Jack and the Darkness

It had been 17 months since the incident, 17 months since Jack had seen another living soul. He wandered the debris littered streets. These streets, remnants of the once bustling city, now seemed dead. Quite the recluse before the incident, Jack now ached for human interaction. The cause of the incident was not completely clear to him. Jack recalled standing among a crowd of strangers in the streets, eyes to the sky with anticipation, as a siren blasted overhead. All of them waiting for the faintest glimpse of a meteor or a missile. Why were they not underground? Why were they not in bunkers somewhere? It wasn’t that they couldn’t find shelter. They didn’t want to. The experience mystified Jack as he thought back on it. Then everything went black with the sound of glass shattering all around him. Jack called out for help. The only response he received was the echo of his voice in this seemingly barren street. Jack coughed, choking on debris in the air, and lost consciousness. Jack awoke an unknown amount of time later in the darkness. He felt his stomach churn. He was starving. But, at least he could breathe. Jack felt his way around the black streets, stepping over shards of metal. There were no bodies. Where had everyone gone?

Jack had been raised to be Christian. The event felt a lot like the rapture discussed in certain sessions of Sunday school. But then where was everyone else? Certainly a merciful god would not leave him alone on this planet, the only living creature on Earth. Besides, they said only believers would be taken by God. Was he the only forsaken soul, the only unworthy of God’s forgiveness? No, this was something else. Jack stepped up onto the curb of the street and walked slowly with his fingers outstretched until they came in contact with a stone wall. Jack walked along the wall, his hands sliding along it as he blindly explored what he expected was the outside of a shop of some kind. Then, broken glass. It was a door. Carefully, Jack ducked under the door handle as he entered the building. “Hello?!”, he called out. No one responded. His hands out in front of him, Jack slowly navigated the entry of the building. The room was small. He could tell by the flat sound of his voice. Jack’s finger tip touched something with the sound of a crackle. It was a bag of potato chips. He knew it. Jack ripped open the bag and began devouring the chips inside. He wasn’t sure what flavor they were. Everything tasted like blood. Jack took solace in this taste. This taste was confirmation that he was still alive. Death was the only thing that had ever scared him.

It felt like days before the sun appeared back in the sky. Jack awoke to the first sight he had seen in this time, rays of sunlight coming through holes in the ceiling of the little bodega in which he had been staying. Jack quickly rolled over and pushed himself to his feet. The street outside was a mess. Glass and metal covered the face of the abandoned thoroughfare. There was not a person, not a body, in sight.

If this was some sort of spiritual rapture, there would be bodies all over the place. Jack laughed at his thought. How stupid was such a consideration? He hadn’t believed in such things since he was old enough to think for himself. This sight made the experience that much realer. Jack felt a certain shock from the view. At the same time, he felt comfort in the autonomy this wasteland offered. No longer would he be bound by rules of the life before. Although Jack started this new life with optimism, as the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, Jack felt more and more that he was losing himself in the desolate nature of this new world.

Jack’s loneliness inspired him to look for any kind of companionship and any kind of purpose behind his pain. He found it odd how being alone caused him so much anguish. Jack often found himself contemplating the existence of something bigger than him. The thought of God scared him. If there was a God, he, she, or it would not be happy with some of Jack’s decisions. If sin were more than a human creation, Jack would be doomed to an eternity of suffering. He often had to remind himself of how illogical some of what he was taught about God and the bible seemed. Ironically, it was humankind’s loneliness, it’s desire for purpose, which Jack attributed to it’s creation of the various theories regarding the existence of a God.

One evening, as Jack was deeply asleep, he dreamed about his childhood home. His father reading from the bible as his mother sat nearby, listening: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Jack stared out the living room wind, into the darkness. “Jack, are you listening?!”, his mother demanded. But Jack could barely hear her as his father’s words, “This is the second death” replayed over and over in his head. The darkness got bigger until it and his father’s words were all that remained. The second death; the darkness; it was coming for him. Jack awoke in a panic. The smell of rotten eggs made the air almost too thick to breathe. Jack turned to his hands and knees and heaved, spilling junk food and blood onto the grass. Jack rolled over onto his back and wept.

Although Jack felt lonely when he spent time in this world, he learned to lose himself in his thoughts. Jack would spend hours reflecting on stories he had heard in Sunday school. He created people in his head, people with whom he could interact, people who could provide a surprise once in a while. Before long, these bible stories were the only ones Jack could remember. These were the only stories Jack’s friends would tell him.

