Q. Back so soon?
A. I promise there won’t be more than a third time before the weekend’s out.
Q. Do you know who I am?
A. I think so. More so than I did yesterday, anyway.
Q. So why have you summoned me?
A. Insecurity and uncertainty as to my path. Stuff that has to be resolved.
Q. What stuff?
A. Work-related. And spiritual.
Q. To what work do you refer?
A. My life’s work. A calling I feel I have been shirking.
Q. What calling?
A. It has to do with classism in America, especially as seen through the eyes of one who has been fortunate enough to have been homeless for many years in an urban area of great social and racial tension, and to have escaped it and been granted the great gift of solitude in a favorable social and racial climate.
Q. How have you been shirking this calling?
A. In two ways that I can think of.
A. First, by throwing my energy toward projects that, while inviting, do not pertain to the calling.
Q. Such as?
A. This novel I’m compelled to write. I wrote a first chapter, and sketched the second and third chapters. Sent Chapter One to my Writers’ Guild, who will critique it this morning.
Q. Are you afraid of their criticism?
A. Yes. I’m afraid they might like it. And if they like it, I will be tempted to pursue it. But it has nothing to do with what I am supposed to be about right now.
Q. How do you know this?
A. When I am working on what I am supposed to be about, eventually something comes over me — like chills. Sometimes the chills engulf my entire body. They seem to come from some place far beyond my normal experience of human consciousness. I get this sense of inspiration – of privilege and honor. As though I have been selected to channel something of great, great magnitude and consequence. As though I am a conduit – an oracle.
Q. Don’t you think that sounds a bit grandiose?
A. Of course it does! But it is true all the same. I can’t deny it – or if I do, I suffer for having done so. As I have suffered for the past three and a half months. And this is why I hesitate to discuss it — with anyone, at all. It’s so deeply personal, yet at the same time universal. Nobody will believe me. People will think I’m nuts, even here in Moscow, as they did in Berkeley and Stockton, and other places where I have attempted to live throughout my highly dysfunctional, disoriented, aimless past.
Q. Can you put that past behind you now, in order to focus on your calling?
A. Yes and no. I don’t want to put certain elements of it behind me, because they are crucial to the inspiration of the calling. Had I never lived on the urban streets continuously — for years on end, that is — and had I never been a member of a cohesive community of others who were in the same predicament as myself, I would never have gained these unique perceptions on society that many people either have never shared, or, if they share them, are unable to articulate them with clarity.
Q. You feel that you are able to articulate these unique perceptions with clarity?
A. Yes. This is my calling. This is what I have been put on this earth to do.
Q. How do you know this?
A. I just do. It’s evidenced in the chills that come over me, when I am on fire for this cause. It’s also evidenced in my health. I marvel that my heart and lungs are in such good condition, my cholesterol is low, I have never had the diseases that many people my age have had and that most people who have lived on the streets have had. I have never had Hepatitis C or Diabetes 2 or any kind of STD, unlike almost everyone else I knew when we all lived together on the streets. I’ve been spared all these physical sidetracks – for now – for a reason; and I am convinced that it is because I am to offer these perceptions, through my Art, to the world.
Q. Do you understand how arrogant that sounds?
A. Of course I do! This is why I continually shirk my calling.
Q. Are you afraid of your calling?
A. Only when I am shirking it.
Q. So what keeps you shirking it?
A. Incredible psychological blocks that sometimes last for months on end. And this is the second thing that I’d meant to mention. I not only throw my energy into irrelevant projects, but I balk at the natural roadblocks that arise when I try to go about my relevant projects in an organized fashion. Take, for example, this piano-vocal score. It has been almost three and a half months since I have known that it was the next logical step toward the production of my recently completed musical, Eden in Babylon, and yet, only last night did I actually complete a single number in that score.
Q. But can’t you just forget about the past three and a half months, and build upon the victory of having completed one of your numbers? And forge ahead to the next number?
A. I can. But only if I accept a few hard facts.
Q. What facts?
A. First off, the compilation of this piano-vocal score is a chore that I will probably not enjoy too very much. It will be full of drudgery and the promise of further technical hurdles along the way.
Q. And secondly?
A. Secondly, like any other thankless task, I will need to discipline myself stringently in order to accomplish it.
Q. How so?
A. By allotting three an only three hours a day for it, say between 8:30am and 11:30am, six days a week, and laboriously slaving away over it for an estimated five more months, until it is complete.
Q. Will this be total drudgery?
A. Nothing is total drudgery. There are always ways to maximize and optimize the enjoyment of a miserable procedure.
Q. Such as?
A. Rejoicing in the success of a disciplined life. Rejoicing in the benefits of a regular schedule, with fifteen minute breaks every forty-five minutes, as is conducive to the efficiency of the human brain. But most of all, knowing that once 11:30am has come, I am free to work on other, more enjoyable projects, as long as they are not irrelevant to the cause.
