Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

A Christmas Life — December 27, 2022

A Christmas Life

I am the pastor of a small church in town. You might not know this because this space (lovewithacapitall.com) has been a separate room where I can talk about Morrissey (mostly) and other art and artists I like. At least as separate as I can be. The things we discuss here, we also discuss there – After all, I do write it, and the best, most authentic art comes from the most authentic parts of us. If I were to pretend I didn’t love Morrissey songs and Fight Club and superheroes, that would be to abandon certain important, meaningful parts of me. How can we connect on any sort of deep level while one of us is hiding or holding parts of him/her-self back and pretending to be something else,something we think the other wants us to be? Dishonesty and image making drive me insane. So, there (in the church virtual room), these cultural touchpoints relate explicitly to God and the complicated journey of faith. Here, not necessarily as explicitly, but they do relate.

Anyway, this particular faith community began in my living room, when the church to which I belonged closed its doors. That means I speak every Sunday, and each talk should probably contain one point the people who give their most valuable possession, their time, can use, just in case they don’t hear anything else. It’s shocking, but the truth is that not everyone present is hanging on each word I say. Gasp! On Saturday night, Christmas Eve, this ‘takeaway’ was that we don’t only celebrate Christmas once a year, but that we live Christmas lives.

What does that mean? What does a Christmas life look like? Maybe I should’ve given a bit more thought to that, it sounded like a pretty good phrase at the time, and maybe I did an adequate job at conveying the idea. Often times, we are having conversations in our heads & hearts, and very little has to be said to affect us in profound ways. For instance, let’s say you were feeling that you wanted to learn to play the guitar, then a character in the book you’re reading is a guitar player, then you’re listening to Howard Stern and he’s interviewing Slash, and then you come to a church service and I happen to be talking about Abraham and Campbell’s Heroes’ Journey and say, “Maybe you’re thinking of taking a new step…” And that’s all it takes. I don’t have to be eloquent or clear at all, it’s enough and your spirit and what I call God will do the rest.

I know a Christmas life doesn’t mean we spend money like wild animals buying things we don’t need and don’t really want in the first place, things we have to return or exchange. It doesn’t mean we buy landscaping and put it inside (though I guess it could mean that for you). It doesn’t mean we gain weight as if we’re preparing to hibernate for months (like I do). It doesn’t mean we make habits of superficial small talk with distant relatives (unless we actually care for them and the talk gets bigger and less superficial.)

It’s always easier to define what we are not, or who we don’t want to be, or what we don’t want to do, than it is to say Yes. But negative postures don’t change our lives. Wanting to not become my dad never got me closer to who I wanted to become, to who Chad was once the block of stone had been chipped away. What would it reveal? I wouldn’t be a groundhog or 10 million other things, but what would I be underneath it all? That’s the coolest thing about opening your eyes, what you’ll see.

So, here’s what I came up with. A Christmas life is one of imagination. It takes a very open mind that dreams to consider a story of a God coming as a baby to a 13 year old girl in a barn, and what it could all mean. It takes imagination to hope for something new, for a fresh word. A Christmas life hopes. We hope for more than we see, that I can be more, that you can be more, that it isn’t what it is, that we’re not simply what we’ve always been, that we can change our world. A Christmas life is relational. We ask, listen, think the best, hold each other, kiss, put our phones down and pay attention to the fantastic blessings in front of us. We have more friends than “friends.” Mostly a Christmas life loves. We love our people, our animals, our neighborhoods, our country, our planet. But we do not love these things at the expense of other neighborhoods, countries, or planets. We love those, too. We are awake and aware, looking for people to love and ways to love them that they understand and receive. A Christmas life does not miss sacred moments, and a Christmas life realizes that they are all sacred moments if we are intentionally present.

I wonder if all of that came across in my message. Who knows? I wonder if all of that comes across in my life. I think, to that thought, what a Christmas life would say is, “if it didn’t yesterday, it sure will today.”

