we were there. The walls were a rich blue, with white crowning. And the sheets were made of silk and had the same tint of blue. She stood at the front of the bed and sat down as she slowly made her way out of the black-and-white polkadotted camisole and blue jeans she was wearing. I’m not going to lie, she had the perfect body. Every inch of her was golden brown to perfection, with a complexion reminiscent of the smoothness that is apparent in the most perfect cup of hot chocolate. She undressed me, and we made our way to the bed, and I kissed her lips gently. Her lips were soft as velvet, and as moist as freshly picked strawberries and equally as sweet.
I gently bit her ear lobe as I stroked it gently with my tongue, I kissed her on her neck, and as I pulled my lips away, and gently blew cool breeze onto it. She bit my neck in the excitement, this girl is a natural. I gently kissed her collarbone as I placed my hands upon her breasts. Gently caressing, when my mouth had finally reached her left breast, I bit her nipple ever so slightly, and she moaned with utter delight… such a sweet sound. I slowly made my way to the area just above her heavenly flower, and kissed it slightly. Her back arched with anticipation, and I began to massage her clit with my tongue and she instinctively placed her hands atop my head, and pushed my face in deeper, and I slid one finger into her slowly moving in and out. I could feel her becoming more moist, and it was becoming harder to control myself… I have never tasted anything so delicious in my life. I went back up for air, and I kissed her again and whispered in her ear that I loved her. When I can no longer contain myself, I entered her and we ravaged each other like rabid animals that have not seen a member of the opposite sex in months, which wouldn’t be too far from the truth for me anyway. When we finally came, I laid my head on her chest to listen to her heartbeat. And it slowed to a crawl, and then suddenly, it stopped.
Her soul was ejected from the body once more, and she thanked me. I guided her down the tunnel, as I have done every other soul before; but this time, I told her that I would miss her.
“I’ve never felt as connected to anyone as I have with you.” I said aloud.
Okay, first of all I can’t believe I said that. I’ve never been known to say anything like that. But I have to admit it even to myself, it was the truth. And if I had denied it any longer, I knew I would grow to hate myself eventually.
Corrine looked at me lovingly and said, “I know, it was the perfect moment.” And with that she disappeared, and for that matter, so had I.
I was back in that godforsaken coffee shop, with the original angel of death sitting before me.
“Well boy! That was a wonderful week off you gave me. So how did you fare?” He asked feigning seriousness.
“You and I both know that you have no need to ask me that.” I said self-assuredly.
“Oh, I see you have learned a thing or two. I was beginning to wonder whether or not you’d ever get the hang of this. You were such a mess when I met you. Oh, and that thing with Corrine, perfectly fine. No worries. I’m surprised you did it, actually. I know the first couple hundred times I had that offer I refused it. But what surprises me more, is that you did it out of love rather than lust. When I met you, you were so obsessed with sex solely for the sake of sex, I thought you would never understand.”
“Understand what?” I asked with a sense of incredulity filling my voice.
“The mystery of the human universe. Ask away boy, I know you’ve got a few questions.”
“That energy I felt when I would transport souls through the tunnel… I kept seeing the moment of creation over and over, on one with different possibilities and outcomes. Why?”
Angel of death smiled, and he motioned for me to take off my ring, or rather his ring. “You see, humans are a rather rare kind of thing. Much like the creation of the universe itself, humans are endowed with the same boundless energy that sets the world in motion. When a human being is created, and born to this earth, he or she possesses the same infinite number of possibilities as the universe, and they are always expanding just like the universe. The only thing that gets in the way are societal constraints. These are mechanisms of control that seek to tell people what they are capable of doing and what they’re not. But if these people can learn to open their eyes and reconnect with the universe whence they came, they would once again realize that life is limited only by their perceptions of it.” He looked down puzzled, and then looked up at me again.
“That’s what she wanted to teach you, you know… Corrine… the other thing you’ve been wondering about. The origin of all things that happen in this world. They all stem from love. Whether it’s a love of power, a woman, a home, or anything for that matter. The greatest heights of men, and their greatest fall; both are motivated by love.”
“Death, or I think your name is something else… so what you’re telling me, is that love is the root of all goodness and all atrocity, all at the same time? If that’s true, then we would do best to love at least one person unabashedly, and without shame. Then maybe one day, that same love would extend to those around us; with us wanting to better the lives of others in the same way that we want to better the life of our beloved, and then that will lead us on a quest to attain the knowledge that would make us capable of doing so. Did I get that right?
