Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address

By: David Foster Wallace
Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address - May 21, 2005
(If anybody feels like perspiring [cough], I'd advise you to go ahead, because I'm sure going to. In fact I'm gonna [mumbles while pulling up his gown and taking out a handkerchief from his pocket].) Greetings ["parents"?] and congratulations to Kenyon's graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story ["thing"] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you're worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don't be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

Of course the main requirement of speeches like this is that I'm supposed to talk about your liberal arts education's meaning, to try to explain why the degree you are about to receive has actual human value instead of just a material payoff. So let's talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about quote teaching you how to think. If you're like me as a student, you've never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you even got admitted to a college this good seems like proof that you already know how to think. But I'm going to posit to you that the liberal arts cliché turns out not to be insulting at all, because the really significant education in thinking that we're supposed to get in a place like this isn't really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about. If your total freedom of choice regarding what to think about seems too obvious to waste time discussing, I'd ask you to think about fish and water, and to bracket for just a few minutes your skepticism about the value of the totally obvious.

Here's another didactic little story. There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: "Look, it's not like I don't have actual reasons for not believing in God. It's not like I haven't ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn't see a thing, and it was fifty below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out 'Oh, God, if there is a God, I'm lost in this blizzard, and I'm gonna die if you don't help me.'" And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. "Well then you must believe now," he says, "After all, here you are, alive." The atheist just rolls his eyes. "No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp."

It's easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people's two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy's interpretation is true and the other guy's is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person's most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there's the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They're probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists' problem is exactly the same as the story's unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn't even know he's locked up.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realist, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don't worry that I'm getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It's a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being "well-adjusted", which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education -- least in my own case -- is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me.

As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let's get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what "day in day out" really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I'm talking about.

By way of example, let's say it's an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you're tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there's no food at home. You haven't had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It's the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be: very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it's the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it's pretty much the last place you want to be but you can't just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store's confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren't enough check-out lanes open even though it's the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can't take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college.

But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line's front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to "Have a nice day" in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.

Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn't yet been part of you graduates' actual life routine, day after week after month after year.

But it will be. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don't make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I'm gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it's going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is.

Or, of course, if I'm in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV's and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks, burning their wasteful, selfish, forty-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest [responding here to loud applause] (this is an example of how NOT to think, though) most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. And I can think about how our children's children will despise us for wasting all the future's fuel, and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are, and how modern consumer society just sucks, and so forth and so on.

You get the idea.

If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn't have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It's the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I'm operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world's priorities.

The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it's not impossible that some of these people in SUV's have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he's trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he's in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.

Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket's checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.

Again, please don't think that I'm giving you moral advice, or that I'm saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it's hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won't be able to do it, or you just flat out won't want to.

But most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she's not usually like this. Maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it's also not impossible. It just depends what you what to consider. If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're gonna try to see it.

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship.

Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings.

They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible -- sounds like "displayal"]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

I know that this stuff probably doesn't sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don't just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

"This is water."

"This is water."

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now.

I wish you way more than luck.

Back to marginalia.org

Saturday, September 25, 2010

looking in...

The deciphering of fire breathers, burning raging fear as I pull needles from hay-stacks in terror, pondering. Atonement and judgement couldn't come too soon, expedite we must. For we know best. Supporting proletariat against the bourgeois! Intellectuals versus the common day. Bantering knowledge of truths, modern, post-modern fundamental ideals pushing against what tears against the moral fabric. Whatever fits me is what yours must be. The intricate line drawn in the sand and dirt, wherever it may.. it's decisive!

The narratives have been written, tides turn consistently, push and push we must until the dam breaks and freedom reigns in a destructive wrathful swipe. Two of the lesser evils, two sided coin of the same end. I still pull hay from the stack... no more I wish to feed on.

"As destructive as the world is, what god needs an apocalypse with such a creation as humanity?"

Friday, September 24, 2010

Random Thoughts.

I feel as though the people we idolize and we try to be like or emulate. Wouldn't want us to do that to such a degree we do. We can learn and relate, using bits and pieces. That happens everyday, borrowing chord progressions or lines of songs... but we don't mirror image it. That isn't me or you, that's them and their position. Not mine. "It ain't me, babe" could mean to me, it ain't me, it's God. To where it could be, it ain't me babe, not really sure who it is... if it is a him or a her or a them or an it... it's something else. Ambiguity to the extent of, it's just about anything you wish it to be.