(One more thing. You know, I know almost nothing about promotion or reaching more eyes for this blog. And what I do know, I shy away from, for several reasons. But it’s going to be a new year. Promotion doesn’t have to be to feed my ego and/or brag about numbers, it could totally be about connection and circles that overlap.So, I would love to know you’re there, so maybe we could dream together and talk about what A Christmas Life means to you, and maybe we could do what we can to usher in a new world. Just a thought.)

How Many Tricks Can a Pig Do In 1 Minute? — November 2, 2022

How Many Tricks Can a Pig Do In 1 Minute?

178 people named Hirokazu Tanaka came together in Tokyo on Saturday to break the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of people with the same first and last name, breaking a group of Martha Stewarts. That’s fascinating for lots of reasons. Hirokazu Tanaka? I don’t know 1 Martha Stewart (of course, there is the celebrity, but I don’t personally know even one), for people with that name to hold a world record and to have never crossed paths with one seems unlikely in retrospect. Maybe I have and just didn’t know. And, there’s a world record for this?

Most toothpicks in a beard (3,500), most tricks by a pig in one minute (13), longest duration spinning a basketball on a toothbrush (1 min 8 secs). People are very strange. I don’t know why any of these things matter enough to be noteworthy. Do we really need to know how many cans a parrot can open in a minute (35)? More importantly, do we care? How fast can someone burst 3 balloons using just their back (6 secs) or how many t-shirts can someone remove while heading a soccer ball (22)? I don’t think I care, yet here we are, so maybe I do.

Last week, in this space, I wrote about perspective. Is the world actually falling apart or are we looking only for pieces of the sky on the ground? Is today really a worse, more frightening time to live, or are we simply building a case and finding evidence to support that hypothesis? DO we see the world as it is, or as we are?

I pastor a church and teach the Bible. One of the most dangerous paths to travel is to seek and twist verses to match my already held beliefs, instead of discovering what they mean and bringing my ideas to them. (I do recognize it’s mostly impossible to read/teach an unbiased version of anything. Everything is colored by our experiences and filtered through our minds, hearts & souls. It is the height of arrogance to think we have the right answers on everything, untouched by footprints in the snow. It’s like those who think marketing doesn’t affect them. But we can, and must, try to find truth while remaining open to the very real possibility that the opinions we currently hold could, in fact, be wrong.)

Anyway, back to parrots opening cans, gatherings of Hirokazu Tanakas, and finding what we’re searching for. We read these stories and can come to a great number of conclusions that are not exactly complimentary. But we can also see them from a different angle, which is where I generally choose to stand. Human beings are amazing; interesting, quirky, and endlessly amusing. What makes someone wonder how many tricks their pig can do??? And then, makes them reach out to preserve that number for posterity?

What makes someone choose to be a nurse, or a therapist, or makes them get out of bed at 4am to workout? Why does she have that particular tattoo or listen to that podcast? What is it about that song or singer or movie that makes him love it the way he does? Why do we pick dogs or cats or bunnies or snakes as pets? What is your favorite color or dessert or topping on pizza?

And we are constantly growing and becoming, so the answers to those questions today will certainly (hopefully) not be the answers next year. I married the Angel and every day I learn more about her, every day I am surprised. We’ve been together for almost 25 years.

I get to pastor a church, and that means that one of the best parts of my job is getting to talk with, learn about/from others, and connect. I ask a million questions and listen to what they say, how they move, how their face scrunches up or eyes water, how they shift uncomfortably in their seats. It’s so great because you are so great.

The point is, it’s sometimes easy to think people are awful, untrustworthy, selfish, and sometimes we are. But that’s not all we are. There are other, much larger pieces to us that are smart, funny, generous, loyal, honest. Maybe if we could only open our eyes to those parts a bit more often, the world around us might transform to meet our imaginations, and then there would be less nasty political ads to mourn and more super weird world records to celebrate.

Last Season’s Clothes — October 19, 2022

Last Season’s Clothes

So we’re all on a path, right? A long, sometimes wonderful, sometimes very rough, usually some level of uncomfortable, journey of growth and transformation. Sometimes we start on our own search for discovery, realization, and revelation. Sometimes we need to be kicked.

