Love With A Capital L

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

Blurry — October 19, 2021

Blurry

If you look at my search history, you’ll find “lists of cool weird streaming documentaries.” It’s difficult and awesome at the same time because there is such a bottomless well of possibilities. When there is so much, how do you find anything? I know the algorithm decides what I’ll like (and he/she is often spot on) but I still like to pretend I have some choice in the matter.

Of course, choice and free will online is sort of relative, too. When I type into that ubiquitous bar, Google decides what I’ll see and when I’ll see it. But manipulation isn’t why I’m writing today. My search was for the “best streaming cult documentaries,” and after finding that I didn’t have the services for my first 2 choices, (I had seen many on the list), I ended up with something called Children Of God.

Children Of God was (AND, I would find out in the last 5 minutes, STILL IS!!!!!) a sect of Christianity that revolves around a recluse named David Berg. It’s called the Family now, probably to escape mountains of bad press. Like so many cults, what may have began as faith and community turned into a garden-variety patriarchal altar of sexual abuse. There isn’t really anything new here, there is plenty of history of the worship of sexuality going back as far as you want to go. Anytime there is something beautiful (and the divine gift of sexuality is certainly that), there will be the temptation to twist it into pretzels of violence and pain. Maybe it wasn’t intended to be that way, but it’s easy to see where this Children of God/Family road leads. Women are essentially slaves to the men rationalizing the structures as faithful obedience.

Even though it’s not new, it’s always striking how subtle the slide is into this warped ideology that no one would’ve agreed to when they signed on. It’s like most things. There’s a story in the Bible about David & Bathsheba and he gets into trouble after a long series of bad decisions. If he had been asked to go from 0 to 100, he would’ve aggressively refused. But 1 to 2 and then 10 to 11, then 99 to 100, those steps are small, sometimes quite insignificant and very easy to take.

I think that’s why judgment is such a dangerous position. It’s possible the only difference between us and them or you and me is time, and if we were spoon fed in tiny increments, we’d end up exactly there. Dark, thick lines we draw between us and them can be quite blurry, in the right circumstances, in the right light.

And most of these members of a cult ended up wrapped up in this mess is because they were longing for some kind of human connection. They were lonely & isolated and found a community that accepted & loved them. And that is what they found… mostly. The leaders didn’t love them, they loved power and status and gratification, (in this particular cult, none of the men loved them either, they just loved their bodies and what they could get from them), but usually the other followers found kindness, understanding, camaraderie, and friendship in a world that has too little of those.

That’s why it’s so sad that they were taken advantage of, lied to, told sex was love and domination was leadership. Gifts from the Divine were dragged through the mud, getting everyone dirty and leaving only shame.

And the Children of God/Family continues. The spokesman who agreed to be interviewed denied all of the allegations and accounts, including the video evidence. David Berg is, at the time of the film, still alive. And the scars from the abuse are still very fresh.

Chickens — October 14, 2021

Chickens

Every week in this space, at some point there is a reference to the differences that make us so cool and fascinating. It’s the worst part of this quarantine isolation: we’ve forgotten how much we like each other and instead, believed the silly lie that there exist divisions too wide to cross.

I mentioned last night in a truly exceptional book group that it’s people who provide me with the greatest evidence for God. It’s people who consistently give reasons to remain hopeful. (Of course, it’s also people who give the reasons to lose hope, too. But if we’re honest, that’s much less often and a far less interesting way to spend much time.)

I just finished an article in Smithsonian magazine about a man named Val in Philadelphia, PA who has a record store with millions of records. He’s surly, elitist, Christian, and characterizes his collection as a disease. As you are well aware, I am a record, song, & artist man, have absolutely no desire to go to this store, but I love that we live in a world where it exists, where he exists. Why would someone do this? Why would he give his life, as he did/does, to doo-wop music? Who knows, baby, who knows???