One who spoke to Jack regularly was a friend by the name of Job. Job liked to tell stories of angels and demons, good versus evil, the power of the almighty God. Although Jack knew these stories to be fictional, he loved hearing Job’s enthusiasm in his telling of the stories. Jack would ask question upon question, attempting to catch Job in a contradiction. To Jack, it was a game. But Job feared God. Job was afraid of God. Jack could tell. Anytime Jack asked Job to tell of a personal experience with God, Job disappeared. Jack would go days sometimes without hearing from Job. But Job always came back.

One evening, while sitting by the fire as Job told a story from the bible, Jack interrupted, “Please! All we talk about is the bible! Tell me something about yourself. Do you have any kids?” Job said, “Not anymore”. “What happened?”, Jack asked with an apologetic tone. Job was silent, staring into the fire. “Go on! Tell him!”, Peter yelled. “Yes! Tell him!”, Adam said. The voices in Jack’s head all urged. The buildings around them began to shake. Then the fire was snuffed out.

Once again, Jack was alone. No imaginary friends would visit him. Jack awaited the sunrise, but it never came. The darkness was his world. He was a part of the darkness. The darkness was Heaven and Hell. It was God and the devil and it was coming to collect him. Then Jack was running. He didn’t know how. He couldn’t see where he was going. But he was frantically trying to escape the darkness. He found no buildings, no shards of metal in the streets. It was nothingness. He felt this darkness closing in on him, sucking him in, weighing him down. God was no longer something intangible, a lie taught to keep him in line. God was real! God was angry! God was coming for him! “…and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”, Jack’s father read. His mother demanded, “Jack, are you listening?!”

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Airport Security Theater

I don’t consider myself a Democrat or a Republican. Although I believe it is important to help others, I don’t believe I should be able to make someone help someone else. I believe in marriage equality. But I also believe in our right to bear arms. The purpose of a gun is to kill, to end life. The bullet was specially designed to rip through flesh, be it human or other animal. It almost seems like something out of a science fiction story. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. Even though a gun may be used for the purpose of hunting, the Second Amendment guarantees us the right to own guns in order that we may rise up against tyranny. Rebellion is an act of love. I believe in keeping ourselves safe, but not at the risk of loss of personal freedoms. I had the opportunity to interact with the TSA on my trips to and from Florida this past week. and, the more I interact with the Transportation Security Administration, the more I grow to understand their efforts as airport security theater (AST). Now, it’s not just that I don’t want pictures like these (http://cdn0.dailydot.com/uploaded/images/original/2014/8/21/Screen_shot_2014-08-21_at_4.13.57_PM.png) of me out there. Really, I have little shame and would likely walk through the airport naked if I were not under threat of arrest for such an act. But I refuse to lay down when I feel I am being violated. So, when I went through the TSA checkpoint both times, I opted out of the full body scan, which, according to the article tied to the picture above (http://www.dailydot.com/layer8/tsa-rapiscan-body-scanner-study/), doesn’t even work, if you know what you are doing. any time I’ve done this in the past, they TSA agents like to punish me a little bit for not complying. They know I am well within my rights to opt out, but I am creating more work for them by not simply doing as I’m told. So they have me stand aside for several minutes as I watch other passengers willingly forego their rights to “be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” (Taken from the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution). After a few minutes of my standing by, as though having to stand there and watch the others go through would persuade me to conform, I witness the TSA agent to whom I spoke originally, ask, for the first time, for assistance. I’m taken to a secure area, asked to spread my legs, and every inch of my covered body, with the exception of the spot between my genitals and buttocks, is felt by the TSA agent. The agent presses so hard against the front of my body that I almost lose my balance. I struggle to keep my balance out of suspicion that my stepping backwards will be viewed as uncooperative behavior. The agent places his hand on my inner thigh and raises up with force in an effort to ensure there is nothing hidden in my underwear. All the while, I smile, understanding that this low-level employee has little to do with the regulation in place. He is just a pawn, trying to earn a living. But, after all of this, my question is as follows: If they aren’t going to check every inch of my body, if the aren’t going to do a cavity search, what is the point in all of this? If I were planning on sneaking a banned item onto the plane, I know where to hide it, I know where they aren’t going to search. It’s not as though any person who supposedly hijacked an airplane on 9/11/2001 felt as though he was above taping a pocket knife to his perineum. It’s all bogus. It’s all there to make us feel safe. But, Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” It’s been fifteen years, and are we any safer? We would certainly seem to be more afraid… So don’t blame the AST (TSA) for these violations. Blame us. It was our fear that enabled Dubya to sign the PATRIOT Act into law. It is our fear that causes us to blindly follow the next person in line through the full-body scanner at the airport. It was fear that caused us to go into Iraq in 2003. We cannot let ourselves be so manipulated. Death is scary for many of us. Then again, so is public speaking. And many of us voluntarily do this quite often. We cannot let fear control us. Do we want to be ruled by fear or love?