This is completely natural. This process comes standard from the factory, it’s built into everything. From Joseph Campbell’s literary Heroes Journey to Star Wars, the 4 part invitation of the Gospels (what Alexander Shaia calls the Quadratos) to Google.

But just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s easy.

If you take a long view, my life has followed a gradual line up and to the right, walking into becoming more and more myself. Of course there have been too many steps backwards (actually, who decides how many is too many – maybe it was just the right amount of stops and starts, the perfect number of falls and skinned knees) and that gradual line has been marked with spikes up as well as down, where I was thrust into periods of great ‘stretching.’ In the last week, it would appear that I happen to be in one of those right about now.

How it feels is like my clothes don’t fit anymore. They’re tight, restrictive, and leave me tugging at the seams, akwardly trying to adjust the garments or myself, in a doomed effort to stay in yesterday’s size. Like I said, it’s not the first or the last time.

How it feels is that I’m tired, which is to say, restless and uninspired, bored. And my life, my family, my community – they are anything but boring. It’s a mostly spiritual lethargy, and historically means I’m about to be kicked. So I do what I do, I sit down, metaphorically speaking. I sit down like a petulant toddler in the middle of this narrow path I’m on.

A very good friend said to me this morning, he had something to say but I wasn’t going to like it. I already knew what he would say, but sometimes you just need to hear it out loud. He said, “move.” I don’t think he meant pack my stuff and leave Pennsylvania, unless he did, but I’m pretty sure it was less specific. Move. Listen & do something new and fresh. Create. Climb up on the roof of my soul and jump off.

He’s right. I’m not sure when we talk about the people that impact us, we say, “he/she watched a lot of tv (or took tons of naps or had so many subscriptions to porn sites or was drunk every night or whatever, you get the point) and that was SOOOO awesome.” Those people took chances and followed the divine call on their lives (and nobody’s call is sitcom reruns, porn or alcohol), whatever it was. That call looks different for all of us, but we all have one.

I don’t think mine is to become a social media influencer or a boxer. The only thing I ever wanted to invent is weight sensitive windshield wipers that worked when they sensed a certain amount of water, but it turns out that already exists. I can’t sing or cook or complete higher math equations. I probably am here to love others up close in relationships (as opposed to loving others a million at a time, like…well, like somebody. I wonder if there is any way to love others other than face to face, one at a time. Anyway.) and I can’t do that from the ground with these clothes on.

It’s weird that the clothes that fit so well last season are so constricting now, and this space on the path used to seem so far away. We think when we get somewhere, we’ll have ‘made it,’ but as we soon discover, we’ve simply made it here, then there’s a new challenge, a new beginning, a new mountain to climb. We are thankful to have gotten here, content but not complacent. We have to choose to keep growing, keep stepping into the cycle. Otherwise, we stay where we are, lose our flavor and our light dims.

So here I go. I don’t know what this means, for me or for anyone else, but I do know I am, we are, in great hands. It reminds me of the last page of Chuck Palahniuk’s book Choke, where the characters muse, “I wonder what we’ll build.” It’s the phrase of anticipation and hope, as if everything will be different but that new everything will be wonderful.

HOCO 2022 — October 10, 2022

HOCO 2022

My oldest son, in his senior year, went to his first Homecoming dance. I’m not convinced he would have, but as luck would have it, he was approached to escort one of the ladies on the homecoming court. She was quite lovely, so of course he said yes, and then proceeded to ask her to the dance.

If you’re not aware, asking a young woman to this dance is a PRODUCTION. Gone are the days when, after several weeks of battle with the fear of humiliating rejection, you would take a deep breath and ask, “do you wanna go to the homecoming dance with me?” And then wait what seemed like months for the answer. The same familiar fear of embarrassment remains, but now, the young man must create an adequately clever sign (somehow appearing light-hearted AND committed) and venture to the girl’s house to pop the question.