The last documentary I watched was called Chicken People. If you are searching for something to watch, I have no idea how you continue to scroll past Chicken People. This 80 minute gem is about human beings who show chickens. (If you’ve ever seen Best In Show, it’s like that, but with chickens. And it’s not a Christopher Guest vehicle, it’s real.) Who knew you showed chickens? Chickens are ugly and disgusting, right? Wrong. I really only knew about the mass-produced food chickens, but there are an unbelievable variety of chickens that are beautiful and anything but gross. The owners bathe, hold and pet them (and love them) like puppies. Who decides to show chickens? A talented entertainer in Branson, MO who sings show tunes, and a lovely southern recovering alcoholic who has a 2nd husband and 5 kids, 5 dogs, 3 cats, a llama, 400 rabbits and a thousand chickens, that’s who.

I wouldn’t show a chicken, but that’s not really the point, is it? (I would totally go to a chicken show, though.) The point is you are very different from me and Val is very different from both of us and that show tune guy is different from almost everybody. My neighbor can sing opera like an angel and my son is a Dungeon Master (in D&D, not a real life dungeon thankfully). My best friend in high school built and raced fast cars, I knew every lineup and the batting averages of every major league team. Hello Kitty is wildly popular. So is big-time professional wrestling.

These are the things that are important. Sure, so is who we voted for or if we’re pro-fax mandates, but we’re made up of lots and lots of facets and to think just one is enough to tear the world apart is pure fallacy. We’re all different, strange, and awesome. And we’d know this if/when we get to see each other in person, see that we’re not monsters at all – just weirdos who may or may not show chickens with families and kids and jobs and fears and loves and passions just like ours. And that’s wonderful.

Expanding/Contracting — October 7, 2021

Expanding/Contracting

This week on the People’s Court, there was yet another dog bite case. If it wasn’t for dog bites and security deposits, there wouldn’t be enough material for a 10 minute short, much less 25+ years of daily episodes. Anyway, in this one, a Rottweiler got out of the house and chewed up a cut little mixed breed. The owner of the Rottweiler was caught on video days later with another of her dogs on a walk off leash, and when questioned, she responded with the ridiculous, “It’s my personal choice.” So, the judge reprimanded her, explaining that it wasn’t, that there are leash laws in almost every town & city in America, and that in a society, your personal choice has limits. After every case, the litigants speak with Doug in the hallway, where she again said that her personal choice would still be to not leash her dogs.

We’re starting there, but I don’t want to talk about leash laws or this woman’s boundless arrogance. What I do want to talk about is – we’ll get there in a second.

This morning, I watched another documentary on the Google/Facebook illuminati. It’s funny, I don’t watch any horror programming, giving exactly none of my time to anything scary. (The new Dr Strange movie is being called Marvel’s 1st horror-ish offering, and that will be an interesting conundrum for me when it is released. Which immovable object will be rolled aside?) Yet I continue to gobble up these documentaries, terrified at the level of control humongous tech companies have.

They watch and listen and know everything; our waist size, our favorite food, eye color, who we voted for, and when the last time was that we flossed. When her family begins to talk about tracking devices in vaccines and conspiracy theories, the Angel always correctly points out that nobody needs conspiracies or chips, they already know us better than we know ourselves.

Each of the documentaries ends with an appeal to get us to delete our accounts, which we, of course, never do. Facebook was down for several dark, hopeless hours this week and we wandered aimlessly through abandoned streets in withdrawal without seeing filtered pictures of food and the photoshopped perfect lives of people we haven’t seen in 20 years. They want us to not “Google” anything, not use our Gmail or Chrome, or scroll TikTok. Ha!!!

Now, here’s what I want to talk about, and why Zuckerberg reminds me of that unlikable woman on the People’s Court. There’s a concept in ancient wisdom traditions called Zimzum where God contracts Himself (or Herself, if you prefer) to make room for creation, for trees and oranges and you and me. We do that, too, anytime we enter into a relationship. We make space in our lives, schedules, hearts for another’s lives, schedules, hearts. We stop being only me and become us. Ideally we’re not so selfish and allow for the cares of somebody else.