“Plato would be proud son, Plato would be proud. Well Zak, I really must be off, but I have something for you.” With that the Angel of death brandished a letter from his breast pocket. And then, he was gone. I unfolded the letter, and this is what it read:
I know that the past 10 years have been an ordeal for you, and I also know that it has forever changed you, and made you a stronger person. You’ve understood the mysteries that I was sent to teach you. What? You didn’t really think that I would need a vacation did you? If more of us were like you, perhaps Earth would have been a better place. We have our regrets about that. I’m glad that you finally managed to find love, even if it was with the passing soul, even angelic souls need love.
One day I will come for you, as you came for all the souls that you took in my stead. And when that day comes, I hope you will finally understand what I’m about to say. Death is not something to be feared, nor is it something to be embraced by a fool. The point of life is death. By this I mean that I will give you the answer to the question you were too afraid to ask: so many seemingly random tasks that all of the souls gave you before their passin;, what do they have in common? I shall tell you my boy. When I say that the point of life is death, I simply mean that one lives in order to create the perfect circumstances in which to die. That perfect moment, as Corrine put it, that moment that you gave her. That is all every human soul seeks, to be able to die in that perfect moment; and that is the point to life. So live young prince, so that when I come for you, together we can create your perfect moment.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Angel of Death
So what will I do now? Well, maybe I’ll go see what’s up with that tongue chick; you know, find out if she’s really worth knowing. And thank God I’m not dickless like those clowns from Dogma, Because until my time comes, I’m going to enjoy life with someone who may someday give me my perfect moment, and I don’t think she’d want a Ken doll.
“Spiritual enlightenment comes at the cost of lifetime of servitude.” –Zak
Spiritual enlightenment isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That’s right – you read that last sentence correctly. Most people spend their entire lives looking for it, but for me, it wasn’t really a choice; it was just something that happened. What you’re about to read is an account of my life – or at least the most important events in it. It’s been a good 20 years since I’ve thought about any of this shit, so don’t be surprised if this middle-aged old man forgets a few details. And goddammit, I know what you’re thinking:
“Why the hell is this narcissistic bastard writing a prologue to a book that’s all about him to begin with?”
(And I do know that that was what you were thinking. On top of being a narcissistic bastard, I pride myself on being semi-omniscient, as well.) Simple: to give you some background on myself. You know, all that typical garbage no one really wants to hear or cares about – like my birthday, the family I was born into, and all that other shit I really don’t want to waste my time elaborating on in other parts of the story. So without further adieu…
I was born on October 8, 1983, in Modesto, California, and if you don’t know where that is – look at a freaking map. This isn’t calculus, here. I was born to a family that culturally has some Spanish and Polynesian roots, while its offspring tends have a penchant for white people.
“Oh my goodness! He said white people! He must be a racist…”
Chill out! (Is it creepy how I know what you’re thinking?) I’m simply making an observation. This particular family was a pretty typical Roman Catholic family, which means we ate crackers and got drunk at church. You know, once you get past the sitting, the standing, the kneeling, and the Church’s inability to deal with pedophilia and its clergy… it’s actually not that bad. It’s a great starting point and a great place to grow for somebody intent upon living an existence comfortably adhering to a version of Christianity that maintains a bit of mysticism and ancient beauty. Does that mean I’m Catholic now? For the answer to that question, you will just have to wait and see.
Now that we have satisfied the egomaniacal curiosity that burns within like herpes, I have to tell you that what you’re about to read is entirely true. (For those of you who noted that I was born in 1983 –yeah, I’m not really middle aged. So what? Feel free to question everything I say. Sheesh, skeptics.) Anyway, you also should note that the resulting spiritual philosophies that are implied or can be inferred throughout these accounts would, throughout history, have been my express tickets to burning at the stake for heresy. And let’s say devil worship for good measure. After all, what’s heresy without Satan? 🙂
Prologue: Apparently No One Can
It was a particularly cold night, and cold air crept up underneath my blankets, attempting to strangle me with its icy grip. As on many cold nights before it, I snuggled up with my favorite blanket and stuffed animal and settled in as the shroud of darkness crept ever closer. You see, as a child I was deathly afraid of the dark, and its ominous presence sometimes haunted my waking hours as well as my slumbering ones. Yes, this night was no different. Except…
On this particular night, I was in the body of a four-year-old child who had a peculiar way of doing things. This way of doing things would prove very useful tonight, for this child loved to watch the monsters of darkness lurk about his room through thin sheets, as though he were invisible to the world that surrounded him. If you’re confused, yes I’m talking about me… if you haven’t figured that out by now, I suggest you call a neurosurgeon and schedule a consult.