Anyway, she said yes, they both looked gorgeous, went (as friends, as far as I know) and had a wonderful time. That’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the story of 2 other boys that I do not know. (The Angel & I were permitted to attend the dance – much to my boy’s horror – for pictures as the court and their escorts were announced.)

The first boy was very tall and very thin. He was dancing with his date, a girl, in a shockingly intimate fashion. (I recognize that I sometimes sound like everyone’s parents, old, old, old. I suppose that’s ok, I am someone’s parent and, there’s no way around it, pretty old.) I felt like I was watching something not meant for my eyes, for anyone else’s eyes. She was wearing a red dress. And so was he.

The next boy brought a girl who was wearing a too-short, shiny dress, carefully multi-colored hair, pulling him by the hand through the crowd, past the group of out of place parents, to reach her friends. He had scraggly unkempt patches of facial hair, disheveled hair, wore sneakers, jeans, and the piece de resistance, a Champion t-shirt.

The contrast was striking and obvious. One was totally respectful of his date, the formality of the evening, and himself. The other wore a t-shirt. One offered his special girl his most significant possession, the gift of his time – the time to plan, search for, and choose an appropriate oufit. The other wore dirty sneakers. One was unconventional, but clearly intentional. He lavished his undivided attention on his date, before just as much as during the actual event, who must’ve felt like the only woman in the world to him (which is exactly how every woman should feel to the man lucky enough to be taking her out). The other, an immature child, couldn’t even manage to shave.

Now, I have no interest in participating in the discussion of whether he should or should not have worn a dress. What is far more important to me is what’s happening underneath the skin rather than what we put over it.

Wide disrespect for everyone and everything and selfishness are direct descendants of insecurity and inadequacy. He simply can’t see others because he’s too busy looking for himself and who he is. And until he finds him, this silly facade will have to do, and for at least 1 night, the uniform of a sad pretender was a t-shirt. I have a giant soft spot in my heart for him because I know exactly the violence & pain of the “not enough” loop in my head. I didn’t wear t-shirts to formals or anything, my inadequacy manifested in different ways, whispered rather than screamed. But we know our own kinds, and can hear similar heartaches.

Maybe a red dress isn’t your preference, but this young man was nothing more or less than who he is right now. Maybe he won’t always wear a dress, or maybe he will. Like all of us, he’ll grow and change in lots of ways throughout his life, but one thing I hope sticks is his kind, passionate, thoughtfulness. The world needs more of that, more like him, no matter what they’re wearing.

Tragedy — September 26, 2022

Tragedy

This weekend, I watched a Netflix documentary series that was one of the most depressing things I have ever witnessed. And what I’m going to try to do is find beauty and hope in it. Try.

First, let me tell you about what I did Saturday. We (my family and some visiting in-laws) piled in a car and went to the local amusement park. It’s local but it’s also known around the whole world. That’s always an interesting dichotomy to reconcile in my head. Something extraordinarily famous is in my backyard, making it feel familiar and routine, like if Lady Gaga was your sister.

(But I always write about taking amazing things for granted, like kissing the Angel and kindness and Morrissey, so I won’t today.)

What was striking about this park is the extent of the corporate greed on display. I recognize this is nothing new in commercial America, where industry is built at the altar of MORE. Parking fees and food prices are obscene and attendees are shoehorned in until actually riding rollercoasters is nearly impossible, as receipts pile up. I rode 3 rides and waited an hour and a half for the privilege of buying hot dogs.

I am not an idiot. I have a business degree and a working knowledge of insurance and hidden costs. I don’t even have a problem with rising profits. This “wonderland” provides a service that is specific and fantastic, they should all get filthy rich on it. My problem is the contempt they showed for me and all of the other suckers who essentially paid to stand on their property. I can take the fact that I am not their #1 priority. So, I’m educated as a business major and a marketer, but I was raised in the ‘90’s to distrust and rage against any, and all, machines. Especially the machines that can’t even manage to even pretend that I’m in their top 20 list of importance.

