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You’re hardly the first person to feel this way. Many fortunate people receive the blessings of The Great Outdoors. So many recovering alcoholics call nature their Higher Power. Good for them. They’re lucky and probably right. If God exists he’s out here. He made this. He created the Garden of Eden. Before we fucked it up. Long before you, indigenous people tread these very trails. They knew it, too: The Great Spirit. Too many people only experience nature once a year on vacation, on mandatory field trips taken from school, or worse, just in movies. No wonder its magic wore off. Maybe they weren’t paying attention – too busy looking at a screen instead of the sky. Still, you’re glad they’re not here. The trails are often deserted. Blessedly. It makes no difference to you. What others think. What they do. People no longer matter. Out here you feel no shame. Out here you is stoned immaculate.

To be continued…

The Yearning…

February 7, 2020

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The non-addict asks what is the meaning of life? The addict asks: Is this all there is? You called this many things: frustration, dissatisfaction, expectation… the yearning. Desiring something else. More. These unmet desires found respite in drugs and alcohol, albeit temporarily. But it was better than the alternative, or so it always seemed at the time, all the time.

When you finally found a church basement full of others like you, you thought: At last I am not the only one asking this question! It was the right idea, this revelation – a solid first draft. Alas, the yearning remained, humming like a generator, at times hissing, demanding, always there, always on.

Nor could you placate it with a Higher Power, not sufficiently. Your God wasn’t big enough. Is still not big enough. Would never be. But then came a realization as central as the question itself. It wasn’t that you stop asking: Is this all there is? But rather that you begin answering: Yes, this is all there is. And it’s good.

(Author’s note: This is a small section from an autobiographical novel I have been writing for some time. Would you like to read more? Or maybe there is something I can help you write?)

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Creator for hire…

That’s right, to prove my chops as elegant persuader I’m going to sell you on the idea that God exists using intuitive and rational arguments. No new age mumbo-jumbo. No beatific platitudes. No doctrine. I won’t apply one single faith-based point in my brief. When I’m done you may still not believe in a higher power but you may well be closer to Him (and hopefully me) than you were before.

First a proposition: If anyone can definitively prove God does or does not exist I will give him all that’s left in my bank account. Non-believers and agnostics crave proof of God’s existence and, of course, it never comes. But why is it we rarely flip the question and demand proof that some Higher Power doesn’t exist? It’s just as impossible.

Let’s go totally left-brain and talk percentages. Applying common sense, one must conclude there is at least a 50% chance that God does exist. However, that also means there is a 50% chance that God does not. “God is everything or nothing.” It’s 50/50. If you had those odds on the lottery –or anything really- you’d take that bet. You’d be a fool not to.

Yet, so many of us are ambivalent about God or even the idea of God. Why is that? Because we can’t see him? Well, you can’t see gravity either. “That’s different,” the unbeliever claims. You can prove gravity. There are equations.

Do you believe in love? For your children? For your wife? Of course you do. But one cannot prove that love definitively exists. You feel love or you don’t depending on your circumstances but you can never see “love.” So, if one can believe in love then why not God? They are both faith-based concepts with no rational foundation. Why is one different from the other?

Do you covet money, prestige or status? Are you addicted to drugs or alcohol? Have you ever been? What about chocolate or coffee? Or your boyfriend? We often make higher powers out of people, places and things. The alcoholic knows this all to well. When she wakes it’s all she can think of. The addict’s drug of choice brings him to his knees every night. They will put spirits ahead of everything else, including jobs, loved ones and personal health. Even the sanctity of human life will not deter the devoted from blindly worshiping their drug of choice. In 12 step recovery it is suggested that the addict replace one higher power for another. When he or she is able to do so the results are demonstrable, even astounding. A freaking miracle.

I’m a cynic and a realist. But I’ve come to believe, even know, God is as likely to exist as not. Such circumstantial evidence may not hold up in court (which ironically trusts in God) but public opinion is all that matters here. Persuasion is an art that uses facts, not the other way around. Have I moved you even five percent closer to believing in a higher power? Or in me?

So, how about that freelance? Let’s do some creation together: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

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I am excited to find a new job. A permanent one as well as freelance. Here are my credentials. However, to prove my chops as as elegant persuader I’m going to sell you on the idea that God exists using purely rational arguments. No psychic mumbo-jumbo. No beatific platitudes. No doctrine. I won’t apply one single faith-based point in my brief argument. When I’m done you may still not believe in a higher power but you will be closer to Him, Her or It than you were before.

Ready?

First a proposition: If anyone can definitively prove God does or does not exist I will give them all the money in my bank account. Non-believers and agnostics crave proof of God’s existence and, of course, it never comes. But why is it we rarely flip the question and demand proof that God doesn’t exist? It’s just as impossible.