Q. Again, such as?
A. Talks 2017. I’ve already outlined the four talks. I can get cracking on them. My home studio is a perfect venue for their creation. This will be an enjoyable and fulfilling process, and it will balance out the relative tedium of my having to compile my piano-vocal score.
Q. Anything else?
A. Finishing the sequencing of the music that I composed “in my head” while I was without music notation software — or any other possessions for that matter — in Berkeley. Even though the themes may not seem to pertain to the calling, they actually do. I was actually was writing some pretty decent music in Berkeley while all around me the only response I received was a highly resonant “Shut the f–k up, you worthless low life idiot!” The fact that most people couldn’t even tell I was composing music at all, and that they all assumed I was crazy, is only yet another strong statement of the huge evil that is Classism in modern-day America. I need to demonstrate to the world that I am a talented, Conservatory-trained composer, so as to bust through the stigma they carry that I, and people like me who have somehow been drawn toward the urban streets, are all worthless, low-life, drug-addicted, over-medicated, mental-health-disordered, unsightly blots upon our society — not to mention “idiots.”
Q. Do I detect a note of vengeance in your calling?
A. In a sense. But I wish nobody harm. Proverbs 24:7. Romans 12:19. I fight not against flesh and blood, but against a foul spiritual principle. Ephesians 6:12.
Q. You dare to back up your insanity with Holy Scripture!?
A. Indeed I do.
Q. You presume that this mere musical comedy of yours is indicative of a godly calling? A spiritual calling??
A. Kind sir, I would hardly refer to years and years of intently focused labor as “presumptuous.” But again, your retort is exactly why it doesn’t matter how much I am mocked, sneered at, scoffed at, and ridiculed in my quite reasonable expression of my calling. In a sense, all of that condemnation is immaterial. The only person I have to truly answer to, in this context, is God. But in another sense, the fact that they mock, sneer, scoff, scorn, disdain, jeer, and so forth — has everything to do with the calling. It reveals that I am in no way distinctly different than any other formerly homeless person on the urban streets. I am no different than anyone else who had to fly a sign on a sidewalk and endure constant ridicule in order to survive. The stigma has got to be broken, and people in this country have got to start listening to what homeless people have to say.
Q. Do I detect a tone of inspiration? Are you getting the “chills” yet?
A. No, I am not. And I probably won’t – until rare moments. But because of those moments, and because of my faith, I press on. I know what I am supposed to be about in this world. 99% of the people I know have no clue. I am privileged. I am honored. I am called.
Q. In light of such grandiosity, how dare you even publish such words?
A. Chock it up to a pep talk. I let three and a half months go by, basically forgetting I had any purpose in life at all — except to be a decent father to my daughter, to try to be a good friend to my friends, and maybe to sing hymns in the back-most pews on an occasional Sunday. It might be that the three and a half month lull will have been useful, when viewed in retrospect. When I looked at my script afresh last night, I was astounded. I saw this whole picture of what I am supposed to be about, and how, as I write the piano-vocal score, I can refine the script, and touch it up, and come up with a second complete draft that exceeds the first in Artistic and dramatic quality. But I’ll be damned if, when Monday 8:30am rolls around, I only continue to draw a blank. I’m revving up my engines. This is it.
Q. So what about the time beforehand?
A. Talks 2017. There are four of them: (1) Homeless By Condition: Part One. (2) Homeless by Choice. (3) Homeless By Condition, Part Two. (4) Homeless No More. They exceed Talks 2013 in clarity, truth, and power. And this will be my gift to the world.
Q. Aren’t you still concerned about things like arrogance, mania, grandiosity, excessive goal orientation, flight of ideas, fragmentation, and pressured speech?
A. Dude! I am not a psychiatrist! That the unscrupulous agents of the so-called mental health industry will never cease to regard creative genius as a disease to be treated with pills designed to dull the senses and numb the Spirit is only further proof of my purpose. No doubt they were among the masses who mocked me and shouted abusive assaults as I merely sat in Ohlone Park playing drums on my pants legs and singing the various instrumental parts of my creations, after all my laptops and software were repeatedly stolen by crack heads and traded within minutes for grams of methamphetamine and cocaine. Of course I am traumatized! I don’t even report the most horrid of these assaults, for I have been strongly advised never to speak of them, by almost everyone I know, inside or out of the therapist’s office. Of course I am dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But all of that is further fuel for my fire. Nothing — not even you — can stop me now.
Q. But what about — humility?
A. Humility is only knowing where you stand with God. Believe me, I’ve got plenty of thorns in my flesh to remind me just how depraved and broken I am. But I still know the joy of having a clear and distinct purpose on this planet. Most people don’t know that joy. It mandates me to do justice to the call.
Q. Don’t you think it is only quite understandable that at this time, I should be extremely concerned about your mental health? Will you promise to check in with me again tomorrow evening, before you embark upon this path of wanton masochism and self-defeating self-torture?
A. As you wish. But I will not let you crumple me. I’ve got Matthew 12:26 and a great speech by Abraham Lincoln on my side. For can Satan cast out Satan? A house divided cannot stand.
The Questioner is silent.