Which brings me to the Woodstock 99 documentary, Trainwreck. This is, first and foremost, a story of dollars > people. But it’s also a story of people who are either a) treated like animals because they are, or b) behaving like animals because they’re treated like animals. I happen to believe it’s the second. Probably even the sweetest bunny rabbit will bite if it’s cornered and beaten for long enough. Most of us will lash out if we are hated loudly enough. Maybe we wouldn’t set the town on fire, but we might kick the dumb insincere peace and love signs down. And it does take a special kind of monster to sexually assault another simply because they are in close enough proximity to do so.

Which brings me to the thread that ties all of these together. Simply because we can doesn’t mean we should. Because the amusement park is the only game in town doesn’t mean a 1,000% markup on popcorn is any less offensive. Because the Woodstock promoters can have 1 water fountain for every 100,000 people doesn’t mean it’s acceptable, and because some frat boy can grope a woman (and much, much worse) without being stopped doesn’t make it less abhorrent.

Now. There is a bright side. “Mob mentality” was referenced over and over in the doc, and that same concept applies to board rooms and management meetings. We all think so (or we think we all think so), so we all go along. We say, “we could probably raise prices another 100% before it begins to keep anyone away,” and we look around for agreement, salivating over bonuses and perks, drowning out any voices of dissent, and we end up raising them 125%. We see those neanderthals setting fires and pulling down towers and the internal voice that objects goes silent and, the next thing we know, we’re turning over nearby cars and trying to break into ATMs.

We’re social creatures, looking for belonging and acceptance. The good news about this is if we were to, say, replace the violence for generosity, switch anger for care. You know when you’re around someone relentlessly positive and hopeful, you feel buoyant and like maybe this ship doesn’t have to sink? Same principle. If we, just 2 or 3 of us to start, were to treat the women in our midst with respect instead of trying to rip their clothes off at a concert, maybe everyone would. Probably everyone would. Certainly everyone would. And those that wouldn’t would find their actions met with strong resistance and protection. If we would begin to love each other, treat each other like the treasures we are, then we could make new paths that are easier for the rest of us to tread. And then Woodstock might really be about the beauty of humanity and its creative spirit and we’d all be rich beyond our wildest imagination.

Morrissey — September 2, 2022

Morrissey

Lately I’ve been listening to a steady stream of Morrissey/Smiths albums. He has been my favorite singer & songwriter since I was 13ish, and this sort of thing happens from time to time. I’ll think, you know, I’d like to hear Bigmouth Strikes Again (“Sweetness, I was only joking when I said I’d like to smash every teeth in your head” remains the 2nd greatest first line ever in a popular song. The greatest is, of course, from There Is A Light That Never Goes Out: “Take me out tonight,” and continues, “where there’s music and there’s people and they’re young and alive. Driving in your car I never, never want to go home, because I haven’t got one, anymore”) and then it’s several weeks later and I haven’t listened to anything else. I’m never sorry. It makes me feel like me, if you can understand what I mean.

Like so far today, I had a terrific workout, met with a friend for great conversation, played 2 board games with my son, read a little and wrote a lot. I’ll make dinner, eat with the other 3 in my house, and spend some quiet time connecting with the Angel later on. In every moment, this feels like the best version of me. If we had watched me from a distance together, I’d say what we saw is exactly who I am. I’d say the same thing about Morrissey’s voice. If you want a deep insight into who I am, you could do worse than to listen to tracks 10-13 (He Knows I’d Love To See Him, Yes I Am Blind, Lucky Lisp, and Suedehead) on the Bona Drag album. Incidentally, I actually don’t count it as an album, it’s more of a collection – if I did, it may unseat The Queen Is Dead as my very favorite album.

Maybe you care and maybe you don’t, but what I’m wondering is if we pick the things we like because we’re a certain way, OR if we’re a certain way because we pick the things we like.

I am hyper sensitive and given to depression. You could also say that about the entire Morrissey/Smiths catalog. Did I find it because I was predisposed, because I was looking for something that fit? Or did I find it purely by accident, and through its influence, I became someone it fit?

