Set me as a seal over your heart,
as a seal upon your arm.
For love is as strong as death,
its jealousy as unrelenting as Sheol.
Its sparks are fiery flames,
the fiercest blaze of all.
Mighty waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If a man were to give all the wealth of his house for love,
his offer would be utterly scorned.
— Song of Solomon 8:6-7
Q. Where are you coming from?
A. The very beginning.
Q. The beginning? As though nothing else has ever happened before?
A. It doesn’t matter what’s happened before. This is still the beginning.
Q. The beginning of what?
A. Of a brand new life, of course.
Q. What happened to the old life?
A. It no longer exists.
Q. All gone?
Q. What about memories?
A. Oh, memories may indeed persist. And one may learn from those memories, so long as they are not overly indulged. But no matter how much I may learn from the past, my hope rests entirely in the future.
Q. Isn’t that the essence of hope?
A. I suppose so, by definition. But all too often, we place our hope in the past. And there is no hope in the past. We can learn from the past — but there’s no hope there.
Q. How do we place our hope in the past? Isn’t that twisted?
A. It is twisted indeed. And indeed, we are often quite twisted. But to answer your question, the ways in which we place our hope in the past are manifold.
A. Yeah. We do it lots of ways.
Q. Like what?
A. We try to go back to old relationships and mend them. We try to make mutual amends unilaterally. But this is pointless. It takes two to tango. If one person in a twofold cord has broken that cord, then the other person has no power to bind it together again.
Q. Have you tried to do this recently?
A. I have indeed.
Q. Care to elaborate?
A. Not on the theme of the one-to-one intimate relationship. But I wouldn’t mind discussing friendships for a while.
Q. Then what about friendships?
A. We go back to friendships that we feel we botched up. We flew off the handle, when their attitudes began to baffles us, and their values conflicted with our own. And yet, we cannot mend these broken friendships all by our own selves. If they don’t want to talk to us anymore, they won’t. And there’s not a darn thing we can do about it.
Q. Can’t we apologize?
A. Many times over! But I guarantee you, if it’s not meant to be, it won’t happen. In fact, the many apologies issued may even be taken as intrusions.
A. Certainly! Would not a single apology have sufficed? And if they still don’t want to talk to you, no amount of further apology will change their minds. If anything, they’ll be annoyed at your persistence. It would be as though you’re trying to find the “magic words” that will win them back. But let’s face it — there are no magic words. If they ain’t comin’ back, they ain’t comin’ back.
Q. What about business relationships?
A. Perhaps a professional relationship was damaged. Maybe you thought somebody was on your side, but then they hit a nerve. And you hit them back again! You hit them even harder, because you were so pissed off. And back and forth the two of you jousted, taking pot shots at each other whenever possible. Finally one day, you hit them below the belt — right where it hurt.
Q. What happened then?
A. What happened then, you ask? Well I’ll tell you what happened! They ghosted you. They simply disappeared. But this is all for the good, you see. If they see things differently than you, so be it. One cannot expect to convert everyone to one’s own way of thinking.
Q, So how does this all relate to your having arrived at the very beginning?
A. It relates because I’m just not going to bother anymore! These people are not that important. Some of them haven’t talked to me in years.
Q. Yet you have persisted in trying to win them back?
A. Yes, I have.
A. Because of fallacy for which I fell. You see, I was certain that the only reason these associates had shunned me, was because I was homeless. So naturally, I thought that once I finally escaped homelessness, they would breath a sigh of relief, and come my way again. Foolishly, I expected our associations to pick up right where they left off.
Q. Did none of them come your way again?
A. Well – one of them did. In an area that perhaps I should not discuss. For it didn’t really work out, and they again went their way. I took it kinda hard, but it helped to learn a hard lesson.
Q. Have you truly learned that lesson?
A. Perhaps not. Does anyone ever learn lessons regarding the affairs of the heart?
Q. I don’t know. Do they?
A. Beats me, pal. But what I do know is this:
When I was becoming homeless, I lived in a cold cruel world. I apologized to everyone I knew, all the way down to that gutter. In that world of coldness and cruelty, the ones who got ahead were the ones who received the most apologies, and gave the least. The ones who fell the furthest down were the ones who did the most apologizing. The non-apologizers played one-up on the apologizers – to keep the apologizers in their place.
And the ones who were good at feeling guilty got beat out by the ones who were good at making them feel that way. The ones who were good at laying on the guilt trips climbed up the corporate ladders, and often made it all the way up to the top.
Q. Wow – may I quote you on that?
A. Spell my name right, please.
Q. But you don’t live in that world anymore, do you?
A. Not at all.
Q. Where do you live?
A. In the emerging world of new beginnings. Where people trust each other. Where people respect each other. Where people still treat each other with good old-fashioned common courtesy. Where people believe in each other, and try to bring out the best in each other. Where you have to try to get yourselves into trouble — and where the good guys make it all the way to the top!
Q. To the top?
A. The sky’s the limit.
Q. Shoot for the moon?
A. Consider it shot.
Q. And what will you do when you make it all the way to the top, Andy?
A. What do you think I’m going to do? I’m going live frugally and simply, with very few possessions, like a minimalist — just like I live right now. I’ll take all the extra money I’ve made and feed the hungry and give shelter to those who are without. And I won’t feed them that junk food they dish out at the food banks — as though to tell them that “beggars can’t be choosers” – as though to punish them for the crime of being poor. And I won’t put them up in flop houses on Skid Row either. They’ll be staying at the Ritz Carlton, if I have any say in the matter. And you won’t catch me flying to Bermuda and back! The price of that ticket would put a married homeless couple up for three months, in the right situation. And I’ll stay right here, where I’ve landed, till the day I die.
A. Mmm . . . give or take a few details. I’m still contemplating a Trump-dodge up to Canada. Not entirely sure we’ve gotten rid of the monster yet.
Q. What about the past?
A. Kaput. Finito.
Q. And the future?
A. It’s the kingdom of heaven, man. North Idaho is just a step along the way.
The Questioner is silent.
Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor.
For if one falls down,
their companion can lift them up;
but pity the one who falls
without another to help them up!
Again, if two lie down together,
they will keep warm;
but how can one keep warm alone?
And though one may be overpowered,
two can resist.
Moreover, a cord of three strands
is not quickly broken.
I would like for everyone I know to cease telling me that:
(1) I am supposed to be in an intimate relationship.
(2) I am supposed to be “sexually active.”
(3) I am supposed to get married or remarried.
(4) I am supposed to learn how to “make love.”
(5) I am supposed to be anyone other than who I am.
I tire of it. I really do. The one relationship that is of unique importance to me — that is, the relationship with Jesus Christ — is challenging enough. However, Jesus never blames me for things I have not done, and in fact takes the blame for that which I have.
Finally, I am an Artist. I was on the streets for years. I love my solitude. I like my space. If I want to make love, I make love to my piano. My piano never leaves me. My piano never lies.
I hope this is the end of this particular story.
P.S. Besides, the good ones are all taken for. :(