Being offered sin is like being offered a handsome dessert after a huge dinner. “Looks delicious, but I’m stuffed.”
CALEB JOSEPH WARNER
Hi, I’m Caleb. I am a lover, a fanboy of the frivolous, and I dig that hurts-so-good of denying myself.
There is a vision for hope that remains opaque and will remain so for the rest of my life. It is a vision so powerful, even people who do not have it struggle to see it with lame reminders on their espresso machines. “Smile today—you deserve it.” As a matter of fact, no you don’t and as a matter of fact, I saw this reminder on the espresso machine at the Dunkin’ Donuts here in the Denver Airport.
If you fight something for long enough, you might enjoy the pleasure of old age killing it. Nowhere is this more true than in our own sins. God, every time I hear someone say they have struggled with anxiety, what sympathy am I supposed to have? Maybe the sympathy of all humanity, but not the sympathy someone in an accident deserves. It is no accident that so many of us have our fertile gardens of neuroses. We come built this way, it’s in the packaging. We are born into this world with a few protocols locked into the system unwinding. Anxiety and depression are fickle protocols, however, and all you have to do to kill them is watch their slow demise.
Watch! As the particular textures of your misery burgeon under their excess. Watch! As you struggle to remain petty enough to remember what it is you are struggling with. With complex, minute narratives like these, what work do you have to do but sit and point at it and laugh at yourself for ever paying any mind to your overactive reason? What a rational mind we have, that we cannot get those thoughts out of our minds, what a rational mind we have, that we are on our knees in the bathroom retching for our complex fear of some OH or another UGH. You should be thinking, “Why did I ever trust my mind with anything?” You should be thinking, “Isn’t this a waste of my time?”
And you say you cannot defeat the darkness, and this is something we all nod our heads at. “It’s not so easy, you cannot just say no!” But saying no is not the solution, just the beginning of a victory. Saying no to yourself and to the bureaucratic processes of your very important rational mind is the practice of watching as your own brittle controlled ecosystem crumbles in. There is simply too much in our lives for us to manage and we hem and harm, because darkness lies so close by. We should be thinking, “God, I hope I fail.” We should be thinking, “Wouldn’t it be so nice if my sense of control broke?”
It has been said, grasshopper, that we ought to break apart everything we once knew and rebuild it. And we hum and ho at not knowing how to break the processes. That part is easy—in order to break the ticker tape and sever the spinal cord of the Dutch men in the corner recording the minutes of our ugly thoughts with sharp pencils—all we need to do is lean into it. Give the Dutch men hell. God, may the paperwork pile so high that the Dutch man huddling in the corner of our minds, fiercely seeking to record it all, may he fold up his hands and shout, “I quit! And also—I never liked you, anyway!” That is easy enough. When an ugly thought comes into your mind, do not desperately seek to throw it out. Do not say no. Stare at it directly and give it as much time as it needs. Give it the floor. You will not see its ugliness for what it is until it removes all of its clothes.
And there you are, the nude and embarrassed patient before the surgery—a most passive and exposed position. Congratulations, you may now allow someone else to perform the surgery on you. May the God of our hearts peel back the flesh flaps as we lie in deep dreams. May the All-Seeing Anesthetist drug us with death. And when we wake up, it will be all about the little comforts.
You are just a body again and a hurting one at that. God, may there be a bowl of buttered peas when we wake up! A little water, a little bread—it’s all we need. It’s all we ever needed.
What rational, dead minds we have. May God sever your spinal cord! May God shut you up until you’re ready to receive your buttered peas and cold water with the ecstasy of a heavy-tongued child.
And so here is this whole business of building up again, which you do not need to worry about. Your problem the whole time has been to build yourself up. You idiot! What do you think the whole surgery was about? All that pain tucked into your chest cavity and removed, soaked with black blood?
Sin dies of old age if we are willing to be the witness to its death. Recovery happens in this life if we are willing to go down under. Going down under may or may not be the same thing as going outward—what else is observation? And what else is observation but prayer?
But look at these fancy jumps I make with my prose. Thank you, synapses. And thank you, God, for the reconstruction of my brain. I am afforded a few, brief moments of clarity before the end, before I fly off this earth in the bitter ether of senile dementia. I approach grace as a continuum of uplifting accidents and faith is the confidence to believe that accidents happen.
Meanwhile, as we go about stealthily looking for the right kind of accidents—or, rather, we look for the right places to stand so the accidents can fall squarely on our foreheads—we must be mindful of everything around us. This includes you, doll. And the occasional old friend, but for the most part I believe our prayer lives involve the frivolous worries of strangers. Strangers have such dull problems. Yet being awake is the confidence to take them as our own.
Life after crises and/or reconstructive knee surgery is one that feels peculiarly dull. That dullness we feel is called peace, and peace takes time to get used to. After all, our whole lives we have been addicted to our own problems. But I think that proclivity to obsess about our shit is just a misdirected empathy. We are designed to obsessively care for others like we do with our own internals. And you were just about to be bored at the bleak future of not having personal crises. God, the heathen say, hates fun. God tells us that if we are to get a good insurance rate with him, we have to stop lustin’ fussin’ messin’ ‘n’ stressin’. What fun is there in life when we get rid of our primary source of entertainment: anxiety and struggling? Good news! All that energy and skill, you Master of Fine Arts in Self and Ennui, is for the sake of caring about others. What is prayer for, but to get our minds off ourselves?
Prayer is for observing the world how it is, how it really is, and not how it is framed by the narrow lens of our mind, a mind too busy opening new tabs/new tabs/new tabs and fragmenting our disc like a bitch.
Pray for others, thank God, and watch as your sin dies under its own dead weight and the pressure of new desires pushing in.