This goes for everything – movies, books, paintings, as well as college majors, interests, even people. Did I find the Angel because I was looking for someone just like her or did I find her and, because she’s so awesome, she became my type? Why did I fall in love so deeply with Jesus? Why do I like Catfish and documentaries on cults so much? Are they finding me, kicking down doors and rearranging the furniture in my mind, or am I looking for them, inviting them into the already existing decor?

I think probably the answer is different now than when I was 13, right?

We’re pretty well formed by now. Of course, we learn & grow & change our minds about things. I vote differently now than I did when I was 25, I value some things more than I used to, but you wouldn’t feel like I’m a totally different person. All the things that make me who I am feel like they are in place (I recognize these are scary words, as they usually lead to uncomfortable transformation), and I happen to like the man I am. I’ll just become more of him, more of who I’m created to be. I couldn’t always say I liked me that much, if at all, but I do now, and that is a cool thing to write.

Anyway, did I like Unloveable and Never Had No One Ever because I felt so alone, or…

You know, it really doesn’t matter at all. These things provide the texture of our lives, bestow such breathtaking beauty on our unpredictable, wildly dynamic lives as they mark the people, places, and events that matter. I don’t care why Morrissey became such a humongous part of my life, I’m just so thankful he did.

This Is Not An Apology — August 25, 2022

This Is Not An Apology

While there are fairly large parts of me that are equally suspicious and frightened, I really like social media. I love to see family pictures on Facebook and Instagram, scroll reels and TikTok videos for much longer than I should, I even like reading statuses (stati?). Of course, I could live without the general nastiness and political vitriol, but that’s easy enough to avoid if you try. These 2 blogs I write have been great outlets for me. I love to read what others have to say. It’s not a substitute for actual personal physical contact, “Facebook Friends” aren’t a replacement for friends, but what we do virtually is a certain type of connection. In fact, when we’re honest (a virtue mostly exclusive to blogs, we all know there isn’t a wealth of honesty posted on the Meta-verse), we can actually achieve a depth that is absent in many of our relationships IRL.

We write. We follow & read each other. I wish we could meet at a restaurant to talk over breakfast sometime. I try to write every week, and usually I’m quite faithful with that frequency. This summer, however, has been a different story.

I have 2 sons, one of whom is 15 years old and the other is 17. The 17 year-old is a senior and will graduate from high school later this year. Next summer the 15 will be driving. The 2 babies I brought home from the hospital are now both bigger than me, both can beat me at 1-on-1, the big one can deadlift significantly more than I can, neither require my help to feed themselves nor do they sleep on my chest anymore.

This is the last summer they will both be here as students. I’m not breaking down because the big one isn’t planning to attend college and won’t be moving out, so he will live here, but pretending things will be the same is a simple delusion. All change is loss, even awesome change. This beautiful achievement is also a monumental loss. I will lose my little boy. (You know what I mean, he’ll always be my child, my son, my sweet boy, but he will be an adult, he’ll be a man.) I am ecstatic & fantastically proud about this transition, and I am heartbroken.

What I have learned, and one of the greatest gifts of faith as far as I can tell, is the importance of being fully present in all situations, every moment of every day. Sometimes I get caught up in the distraction of somewhere or somewhen else, like everybody else, but when that happens, I just pull the edges back together, open my eyes and start paying attention again. I wrote ‘in all situations,’ but the truth is that some situations just weigh more than others. That last sentence has taken all of my almost 47 years (can I really be that old???) to realize.

So I value this space, your time, our connection, I try to write every week, and I haven’t done that. But this is not an apology, because instead, I was here.

The Differences — August 18, 2022

The Differences

2 years ago, we all decided to draw battle lines over a pandemic and a shot (or 4). There were many conversations (often very contentious) over a vaccination, whether we would or would not, with just as many reasons why or why not. The one I found most compelling was the one centered around a growing mountain of conflicting information. Scientific wisdom shifted almost daily, the evidence we staked our arguments upon became obsolete seemingly as soon as we adopted them.

But if we so much as suggested this confusion and mistrust, we were quickly branded anti-vaxxers, or right wing conspiracy theorists. I am neither. I had questions, concerns. I believe we all had some experience with this, no matter what we believed. No matter what questions we asked, they were met with wild aggression.

