"You've been a vague, vague boy," said the mother with her long crooked finger shaking sternly at a starry-eyed boy who looked up at momma, or just past her shoulders (or out that gray window, I really couldn't tell). He wore out his welcome at "Ned's Candy Store," because of his deep inimical questions of freedom and fate. He once stole a sucker, but Ned let him go. The "boy with the vague look," yes, the wandering face. When momma shook her crooked finger down at him he looked out the door. And there by his rope was the drummer who played for him Egyptian notes. He grinned, so it seemed, and tapped his left foot. Momma's eyes rolled and she fell to the floor. Papa was sleeping in a box six feet deep. The chickens were restless. The dog was in heat.
Forgiveness isn’t free. It ain’t easy. It is a chisel and a block of stone. It is a rock and a chain around the ankle, with a long journey to the top of a mountain. Forgiveness isn’t easy. It shouldn’t be. It would be strange if it were. It would be some sort of strange force-field that throbs and hums. It would engulf us in it’s uncanny warmth and lull is to sleep, suck our blood, and inhibit the re-uptake of our neurotransmitters. Let me out of this forgiveness field. Let me back to the cement streets and the tall trees. Let me back to that sweet realm where words still meant something. Where forgiveness was earned (and deserved). Where God dwells in real ways, and humility is tangible.
I was in a wide flat space with small old towns. There were bridges where you wouldn't think there should be bridges. There were confident women telling me to leave. I was driving faster than anyone trying to get to the other side of the biggest bridge. It was long and unkept with crashes and wrecks. And I could see for a long distance and saw endlessness. Over the side I could see shimmering water. The bridge crossed through a dark and murky world but the water was living water and reflected sunshine from some other place. But like a fool I didn't search for the source of light. I continued my absurd drive. I continued my unjustified obedience to some female figure. I chased a drop of hope that dangled before me like a forbidden fruit. I come from a land of bridges, but I want off of this one. I come from a land of water. I should have stopped and sought the source of that glorious light.
This place was warm with grace. It was warm with forgiveness while whispers of acceptance echoed off its walls. My brain is empty. Where are the vivid images that danced for me in my prime? Where are the silly thoughts that stimulated my mind? Gone. Now I look at plain things and they remain plain. Vanilla. Default beverages that bring no relief to my thirst. Cacti appetizers that make us wince and frown. Poor people with tight pockets. Long streets with no sidewalks and cold, cold wind. I’m not trying to bring you down. I’m not trying to block your street lights. I’m just in this moment and I’m defining it. I’m just stuck in unwanted moments, trying to describe my way out of it. I'm just reaching out for the rail, straining for that warm place of grace. Looking for something worth looking for.
I’m in a happy place. I’m tapping all the right keys on the piano and song lyrics are flowing like taxes in the spring. Huh! See what I mean? I’m lean. I’m on the scene. I’m pondering who the first guest on my television show will be. I’m considering who I’d have on my team for my think-tank, ideation, consultation squad. I’m tapping the right keys, and the details are slipping into place. Distractions are slipping off into deep-deep space. I’m lean. One punch here, another over there. I get pounded to the ground, but spring to my feet. Important people are intrigued when I speak. I’m eating good food at all the socially aware restaurants. I’m honored by scholars and home-owners alike. Song lyrics float in front of me. I’ll write those down when I get a moment to breath. Right now, though, I’m too deep in my happy place tapping the keys.
This is a test. A query. A thought to be pondered (not a yawn to be conquered). I’m so dead, you’d think I was a reckless driver. I’m so feathered, you’d think I was a symbol of a brave new country. These are times that test a man’s feathers and make them drive reckless. These are times that make morticians grow beards and wear fancy clothing. The more a watch sparkles the higher it’s price. The longer it lasts, the greater the value. Now look here, don’t leave me. Don’t turn your back on me. I just don’t think my barbed-wire heart could take it. Look into your homes. Reach into your pockets. Find yourself some affection for me. I’m no feathered freak. I’m no danger to your freeway.
If you want to make it in this world without getting parking tickets, you need to read between the signs, Roll with the friendship, sink when they tell you to, and, for the sake of freedom, leave your gavels in the car. You came here determined to fix me, now I’m smiling. You told me to lay on my side, sleep with the light on, and chew well before swallowing – and, Lady, I haven’t gotten a parking ticket since. You told me to roll around in the dirt and wash my clothes with baking soda. And when I paint, you said, wash your brushes quickly. I did as you said – and I haven't gotten a parking tickets since. You told me not to hide, pay my taxes on time, keep my grocery bags under the sink – and neighbor, I haven’t gotten a parking ticket since. Now what does money have to do with improper parking? Why should I pay cash for mistakes? I take out my trash, I buy my oranges with cash, I read about spiritual things, and, I guess, I haven’t gotten a parking ticket since.
From the Liberty Bell to the Urban Revival Festival, they find you. They teach you lessons. They introduce you their masters. I’m, like, getting sick of these urgent requests. I’m, like, totally getting fed-up with your perpetual catastrophies. Come back to me when your waters ease. I never knew your grandfather and I never heard a single story about your childhood vacations. You drop these comments like they’re free. You curse and bitch like words have no consequences; like, as if, you’re soul is separated from the words you utter. Pull your soul out of the gutter, then get back to me. I'll be over here looking at the Liberty Bell, because I'm so damn proud of our American noise making mechanisms.