I felt a new even colder air slither its way across the floor and engulfing my room like a blaze of ice cold blue flame. It flickered wildly as if to say,
“This is my domain now!”
I clung even tighter to Little Foot, my favorite stuffed animal and quite possibly my most cherished possession to this date. You see, as with all little boys and girls, we somehow believe that those things that we cling dearest to have magical powers to make bad things go away, and I was no exception to this rule. After the dancing cold had found its equilibrium, I saw two distinct presences enter my dwelling; one was an awful power, but not a threat. It was kind and warm, even though an intelligent person would know that such power could kill you at a moments notice. But I could sense this entity meant me no harm. I could feel its powerful gaze upon me as I trembled in an irrational fear. For something about this presence seemed all too familiar to me, as if one was seeing the brother he had not seen in over a decade. I didn’t recognize the form but I understood the energy.
Just as I was about to drift off into the world of the night, another presence forced its way into my room as perhaps a home burglar would. This presence, while every bit as powerful, set off all kinds of radar within me. It was sinister, I dare I say demonic. The conversation that ensued made no sense to me at the time but I recalled every word, and as I soon discovered words without context have no meaning. The demonic one spoke first:
“Does the child slumber?” His tone was reminiscent of the snakes hiss, as his forked hung met his teeth.
“No, he wishes to appear as though he’s asleep, but not only is he awake… he is also aware both of us.” The angelic ones tone was odd, it was as if there were three persons speaking through one voice, all in unison.
“Strong indeed is this one!” The demon hissed as his red eyes peered right through my soul.
“He will make a great addition to our forces, but I wonder if he’ll take up his old station. It is within his right to return home, but still it would be nice to have another brother joined our cause.” The demon’s tone almost totally self-assured.
“Only time will tell. As it was in the beginning so it is true now… he must make his own choice.” The angelic one spoke in a calm, serene tone that I have neither heard before, nor since that day.
“Enough!” The demon hissed impatiently.
I shall take him now, enough of this foolishness!”
Just as the words had slithered forth from his mouth, he lunged towards me as I clenched in fear.
Just then the angelic one raised his mighty arm and held the demon back. She then attended his body toward the wall slamming the demon into it, he then used his free hand to grip the demon’s throat.
“Stop! It is not the will of the Creator, and even if that were not true, you of all beings in all of creation should know he is like us, and therefore cannot be taken.” “For once, we are as they, we shall just have to wait and see.”
From that night on, I knew my life would never be the same. I also knew for better or worse, neither would anyone else’s around me.
I stood before the twisted gate, and its master bade me enter. He seemed a rather beautiful creature, quite contrary to the fables I have been taught regarding the Master of Hell. Rather than displaying characteristics of the twisted demon, he radiated a beauty and power that a man can find second only to God.
As I walked toward him, he smiled and placed his arm around me saying,
“Welcome brother, it has been a long time since a creature of our status has dared to traverse these unholy halls.”
And before I could think to take in what he was saying, I found myself emanating the same powers as he. Upon my entrance, gates slammed shut. I then found myself surrounded by corpses; some mutilated, some perfectly preserved. The Master of Hell proceeded to explain to me that this was indeed a multi-layered domain.
And I asked of him, “What is the significance of this layer? Why are there so many corpses?”
He replied, “These are the souls that have done nothing in life, they are as they were… nothing.”
He transported us to another layer of his twisted realm. I found myself walking amidst a bustling city; the appearance of the city would have been rather magnificent, with breathtaking skyscrapers, beautiful, ornate architecture, and smoothly paved golden streets. As I said previously it would have been, except for a dark, hopeless overcast that seemed to strangle any potential joy out of the city and its inhabitants, and The Master explained to me, as if anticipating my question:
“These are the souls that thought of nothing but riches in life at the cost of all else, even their own humanity. So there shall be no rest for the wicked.”
