Thursday, May 24, 2012

Castaneda, Coffee and James

The sun split the darkness. As if shooing away a wild Pit-Bull he berated the demons.  “Get out of here! Go away! Leave me alone,” his voice carried on the morning wind. Not scream, not conversational tone. The harmonic could be heard by soul if not by ear. I listened from my shop inside the store thinking him demented, quite possibly possessed.

Thin and wiry with the energy of youth the man set his book down and ordered coffee. I asked about his book. “It’s about sorcery,” he said and asked me if I’d ever heard of Carlos Castaneda. Castaneda conjures up images in my head of coyote, peyote, cactus; Indians, visions and sweat. Castaneda is to me the picture of seeking self, emotion and experience, dabbling in darkness and calling it true spirituality (“pure religion is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”)

The shop is located in a resort town known as a getaway for Hollywood types, fair weather for Snowbirds, and an L.A. breakaway for Bacchanalias. When temperatures allow it there is a small parade of older women who have been lifted and sewn that make their way into the store, plastic people on the outside with hearts of flesh inside. As light draws fish to a hook (‘but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire’) so they seek solace in drawing others to themselves. Seeking fullness in the temporal they miss wholeness in the eternal.

If the parade of indigents and synthetic seniors doesn’t hold your interest there is an art-fest of tattoos which stroll by daily. Seeking to make a mark on the world they have marked themselves. They shout to the world the message they feel is important not realizing that ‘the flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed.’

The sun goes down and the wind picks up. Night lights make it difficult to see the stars in the night sky. Different stars are etched into the sidewalks downtown. Sidewalks fill and flow into the many bars and restaurants. I’ll see the after affects when morning coffees are ordered---hot and cold caffeine to remedy red eyes and hammering heads. Some revel, some regret, all rebel. Seeking consistency they are blown and tossed by the wind.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

Monday, May 07, 2012

We Sing The High Notes-Wrestling With Story

"Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo."-Donald Miller, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years

"The truth is that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I don't know why I got the illness, but it did wonders for me, and I wouldn't want to walk away from it.  Why would I want to change, even for a day, the most important and shaping event in my life?"-Lance Armstrong, It's Not About The Bike

The explosion is coming.  You strain forward in your seat, grip the popcorn box and bite the soda straw.  That’s why you paid the fourteen bucks.  It may not be the car or the bar, the girlfriend or the dog.  You know the main character will come under attack.  The plans she made will be disrupted.

I’m wrestling with story.  Not screenplay or novel—but life.  Donald Miller says that “the point of life is the same as the point of story…character transformation.”  Most of us lead lives that are reactive.  We seek comfort and peace.  We react when life doesn’t go our way.  We seek the way of least resistance.   We loudly react and are quietly desperate.  It should not be so.

It is collaboration in much the same vein as Simon and Garfunkel.  Simon writes most every song but Garfunkel gets equal billing.  We collaborate with God on our story.  Miller writes, “I believe there is a writer outside ourselves, plotting a better story for us, interacting with us, even, and whispering a better story into our consciousness.”  We should write our life so that it is the best story possible---a sacrificial story, a giving away of life, a living to the fullest.  This is difficult work and scary stuff.  We sing the high notes best we can but the writer and the story are bigger than us.

The explosion could in fact kill us.  They found cancer in my sister-in-law this week.  Armstrong writes, “…you don’t fly (cycling) up a hill.  You struggle slowly and painfully up a hill, and maybe, if you work very hard, you get to the top ahead of everybody else…..Cancer is like that, too.  Good, strong people get cancer, and they do all the right things to beat it, and they still die.”

We all die.  Oh to live loud.  I etch, scratch, write out my plot and learn to listen to The Writer.  Lost I stumble around the page.  The living Word whispers to me, models sacrifice for me.  Earnest prayers are made.  He who was led into the wilderness leads me beside still waters.  We watch on the big screen knowing too; the lion waits, the wolf stalks the sheep.  Events conspire and move us forward into the story.

Hope draws us forward.  The milquetoast male will find a spine.  The princess will realize the prince is pond scum.  Good will overcome evil.  Credits will roll.  We will walk up the aisle, feet sticking to the floor.   As the lights come up we catch a breath.    Good story does that.

“It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story.  How brightly a better story shines.  How easily the world looks to it in wonder.  How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it make us to repeat them”….Donald Miller