Saturday, December 04, 2004

Anyone want to get me a hat for Christmas? This is the hat I want.

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Ever get the feeling that our children are going to look at this period and think we were barbarians while it won't even really process to our grandchildren that people even existed in times like these?
Yeah. Me too.

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Friday, December 03, 2004

So, the Michael's chain of arts and crafts supplies stores sell dried seahorses.
If you can't muster up some compassion for a seahorse, one of the most fascinating and gorgeous animals there are, you should probably get a shovel and dig yourself a hole. Cause there's no romance in your soul.
Here's the address to write in and beseech them to stop killing seahorses for trinkets.

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Thursday, December 02, 2004

I don't think I like the sermon I wrote yesterday. Or at least I'm not comfortable with it. It seems arrogant to me. I wish I could go back in time and not send it. Phish says there's a good message in there anyway, but I'm not satisfied. Oh well. Maybe the Christmas one will be better.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004


another damned cybersermon by Rev. Paul Mathers

"If you can smell garlic, everything is all right." -JG Ballard

Look, when you get into your teens you tend to start to figure out what really scares you in life. Then you spend the next 60 some years avoiding those things, actively seeking those things or subconsciously seeking those things. I was afraid of three things when I hit that age group. Fear of Insanity, Fear of Rejection and Fear of Loneliness. I think I feared insanity because growing up I wasn't all that great at sports and everyone kept telling me how smart I was. I was the only kid in my school in the gifted child program which, being the only gifted child and living in the lower middle class neighborhood, ended up meaning nothing. There was no gifted program for my poor assed school. The rich schools got special classes and speakers for their gifted kids. I got bupkiss. I didn't get any benefits save the knowledge that I was the only one. If there had been another kid, we could have at least bragged about it and looked down our noses at the other kids. It didn't make me any friends and there wasn't any kind of program at which I could excel and make my parents proud. Mainly it just turned me into an alien. So, my wits were pretty much all I had to work with. If I lost my wits, I wouldn't have anything. I'd just be a crazy alien.
The fear of rejection is something most people have. Some work through it better than others. Usually I don't really give a damn what people think about me (in case you couldn't tell by these sermons) but I'll let you in on a little secret about me. I like to date women. I've also heard that I might someday want to get married to one. Naturally, rejection is something that would cause problems with that.
Loneliness became a fear when I started noticing the direction my life was taking. I majored in theater and it became clear that I wasn't going to have a straight job with medical benefits anytime soon. I knew i was going to need a support group around me in case things went ape shit.
In the past two years I've had all those fears have come into reality in my life in spades.
I tell you this because I realized about six months ago that I was a pile of ashes and the only point to go from there would be to ignite into a whole new chicken.
Two days ago it was very cold. There was frost on the lawn which was really pretty and sparkley in the street lights. I walked to my brother's church to hear him teach about the book of Revelation (in case you didn't know, my brother is a real pastor.) I walked because I try to use my car as little as possible. Part of the reason I moved to Chico was because I don't really like cars. I don't like what they do to the air and I don't like the idea of the 45 million people who watch American Idol getting into 2 tons of metal and making said metal move close to 100 miles per hour. I can't relax behind the wheel when I think about that.
So, it was brisk cold out and when I got there my brother told me that the jacket I was wearing made me look like a psychopath. It was my warmest jacket which was a long black trenchcoat. I realized he was right. It might have been kind of cool when I was 20 years old, but at 27 to wear it when it isn't raining does kind of make you look like a loon. So, yesterday morning I bought myself a new jacket. It's lovely and I'm probably going to wear the everloving crap out of it. It's one of those denim jobbies with the fleece looking stuff inside which kind of peeks out around the collar. It's a jacket that will make people think I'm an immigrant from Marlboro Country.
Then I went to buy my nieces Christmas presents. I spent way too much on my brother's Christmas present, but I think it'll be worth it. In retrospect I should have gotten him a black trenchcoat.
Then I went to the gym. I usually wear hi tops at the gym, which are just canvas shoes. I usually work out my upper body, on the days when I don't work out my legs, on what's called the hammer strength machines. You get free weights, stick them on the hammer strength machines, sit in the chair and you can bench press without having to have someone there to spot you. The machine spots you. Although, yesterday I kind of found a loophole in how the machine spots you.
Imagine taking a five pound weight while standing and lifting it up to your face, then letting it drop right onto the nail of your left big toe. While taking a five pound weight off of the hammer strength machine yesterday, that's exactly what I accidentally did. And I broke my toe.
That's why I'm sitting around writing a sermon today.
The first thing that went through my head is that this is the kind of thing people are going to laugh at me over.
I left the gym soon after and tried to drive home, but the endorphines kicked in and I had to pull over and black out. Then I tried to call everyone I know in Chico, but I had also timed my accident so well that everyone was at lunch. So, like the Marlboro Man, I sucked it up and drove home. I put ice on my toe for two hours, put it up, then taped it to the closest unbroken toe on my foot, and eventually took pain killers.
