Ensconced with my propane heater at oh-dark-thirty, infinitely cozy. I wish it was my job, somehow, to wake up sort of ridiculously early — not all the time, but frequently — get cozy with some coffee and a propane heater, and write a blog. Oh, that is my job. That, and telling people which shower stall to go into :) Not to be insta-girl cliche, but #feelingblessed, seriously. Consideration of world events makes me remember how lucky we are to have lives to lead at all.
Talked more with the fire camp pastor last night, Nick and I. He’s not acting as a pastor here, but that’s what he does at home. He’s firmly mystic, and knows it, and flows it. I guess a Christian mystic is a thing? I had perceived Americanized Christianity as being encased in as much insensate-ness as possible. And I had assumed anyone with a prophetic/healing/symbology-fluent skillset would naturally gravitate to the woo-woo. So, consider me surprised.
I haven’t spoken with many Christian pastors, one on one, certainly not at length, but I’ve been around a lot of them in the early years, as my mother dragged us from church to church looking to re-create an un-re-creatable childhood experience with church. I’ve never gotten the green light, with one of them — that sense that we could go ahead and have a big, deep, new, creative thought exploration together, like I felt last night with this guy. He’s only thirty, and in somewhat dire straits emotionally in his private life, though composed about it and around it. He reminds me of Jan, my only other friend who is a reasonably self-realized mystic.
Mystics are interesting when they’re upset, because they’re holding space for the upset even as the upset is rampaging around, and they can tell you all about it; kind of like that woman who got famous for a minute — she was a neuroscientist who suffered a stroke that knocked out the left hemisphere of her brain, and as a neuroscientist she could tell you all about it. Sad face, I guess that’s how I know I’m not a mystic — I’m a fucking disaster when I’m upset, and can’t tell anyone anything.
Anyway, the guy is gifted, for sure, and knows it, and is in pursuit of it in full view of mystic resources, Christian and otherwise, to which he’s connected, and I’m pretty jealous. I’ve often wondered how the heck you develop a set of sensibilities that doesn’t seem to fall under any other category. I’ve had some good stuff to rely on, on the internet, but he suggested a few more.
I think, like so many of us, I’ve fallen victim (lol) to the encouragement to deny/disown/obscure my most immediate and visceral responses to life, which comes from the fear that too much chaos will be invited through that channel. The path of mysticism is open to both the chaos and the leaps of insight, the two being necessarily inter-involved, but the fear is that the latter won’t come fast enough to assuage and qualify and — let’s be honest, justify — the former. This may sound odd coming from someone who literally blogs it all out every day but it’s true — I do tend to keep myself one degree removed from myself, at least, and that’s what’s acting as a brake. But, you know, a dog with three legs has just as much love to give as a dog with four legs, and it’s possible I can be of as much service in this vibration as I would at a higher one, whether I would prefer to be up higher or not. With our words, we can fortify or erode one another, all day long.
I think it’s interesting that I’ve put myself in situations, over and over in life, where rational/hierarchical thinking is the only recognized way to be, and then I always feel a smidge counterfeit in those environments, but what’s the alternative? Like Teal Swan said, the assumption that spiritual people are irresponsible is a stereotype, and like most stereotypes, it has its grain of truth. Many spiritual people are irresponsible. I would say I’m irresponsible, in a number of ways, not all of which I find problematic. I’m being irresponsible about writing a good blog right now — exposition is my downfall.
“The burning bush,” he said, indicating our company logo. “Have you ever thought about that? What does it mean for you two? Bushes are on fire all the time. They’re dry, there can be lightning — there’s nothing special about a burning bush. Moses was interested in the burning bush because, although it burned, it wasn’t consumed.”
I looked at Nick, thinking about our entire last fall and winter. “We burned but we weren’t consumed.”
“We were on fire as fuck,” Nick said.
The fire camp pastor shrugged. “You work for this company. The symbolism isn’t an accident.” He indicated my feet. “You’re wearing flip flops. You’re an easy person, a casual person, and things go smoothly for you. You don’t have to worry about the road ahead — the way will be made for you, easy to navigate.”