We contract. We put limits on our freedom or “personal choice” or what we want. We put a leash on our dog. We don’t so that they can. We give and receive. I don’t date other women, as is my right or choice or whatever, because I have made space for the Angel in my life. I don’t delete my accounts because these products add value to my life. I like to email, I like that Amazon Music knows just what new songs I’ll like, I like that when I search for watch bands, I’ll get 1,000 ads for watch bands on Instagram. We make these choices everyday.

But this woman is only concerned with expanding, only concerned with herself and her “personal choice.” I don’t like that I can’t mow my grass at 6am, I don’t like that she can’t leave her dog off leash if she wants, I don’t like that Google most of the time gives me what it wants to give me or that it knows where I am and why 24 hours a day.

Contract or expand? It’s different and dynamic for each of us. What we choose today might not be our choice tomorrow.

I think my point is that we choose with intention. After watching these films, the real problem seems to me that we are unaware of this expanding/contracting decision. It’s vital we know there’s a choice to be made. We can give & receive OR we can leave our dogs off leash, so what about you, your dog or what either of you think. But if we can’t see the paths in front of us, then we’re simply being herded into the nearest enclosure based on algorithms and apathy.

We just get this 1 life and it’s way too short to not pay attention. It’s also way too precious to spend it selfishly. So, let’s make room for each other, love someone, and put a leash on our dogs.

What It Sounds Like — October 4, 2021

What It Sounds Like

I am now 46, safely passing Wednesday without much disruption. I’ve been waiting for a mid-life crisis that never seems to come. Maybe next year.

This morning, as I walked on the treadmill, I half-watched the news on one of the overhead screens. (Is there really nowhere I can be free from media??) The first story was a guy in the highest position of leadership in this country passionately detailing coming vaccination mandates and the importance of such a mandate. And the second story I saw was that same guy, with exactly the same passion, commenting on last weekend’s gatherings in support of a woman’s right to her own body. He was quite indignant that, yes, of course we should have the right to do what we want with our bodies without any government involvement. After all, why would those people have the power to dictate what happens in each citizen’s own body? Why, indeed.

I recognize that there are probably many many reasons why these 2 topics are wildly different and to push a mandate on my body while arguing against a mandate on my body is totally consistent. But there are two things about that.

First, it’d be supercool if there was some sort of admission that, on the surface, it does at least sound like the positions might be in conflict with the other. Instead of ignoring the superficial similarities, pretending that we haven’t simply changed the words like political musical chairs. It’s interesting that one party can say my body, my choice AND forced vaccines for everybody while the other can fight just as strongly to keep your needles away from my body AND the ability to control what goes on with another’s pregnancy. Both borrow the main argument of protecting the vulnerable when it suits.

Second, and faaaar more important, is the very clear illustration that these issues are deeper and more complex than can accurately be conveyed in sound bites, sandwich boards, and shouted cliches. The fact that both sides of the aisle can argue the very same point about where & when the rights to our own bodies begin & end should give us a level of understanding & compassion that would allow authentic human discussion. You would think that “protecting the vulnerable” could/would translate into common ground, giving the impression that we might not be as far apart as we previously believed.

Again, I know I’m not the brightest man on earth and you might have a thousand ways to condescend to my elementary analogy here. (But you don’t have to.) I don’t want us to argue anymore, to shout our certainly valid points (whichever ones we are tightly holding) at each other anymore, but I do want to start talking. I do want us to sit down at tables and listen instead of continuing this silly propensity of ours to feed our insatiable need to win at all costs. I do want to find some consistency in a shared humanity. I do want to acknowledge that the divisions we’ve been sold might not be quite so wide.

After all, we can all agree on Tiger King and that’s something.

