This Week: A discussion between Santiago P, Ian N, and Caleb W – with an interjection about marshmallows by Josiah W. We talk about video games and various satellite topics such as narrative, rape, shooting, art, sports, modern history, Steven Spielberg, Oblivion as a game made out of bubblegum and potatoes and marshmallows, heresies like the nonexistence of Adam and Eve, avant-garde expressionist improvisation, addiction, the subtle details of homemade recordings like someone coming home and using the bathroom, potatoes, the foolishness of Mass Effect, and the relationship of Christians to video games.
I had an idea for a book. In the book, I would record every detail of yesterday. Every detail.
I would record – for you – the lady walking across the street while I was talking on the phone. I remarked to myself then how awful it must be to carry around that much weight. I felt guilty for two seconds by this mental remark.
I would record that at about 9:37 in the morning, a strange coincidence happened. Just as soon as I thought what time it was I replied to myself, “9:37” and when I pulled my phone out of my pocket, the digital screen said, “9:37.”
I would record that after that odd coincidence, I considered making a book of all these odd coincidences. They happen to me all the time, frequently, but they are neither too small to be nothing nor too great to remember. But, I thought, if I were to put them all together, surely I would have some sort of proof for the supernatural. Because well, there are so many odd things that happen to us like this. Days – weeks – form patterns through them.
People provide the most immediate example for these patterns. You meet one person, catch their name (then forget it), and the next day they are walking out of a back alley. And you are not sure if you should call out or wave. One, because you forgot their name. Two, because walking out of the alley is shady and you do not want to embarrass them.
I would record also, that before lunch, translucent spheres floated in front of my eyes. And where I looked, they would follow. I then thought, “Who else experiences this sort of thing and wonders who else experiences this sort of thing?” I tried to explain the phenomena, drawing from my third-grade knowledge of cones and spheres. You know, the bacteria behind your eyes? The thoughts embarrassed me, because my knowledge is like a shadow. I do not know what I do not know, until I do not know it. I need more light in my life, I thought.
Wouldn’t that make a great poem?
I would record how I had an idea for a book, where I would record every detail of my day, but then I thought that it would be neither possible nor beneficial. Perhaps, it would have some benefit for people unfamiliar with the human experience. But it will take a very long time – and I expect it will never happen – before other organisms evolve the complexity of our own thought processes.
But, perhaps, there is a way for me to record everything? In terms of quantity, that janitor from Chicago got quite close to the length of such a work. Yet, his novel was about the abolition of the slavery of adolescent Catholic girls from the tyranny of extraterrestrials…
and even then, I wager that he was more sane than the person who thinks they can record every detail of a single day. Lunacy is an obsession with the ordinary. All artists are standing on the edge of insanity.
And besides, if someone were to pick the book up and it were to say, “A Day in the Life of Caleb Warner,” the wisest choice for them would be to write a review of it and say, “This book is not important enough for me.”
The point of human experience is so that it is experienced. Writing, surely, has some goal in recreating this experience. But it cannot. And that is not all it ought to do.
Writing is a judgment on experience or it ought to be. This is concrete, so disagree.
Because it cannot recreate the experience – standing on the mountain will always be more glorious than reading a description of it – it serves a better function to say, “This is great. Go and seek it out. Stop reading for a second.”
Writing should be a declaration that the ordinary is worthwhile. Experience is worthwhile. Writing ought to rip the scales off the blind and show that there is nothing ordinary. We should be obsessed with everything.
And a book about my experience might just do that. What an affair it would be!
There is one possible way that it would be possible to record every possible detail.
Let us assume, for a moment, that I was important – essential – to some change in politics or culture. Perhaps, I de-united the nations. Bravo! some thought. Others, like the Illuminati, were not so thrilled. The Masons and Mormons then formed an alliance against my anti-tyranny and, with their profound funds, built a time machine. And in that time machine, they sent two men.
In order for this time travel to work, it would be necessary to adopt some sort of practical (really, theoretical) way of explaining the impossible possibility of time travel.
Ignoring that any other theories of time travel exist, let us assume that time is one long and well-organized
Every moment would be a file in the file cabinet. When you pull the cabinet towards you, each file – each moment – is motionless. Placed next to each other, however, they stream forward.
If you wanted to time travel, you would take one of the stable files out of the cabinet. That file would be immediately replaced in that time stream.
As soon as you open that file, a new file cabinet bursts out of it. You are within that stream of files they are moving forward from your perspective.
You have started a new time stream and anything can happen.
