Archive for July, 2011

A Sound To Remember

Posted: July 22, 2011 by Zachary in July 2011

The first time he listened to God, it sounded like springtime rain sprinkling across the bare toes of his soul.

It was not the first time he had heard the sound of divinity.  He had heard it all the time.  In the sound of Sunday morning church bells, and in the allegories of great writers and subtle performers.  He had heard it in the back of his conscience before he kissed a married woman and whenever someone pointed at the sunrise and said “that’s why I believe in God.”

Perhaps the first time he remembered hearing it was in the voice of his angry mother when he was young.  Normally, when she was angry at him, she would shout and scream and go red in the face.  But there were a couple of times (exactly 2, in fact, for he kept count) when she did not get loud.  The first, when he was six, he had coloured on her favorite painting.  He had no idea that it was originally her grandfather’s, his great-grandfathers, and one of the only remaining items that she had of his.  Her chest puffed up and then down just as quickly, as her mind took in the ruined picture. Then her eyes deadened.  And when her mouth opened, her voice was a calm, steady, and unwavering tone of discipline.

He had heard it in the background of life, like the baseline to a song playing in the mall while you’re shopping.  Like the landmarks and tourist attractions that exist in your own city – all the ones you know exactly how to direct tourists to but have never made a destination of yourself.  It was like the TV show that was always on whenever you went over to someone else’s house.

But hearing and listening were two very different things.  When he heard his mother, he heard only that he had hurt her.  He was too busy looking to the consequences of his actions to really listen to the sound of actuality that was happening in front of him.  He was also too young.  (God says to be like the children to adults, but what can He say to children, save perhaps “remember what I sound like.”)  He merely heard a message, the way a computer receives a code, and interpreted it to his benefit.

And to his credit, interpret it he did.  He only ever hurt his mother like that one more time, and even then, only completely by accident.

He had, all his life, tried to understand this “religion” thing before.  He’d become infatuated with it since the first time he heard a friend explain it to him.  It filled a hole you didn’t know you were missing.  He didn’t know he was missing anything in his life.  He didn’t feel like anything was missing.  Still, he wondered what could be this thing that he could be missing, and so he looked.

He attended church services.  They did nothing for him.  So he quit going.

He attended a bible study or two.  They were fun, very academic.  But the TV was still on, and it wasn’t his.  It felt like he was at the mall again, and while they were all shopping through the emotive intellectualism of their religion’s finer points, he couldn’t figure out what this had to do with the background music that everyone was listening to and everyone said was “so important.”

He read a book.  A book about someone who saw God in everything.  It was a good book.  He thought it was better than THE Good Book.  This is where he got the idea that he must be missing it the way locals miss local tourist attractions.  This book explained that once you do see the divine, you can’t stop seeing the divine.

He tried prayer.  He prayed with others, but that felt false, so he stopped doing it.  He prayed on his own, but that provided him with no response, so eventually he just forgot about it.  He did talk to the sky once in a while.  Mostly while waiting for the bus, or when walking in the rain.  But it was more like talking to an imaginary friend who had super powers, rather than a God.

He cannot say how, or even exactly when, it happened.  He described it ever afterward as a kind of happy accident.  Like a picture with two images, he focused on a search for God with scholarly devotion, trying to discover the detail that would shift his understanding and reveal this other gap-filling image.  And yet, all he saw was God.  God here, God there.  He began to know the baseline so well he could conduct an orchestra of God woulds and God shoulds.

And then, one day, he stubbed his toe.

His girlfriend had left him a month ago when she found out that he had made out with a married woman.  And he was now moving out of the apartment that they had shared because the lease was up and he couldn’t afford it on his own.  He was angry about something else entirely (as it turned out, there was nothing worth watching on his TV) and turned around the corner just quick enough to stub his toe on the corner of a box.  It was heavy, containing a bunch of his old porn magazines, and didn’t budge against the meager force of his little toe.

It really, really hurt.  He let out a string of curses, including but not limited to “God damn it.”  And then, in his pain, he chuckled thinking to himself that God would not have damned it.  If anything, God endorsed it.  He let it happen.