The Immeasurable Beauty of Shang-Chi — September 8, 2021

The Immeasurable Beauty of Shang-Chi

Monday we all went to the movies to see the latest offering in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. It’s a very long title, it brings back terrible memories of Fiona Apple’s second album title, shortened to “When The Pawn…” It’s super long, nobody can remember it and feels 50% too pretentious (which could also be an apt description of Fiona Apple and her terrific music, “50% too pretentious.”) She said this about the title, a poem she wrote after poor reactions to an unflattering article written about her, “It came from being made fun of,” she said, “and then, of course, it becomes a thing I’m being made fun of for.” Ha! 50% too pretentious or not, she’s awesome, and if you don’t believe me, listen to the “Extraordinary Machine” album and you will.

Anyway. Shang-Chi is amazing. It’s slow and patient, and feels quite intimate (until the last act, which has all of the explosions, dragons, punching, kicking and supernatural derringer-do you could ever want.)

What I loved about it is what I loved about Black Panther and what I love about being alive. Shang-Chi was a celebration of Chinese culture in the same way Black Panther was of Black culture. The ethic, music, dress, color, feel, pace were all differently gorgeous from each other and from me. It seems pretty strange to hold a superhero movie up as an example of depth and care, but these MCU movies aren’t what we think they are. I’ve said before, they are our mythology, complex explorations of the human condition in it’s glory and it’s brokenness.

The problem with racism is that it strives to eliminate this kind of difference, to whitewash everything and everyone until it is all the same monochromatic shade, no matter what the shade is. It’s gross and grounded in fear. And the reaction is strikingly similar, looking to achieve a colorblind world that either pretends to not see the beautiful differences or annihilate them. Of course, this is also rooted in fear.

Why would we want to do any of that? Why would I want to pretend to not see different colors, different cultures? Why would I want to avoid cool interesting defining textures? Why would I want all food to taste like chain restaurants and all shops to look like Walmart? Why would we ever want to sand the edges from our world?

Captain America isn’t the only superhero. The MCU has room for Shang-Chi, Black Panther, Gamora, and Groot, all heroes, all given room to exist exactly as they are. Why can’t we?

It feels so disrespectful to ignore our differences, exactly the opposite of open-minded progress or social evolution. I want to know who you are, where you came from, how you see politics and religion, and I want to let you know who I am. I want us to love each other authentically, as we are, all the amazing things that make us, us, and not from behind some ridiculously fake inanely crafted image of Blah.

So, I think we should do that. Instead of the politically correct masquerade, let’s take those dumb masks off, hammer them into sand, and breathe deeply in nothing else but love.

Blind Spots — July 20, 2021

Blind Spots

We all have blind spots, right? That is something we can all agree on. I know that sounds like I’m an insane person. I’m not, as far as I can tell. (But would I know if I was?) I live and breathe, so it’s as obvious to me as everybody else that we can’t all agree on anything, except maybe that ‘we’ are 100% right and ‘they’ are 100% wrong. And that we’re hyper-sensitive, which makes us easily offendable.

Anyway, blind spots.

2 quick, great examples of this: I see people extinguish their cigarettes just before they enter the gym. On the one hand, they’re very conscious of building a healthy lifestyle, and on the other, they’re tearing it down. And Saturday mornings I go to a convenience store and buy an energy drink (again, for someone who is concerned with taking care of themselves, perhaps energy drinks aren’t the best. But wait, it gets worse…), careful to choose the option with NO SUGAR. Then I go to the donut shop because Saturday is donut day. Maybe having a “donut day” isn’t the worst, but the no sugar/sugar dichotomy invites questions of consistency.

The Bible talks about judgment and hypocrisy often. Hypocrisy is closely linked to stage acting, when we are one thing in one place and a different thing in another. The point is that we are who we are all the time, that there’s no image-making, no pretense. Bringing all of who we are under the same umbrella. Another way to say this is consistency. My dad was an alcoholic and I never ever knew which dad I was going to find, sober and awesome or drunk and awful. This isn’t exactly hypocrisy, but perfectly illustrates the importance of consistency inside and out.

