Sunday, August 19, 2007


I've been doing my best to manage my thoughts about the often-ridiculous members who walk through the doors at the AAA. I give them the Jesus eyes, I treat them just like I would want my little old grandmother to be treated, and I pray for the Holy Spirit to kick in, with an added Divine gust of love, as I struggle to project unconditional positive regard toward someone who just told me to "eat sh!t." Today, I had to serve another doozy of a member and I spent the rest of the day fighting off terrible thoughts about this man.

I first tried self-discipline. My internal dialogue went something like, "OK try harder, try harder. This is virtue at the testing point. Be as nice as possible. Not too nice. Don't let his unreasonableness win out. Wait, Love is all giving. Treat him like he's Mother Teresa. OK that's not working. Wait, watch your tone. Double up on the smiles and niceness. This is for your good and his." As he left, I thought that it would have been better to pray to God rather than give myself a peptalk. "Ah, next time add prayer."

Then next, I tried pity: "Wait, you know who I really need to pray for? Him. He's the one whose life is so miserable he gets upset over missing forms—how awful such a life must be for such an impatient man! Tonight I pray for the a$$hole!—er, child of God whose redemption is made possible by the same Christ who redeemed me; that's right: we're both in the same boat really—both awful sinners deserving death. Oh, he's going to need a lot of prayer."

Then I got angry. Coming off those lofty feelings of my loving realization that he needed the prayer, I heard that he had complained about me—suggesting my transfer or termination. Well Jesus went out the window at the moment and I entertained fantasies of scrambling over my counter and stabbing the jerk with my pen. I came down quickly from that as I remembered a passage from The Great Divorce (which I'm re-reading at the moment) where a redeemed spirit confesses to his unrepentant boss and asks for his forgiveness for laying in bed at night in past times and dreaming of terrible things he would do to his cruel boss should the opportunity ever present itself.

That made me focus: I'm battling evil thoughts in my mind right now. They do not deserve indulgence. The fruit of temptation is there—and it is ripe; but I cannot reach for it. Satan was tempting me with anger. And honestly, this is probably the first time that I realized and dwelt on the fact that Satan also tempts me when it comes to anger. How easy is it for me to imagine that he tempts me with lust, gluttony, or greed—but how did I never consider that the great Deceiver is ready to reap the harvest from the tempting seeds of wrath in my mind? And not just anger, why don't I think the same of sloth, envy, and pride as I do with sex, food, and money? I know where underwear ads, free cookies, and the future salaries of my friends lead my mind, why haven't I given the same pre-thought and caution to where it will wander when a troublsome customer comes to my desk? I need to get more serious about ALL temptation.

Sorry, this may seem old news to many but it's pretty new to me.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

so self aware, so full of scheisse

I'm not feeling very smart lately. I read lots of things I can't write—nor could ever—and become discouraged. The cut is especially deep if the writings come from the pen of a peer, particularly one with whom I've competed (in my own mind, at least) in the past.

I'm concerned about my education. I'm 21 and just starting my senior year; the diploma, if not on the doorstep, is down the driveway. It will mean a lot—perhaps more than I first imagined—but I doubt it will fulfill my highest hopes. Wasn't I supposed to be closer to "greatness" by now? Instead, I feel about as intellectually developed as were, I imagine, the 12-year-old selves of my heroes.

Upon sampling certain friends' and peers' work, it often becomes clear to me, painfully so, that they think at higher levels. Glimpses into their minds tell me how they must disdain my parochial mind—even my best, most evolved work must seem naïve and amateur to them. They read more books than I do, engage more thoughts, and string phrases together that I could never imagine.

These real and imagined critics torture me. Oh, how they must have looked down on me in the past—certain bygone writings and rants surely exposed me as a reactionary, an intellectual pygmy balancing dictates and paradigms on a few borrowed ideas, most not fully understood.

It's not just my peers, the under 22 set, though; the world is opening up before me. Any admiration afforded to me by the mere novelty of youthful writing will soon disappear. I mean: any greater esteem I received because of my age—the respect adults give to youngsters for being atypically far- and keen-sighted—is shrinking with each birthday. I'm no longer being compared to Slacker Joe in most capacities but with the stalwarts of ages past and present. There's no special novice standard anymore; the only thing that distinguishes me now is my work.

But how to solve any of this? More purposeful reading—but where to begin? I already own shelves full of never-creased book spines. Adding books to my Amazon cart brings tenfold the excitement of completing the second chapter. I am so lazy and the task so huge—my destiny with right thinking and esteem is pushed ever further back. How long will this take? How much better will I get? Is it going to be "enough"? Is this the fate I'm stuck with—the millstone that shrinks but still drowns me?

I need to get serious about my education, I need to make my self- and independent- education more systematic, and I need more engagement with peers who edify me and older/wiser antagonists who challenge me.