He sat there for a moment, on the ground.  Next to the box.  On his un-vacuumed floor.  His toe throbbed, the pain fading with each pump of blood into his foot.  God let this happen.  He was here, in this moment, with his stubbed toe because he had put that box there.  God let him put that particular box, full of those particular things, in that specific spot.  Because he was moving.  God let the landlord decide that the rent needed to go up, and God let lots of people know that this spot was available for rent.  God let him drink too much 2 months ago, and let him give in to passions he probably shouldn’t have.  And God gave him the dawn to encourage him to fess up and say the right thing.  And God let his girlfriend walk out the front door the next day.  All the while, his imaginary friend in the sky merely walked along and smiled and never asked why.  But it was all the collective reason that he was there.  On the ground.  Next to the box.  On his un-vacuumed floor.

That’s why God wouldn’t damn it.

He smiled.  The image changed.  Listening to God was not about seeing the picture of His image.  It was about seeing what was made in His image.  And what was there was, quite simply everything.

His toe felt much better.  And it was true – he couldn’t help but listen all the time after that.  When he stretched in the morning, or when he bumped into an old friend.  When his morning coffee wasn’t quite right, and when he hit a red light right next to a church.  When he saw sunsets he didn’t look and point – he closed his eyes and felt the breeze against his skin.

When someone asked him what it was like, he didn’t bother telling them the story about an unknown hole in your soul being filled up.

No, he just told them it was like listening to the rain.


Inside Voices

Posted: July 6, 2011 by Zachary in July 2011

We all have two voices.
The one with which we speak in,
And the one with which we write.

One for our outside whims,
And one for our inside plight.
One is the mask we wear to polite occasions,
To the campfire hall and water-cooler conversations,
But the other walks the flesh with sacred posture,
Indulging in naked persuasion.

The subtle difference is not of art,
It’s not of doing, but of heart.
Because when I speak in the moment, I am alive,
But when I write, my spirit thrives.

My inside voice is not the inside voice used by little kids,
The kind that is used for quiet discourse between 9am and recess.
It’s the kind that’s inspired by “God bless,”
And inspires “God, yes!”
It is the sound that remembers the spirit of Shane Koyczan and admires the poetry of Shakepeare;
That is finally finished with hoping and dreaming,
And instead has started pointing and screaming.

“What, the fuck, are you doing?
“Don’t ‘just breathe’, just seethe!  Don’t let the anarchists of emotion force you to secede,
“Your mind was meant to teethe.
“Let it bite down on the boiling bile and bubbling joy.
“Take a lesson from Troy.
“The world should move for love, and die for the part.
“When you stop ‘just feeling’ and start thinking with your heart,
“You think smart.

“Our soul is not two roads diverged in a Frost’s wood and we one traveler.
“We can travel both.  Arm in arm.  Hand in hand.
“As surely as your life is attached to your birth,
“Your heart is attached to your sense of worth.
“And when you let your logical mind be a sword for your lust,
“You encourage a soul’s trust.

“Take the goddamned power you feel and put it in the palm of your hand.
“Each moment is a grain of sand,
“Which you use to build your castle, your bridge, your wall and your brand.
“And 10 fingers grasps so much more than 5 can.
“Ecclesiastes may come to blow it away,
“Yes, it is true.
“But to hell with him, is all you have to say.
“Yours will be the best vapor on the wind.

“Don’t stay crystal clean; a house of tin,
“Redefine what it means to fucking sin.”

My outside voice sounds like whatever you hear,
Whatever you know.  Whatever you fear.
I cannot control the sound that comes from those vocal chords,
Those proper vibrations meant to send my expression toward,
The object of my desire.
I cannot determine whether I sound like Barry White or a cute little kid with a Ninja Turtles kite.

But my inside voice sounds like the morning’s first breath of fresh air,
where the dawning sun and virgin sky brightly declare
that there is meaning.

Because there is.

What do you sound like?