St. Francis wouldn't go, hey be like me... he'd say, be like Jesus and what the true-self that is in you would be. Jack Kerouac wouldn't want you to use his book as a handbook into his idiocy or intellectual beat ways, however you see that. I don't wish to be like Bob Dylan, to where my art takes over and nothing else is me besides that one thing. I could just be presuming far too much though and I cannot speak for these people, so in a way I selfishly speak for myself. From where I am at.

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"

I'm no old fish to tell you the water or what that is... or what temperature makes it luke warm or what percentage of salt makes a sea, the sea. Not here to say that the water is your reality as a fish and you've been missing it the whole time. I can in no way say what your waters are or will be. I can let you peer into what I've seen and the waters I've been through and share those moments, those infinite moments at sea or the nostalgic past where bees, broken glass and ex-girlfriends I don't talk to can't pull me away. I could also show the murky waters of the broken glass, ex's and poor decisions along the way.

But in no way would I want you to be just like me, express art how I do or divulge in life as I do exactly. I feel Kerouac and Dylan would agree. You're happening and don't let that happening stop, dig what is around you, but don't do it for the norm of that group or that you are trying to pull into some inner artist you wish to push out. Being surrounded by the weird doesn't make you an artist or surrounding yourself with spiritual people doesn't make you spiritual. Tolstoy surrounded himself with thinkers and writers, just to realize it's pretentious and tedious. They wrote for their own indulgences in groups and couldn't careless of the world around. Thomas Merton didn't want his books to sell, he'd try and write them different so they wouldn't go anywhere. I doubt he'd say, live like me. I wish to stray away from those who say such things. Follow Christ for the paths that were paved for you from the dirt and sand, for He knows the path for you. Beauty is all around to learn from... from fire breathing rings to pop artist shows.

So I'll try and be me, whoever that is...
even if that is quietly watching and analyzing... understanding something I may never get and joining in when the feeling strikes me. Not so curious as to jump right in to everything possible searching for all experiences, for somethings... I'll just take heed and learn. But never stray away from the oddity of it all, but I don't necessarily need to jump head first.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

burning fever

Sun rays of spewing flames
flaming raging flowing through veins
socially staggered
thicker then blood
burning twirling flaming minds
spiritual sisters & brothers
under these nights sky's
Spinning bursts boldly blazing
the light that burns brightly
burns half as long

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"There is a lot of causes I'd die for, but none in which I'd kill for." Gandhi

How dare we, pray for fruits of victory but not hopes of peace. If our prayers are two sided, we look at a dual sided blade. For safety of one we spill blood on the other, in my logic spilling our own for sake of a peace (a good) that Gandhi calls ''temporary for the evil it does'' has longevity. Descendants of murdered fathers, innocently killed mothers and orphans seeking justice of a ''ideal'' enemy. Not even a person to person vendetta, but a national hatred. A perpetual irrational disease of vengeance dealing blows to the innocent, alien, orphan and widows creating a burn for a self serving victory that is left to a cyclonic destruction. Just to rise again and escalate further till the ground is red from our blood, sin and injustices. Continuing until something stops the flow, stops the fall, to let true justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream

"A good man would try to spare lives as possible but a great man would stop such injustice before it occurred."

Is this idealistic perspective based on my definition of justice, injustice, righteousness and irrational self-serving idea of justice?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

For the first time ever

I am going to church and have no idea if I will be a pastor. It's just a scary thought that is tearing me apart, so badly and I have no idea if I really want to do it. Something in me says I should and it's what I am supposed to do, but is that my ego or something far deeper?

I really am at a crossroads...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Goodbye Illinois by, Kris Denoyer

Goodbye, Illinois
Your the best home I know
We've flown to the moon and left our foot prints

Goodbye, Illinois
and all the classy times had
hope I took care of you as you took care of me

So long, Illinois
we found Poseidon depths there
You were scared when we chimed right in

So long, Illinois
and the advice that you shared
Like telling me to stay when my bird had took off

So long, Illinois
and all the times we shared
like when we did the breast stroke
and saw that breaching whale

Farewell, Illinois
There is another way
I read that it changed on the 3rd day

So good day, Illinois
there's one thing I've learned
that I ain't seen these things in vein

Farewell, Illinois
This is my last verse
You have been my greatest curse...