The Mason-Mormon alliance found this out.
And when I was walking down the street yesterday, a white van pulled up to the curb. Two men in short sleeve dress shirts, black ties and black pants politely walked up to me. They asked, “Would you like to come with us?” They handed me a pamphlet, “What To Do If Mormons From The Future Come For You.”
I read it with ease in the back of the van. Occasionally, I would ask my companions a question and they answered nonsensically with a smile. “Well, that one is easy. Jesus was American. Don’t you know your history?”
Ah yes. A different time stream. As long as He still died for my sins, I am a sinner, He preached the Sermon on the Mount, He has a Father and a Holy Spirit within and without Him, and the Mormons are wrong about everything philosophically and theologically, I am fine with that. Completely.
They smile at me, as the van bumps along the potholed street, and I ask them if they have really never had a Coca-Cola. They both look at each other. “Well,” the one with the black hair says, “We were young once.”
He was in his early twenties.
There is a suction sound outside, like a big vacuum is roaring down the street towards us. The windows of the van go black like we just drove into an underwater cave.
And outside the window, a view of desolation appears. A horizon of hollow skyscrapers with their windows broken out.
Politely, they say, “See? This is what happens without the United Nations!”
I admit, I am a bit upset with myself. “Well gee,” I say, “that is quite a lot of destruction. Say, what was this place? And where is Jesus?”
They both cross their legs like two humanities professors from Yale.
“Well, this was New Chicago. Jesus, see, uh, He didn’t come alone. He brought reinforcements. And He said, ‘Woe to you, Gomorrah!’ and charged right in. He came back right after you disbanded the United Nations.”
“Ah. I do see.”
The van bumps over a crack on the sky bridge.
“Well,” I think puzzled, “What do you need me for?”
They both say together, “We need you to talk to Him. He needs to stop this destruction. It is only a matter of time before He disbands the Mason-Mormon alliance!”
I see a shimmer of light shine through their faces, one of humanity.
“Oh, oh, I see. He has made it clear that He is not too pleased with you, has He?”
They both nod their heads.
“Then I look forward to talking to Him.”
When we finally got there – wherever there was – He was sitting cross-legged on the presidential desk. The White House was moved to New Chicago in perfect condition.
When I see Him, what strikes me is His humanity. He is completely, totally, and perfectly human.
I felt naked in my skin, knowing that I had not died yet.
“I, I don’t even know what to say,” I stammer.
He says nothing, but stands up on the top of the desk, points His finger towards me, and shadows. I see nothing, except the light ghosts of His face. He was smiling when He killed me. And it comforted me.
I was laying on my bed, with my hands across my chest. A warm glow stuck in my throat like a honeybun. Something was different.
It was the same day that I planned on recording for the novel. Only this time, I had a perfect memory. A memory that was totally and entirely reliable…
This entire scenario is a thought I had one day. I left out some details. Hopefully, this shows you the impossibility and indecency of a book which would record every detail.
I need to find a better interpretation of the verse about taking every thought captive.
Where is home? I am skeptical of place-theory, because I do not think you can get any more specific than “creation.” Perhaps, “earth.” Time-theory might be able to specify, if we are only concerned with the longing of someone. But, sometimes when people long for home, they are actually longing for the past.
Time-theory raises important questions about the goals of home. If home exists in the past, then it is a place of rest for people who find the future draining and dangerous.
If home were to be placed on the timeline, I would locate it partially in the future. This is not because I dread the present, but because I never long for the past. I long for the future, so that I might take full advantage of this present movement. If anyone finds themselves longing, it is the result of the present. That is what the present does. It propels either to the past or the future. It is movement.
If home is in the future, then it is a place of growth for people who find the present draining and dangerous.
I am going to defend myself here.
If home is in the past, you are failing to remember that the past does not grow. It is immovable. And because it does not grow, it is in some sense incomplete. The past is not complete until you stop moving. Completion is growth and both find hope in the future.
Therefore, the future is hope. And if we locate home in the future, then ultimately home is hope. Hope for completion. And so home is a finished and furnished temple, with its foundations of the past, its walls of the present, and its ceiling of the future.
This is my defense of space-theory.
Our first duty is not to worship together. It is to worship God. You cannot separate the two completely. God is pleased when we give hugs and talk to each other across a table and sing together.
But if you are ever given the option between spending time alone and spending time with others, do not think that the latter is always better.
