Thursday, December 31, 2015

Know Thyself: Poison, Place, and Recreation

I did a stint as a pastor.  I've yet to settle on a narrative to describe those years.  I was rolling down my path to atheism but it was still a good experience.  Unlike others, I didn't leave because I became disillusioned about people, I just woke up one day and realized I needed to accept that I'd stopped believing in the Judeo-Christian god.  Being a pastor was not a poison, but neither was it my place.

I do, however, enjoy telling a story.  I do enjoy the spoken word.  I don't miss my Christian faith but I do miss standing on a stage and talking, telling a story, making a point, hearing people laugh, drawing out a tear.  A few bad apples get off on controlling a room but I just loved having an opportunity to  practice the art of the spoken word.  It is the original radio.  It was podcasting thirty thousand years before the pod.

Among the highlights of those years as a preacher was the opportunity to get to know a professional dealer in the spoken and written word, Michael Perry, along with his wife, and children.

Michael Perry and friends.
He's huge up here and a genuinely good and decent guy.

If your local public radio station carries Tent Show Radio you should tune in and hear him host.  Whether it does or not, you can still binge on the podcast at that link too.

His books are well worth your time and should be available at your local library or you can help him feed his children and buy the set.

I think of the family regularly.  I miss them.  I hope they are well.

My oldest son shares my love for the spoken word.  This past Saturday he requested we turn on A Prairie Home Companion and you can be sure I gave permission.  I was glad I'd not yet mentioned the idea of watching Avengers: Age of Ultron to him.  He doesn't love the spoken word that much, at least not yet.

Big Top came on afterwards and, as the children were getting ready for bed, Mike started a song, one I'd not paid much attention to previously, when a line jumped out and grabbed my imagination.   "Motion is my morphine.  Let it roll."

Nietzsche expressed a similar sentiment, if in a slightly more negative way, when he wrote "Sitting still (is) the real sin against the Holy Spirit."

Motion, walking specifically, is my morphine.  Most of the time I use it responsibly but if I didn't have a job to keep or responsibilities to uphold, I could keep on using until I physically give out.  Maybe that makes me a functioning addict.  Maybe that just makes me a walking man.

There was another line from Mike that struck me that night.  Mike was paraphrasing from an interview with Sturgill Simpson.  I didn't write it down so I too will have to paraphrase his ad lib, so consider it doubly hacked, "life is mostly about finding your place and staying there."

Movement, always be changing and accepting of change.  Finding your place and staying there.  Together they are great metaphorical advice for the modern homo sapien.  Know thyself.  Know what is important and within your power and then refuse to budge from it.  Everything else? Experiment with something new, be changed, roll with it.

Walking's not my poison.  It is my place.  Writing or talking from a stage are great, but it didn't hurt much to give them up  More times than not the line between "addict" and "place in the universe" depends upon how you answer the question, "Does it help you be where you want to be, is it keeping you away from it, or is it just something you do to pass the time?"  Does it act as a medicine, a poison, or is it pure recreation?

Then there is that old saying, "the dose makes the poison."

Regardless, the words of Frank Sinatra are starting to resonate.

I think I can sum up my religious feelings in a couple of paragraphs. First: I believe in you and me. I’m like Albert Schweitzer and Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein in that I have a respect for life—in any form. I believe in nature, in the birds, the sea, the sky, in everything I can see or that there is real evidence for. If these things are what you mean by God, then I believe in God. But I don’t believe in a personal God to whom I look for comfort or for a natural on the next roll of the dice. I’m not unmindful of man’s seeming need for faith; I’m for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. But to me religion is a deeply personal thing in which man and God go it alone together, without the witch doctor in the middle. The witch doctor tries to convince us that we have to ask God for help, to spell out to him what we need, even to bribe him with prayer or cash on the line. Well, I believe that God knows what each of us wants and needs. It’s not necessary for us to make it to church on Sunday to reach Him. You can find Him anyplace. 

And when you do find "him," well, you've found your place and you should probably make an effort to stay there.  If you're getting poisoned, it is time to stop.  If you're just passing time, don't take it too seriously, eh?

So I guess I will keep on walking and I'll keep on working dogs.  Whenever I think I have a story to tell, I'll find an avenue to tell it.  My poisons, well I guess I'll address those too, not that I'll be writing about it.

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