Therefore…

Let’s go totally left brain and talk numbers. Percentages to be exact. Bearing in mind the above proposition, one must concede there is a 50% chance that God does not exist. However, that means there is a 50% chance that God does exist. In other words, after all is said and done, it’s 50/50 whether a divine entity or Creator exists. Now if you had those odds on the lottery –or anything really- you’d take that bet. You’d be a fool not to.

Yet, so many of us are ambivalent about God or even the idea of God. Why is that? Because we can’t see him? Well, you can’t see gravity either. “That’s different,” the unbeliever claims. You can prove gravity. There are equations.

Okay, smart ass. Do you “believe” in love? For your children? For your wife? Of course you do. Prove to me that love definitively exists. Of course you can’t. You feel love or not depending on your circumstances but you’ll never see it. Therefore, if you can believe in love why not God? They are both faith-based concepts with no rational foundation. Why is one different from the other? It isn’t.

Do you covet money, prestige or status? Are you addicted to drugs or alcohol? Have you ever been? What about chocolate or coffee? Or your boyfriend? We often make higher powers out of people, places and things. The alcoholic knows this all to well. When she wakes it’s all she can think of. The addict’s drug of choice brings him to his knees every night. They will put spirits ahead of everything else, including jobs, loved ones and personal health. Even the sanctity of human life will not deter the devoted from blindly worshiping. That’s fanatical. That is what ISIS does.

Yet, God forbid we believe in God. No one is more cynical than me. But I believe –even know- that God is a 50/50 proposition. Have I moved you even five percent closer to believing in a higher power?

So, how about that freelance?


Exile and bliss. I can relate…

listening to music while pushing through a run this weekend my iPod Shuffle selected “Disappearing Act” by U2. Instantly, my heart soared. My runner’s aches vanished. I got a second wind. At that glorious moment, I knew I’d finish my workout strong. Such is the power of music.

I also realized that this particular U2 song might just be my favorite from the band’s entire, vast catalog. Given U2 is my favorite musical group (if a grown man can have a favorite musical group), choosing above all others a non-hit like “Disappearing Act” seems pretty random. Especially considering the following bit of history from U2’s guitarist, The Edge:

“‘Disappearing Act,’ formerly known as ‘White City,’ was recorded at the beginning of the Slane sessions (for The Unforgettable Fire)…but for whatever reason, it never inspired a compelling vocal…then, after 25 years, between shows on the 360 tour, ‘White City’ was completed and became ‘Disappearing Act.'”

Yikes. Perhaps my favorite U2 song almost never got made. Regardless, it’s an amazing number. Listen to it. “Disappearing Act” is both a soaring anthem and a deeply personal work, indicative of the very best U2 songs. It has all the elements: inspiring guitar hooks, beautiful chorus and Bono’s classically enigmatic lyrics that seem to be simultaneously about mysterious women and the eternal quest for truth, beauty and a higher power.

Say what you will about Bono yet the fact he rarely writes about sex, drugs and rock and roll (not that there’s anything wrong with that) is one of the band’s greatest virtues. Since Day 1 U2 has remained unabashedly spiritual, never forsaking their faith for rampant hedonism readily available to rock stars fractionally as famous as they are. I find that truly amazing.

But it’s the personal connection I make with this song that, for me, puts it above their many terrific others. As a lifelong introvert and someone who has never mastered social intercourse, I’ve done my share of disappearing acts. It’s painful. It’s regretful…

Yet-

“Exile, it’s a small price to pay for bliss.” A haunting line, containing two seemingly disparate ideas (exile and bliss) and it nails me to a cross. For all my blessings of family and friends, I often find myself alone. Indeed, I put myself there, preferring it to the company of others…

“When there’s only one thing you need to own…hunger, hunger itself.”

I view “hunger” as a search for reconciliation as well as a description of the ambition and creativity that can restore me to sanity. Or at least get me out of the “graveyard before I turn to bones.”

With “all the lepers (I) let in my head” sometimes I wonder how I “can love” at all. The song keeps asking that question. And if I’m being honest so do I.

Even though Bono wrote “Disappearing Act” in the second person I obviously take it personally. I love this song even as I struggle liking myself. And isn’t that what true art (be it a novel or a pop song) truly does: point to our flawed humanity while providing eternal hope for its salvation?

Writer’s note: I may have crossed the line here, providing “too much information.” Forgive me that indulgence. Yet, finding meaning in popular culture is absolutely part of this blog’s modest legacy. Thank you for your patience. Below is “Disappearing Act”