Before we left that bleak atmosphere, rain started to pour on all its occupants, the Master stared longingly at those poor souls, and then we proceeded to the next layer.
We arrived in the chamber of seeming delight; couches, pillows, Persian rugs, and golden bowls of fruit wet with red wine. The Master and I were presented with a scene of licentiousness; nude human flesh rubbed against yet more nude human flesh and all I could hear were moans of pleasure… or was it pain? The Master explained to me,
“These are the souls that were driven by lascivious desires. Here, those desires have come full circle, pleasure becomes pain, and what seems to be a reward becomes excruciating punishment.”
The Master laughed somewhat chillingly accompanying this rather bold statement. I could not help but be frightened, at least a little by the scene before me. A man’s phallus was being sucked by the mouth of woman, the same woman having the entire source of her womanly delight clawed by a demon, drinking the blood raining upon it. The woman stopped her fellatio and then I saw the man ejaculate blood.
Suddenly, the licentious arena transformed; the Royal cushions became moth eaten, the fruits rotted away, the red wine turned into blood, and the actors, once flawless, their bodies became bruised, their mouths riddled with sores, and their genitalia marred with the scars of disease.
The Master chuckled, “lust is, like most human desires, a drug, and therefore all happiness that springs from it is an illusion. These fools perceived her desires as “heavenly”, and when all illusions of earthly pleasure have faded, they are left empty.”
As we came upon the next layer of the Master’s domain, I saw was our next destination. It was likely one of the most serene and yet one of the most disgusting scenes I would ever behold. I saw before me the world’s most notorious dictators. I encountered Adolph, Joseph, Benito and the like discussing their failed attempts at global conquest in perpetuity. The discussion was rather calm if not slightly melancholic. The more closely I examined the scene before me I began to notice that they were horribly disfigured. Missing limbs and mangled faces marred these unfortunate souls.
The Master inquired of me, “brother, what is it you see?”
I replied, “I see the men who were consumed by the very lust made them great, consumed by the fire from which they were forged.”
“Indeed brother, and now you can see them as they always were, broken.”
One final time, the Master had transported us to a new realm where only he and I stood. Before us both was a mirrored wall. As if by magic or some divine power, the Master projected a movie like image. Images flash through my mind of “The Great War”, images of celestial being battling their fellows, and the heavens quaking with fear and rage, as brother turned against brother and violence erupted, in the name of God and humanity. The Master began to speak again, this time with a great sadness in his voice.
“It is in this place brother, that you have been allowed to recall the greatest sin ever to have been. Brother against brother, and all against God. It is our kind that is responsible for the suffering that celestial beings and humans alike now endure. I tell you now, that if I could take it all back, swallow my pride, and accept my place… I tell you now that I would. Brother, if you should remember nothing else from your time with me here, remember that all actions have consequence, and some are farther reaching than even we can anticipate… go now, and remember to always act of kindness and compassion, and never out of foolish pride. God’s peace be with you brother.”
So guys, I’m going to be collecting the stories in this vein and writing others to form a novella. Let me know what you guys think.
My name is Zak. I’ve always been a weird kid, and this story proves it… I’ve never really gotten along with religion, although I have tons of what some people call “faith” and a brain to think with. This was about to become one of the most important days of my life, and I hope this story, my story can help anyone out there who needs it. I hope you think I’m crazy, that you’re maybe a bit bewildered and confused, but most of all, I hope this story gives you a “eureka!” moment.
I vividly recall a morning when I was urged vehemently to get ready for church. More specifically a Sunday morning, and I was being urged to get ready, again more specifically, for Mass. On this particular morning in 1989, I had a strong desire to continue playing Super Mario Brothers, on my Nintendo Entertainment System. Along the usual exhortations that normally accompanied the ritual of preparing a six-year-old boy for a task he had extremely little desire to complete, my uncle said this to me,
“Why don’t you do want to get ready for church?”
To which I replied, “Because I’d rather be playing Nintendo.” Much to my uncle’s chagrin, and very much in line with his rather stubborn nature, he continued to debate me.
“Well, you know why we go to church don’t you? It’s to spend time with God… don’t you want to spend time with God?”
Taking a moment to consider his argument, or rather his ill thought out question, I replied with the following,
“Uncle, is it not true that God is everywhere? And that God loves all people as they are?