God said that it was not good for man to be alone, but His solution for loneliness was not a group of guys. It was a woman. And obviously the loneliness of man went beyond a loneliness of time and place. God’s solution was not merely a person in proximity. And Adam did not talk to her, asking her what’s up.
If we define the loneliness of Adam before Eve in this surface way, we will overlook the omnipresence of God. Adam was never alone, since God is everywhere in a physical way.
Adam was alone, because he did not have a helper suitable to him. This was the not good thing, the aloneness.
But if you are ever given the option between spending time alone and spending time with others, ask yourself, “How ought I best worship God?”
The answer is not simple and I do not assume I have it. But I do possess the experience that spending time alone can be a very good thing. It is very not bad. It is called reflection, silence. It is called speaking to God.
Stay in God, like a home. He is the only one with stable walls and floors, unshakable windows. You cannot put him in a box. He puts you in a house.
Do you pray out loud?
If you do not pray out loud, perhaps that is a clue that silence is sometimes a natural result of our worship.
And if you never pray out loud, I would encourage you to do it. But it is best done when you are alone.
My point is this.
Spending – can I say devoting? – time alone is not separation, desperation, or selfishness.
The conclusion of our sanctification can be summed up and framed in a number of ways, but I prefer to see the end goal as self forgetfulness.
And if the goal is self forgetfulness, one of the best way is to spend time “alone”. You will see how selfish you are. There is no one there to distract you, to give you chances to be self forgetful. To get lost in speech! There is no one to find your identity in.
Who are you? Are you secure, or is the past an albatross around your neck? When you are alone, are you crippled by introspection or thrilled by the blessings of the past and future?
When you are alone, you are alone with God. And who will you spend more time talking to?
Since when was it okay to think to ourselves, to write journals to journals?
Every thought must be directed to God. It is a recognition that we are always with Him and He with us. It is a recognition that we do not have the answers. It is fulfillment, satisfaction. It is prayer.
If our every thought, whether we are at the grocery store or in bed, were directed to God, we might soon find that we would actually be praying without ceasing.
As it is now, we typically pray to ourselves. When our thought is like this, “Oh, I was so stupid! Why did I do that? Why did I sin again?”
“What should I put in the chili tonight?”
We are praying to ourselves.
It would be better to think to God, “I am such a sinner. Forgive me.”
“God, what do you think I should put in the chili tonight? Any ideas?”
There is a bell pepper on the counter.
The goal of spending time alone is to learn how to pray better. And the goal of praying better is to forget ourselves and remember God and how He blesses us.
If being alone is a trial for you, you ought to do it. You ought to learn how to spend time with God, alone. It is unnerving. Get the introspection out of your system. Forget your past, but do not forget what God saved you out of.
If being alone is a temptation for you, do not be stupid. Do not tempt temptation. Know your weaknesses. Instead, practice silence publicly. In the grocery store.
We are together and we ought to be together, but we are not in each other’s heads. We can encourage one another, but we cannot resist temptation for each other. We are of the same mind, which should be an encouragement for individual creatures who are left with their own.
No one has access to your heart, mind, and soul besides God and the spouse at your side who keeps you from loneliness. But even their access is limited by your brokenness, your wounds.
All that to say, you cannot rely on other people. And being alone should not be unnerving, unless you are avoiding God.
If you are in a group of friends, the temptation is to hold onto the past. Even if it has only been a few months, you could be saying, “It just isn’t like it used to be.”
An inability to let go of the past is a result of an insecure identity.
If you do not like being alone, you likely try to build houses with people. And in order to feel more secure, you might try to solidify the personalities of these people. You will try to fit people into tropes. Pin them to the wall! Lay the floor. Tie them down first, because they will not stop moving. Or kill them.
There is the joker, the gypsie, the party-leader, etc, etc, etc. Even if you do not give them labels, you will place them in a box in your mind. And in that box, they are dead. Your choice. They have set lines that you remember them saying, things they did. It is like a perpetual wake. “Remember how you said this? That was funny. Remember how you did this? That was scary. Remember the cat? That was so sad!” And they are sitting on their chair like a puppet and you slap their shoulder.
In order to keep the funeral going, you seek out the past in the future. You look for opportunities to make memories, deliberately and mechanically, like the future is just part of the funeral procession. And when the attempts at making memories do not go your way, you freak out.
It wasn’t scenic enough! Mike was not acting like Mike. The sun did not set perfectly behind Sarah’s face for the picture. I don’t know. Ah well.
Stay home. And when you leave home, do not try to turn people into walls and floors. Be their home.
Maybe then, you will start treating people like people, not building material.