This is a song, I have the chords and all of that. Really just a journal I wrote about how I miss home and I listened to ''Chicago'' by Sufjan too many times. I wanted my own song for home. One that selfishly has hidden meanings that only a few close friends will understand. This is how I felt when going to Texas and it's not a good song... just a song of how I can't move on from home. No matter where I go, I just couldn't and can't move on from here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The War Prayer by: Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory -- must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Life is weird,

awkward and confusing. The way events unravel with such speed and dominance makes it that much more "difficult, but looks so much easier and ridiculous in the near or even late future. All quite baffling, within it is always a simplistic complexity. A jazz musician knew nothing of music besides the pentatonic scale. He said it was simple but could be so complex, depending. Like relativity, just gazing or at a glance, so simple. common sense is everything effects the other, more complex, the butterfly effect or even, whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Guess I can just live, forgive and move on. Grace to humble me under God's greater mercy, preferably... but I am foolish and conceited.

I won't forget this... "Oh, I forgot you have grace." still confused... I'm nowhere near to graceful or compassionate. Where is my place or for that, where is the place of a pastor these days?

Monday, September 6, 2010

I knew this girl...

she was lovely and we had such good times for the few months we had. She passed away, we acted married once. There was this ferris wheel you see, she loved it so much. Said she would give anything to spend more than 5 minutes on the top. On the way, I found a machine that had rings in it. I actually wanted candy, but I devised a scheme for those precious few minutes. I bought this crappy, plastic ring and decided I'm going through with this. I only had a quarter too, like this odd fate. I got a place in line and told her to grab tickets, which seemed foolish. She was very confused by such a request, but it was only to run up really quick and tell the guy a lie. In which, I was going to pop the question to a girl while on the top. So if he would be kind enough to leave the wheel up there for like 5 minutes when it is our turn. He said of course! and asked the others in line. Everyone seemed okay and I don't regret lying to all those people either. She got back with tickets and I was last in line, not suspicious at all. She was distracted by cotton candy that she purchased on the way over for tickets. It was cute, but every time I think back, everything she did was cute. I digress, I took this fake ring and held it in my pocket. Nervous as if I was actually proposing. It was just some ruse. We got to the top and it stopped, so I waited a while and brought up... ''do you know how you always wanted more than 5 minutes up here?" "yes, I was just thinking of that." "I found a way," "ahahaha sure, did you ask him?" "Sort of, but I kind of lied..." Whispering all of this... "You'll find out in a moment." She laughed and just enjoyed the moment. After some time passed, she rested her head upon my shoulder and I stretched my arm out around her. I said, ''well, will you marry me? aka... this is how I got us up here for so long." She laughed a lot and said yes, so it all seemed real and true. as we walked back, I was congratulated for just getting ''engaged'' and in reality, I was stoked and it was a fantastic evening. After leaving the area, she looked at the ring and said she was gonna keep it on. Remembering it was the sweetest thing someone ever did. I thought I was foolish and it was a bad idea, to her it was gutsy and romantic, even if it was lying to a bunch of strangers.

I remember this so well, because the day she was buried, that ring was still on her hand. A fake engagement but a real moment, that I shall never ever forget.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Carpe Diem by: Kris Denoyer

This is a song I wrote, I have chords to it and everything... maybe someone will hear it someday.
Carpe diem
Capo: 4

I once knew a girl
who broke my heart
with a text message

I’ll write a song
of how she did me wrong
but no words come to mind

This is just a rambln’ song
about that girl but I never even cared

The news is on
with all it’s absurdity
It’s just clanging gongs

I could write a song
about politics
and all the injustice done

This is just a rambln’ song
about the politicians I never voted for

Now it’s Sunday morning
and the preacher is preachn’
all about the Word

I could write a song
a gospel hymn
giving all praise to His name

This is just a rambln’ song
about our Lord it feels so unlike me

Forget the girl that left me
it never really mattered
it’s just old news
(it’s just dust in the wind)

about those politicians
who ain’t face value
Caveat emptor to all

Sunday mornings
can be a stress
but it’s home for now
(Jesus is coming back around)
this is just a rambln’ song
about my life and where I’m standn’ at