As far as judgment, it’s possible that when we are extra judgy towards others, we are instead advertising our own hypocrisy and glaring inconsistencies. And when we talk about judgment and hypocrisy, social media is their breeding ground.

I’m convinced the reason we have absolutely no idea who is telling the truth in politics is because political discourse is rooted in sand, bereft of the anchors of principle, self-awareness, and consistency.

Now. This COVID crisis has drawn battle lines from the beginning: masks, quarantines, vaccines, on and on. And just like everything else, if you disagree with me, you are uninformed and/or ignorant and/or heartless. It is utterly impossible that you would be intelligent, well-read, compassionate AND come to a different conclusion.

For many years, there has been a certain debate among us that has the core of “it’s my body, and you can’t tell me what to do with my body.” One side says yes I can, especially when it comes to protecting others, and the other says no. And now there’s a vaccine with the same core, but what’s interesting is that the sides have crossed the aisle and taken each other’s talking points. And no matter what position we choose, there are exceptions that make this totally natural for a smart, thinking person.

We could talk about this all day, but my point is that maybe the Bible is right about judgment. Maybe we shouldn’t do it at all. Maybe our easy snap generalizations and categories don’t fit because they were never supposed to. We’re complex and nuanced, full of a wide range of experiences. And sure, Facebook is a wonderful place to spew vitriol, but maybe more violence towards each other just isn’t helping.

We feel the disconnect between each other, our communities, our environment, and ourselves. Of course we do.

There’s a song by Todd Snider called “The Ballad of The Kingsmen,” and it ends “Now brothers and sisters I am only one guy. And I don’t even know the words to that song Louie, Louie.” Today is heavy here, for me, and I don’t know much about anything, but maybe it’s not all that surprising that we’re separated when we’ve built concrete walls where bridges are supposed to be.

I’m really tired of being separated.

It’s The End Of Youth Sports As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) — July 6, 2021

It’s The End Of Youth Sports As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

The baseball season is over. When anything ends, there is always that familiar maelstrom of (often conflicting) emotions. I’m happy to get my evenings back, family dinners, and rejoin the groups where I have been absent. It’s awesome to not have to call to report scores, or line the field before games. It’s not as awesome, on the other hand, to be inside on this hot, sunny day and not on a ball field. I already miss the crack of the bat or the sound of a nice fastball hitting the glove. And I’m heartbroken that I don’t get to see the players and coaches every day anymore.

After the last game (a loss), I gave a game ball to one of the players I had coached for several years and would never again. He was 1 of 3 of in that category. They are 3 of the finest young men you’ve ever had the pleasure to know. So that’s hard. It was also the last game where I would be my oldest son’s coach. That’s way too much to sit with for too long, but that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? If we don’t spend that time, it stays kind of hidden in the corner of our hearts until…right? Who knows what it takes or when, but it simply has to be addressed. That’s what I did. I sat with that box of memories and I cried and cried, and then I laughed and thanked God that I had the opportunity for so long and that it may be the last for us together, but it is not the last for him. And it’s not the last for me.

Here’s another thing: The umpires quit before the season was over! They resigned because of the behavior they were forced to endure night after night. I wouldn’t consider myself one of their biggest fans as officials, but I am generally a fan of human beings and am always a fan of interacting with respect and love. This puts me and the team I coach squarely in the minority. Apparently, the online culture of aggression and arrogance has left the screens and stormed the fields.

Now, I am not pretending that bad behavior didn’t exist, but like everything else in 2020 (and now -21), the pandemic and it’s partner isolation turned up the volume on the loneliness, anxiety and fear that breeds this selfish nastiness and lack of self-control. Nearly every night, there were new stories. I probably would’ve quit, too.