But here's the thing. Two years ago I got through my nervous breakdown (insanity) and my breakup (rejection.) I'm still here. I read books and enjoy boba drinks at the sushi place downtown, sometimes I sing and I make enough money to survive. Life's pretty good anyway and I laugh a lot in spite of how much I feared those two things which came to pass. I'm still just as alone as I was yesterday when I had nobody to help me when my foot turned on me. But I patched it up just fine on my own and it's healing now (and probably will be for the next month.)
The worst part of the whole experience was the thought that I wasn't going to make it home with a broken toe. The worst was when I feared rejection and was rejected or when I feared going crackers and went crackers. I'm fully convinced that not a one of those experiences would have been a fifth as hard as they were if I didn't have preexisting fears. And the previous two, the rejection and the nuttiness, continued to be terrible things to me for about two years afterwards because I identified them with that fear. On the other hand, I'm already over the loneliness because it honestly wasn't much of a problem when the chips were down (or the five pound weights as it were.)
Some fears are good to have. But not many.
Now I would never recommend having a nervous breakdown. They suck. You're terribly unhappy and frightened for a long time until you're kind of pulled through a wormhole of breakdown and shot out the other side. Afterwards you look over your shoulders a lot worried that it might come back. I also wouldn't recommend falling head over heels for somebody who is your best friend to the point where you buy them a ring and then have them reject you in every way possible.
And I certainly wouldn't recommend breaking your toe with no medical insurance (and no money to go to a doctor because you just bought yourself a new jacket)and nobody to help you through it. I'm not here to recommend these things. I'm here to talk about what they mean and what one can do about them. These things happened to me even though nobody recommended them to me.
Even in our kitschy culture, I've never met anybody who would say that really nasty things haven't happened to them. I expect that every one of you out there has had something god awful happen to you and probably will again sometime soon. I don't wish it on you. In fact I hope just the opposite. But I wouldn't bet on the opposite. Even if we lived in a world where people were good and decent to one another, we'd still have accidents and pain and disease and so forth. However, bad things, even the worst things in life, can be seen as an opportunity to bring more light to the world. Plus it really screws with people if you go around reacting to bad things like that. So that's part of the fun.
About a year ago my brother (this was about the time I was being rejected) and his wife had a child named Jonathan. It was their first son after four girls. Jonathan lived for 20 days. When Jonathan died, my brother mourned of course. It was a very rough time for our family. But even at the funeral he took it as a way to promote life, goodness and hope. The moment in the funeral that has always stuck with me is when he mentioned that some people thought it such a waste that a child should only live for 20 day. And my brother said, "I'd be willing to bet that every one of you here has prayed more in the past few months than you have in years. How can any of this be a waste?"
My brother's son died and my brother, after getting his mourning out in a healthy way, used it to illustrate to hundreds how all things can work out for good if you can see it as such. He turned one of the worst things that can happen into a way to make the world a better place. He used it as a way to improve people's vision. And let me tell you, when you're pissed off or feeling down or dejected about something and along comes a truly happy and joyful man whose son has died, you really can't get away with feeling that bad over things.
In the past few months I've been looking at how I still deal with my relationship lost and how she rejected me. I still kind of mourn over it. I focus on how wronged I was. And then I look at how my brother dealt with his much much much greater loss and I think "who's the one who's wasting here? It's me! It's me!"
I'm a bit of a fatalist or a Calvinist myself. I believe all things happen for a reason. If it's part of Universe's design or just things our subconscious has scripted out for us, I'm willing to entertain either notion. I don't pretend to know why things happen. I believe which aspect of the information we chose to let out is where our free will comes in (half full or the other way.). You don't have to believe as I do (how often to do you hear a Reverend say that!)
But try this. Robert Anton Wilson, one of my favorite writers, has a party game to play and experiment with. He says try going to a party absolutely convinced that you are unattractive, uninteresting and that people don't like you. See what happens. Then go to another party absolutely convinced that you're highly attractive, witty and everyone loves you. See what happens.
You've all heard the dumb ass line "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?" Don't you just want to clock somebody when they say that to you? I do. Want to that is. I don't actually clock people. It's almost as bad as the "fish in the sea" thing when you break up with somebody. You don't want to hear that crap.
And I don't believe it should work like that. Lemonade making strikes me as a way of hiding the problem and not actually fixing it. You should make something much better than lemonade when the lemons come.
There was this guy who lived down the street from us in Orange County that nobody in the neighborhood liked. He had a mean dog that he mistreated and a fence with holes in it so the dog would get out and chase children. The guy was kind of a bastard. But we all got to laugh at him at one point because his house caught termites and some salesman noticed that the guy had the word "sucker" tattooed on his forehead. The salesman convinced the guy to buy aluminum to put over his walls. So he's got these walls that look nice from the outside, but inside of them the termites are still eating away at his house. And that's how I see lemonade makers.
I say, if life give you lemons, get pissed off and cuss and kick the basket of lemons (not too hard though. Don't want to break your toe.) Then, using your secret powers, turn the lemons into Kahunas that will go around playing jaunty songs that make other people with baskets of lemons dance little jigs.