He would just kind of drop bombs like this, seeing we were receptive. Nick would be the one to retreat into masculine, insensate rationality, if anyone, but he’s deepened and softened, as he’s relaxed. I think for him also, as a sober person, someone’s lack of a spiritual path is more odd and off-putting than the alternative. His copy of Eckhart Tolle is getting downright battered. He has a crazy story, about deciding very soberly and rationally to kill himself, during one of his prison stints, and he had a plan for it involving the sheets and the rail and the mezzanine right outside his cell. But his cellmate happened upon a copy of Eckhart Tolle, which normally Nick wouldn’t have registered, but Nick’s grandpa had been an Eckhart fan. Nick recognized the unusual name. So he asked if he could read the book, and the cellmate loaned it to him, and by the time he was half-way through, he didn’t want to kill himself anymore.
I think 31 is not that old, relative to these kinds of long-cycle, big-arc plot gestures of one’s life, and I like seeing Nick change slowly over time. He’s amazing now and will only get more amazing as he approaches my age, which will of course retreat. I hope I’m around to see more unfolding. I don’t say this patronizingly, as Nick is by far my better in some important areas.
Anyway, I liked the pastor’s home-spun, readily accessible integration of symbolism. He was like a cook in a kitchen who doesn’t need special ingredients, he just uses what’s there. It was an interesting lesson for me.
How is it getting colder as the sky lightens? I was feeling cozy with my propane heater, and now it’s closer to saving my life. We’re heading out today, back to un-forever home number two, which reminds me I gotta go online and book a hotel room. I used SnapTravel last time, and they followed up with a marketing text asking how likely I was, on a scale of zero to ten, to recommend SnapTravel to my friends and family. I texted back “0”, so let me just make that clear here as well — I do not recommend SnapTravel. There’s nothing wrong with it per se, it’s just like — what the hell. Why would you design something like this in the first place.
I’ve never tried to commit suicide, or given it much thought. I’ve definitely recognized, at several junctures, that I was facing a set of problems that death and perhaps only death would solve, which turned out not to be true so good thing I stuck around. I think I’ll know when I’m ready for it, and I think I won’t be ready for a long time, human-years-wise. Perhaps ironically, I think it will probably be an epic transitional experience involving a lot of relief and expansion, but I’m always trying to provide myself as much relief as possible in the here and now, just because it is possible — a fact commonly overlooked. Spiritual metaphysics do a good job of reminding us we can find relief even, and especially, in our own thoughts, where the pressure builds up most painfully. This is where the fire camp mystic excelled also, albeit through the lens of his Christian faith, which makes more and more sense to me now that I have a more fully developed lens of my own, and I can relax into the recognition that we’re looking at the same stars in the sky through our different lenses.
For instance, I asked him, “What do you think about the phrase ‘putting on God’s armor’?”
He startled pleasantly, interested in the question. “I like it. It doesn’t always include pants.”
We looked at him like ???
He was a little embarrassed. “Well, those suits of armor had skirts, more often. It’s kind of a funny visual.”
We laughed — putting on God’s knee-length battle skirt. No one ever says that.
“I’m more interested in believing I’m safe, and that I live in a safe world,” I said. “Which I know sounds insane — the world is full of un-safety, obviously. I’m thinking about it on a different level. And I’ve run across the phrase ‘putting on God’s armor’ several times, in the last weeks, and it appeals to me somehow. I’m leery of, you know, a fear mindset, a defensive posture with people and events, because that never goes well and it closes the experience off before-hand. But I’m thinking it might just be a difference of semantics. The phrase ‘putting on God’s armor’ sounds like the opposite of fearfulness, avoidance of new people or situations or events — more like a way to have your own game on tight and then move through the world confidently.”
He shook his finger in agreement while scrolling on his phone. “I don’t trust my memory. Okay, here we go —” He read the scripture verbatim, King James version: “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but —” and here he glanced up at us and emphasized the following: “— but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against wickedness in high places.” He set his phone down for a moment. “That means we’re not to arm ourselves against one another, but against dark forces. Now —” and he leaned forward, looking up into his own thoughts but addressing us quite directly. “— we get this mixed up. We see others as actually evil. But the Bible says, the King’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. God did not choose our leaders — we did — but God uses them. God did not choose Trump, but God is using Trump. Trump’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. We are to arm ourselves against wickedness, NOT flesh and blood. Even our leaders who are hard-hearted, God can use their hearts too, for His own purposes. The devil made Hitler hard-hearted, but God used that for his own purposes, to give the Jews back their home in Israel. We arm ourselves against wickedness, and we pray for, and love, one another.”