13

When I was 21, I began a relationship with a woman with whom I would spend 8 years. The first year was incredible. I knew I had finally met the woman with whom I would spend the rest of my life. At this time we were both living with our parents in Boerne, TX. After we had dated for about a year, my father offered me a job in Arizona. The girlfriend and I moved to Arizona and lived together for the first time. As soon as we got to Arizona, she no longer showed any interest in a physical relationship. In spite oftr my feelings of rejection, I did what I could to make the relationship work. As long as I worked for my dad, I was able to pay our bills. But, when I was replaced by someone with more sales experience, my income dwindled. I took the only jobs I could get, attempting to sell insurance. But my lack of ability to sell caused greater stress in our relationship. The girlfriend seemed to be angry all the time. But I loved her. She took a more authoritative role in our relationship as she became the primary breadwinner. She told me that, in spite what I felt about God trying to direct me when it came to my job, I had to think that maybe God didn’t exist and act accordingly. In spite this difference in philosophical views I stuck with her. This was partly the result of my continued love for her and partly because I didn’t want to be alone. I finally found a job that provided me with a descent paycheck at GoDaddy. I hated that I had to manipulate my customers, attempting to sell something every time a customer called for technical support. But that was my job. It was means to providing for myself and my significant other. I once expressed to her the opinion that we worked because we both wanted her to be happy. There would come a time when her happiness wasn’t enough for me. After I’d spent some time at GoDaddy, the girlfriend and I began discussing moving back to Texas. By this time, I was generally unreceptive to any sexual interest she showed. I had stopped even trying as a result of the constant rejection and she rarely instigated. On the couple of times a year she did show interest, I wasn’t even sure I was reading her right. This caused her to become frustrated with me. The last year we spent together, I had been struggling with a lack of employment opportunities again and was serving as caregiver for her father. As her father felt he should be able to do whatever he wanted and she felt I should be able to tell him not to do whatever he wanted, she was constantly angry with me for “letting” him engage in irresponsible actions over which I had no control. I felt as though I was no longer her partner, but her employee, constantly failing to do my job the way she thought I should have. Then I moved into the guest room. I didn’t want the temptation of any connection to arise. Our bed had felt like a giant canyon ran down the middle. It was dangerous to reach to the other side. My moving into the guest bedroom felt like an act of bravery. I wanted her to see that I was done. At the same time, I wanted to be there for her father. When I told her that I was only there for her father at this point, she made arrangements for him to live somewhere else and I moved out. I spent 8 years of my life with someone who was not a good fit. I let my fear dictate my actions. I’ve been alone for 4 years this month. But not because of fear. This time I know what I am looking for. I am not going to settle. I worry that I may have waited too long to find the courage to strike out in pursuit of my own happiness. As I spent these years trying to make this doomed relationship work, others, who might have been more suited to be my partner were getting married. Still, I remain hopeful. I believe there is someone out there who will just get it, who will understand the power of love to change the world, who will love me for me and want me to be happy. Still, my hopefulness doesn’t mean it wasn’t a mistake to stay as long as I did. It wasn’t her fault I lost those 8 years. It was mine.

I share all of this, not to complain or to pass judgement. I share all of this in the hopes that my younger friends will learn from my mistakes. Don’t continue down a road that leads to heartache. Know yourself well enough to know what you want and that you deserve to have what you want. Life is too short to spend it with someone who does not share with you the perspectives that make up who you are.

Bike on Water

There is so much crazy in our world, so much anger and so much distrust. And through a perspective of pure love, it can all seem so small. On my recent bike rides to and from work, I’ve witnessed a fair amount of anger over others’ actions, people passing judgement on others for blocking the crosswalk or for taking too long to make their turn. As a result of the endorphins caused by the activity and my efforts to remain positive, I feel nothing but love for these people who would seem to engage in selfish or at least thoughtless behavior. At the same time, I manage to feel love for these people who would seem angered by the others’ actions. I relish in the fact that we are all on this imperfect ride together. The imperfection makes the ride what it is, exactly what it is supposed to be. It is perfectly imperfect. I’ve experienced moments of this kind of perspective for many years, but I would seem to be getting better at staying with it, staying in the moment and experiencing the world through this perspective. I believe this unconditional love is how God sees us. From a perspective of love, these small pangs of daily life are insignificant and perfectly a part of who we are and who we are becoming. If we go against the flow of the river, we will catch a wound with every passing twig. If we go with the flow, the stream would seem to bury any imperfections in the water.