I know the root of the aggression and arrogance is inadequacy and insecurity. We find our identity in wins and losses, as if youth sports were the Great Arbiter of Truth. Youth sports is a lot of things, but distributor of worth isn’t one. Yet we keep asking it to do what it can’t. Of course, the kids sometimes act like monsters (because they sometimes are monsters), but they’re teenagers. They’re looking to the coaches to expect more from them. I’m not sure we’re not desperately looking for someone to tell us we’re so much better than these embarrassingly low standards we’ve accepted. And the coaches are acting like monsters (because they’re looking, too) and it’s a snowball that is rolling down a steep hill into the garbage dump of history.

I happen to be one of those lucky few that is very rarely tied to “how it used to be,” and especially in this case, if this is how it used to be, I say let it die and let’s start fresh. We can and should forget where it has mutated. Instead, let’s keep the amazing parts and trash the rest, and make something new and awesome in it’s place.

We can still call it youth sports, if you want to.

The Stairs — May 13, 2021

The Stairs

I haven’t written for a minute because I’ve been sick with the COVID. Mine is a very mild case, but it does carry with it an unpredictability. Every morning I wonder if today will be a good day, if I’ll have energy, a headache, a stuffy head, or just how severe my chest tightness will be. This, of course, isn’t awesome, but over the last 2 weeks I watched a loooong documentary that I had been meaning to catch. It’s called The Staircase and details the death of a woman and the murder trial of her husband, who happens to be famous author Michael Peterson.

I suppose it’s actually about the justice system in this country, with these people, their families and communities as the backdrop.

The Staircase is 13 episodes – 8 original with the next 5 added over the last 20 years of this ridiculous saga. So, I watched every one and have no idea how this woman died. Maybe she fell, maybe she was beaten, maybe an owl (no kidding, an owl!) attacked her. Who knows? I don’t know if everyone is telling the truth or if no one is, if they’re all just doing the best with the limited information they have.

Not everyone was telling the truth. There was a crooked investigator in North Carolina named Duane Deaver who we can all be quite certain was a villain in this story. Maybe he’s not anymore, maybe in being found out, he was forced to look in the mirror and his soul and changed his life. I often dream like this. Just because we are one way today doesn’t mean we have to stay that way. The boxes inside which we put ourselves and each other are really just tape on the floor that we can easily escape…or they should be. There’s an honest discernment involved. Obviously, we don’t want this guy anywhere near evidence or in any position of authority where he can steal any more years of any more lives, but there must not be a period where a comma should be.

I did not like The Staircase. I didn’t really like any of the characters too much, especially Michael Peterson. His arrogance was gross, his pontificating was inane and endless, I even found the tone of his voice grating by the 3rd or 4th episode. I just wanted it over. I cared about the owl more than anything else.

Afterwards, I looked up on Google to find out why anybody liked it. And guess what I found? One of the women on the documentary crew named Sophie ended up in a relationship with Peterson, who was first found guilty by a jury and then finally ended up pleading guilty to the murder of his wife. This love connection sounds awfully strange, but it’s an excellent illustration of my tape on the floor description, isn’t it? She didn’t label him or classify him as anything. She simply saw him as a human being, and I like that more than I can tell you. I can’t imagine what she saw in him, but Sophie is easily my favorite person in The Staircase and the one I’ll take with me long after I forget every last minute of this American tragedy.

Shirkers — April 29, 2021

Shirkers

“There are movers. There are shakers. And there are shirkers.” That’s the very catchy tag line for the Sandi Tan documentary Shirkers that I watched today.

This is a different circumstance because all of the many colored blocks that populate the calendar on my phone had to be erased, leaving me with oodles of free time. Free time that has been suggested/issued/commanded by the PA Department of Health. In the DoH phone call to check on my symptoms (none) and/or exposure (constant), they kindly asked me if I would be complying with the quarantine order and I thought that was a nice gesture. I guess they can’t make me, per se, but I do love you a lot, so I’m on lockdown.

(I don’t want to talk about COVID or quarantine guidelines & regulations. Also, because everyone is home, I can’t talk about Father Yod and the Source Family doc I began that is inappropriate for young viewers. Soon, soon.)