He scrutinized our reactions, which were receptive. “Okay. So moving on: ‘Having your loins girt about with truth, and having the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
He set his phone down again, this time firmly, and then extemporized. “So the loins are girded with truth. That means your belt, which holds everything up, everything together. It connects with your breastplate. That means the truth, being authentic, is what holds all the rest of it up. ‘The breastplate of righteousness’ is being right-hearted, protecting your heart. Not allowing your heart to be compromised through mental activity, rationalization. Next, your feet shod with the gospel of peace — the way of war, violence against flesh and blood, will be like walking barefoot among thorns. And now, the shield of faith…you know how Captain America can throw his shield, use it as a weapon?”
Nick and I nodded, pleased with his hodgepodge of analogies. Like I said, such a pragmatic cook in this kitchen.
“We do that all the time with our shields. Shields were painted with a coat of arms, back in the day, so those soldiers could be recognized from a distance. A coat of arms is a symbol of the values of an entire family, or tribe, through all the generations. So we have shields that say ‘Democrat' or ‘Republican’, or 'Baptist’, or ‘gay’ or whatever. That’s our crest, that’s our value system that we’re signaling to our enemies, or to those who might attack us. But our shields ARE shields, they’re our faith; they’re not intended to be used as weapons. We’re not supposed to club others with our faith, or throw it at them.” He looked at us and took a breath. “Now, the helmet of salvation. I hate the word ‘salvation’.”
I laughed, because I was thinking it problematic, too. “Yeah, it’s a pretty loaded word, right?”
He nodded. “It is. But here’s what we misunderstand about salvation. We’re not being saved FROM Hell. We’re being saved TO God, FOR God. God loves us, he wants to be with us in our most personal thoughts, in our every moment. God isn’t a barricade between us and something terrible; God wants to walk with us every step of the way. He wants to hang out with us. He wants to give us gifts. He has given us gifts, and he wants us to open them. Salvation is this close, personal relationship with God. So that’s our helmet; that’s where our head is at, all the time. We’re looking out at the world through the openings of this helmet; through the perspective of our close, personal relationship with God.”
I smiled, beatifically, because I just liked that so much. What a pastor.
“So that brings us to the sword of Spirit, the word of God. That sword is our speaking to the truth of this armor, speaking up against wickedness, bringing our authenticity, our right-heartedness, our peace, our faith, our close relationship with spirit, and not being silent or passive in how we live our lives and where we go. We are not to attack flesh and blood, we are armed in spirit, in love, and we say that. We say the word of God.”
I would like to make a note that, directly in the middle of this conversation, the son of the boss of the catering operation swaggered over for his evening shower. He is the literal embodiment of a young Danny McBride — barrel-chested, barrel-bellied, barrel-legged, shaggy dark hair, honest, highly irreverent face, a demeanor like he just came from the most epic Nascar race or Lynyrd Skynyrd pre-concert party ever.
“What happened to your hand!” he interrupted, which I don’t mind because he’s such an amazing character. Rather than suspecting me of exaggeration, here, just know that I can’t possibly convey this guy’s energy in words.
“Oh, it’s just a bug bite I scratched too hard,” I said. I had a little DIY bandage that I’d forgotten about entirely. I accidentally scraped off the scab and it just would not stop bleeding, yesterday afternoon, while I was trying to finish my blog. Which is probably horribly symbolic, because usually my wounds self-staunch right away.
“Shit, one time?,” he replied, warming to what had now become his audience, “I’ze helpin’ my dad lay this carpet in these rich people’s house, and it was like snow fuckin’ white. And I was at the very last corner, just cuttin’, and I fuckin sliced my thumb. I could see the blood startin to well up and my dad goes ‘You put that fucking thumb in your fuckin mouth right now, I swear ta gawd!’ I mean, that white fuckin carpet was all one big piece, you know? So I stuck my thumb in my mouth so fuckin fast! I just sucked on that blood and was like, gaggin you know, and my dad’s all ‘do NOT take that thumb out of your fuckin mouth! You just fuckin swallow!’ So none of it got on that carpet, thank fuckin gawd!”
This was, like, hysterically funny in that it wasn’t that funny, having violently changed gears from the armor of God (which does not include pants) to this, which is why it was so funny. It just gets funnier and funnier the more I think about it, actually.
Well, it’s time to busy myself around the mobile shower. Everyone’s demobing today so it’ll be a contest of getting ourselves deconstructed while continuing to serve an unknown number of customers an unknown number of showers. I have the potable guy and the gray water guy on high alert. And, it warmed up. A good day for a demobe.