Hear my prayer, O LORD;
give ear to my pleas for mercy!
In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.
For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled.
I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
Answer me quickly, O LORD!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD!
I have fled to you for refuge.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!
For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
for I am your servant.
— Psalm 143
To whoever read my Thursday blog post (now in the trash), I removed it because of a logical inconsistency towards the end.
Before I removed it, I reformatted it and submitted it to Spokane Faith and Values. But something didn’t feel right. When I was walking to work this morning, it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks.
I turned back, copped the Wi-Fi at the nearby A&W, and rescinded the submission. Tracy Simmons my editor said “no rush” — which is unsurprising. She hadn’t expected me to submit anything in the first place, being as I’d told her how wrapped up I am in the summer musical workshop.
But I also had to contact everyone I’d send the reformatted version to — approximately ten people — and let them know.
One such person — an evangelical Christian — said she had read it and very much liked it. She suggested that the “logical inconsistency” might be best explained by my artistic temperament.
Then, when I explained what the logical inconsistency was, she was like: “Wow! Why didn’t I see that? Yeah – you definitely have to rewrite it!”
(And I will be able to rewrite it. I know what I was trying to say. The English language failed me — but it’s not irreconcilable.)
Finally, my daughter, who is not exactly your Bible-believing Bible thumper (if you get my drift) replied with: “Intriguing! Can’t wait to see the amended version.”
All that said, if anybody wants a copy of the piece as it is, I’ll send it to you if you think you can find the logical contradiction. First person to detect it gets a free piano CD of your choice. (I have several, in addition to the four on this page that you get to listen to for free.)
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The poor man pleads for mercy,
but the rich man answers harshly.
Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.
Q. Do you even have the slightest idea who I am?
A. I know exactly who you are.
Q. Then where were you last night when I needed you?
A. Too wiped out.
Q. You weren’t avoiding me, were you?
A. No – not really. I just didn’t have much to say to you.
Q. Do you realize how small that makes me feel?
A. Vaguely. But perhaps you’ve been a bit too big for your britches lately.
Q. What makes you say so? Why would you even think such a horrid thought?
A. Well, it’s one thing for me to have finally summoned you as a last resort, when I was in a bind. But you outlived your usefulness when you started becoming all codependent on me.
A. You heard me! My personal habits and manner of self-care are my own business. All you codependents are alike. Constantly harping on me to take care of myself, as though you practically owned my body. I’m the one who lives in the damn thing! I’m the one who knows what it takes to function properly. I’m the one who hasn’t had a serious disease in sixty-four years of living, while all around me all these sick people keep harping on how I “don’t take care of myself.”
Q. Are you calling me “sick?”
A. Aw, you’re healthy enough in low doses, I suppose.
Q. Don’t you think you’re beginning to come across like Job in Chapter 33? Exalting your own righteousness above that of the Holy Name of God??
A. Oh please. The transparency with which you resort to throwing the Book at me is odious.
Q. How so?
A. You always pound the Scriptures at me in order to bring guilt upon my head, just at the moment when you figure nothing else would work but a religious guilt trip.
Q. But can’t you see that I am only trying to help?
A. That’s what they all say.
Q. But what do you say?
A. I say that yes, I thank the Good Lord God for keeping me in decent health long enough to finally get a good crack at my life’s work on this planet. But at the same time, I can’t deny that following some simple rules such as (1) not smoking cigarettes, and (2) getting sufficient, moderate physical exercise, have had at least something to do with it. God didn’t waste his gift of good health on a guy who was going to sit on a bar stool all night long whining with a Camel non-filter hanging out of his mouth as though it were a blue tooth in his ear.
Q. How can you claim to have always made healthy choices? Is not the very notion preposterous?
A. I never said I have always made healthy choices. I am only saying I make a point of taking care of myself, whether anybody else thinks so or not, and when I fail or lapse, God has been merciful in letting me wake up in the morning without hangover. Or similar such show of mercy.
Q. Why is that you seem so damned smug today?
A. Because you and I are splittin’ up, baby! I got to the point yesterday where I just did not need you or your flagrant codependent guilt trips, you flailing flimsy excuse for a superego, you! I made a speech last night. I’m going to edit it tonight to taste. And I worked for three hours on my piano-vocal score, according to my schedule that I’m determined to keep up till the end of October. I even enjoyed the work. And I ran two miles! And did fourteen push-ups! When was the last time you ran two miles? Not to mention, before you completely fade and fizzle into the oblivion where you and all your moralistic guilt trips belong, heed the wise words of Bertrand Russell, my agnostic hero.
A. My agnostic hero chain-smoked till he was 80, became unhealthy, stopped smoking, and lived to be 97. Are you going to live to be 97?
Q. Are you?
A. We shall see!
The Questioner has been silenced — for the time being . . .
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Anything Helps – God Bless!
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.
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Anything Helps – God Bless!