Now. Shirkers. It’s a pretty great documentary but I don’t think I would’ve liked the movie it’s based on at all. The film is from Singapore and at least 5 times too art school pretentious for me.

Mostly, we have our imaginations squeezed out of us by the time we make it to middle school, replaced with standardized tests and the overwhelming stress of future success hanging in the form of grade point averages. We have “what could be” beaten into “it is what it is,” “why not” into just “not.” Shirkers was founded on the idea that something new is not only possible, but here in their heads screaming to be expressed.

I don’t care if I would’ve liked the film. I want to live in a world where art exists that I find horrible or offensive, because that means I cold love it, too. You can’t love the middle of the road. You can’t love white bread. I value the risks of dreaming of a new day, where yesterday isn’t necessarily today. It might be, but it’s up to us to decide if it will be. If we sand off all the edges, all we’re left with is circles rolling in and out of our souls and lives, never making an impact.

Bad art (I’m not saying Shirkers was bad art. The truth is that I don’t know, nobody knows, some charlatan stole and trashed the audio files) is essential to forward motion. The line between compete unwatchability and the best thing you’ve ever seen is thin and blurry at best, invisible at worst. I’d like to totally ignore that line and listen to the creative impulse in each of our heads & hearts and follow that, instead. Of course, maybe it’s destined for the rubbish heap, but what if it’s not? As it says on so many inspirational plates and blocks of wood, “Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”

Rise of Skywalker — April 23, 2021

Rise of Skywalker

I wrote this last year, before the world stopped, and for some reason never posted it. It’s still true.

I saw Star Wars and I liked it. Of course I liked it. I am the target market. If a marketer’s intended demographic had a face, it would be my face.

From around 5 to 12 or 13, nothing mattered more than Luke Skywalker, Jedi knights, empires and rebellions. 24 year-old me cried at the opening crawl of episode 1…on a date. As I write this now, it’s less embarrassing than it was then – the happy ending is that the date was with the Angel, and she still married me.

The 2 externals in my life that mattered the most were Star Wars and, later, Morrissey.

In High Fidelity, the author Nick Hornby asks the question if we find the things we find because we are the way we are, or if the things we find mold us into the way we are. Which comes first?

Did I love Morrissey because I was super-sensitive and leaned towards loneliness and melancholy? Or did those songs push me in that direction?

I suppose it doesn’t matter now. No matter how I got there, I did and now I’m the sort that cries at movies and paintings and, well, everything. It’s probably a combination. If I was the captain of the football team, maybe Morrissey would’ve sounded sad and whiny and I would’ve tended more to Led Zeppelin IV or Nickelback. If I was a 5 year old girl, maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to fight and liberate the princess and the galaxy (in that order) with a laser sword and space ship so badly.

Sometimes it feels like the road has been mapped out perfectly all along, that we found the people and things that made sense and gave us some context for our lives at EXACTLY the right time. So perfectly, in fact, that it can make us question if we have any free will at all or if we’re just puppets in a theater having our strings pulled by giant fingers in the sky. Then other times, it all seems so random and confusing, with no narrative or plot, like we’re bumper cars driven by toddlers.

My favorite book of the Bible is Ecclesiastes (and this is likely no surprise, I imagine it leaks into everything I write and say.) It holds all of this confusion, the duality of an authentic life lived with eyes half closed (or half open;), with both hands. The Writer asks questions without expecting answers, is comfortable being lost without needing a detailed map home. A life that holds everything “temporary” (a better translation than “meaningless” – it’s not meaningless, not at all, only temporary) lightly, wanting to understand but willing to abide in the uncertainty, content to eat and drink with the people we love.

Star Wars wasn’t perfect, but in a world that has much much much more than enough pain and suffering to go around, it was beautiful. Morrissey is, too. I don’t care how they got to me, I’m just so thankful they did.