Now, the CDC is admitting that public guidance was “confusing and overwhelming.” Dr Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the CDC, says, “we are responsible for some pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes, from testing to data to communications.”

I’m watching The Vow right now, an HBO documentary on the cult NXIVM. I’m sure I’ll talk more in depth about this a little later, once I finish the 9 episodes. But in the one I was watching this morning, a woman was speaking under the condition of anonymity to avoid the snap judgments she had faced. People were unbearably rude to her, calling her all sorts of nasty adjectives before (and often without) knowing her name. “How could someone be so stupid to willingly participate in a cult like this?” those on the outside asked.

I’m positive there are parallels as well as distinctions to make between the CDC and NXIVM, and I’m also positive I don’t want to make them. My concern is how it’s so easy for us to decide another’s why, so easy to lock another in boxes in which they can’t ever escape. We fought like animals (mostly on social media) because we all made assumptions about those whose only crime was to arrive at a different conclusion – and in my case, I hadn’t even arrived. Sometimes, the crime was to not agree fast enough.

When did honest questioning or respectful discourse become such terrible transgressions? I know this didn’t start in 2020, with Covid-19, but I don’t exactly care when it started. I do care about how it ends.

I have a good friend who is a transgender woman. As a white man, I know nothing at all about the perspective of a transgender woman, so I ask a lot, A LOT, of questions. And she, who is endlessly graceful, answers them all. And that is why we call each other ‘good friends.’ We don’t agree on everything, have vastly different experiences, homes, families, and we certainly don’t see the world through the same lenses, but we don’t have to. We just have to care for each other.

A monochromatic world is totally uninteresting. I don’t know why that woman chose to do the things she did in NXIVM, but I do know I’ve done things I regret for reasons that made sense at the time. The CDC is admitting they mishandled a situation in a big, high profile moment, but I don’t think they’re evil, and I don’t think they meant harm. They did the best with what they had when they had it. I don’t know that we did the same. Fear caused us to resort to cheap generalizations and instant uninformed judgment. Fear caused us to forget the honor and dignity inherent in being human. And fear caused us to build walls.

This nonsense only ends when we erase our battle lines, knock the walls down and open the cell doors to our shared humanity and the beauty of me & you, and start loving each other, even, especially, the differences.

D.B Cooper Conventions & Monopoly Tournaments — August 11, 2022

D.B Cooper Conventions & Monopoly Tournaments

I saw The Batman and the 3rd Fantastic Beasts films in the last few weeks and really loved them both. As a matter of fact, as far as Fantastic Beasts, it would be impossible to express just how much. Maybe I’ll try sometime. Maybe not. The Batman was awfully good, but I say that knowing full well that I am the target market, so it’s possible my opinion wouldn’t be the most objective.

We will talk about 2 other films: Under the Boardwalk: A Monopoly Story, and D.B. Cooper, Where Are You?! Now, what could these 2 possibly have in common, right? Not surprisingly, they also share it with Bikram, Holy Hell, and the Rajneeshees of Wild, Wild Country. The more I think about it, they share it with The Batman and Fantastic Beasts, Thor, The Avengers, Stand By Me and Stranger Things, too.

D.B. Cooper was the alias of a guy who hi-jacked an airplane in the 70’s, took $200,000, jumped out somewhere in Oregon, and was never found. The thing that makes it a cool story instead of a terrible story is that no one was harmed, outside of a minor inconvenience for the passengers. Some think he is still alive, may or may not be living in Florida, or that he fell to his death. None of that matters too much to me, it’s an interesting piece of pop culture, a mysterious American outlaw very much of a time.

Monopoly is a 100+ year-old board game that we’ve all played and that the Angel HATES. I was pretty neutral, but I like it very much since this documentary.

