Why was it chosen? And what made the choice? This life, in this time and place. This infinitely minuscule snippet of eternity, which when fully lived for 80 or so years, will equal about one five-hundred millionth of all of Earth’s four billion. It’s all that you have, or at least all we can prove because there really is no indication that there’s anything more, save some scribblings in hand-me-down books telling you otherwise. And imagine yourself, the you who you are – same spirit/different life – a distinct phenomenological expression. It’s you, though; it’s totally you. Perhaps the you who you’d be had you lived through a war. Or the you who you’d be had your family been broke. How would the you who are be different had the circumstances you’d found yourself faced with been something the current expression of you sees as obscure or impossible? Let that take hold. If you were you but also someone completely unlike the you who you find yourself to be in this moment, what might it be like for your spirit, the you who you have always been, to exist?
And then what might you reap and then what might you sow? Here you are, ingesting a blog, a piece that you’re blessed enough to ponder because, let’s face it, if you’re reading the mid-morning brain droppings of some privileged white man, then you have incurred a certain degree of privilege yourself; so imagine the you who you’d be had such privileges ceased to exist. If instead of ingesting my writing, you were lost on some ship in a faraway ocean, pleading some captain to alter the course of the vessel to save your own life. How might this experience (which has been thrust upon you involuntarily) be exactly the same, because it is, in fact, you having the experience, and also totally different because the circumstances surrounding said experience would encompass a reality foreign to anything you can currently comprehend? Like the “you” is the same but the life you live totally foreign, in language or gender or family lineage, perhaps even species. And in your upbringing, with different emerging preferences subtle and bold, you are unrecognizable from the you you are now, this current expression being the result of fine-tuned and nurtured experiences as unique as the prints on your fingers, and also of natures which feel and seem impossible to struggle against.
Imagine yourself as the opposite sex. What choices might you have that you currently don’t, and how might your life then unfold? What karmic debt might you somehow be prone to incur, and how might you find yourself called to work through its associated choices? And Imagine yourself with the same gender but the opposite sex. Just imagine. Your balls say one thing but your being says another. Your vagina just doesn’t belong. And there you are, it’s just you, trying as hard as you can to do your thing, that thing being just being yourself, and then you are hated by others who are what they are. Like there you are, Peter or Mary, stuck being Mary or Peter, and you have to go through this gory mutilating process to become who you already are I an attempt to get your outsides to match your insides, and it doesn’t really matter if perhaps there is some sort of legitimate syndrome with a not-yet-discovered antidote, because this is the motherfucking life you are living.
Perhaps there are spirits that want you to know more than most, and this is why you were born gay or trans, but the gift you’ve been given is burdened because other sick souls can’t help but be scared of what’s different, even if some know deep down they are much more like you than is comfortable for them to feel into. And so they get violent and cruel for seemingly unknown reasons because a vast network of neurological programming affects their subconscious minds, keeping the hatred they have for themselves projected outwards, protecting them from looking and feeling within. It’s just “the way that they are;” they know nothing different from ways that they always have been. And can you have compassion for them, these bigoted types, because they might be you if your cards had been differently dealt?
It always hurts, very often in conversation with a “conservative” Chiristian, when it turns out that he or she is not too much shy of a bigot. It’s not all of them, mind you. Plenty will tell you that their God is a God who loves everyone, and I’d have to agree that they’re right. Afterall, didn’t their Savior, after being scourged at a pillar, whipped and flogged, dragged through the streets and spit on, and then nailed to a cross demand of His Father that He forgive those who crucified him? I mean, isn’t this how they are supposed to act, just like him? Consider further, that their savior may have intentionally endured such cruel torture for the express purpose of demonstrating that forgiveness is available to all under any circumstances; kinda like “Hey guys, if I can forgive these asshole Romans and that total dickhead Pontius Pilate for crucifying me, you can perhaps choose to not be diusgusted by your gay neighbor and to maybe see him as a human being deserving of love. Or to let the decision you have made about your other neighbor not accepting me as her personal savior up to me. How about I’m the one who gets to decide if they’re going to Hell, which is MUCH harder to get into than most of you seem to imagine?”
And what if you wanted to kill? Craved it from deep down inside from your earliest days? So you started with puppies and moved up to people, got arrested and charged and made headlines all over the world, finally receiving the spotlight your family denied you. And maybe you knew, in the pit of your soul, that there could be no other way, that this was a destiny chosen for you to fulfill – for reasons that no one can know. It’s part of your natural right so it seems, to murder or maim or to unjustly take others’ lives. It’s something that cannot be helped. If you were set free, you’d do it again and you know it. What would it be like if it was you living that life? And to those who don’t want to play “imagination” and are already articulating an argument insisting that YOU WOULD NEVER, this is fine, but all we are talking about is the fact that others have different shoes to walk their journeys in, and that those shoes might be yours someday if you hate those who currently wear them.