I know what you're thinking right now. Or at least I know what I'd be thinking if I weren't me and I were reading this. I'd think "What does this have to do with me?" and "Make with the practicalities."
In the past 24 hours or so a lot of people have said things to me about broken toes. And people love themselves some fear. Fear is the one thing people in western culture hold onto stronger than anything. We're carefully taught to do that. One guy told me that if I didn't see a doctor and my toe set wrong when it healed I could get crippling arthritis in the toe and have to walk with a cane by the time I'm 50 (I didn't point out that I was walking with a cane at the time.) Another told me he once broke his thumb and it took six months to heal. The pain was so bad he didn't sleep for three days when he broke it. Many have said that broken toes hurt bad for a very very long time. Three people, including my father, have told me that I might have to drill a hole in my toenail to drain the blood because the pressure might get so back it'll hurt even more than it did when I first broke it. They told me that drilling a hole in your toenail is beyond description with hurting. None of these are bad people. In fact all of them seem to like me. But the things they've said to me are gruesome and terrifying to someone who has never broken a toe before.
But one guy said to me "God must have been telling you to slow down for some reason."
Now that's more like it! That's a really great thing to hear. That really helped me and built me up a little. That statement means there might be some good behind it, some good to come, and not just pain and things to make my butt hurt when I think about it.
I know I make these stipulations often, but just to make sure for all of you out there who get the heebie jeebies from Judeo-Christian terminology and to make sure I don't alienate anybody with the "God" statement, it would have been just as nice if he'd said "The Goddess must want you to nurture your toe" or "Your brain must need you off your feet for a bit" or "Bob must be saying you need more slack." or whatever deity or lack thereof you want to insert if you need to. I usually don't need to, but that's just me and there's nothing wrong with getting the flying wilhemenas when people start mentioning God. It's more about putting a greater good into a painful event.
And he was right. Today what I did with my gift of having a broken toe was to write a sermon. I'm sure I'll figure out something else fun to do tomorrow. Maybe I'll look through binoculars out my window and foil a murder.
There's a lot of pain on a global scale going around. There's also a lot of fear. I think the illuminated souls would do well to point out the unseeable goodness that can come from rotten times. I don't think we're in any danger of losing sight of the badness that comes out of rotten times. There's going to be a majority of fear mongers who keep reminding us of that. The chain of fear linking to pain and back to fear should probably be broken at some point. I'd like to be the weakest link in that chain.
It's the holiday season here in Lake Wobegon. Holidays sure can be hell, can't they? I try and get all my shopping done before Thanksgiving and I try to make as many presents as I can rather than buying. I won't go near a mall until January and I try not to go to a store after 4pm until January. Then there's family, which can be uncomfortable for some. I've got a party to go to on the 23rd with a bunch of people from high school. My gut instinct is that I'll hate it, which is what makes me want all the more to turn it into a holy, ecstatic experience. To find the holiness. I like to find the holiness in spite of the holiday.
You're old enough to figure out how you can apply turning sorrows into the potential for joy on your own when the need arrives. I just thought I'd send out an early sermon to plant it somewhere in your head for the next few weeks while you deal with the holidays. So when something crappy happens it can release in your brain like a virus. If you've got the doubts about what I'm saying, look at it this way. When life gets rough and you start thinking about the positive (dig me, I'm Norman Vincent Peale) the worst that could possibly happen is that you'll have a little hope and enjoy yourself a little more. The best that can happen is that you'll infect someone else. And it's certainly the season for that, eh what?
And if you get nothing else from this sermon, try this. In the next few weeks, if you're walking without a cane and your toenails are staying on and you don't have to drill a hole in your toenail, sometime when you're walking around in the cloud of the holidays, realize you're walking about and be grateful. And let someone else know. Pass it on as a holiday gift.
Last night my foot was feeling the worst pain I've felt in years. Turns out it hurts to break your toe. I did a load of laundry and had to hold onto things as I hobbled into the wash room to get my clothes from the drier. In the drier was my new denim and fleece jacket. It was a brisk night and the wash room has a screen door that opens to the backyard, so it's quite cold in the wash room. I pulled out my denim jacket and put it on. It smelled fresh as the steam came out of my nose and mouth. The fleece warmed my upper body and the metal buttons burnt my skin. Outside the screen door the lawn glimmered with frost beneath the brisk starry night. My toe ached and I was happier than I've been in years.
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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

When I first saw the headline I felt like screaming until I realized it was the lost first novel. Someday in my life I expect to hear that they've found the manuscript for Answered Prayers. Still this article made me wish, just for a split second, that I was fabulously wealthy and could afford to bid on such a thing.

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Monday, November 29, 2004

I think I may have just found my new favorite news site. They update every hour with 100 pictures and words of whatever is most important (most widely covered or watched) in world history during that hour.

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Here's a very good introduction to the only ruler I've ever wanted to bow to.,4273,4110736,00.html

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