“Yes.”, he replied
I replied, thoughtfully, if not somewhat arrogantlly: “Well Uncle, if God is everywhere and is indeed in all things, and if he also loves all people as they are… I’m guessing two things are true: one, God doesn’t care when I dress like, and two, if God is everywhere, and in everything… then even while sitting here playing Nintendo, I’m also spending time with God.
“Am I wrong Uncle?”
“No.” He replied with a great disappointment in his voice.
“Then, can you explain to me what is it about God that would make him want me to go to church just to spend time with Him?” “Or can you tell me anything about God that would help me understand why this is so important?”
Having little else in the way of ammunition, my uncle went with the tried and true tactic of “because I said so.” At which time, I begrudgingly got ready for church, and sat through what seems to be the longest damned hour I have ever sat through in my life.
Now this is where the real fun begins! Later that night, I was about to fall asleep… I felt myself being lifted up, and had an odd sensation of warmth that seem to flow throughout my entire being. I think I was mostly unconscious during the lifting a part, but when I came to, that is, when I regained consciousness I was somewhere I never imagined I would be. I was literally, in heaven. I was standing on what seemed to be… clouds, but they weren’t really clouds. It kind of reminded me, of those dry ice machines you see in haunted houses because like still feel the floor beneath me. Whatever it was made of, I don’t really know.
The only thing that was really there, with an empty throne and some Greco-Roman looking columns. Like the kind you see on old reruns of Jason and the Argonauts. Just as I was about to try to go back down to my bed, a bright, all-consuming light began to emanate from the throne. And when the light had dissipated, God sat on the throne before me. I instinctively dropped to one knee, and bowed my head before the Creator. And he said to me:
“Come now child, there is no need to bow, we have known each other from the beginning.”
Still bewildered, “why am I here?” I asked.
He replied to me and the calmest voice I have ever heard, like that of a patient sage, waiting for his student to ask the right question, “You my son… have asked a very complicated question. It is a question that you have received yet no satisfactory answer. The answers you have been given, while sufficient for most children your age has not quelled the fire that burns within. So, my child, ask your question, and I will give you the answer you seek.”
Dude! Seriously? God, the Creator of all things, was going to answer a question… any question I asked him… anything! But, what question do I ask? Oh wait! I hope he didn’t do that… Ha ha ha! That would suck. Needless to say, I was in way still am kind of dumbfounded. As I began to wonder what question I should ask, a thousand possibilities were rushing through my mind. Should I ask the tried and true, what is the meaning of life? Should I ask him to tell me everything that will ever happen to me? Suddenly, the question dawned on me, perfectly stated:
“Lord God, I’ve been taught that all of humanity is supposed to believe you, because there is only one God. So, if there is only one God, why do we have so many different religions? Why is there Buddhism? Islam? The innumerable branches of Christianity? Hinduism? Some of these religions say there are many gods, but I know there is only one. So tell me, Lord God, if we are all supposed to believe in you, why are there so many different religions in the world? And why do we all fight?”
Carefully considering the long question, or rather many questions I had posted him, he responded authoritatively with the following:
“My dear child, you could have asked me anything. You could’ve asked me about your future, about the meaning of life, about the loves that will come in and out of your existence, of your past lives… instead you have chosen to ask the question that is important not only for you, but for all of humanity. And because you have asked, as promised, I will answer.”
“There are many cultures on the great planet of Earth, and with each culture and people, understanding of the world around them, and of me differs from place to place. So, I appear to people as they need to see me in order for them to learn, that which they need to know. To some, I am Brahman, Vishnu, and Shiva. To others still, I am simply the God Elohim, to some I came as the Buddha said that they might learn peace in the middle way. You see me here today, as the risen Christ, because that is how you perceive me. I have many different faces, yet I am one God.
As he spoke those words, I saw before me images of many people from around the world, praying according to their various customs. I could feel the intense love, anguish, desire, need, devotion, and floods of many other emotions that I could not, nor even today can I articulate now. When the flood of images had ceased, he said to me:
“if you remember nothing else, remember this: religion begins in divinity, and is corrupted by men. This is why the people of the world fight, each man holds on to his steadfast view, making no room for understanding or compassion. Remember what I’ve said to you this day, and spread this message throughout the world.”
I told you it was important, didn’t I.? Like I said before, it changed my life forever, and in at least some small way, I hope it changes yours too.