It’s futile to try to resist: killing or loving or riding a surfboard if it feels like your destiny’s calling, and if “we are all one” as some of the spiritual folks will have you believe, then these parts, the bad ones and mean ones, are as much of yourself as any other aspect of the totality of the ALL that exists. No one can help being exactly who they are. If they could, they’d be different. Sometimes we have profound experiences involving cognitive dissonance which inform us that we can, in fact, choose something foreign from what we have always been and this is how some of the great awakenings manifest themselves, leaping us forward into new realities, realities rooted in choices we knew not of before.
I’ve been a junkie, begging for filth to get shot through my veins. The scars dot my skin, reminders of what I once was – hardened protrusions and bumps line my arms in the places I stabbed with a needle. A disgusting sad soul begging God drifted lost through the streets, lifetimes ago in a galaxy far far away. This is the me who is gone, and hopefully never comes back. A liar, a cheater, a thief, and someone who’d kill for a ten-spot. It’s hard to imagine this me who I was years ago; it feels like a different soul, one that rose like a phoenix from dirt to inhabit itself as a different expression of life, what many refer to as “blessed,” salvaged from something obscene to experience glory on faces of waves.
And this happens every day, the we who we are switches forms, sometimes with grace, often with punches from God. A friend of mine lost her beloved; a dear friend and brother of mine. I’ll miss him forever. And the she who she was became something new, a tragic and unfamiliar expression of what it meant to be her. A widow, the word itself, having its own melancholy identity collapsed around those five letters. It happened so fast. He was gone in an instant, the he who he was tempted fate and collapsed on a sidewalk. He’ll never be Andrew again, and who knows of how he’ll emerge for his next incarnation. Perhaps he’ll awaken in that one and we’ll meet again, in the streets of a slum or the hall of an ashram, each seeing the other as familiar. I’d like that.
Perhaps we arrive in these lifetimes as the result of decisions we’ve made in previous ones, or experiences we’ve lived through that left unsavory “residues” we need to clean up. This is what the folks who believe in reincarnation will have you believe. And each one of these lifetimes and the experiences they entail get wrapped up inside of our subconscious minds, predisposing us to have certain proclivities and preferences, which might manifest as more nature than nurture in the eternal debate because some things just live in our nature, waiting for us to explore them and honor them fully. They might come from lifetimes ago or be born instantaneously for no apparent reason.
Vietnam always felt real. I remember, frying on acid at the University of Kansas, visiting a friend with some other friends I had driven over from Colorado with. It was raining that day and so frolicking wasn’t an option. I wanted to wander the campus that crisp Autumn day, to see things that weren’t there in a place I’d not seen. To hallucinate vividly all over Lawrence Kansas, creating memories I’d quickly forget as each kaleidoscopic image melted into the next.
We took a brief walk, saw the campus, but quickly tired of the rain and retired to a dorm room where one of the tribesmen suggested that we watch Platoon, a movie I’d never seen but one I remembered the hype from a decade before – a Time Magazine article with a picture of Tom Berenger holding a gun, threatening to end some kid’s life with a bullet. This flashed through my head at the suggestion that we watch the movie.
And then there I was in the Jungle with Sheen as he arrived on the landing strip to be quickly stuck on point, leading some boys through the jungle. There were bullets and bombs, grenades dropped in tunnels. Death and horror and suffering. Napalm and evil. The American Flag took on meaning and darker expressions, and history soon became food for a twisted young mind, turning me overnight into an armchair purveyor of pasts, devouring the works of Tim O’Brien and Phil Caputo, then the tunnels of Cai Chi and whatever else I could get my hands on concerning the Vietnam War. It was like I had been there, wearing a different expression of life as I know it, perhaps with a blue-collar lineage from some town down south, following traditions of service or not dodging drafts. And maybe this is the reason that those toy guns were so much fun growing up, because I remembered in some subtle way, something that I had forgotten until I picked up that toy in the Toys ”R” Us isle that day when I was five or six, within the same year or so that I saw the first skateboard I owned.
So what is the piece all about? I’m really not sure. It wasn’t to bash on the Christians although sometimes that seems rather difficult. I just wish that we were, as Americans in particular, better at considering notions that exist outside of the current, blinder-donning, contexts we view our realities through.