There are D.B. Cooper conventions, where people from all over get together and geek out over conspiracy theories, police sketches, and an inch of decayed nylon found in a forest. There are also Monopoly championship tournaments, which are exactly what you think they are. Rooms full of tables where the best players battle over rent, mortgage values and property trades. These people are weirdos, in the very best sense of the word. I know they are, because I’m one of them. We all are. We may not participate in these particular events, but we all have our D.B. Cooper conventions. (If we don’t, we should by all means immediately get one!)

The last 15 minutes (or episode) of the cult docs we all adore the former members are interviewed, and there is always an unmistakable air of melancholy. They miss the time they were involved (before the true insanity of everything was exposed). Thor & Hulk need a team, Batman finds he can not, and should not, be the lone hero vigilante forever. It is the relationships between characters in Fantastic Beasts that remain, none of us really care about wands or spells or CGI creatures.

The biggest lie that most of us know is a lie but tell as truth, and that we all apparently agree to let slide, even though we know nobody actually believes is that we are islands. We don’t need, or want, other people. We are wholely independent. We prefer riding alone.

Except we’ll do pretty much anything to find a community. We’ll drink Kool Aid, let a yogi behave like a complete maniac, play in Monopoly tournaments, or go to conventions for a 50 year old historical footnote. None of this is surprising in the least. I happen to believe we are created for each other, wired for relationship.

In Christian circles, it can be quite tempting to sound super-spiritual and say some variation of “all I need is God.” It sounds awesome and we all ooh and ahh, but can you take a wild guess where that sort of doctrine isn’t? The Bible. In Genesis 1 & 2, before the Fall, everything is “good” except 1 thing: the man is alone. The man isn’t alone, he has God and they walk in the Garden in the cool of the evening, but God still says, “it is not good for the man to be alone,” so He makes a woman. Then in the New Testament, He makes the Church.

Maybe you don’t believe in God or Genesis or the Church, or maybe you do, but don’t think it happened exactly like it’s written. A thing doesn’t have to have happened for it to be True. This Genesis account is as true as anything has ever been, we are made to be together. And I know this, without a doubt, because D.B. Cooper conventions and Monopoly tournaments exist.

Want To — July 26, 2022

Want To

Chuck Klosterman is just the greatest.

My 5 favorite authors are (in no particular order) Kurt Vonnegut, Nick Hornby, Chuck Pahlaniuk, Rob Bell, and Klosterman, all for very different reasons. But all of them have 1 important thing in common, and I think most great art has this same characteristic.

They all make me want to write. Or paint. Or Sing.

I happen to believe that we have all been gifted – that’s a big part of the first 2 chapters of Genesis. That an overwhelmingly creative God created people in His own image, making those people fantastically creative beings as well. That’s why I have such trouble making sense of those who would ever want to stifle another’s creative expression, whatever it is. Instead, it seems to me, that we should be doing all we can to encourage taking those gifts out for a spin to see what happens, what we’re actually capable of.

Chuck Klosterman writes the books I’d like to write, if I were as talented as he is. What makes his work so wonderful is that he’s Chuck Klosterman. Nobody else is. His personality and perspective is totally unique. What he isn’t – and will never be – is the Angel. Or me. Or you. We also have a personality and perspective and voice that is uniquely ours. Why would we ever want to pretend otherwise? Why would we want to take our squares and fit them into circles?

I often find that people move quickly through their own stories, thinking they’re ordinary and regular, when they are anything but. I always have a thousand questions because you are marvelous, exotic, individual and totally extraordinary. Each of us is a brilliant artist, we just might have shied away from that so far. Or maybe no one told us what’s possible. They only lied and told us what isn’t.

I can’t write Fight Club, or sing There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, or design the Louvre, or cook a fancy meal like a cartoon rat. Of course I can’t. What I can do is give last week’s Sunday morning talk, hug everybody close enough to hold, and write Chronicles, Nehemiah and Other Books Nobody Reads. I can be the kind of husband and dad that only I can be, one that loves so deeply and so passionately it drives everybody else crazy.

Here’s the best part: You can do the same thing, live your life out loud, dance, write, love, but none of it will look like mine. It’ll be cool and original and it’ll inspire all of us to create our own.