When all is said that's dumb, and when we finally cease our streams of whiny bickering, and when the well of our complaints runs dry, I feel I can be genuinely thankful, if for nothing else, that when the mighty earth, in it's big, stupid orbit, and with its rapid, yet seemingly slow, doltish spin... It is here that I can be thankful: that the spinning earth does not have some kind of high-pitched Squeak. I mean, how annoying would that be? A mighty "Earth Squeak!" How could anybody sleep? We would need research teams to identify the sources. Then pour tons of oil (or butter) into the suspect cavity or crevice. And who knows how long the noises would be halted? The world only has so much oil. But I suppose we could encourage the breeding of cows for an endless supply of butter. Maybe a tax-break for anybody who breeds cows. How about that, huh? Alright!
The timer has begun - yes, it has always been going. You know there is nothing in this universe that is immune to the timer. It is immortal. It doesn’t matter how much coffee you consume, you can not catch it. It doesn’t matter how empty your mind becomes from meditation, you can not escape it. It doesn’t even matter what you had for breakfast. If there is a day left in your life, then that is it. That is your day. Construction problems, coordination dilemmas, inappropriate hairstyles... It all comes apart in the nexus of the Immortal Timer. It all shimmers in transparent submission. It wobbles in obese inadequacy and is devoured. Oh how young the children are. How fresh are their perspectives. How mighty are there opinions. They are Thanksgiving Turkeys in March, all groomed and nurtured and roaming free. Their time will come, though. They will be sacrificed to the Immortal Timer.
I am standing in the hall, my brain is in the closet trying to construct a new and surprising thought. The door swings open and my brain says: "Sinners love to sled." I yell at my brain “Get back in there and don’t come out until you have something better than this! What kind of non-sense is this?” The door creeks open moments later and my brain emerges with a grin: “Pencils pulverizing pensive dictators.” I stomp my foot: “If I wanted alliteration I would have went to a grade-school, now get back in there.” My brain closes the door with a frown. And when He comes out, he looks humble. He says: “Even if I could grasp a planet and spin it on my finger, you will always want something better. I could put hair brushes on the feet of donkeys and teach them to brush the teeth of whales, and you would not be impressed.” My shoulders droop. I open my arms and embrace my brain in a comforting hug. “Oooh, there, there. You know I love you little guy. Hey, you’re my little buddy. Now get back in there and try again.”
If I shake this place up with my sarcasm, how much more will I shake up the dens of sinners? I am a sarcastic, metaphorical wrecking ball, drunk on divinely appointed missions of reconciliation. I am the deconstruction minister. There are candy-bar wrappers blowing around a bed of flowers. I want them picked up right now or I will start spouting sarcastic observations about all of your futility. There are smoke stacks seeping with toxic darkness. I want them torn down now or I will start jamming smokestacks through your disenchanted, erotic billboards. Listen to me, church-goers. Listen to me, homeowners. Listen to me all you who are pre-qualified for a loan. I’ve got something that needs to be in your ear, and I want you to pull your head out of the internet for just one moment to listen. You think I bought this megaphone for nothing?
The pushing cart and the pushing cart woman in a storm of fleece and mayberry’s. And quills of springtime below her wounded feet. She is the driver of the pushing cart with - all sorts of mysteries inside: Gifts for kids. Todays newspaper from a year ago, just to see the contrast. And what about that funny hat. Wow. We all laughed when we saw it, I mean, let’s face it, it looks ridiculous. But now, we all want to wear it. But with her hair it’s tied to her head so the wind won’t blow it away. And, oh how the wind would like to wear that funny hat. It would wear it on a gusty breeze, wear it over all the seven seas, and let it fall in Indonesia on a plumber who has just lost his job and is sadder than he’s ever been before. He smiles when that funny little hat falls on his head. And the woman, on another continent pushes her cart, not knowing the gift she could have given in the wind had her funny hat not been sewed to her head.
There are verses and lines, and there are old lovers who animate them. There are poems and there are longings, and there are old religions that keep them from becoming too sentimental. People will say anything to keep from being hurt. People will tell you what you want to hear to keep you from rejecting them. Poetry is scientific. Lovers can’t come back. Religion is scientific. Music can not save your soul. From ambulance drivers to hopeless romantics, from concrete workers to a professor’s semantics, love is a beautiful thing. It is pounding on our windows. It is tapping on our mailboxes. It is clutching our eye-lids and holding them open to the light.
Your problem is that you cannot distinguish the puzzle on the table from the picture on the box. That’s your problem. You just stand there dipping your toes in a river with fools, wishing success was as easy as breathing. Wishing struggle was a problem only for evil people. Meanwhile a storm is brewing, and nobody knows how bad the weather will become. But here’s the reason for hope: Nobody can make you do anything. You are your own puzzle-boggled toe-dipper. Look at you there now. You do whatever you want. You weather the storm. You weather the weather. But whether you weather the weather or not, you still must complete this puzzle, or else put it back in it's box.