Global Warming: Revelation 1 – 2

The First Vision of Christ. Seven Stars for Seven Lampstands. To Ephesus. To Smyrna. To Pergamum. To Thyatira.

“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later…”
Revelation 1:19 (NIV)

Global warming used to be this hot button topic in the stratosphere of abortion or gay marriage. I remember a time when taking a stance on it could spell controversy. Thought global warming was some true-to-life phenomenon in the mid-90s? Almost assuredly, you were labeled as some sort of liberal hippie – or worse, an environmentalist – hell bent on destroying the economy with some unnecessary laws.

It was Thanksgiving of my 16th year when I came out. Not as gay, oh no, I held onto that one for a long, long time. No, I came out as a global warming believer. I was shocked my parents felt strongly the other way about it. My father had taken me camping every year of my life, and he had always taught us to be extraordinarily careful with the environment. Only use dead trees as hiking sticks. Leave no trace of our tracks. Never disturb nature. And yet here I was, arguing with them about whether human activity had any effect of on the efficacy of the global ecosystem. It seemed so ridiculous.

On the eve of high school, I spent a weeklong vacation in Atlanta with my aunt and uncle. They were extraordinarily liberal in comparison to my parents and completely non-religious. It is a wonder my parents let me stay with them at all. On my last night of the trip as we prepared to go to sleep before my early flight the next morning, my aunt wanted to know why my mother was so fervent in her disbelief about global warming. This was in the mid-2000s, and the science had begun to meet up with the hunches of the masses. She just could not believe that Christians (as a majority) thought global warming was a myth.

Then I told her about Noah and how God promised with the rainbow to never subject his people to a massive flood ever again (the most likely result of global warming back in those times). Also, many believers in global warming thought that inaction would mean the death of humanity in catastrophic fashion. Christians, I told her, could never believe that. There was a book called Revelation that detailed exactly how it would unfold. There would be horsemen of the apocalypse and ancient broken seals. The antichrist would rule the world, and then Jesus would come back to destroy him.

No global warming. No giant flood. No weird weather patterns. Their reason for disbelief was simple. It wasn’t in the Bible.

We have reached the End folks. Here is the last book of the Bible, the one that filled me with the most anxiety growing up (but more on that later). In the last two weeks of this blog, we will explore exactly how the End is laid out in the Bible.

To start, it is fairly tame.

John has a vision of Jesus, who says, “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches.” (1:10) With that, we get the frame for the book. This is meant to be a warning to all who read it – a vision from John to be delivered to the rest of the church.

Let’s see what it says, shall we?

Falling Away, Pt 3: Hebrews 10 – 13

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
Hebrews 10:23 (NIV)

(This is the final part of a 3-part entry. I recommend going back and reading part one and part two)

The plans began immediately. Gay marriage was legalized on a Friday morning, giving all the sodomite cities of the left coast a full day to prepare an entire weekend’s worth of celebrations. There would be a rally on the streets of West Hollywood, followed by all night partying (of course). Then, it seemed, most of the gays of Los Angeles were heading up the coast to San Francisco to continue the festivities. It made sense. That weekend just so happened to be Gay Pride for San Francisco. It was like it was meant to be. I got invitations from a few friends to join in on the craziness, but I had to say no.

“My friend Will is in town,” I said. “I promised him we would hang out.”
“Is Will gay?” They asked.
“Yes, he is most definitely gay.”
“Invite him then, come on!”

But really, it didn’t make any sense. We wanted to catch up and reminisce for the first time in almost a decade. A giant, night-into-day rave would have made that difficult. Besides, chatting with Will sounded way more fun, even on the night of such a historic event.

We bought a flask of whiskey and headed for the beach at dusk. The Manhattan Beach pier stretched out into the ocean, dotted with nighttime fishermen and couples enjoying the waves. We sat on a bench and put our legs out over the water, passing the bottle back and forth between laughs, wincing with each swig.

We talked church and romance, old friends and aging parents. We made jokes that everyone in our Bible Study was probably gay, and they would come out one-by-one over the following years. The joke had no basis in reality. Most of our friends were married, actually. I smiled and said, “Well hey, now we can get married too,” and we toasted the distant Supreme Court behind us some 3,000 miles.

Will had been there throughout my most formidable church years, so we had a wide breadth of material to discuss. We talked Pastor Hank and his controversial energy, and Mr. Frank and the scandal and the victims (those friends of ours who fell for his charisma and deception), and then Cate and how maybe I would turn out straight and marry her, and Briana and how she never gave up on the church, no no, she never would give it up, and not to forget my brother and sister and mother and father and their views and how they are unshakeable rods stuck far down, like the pillars of that pier dug so deep that the water could rise and flood and the pier would remain, like a monument to resiliency, can’t you see Will, I know your mother and father and brother and sister, I know they are all fine with you and your “lifestyle,” so even with all of that, can’t you see what it’s like over here? and yes Will I stopped talking to my parents and no Will it did not matter (the resiliency), so I have given up on trying, and I think they have given up on me, maybe, but then there’s the blog, he wonders, why do you keep writing it then, and reading that book, that book that hates us, that book with the 100% unreal God, that book that made it illegal for us to marry until just hours before, why do you keep engaging with it? and Will may be smart and all with his Ivy League education, but right now, he’s not very original, because everyone asks, everyone wonders, why Jesse, why are you still reading that book? and it’s hope… I think, it’s got to be hope, it’s hope that there’s an answer there somewhere, that all of that experience and doubt meant something, that my fears matter.

It’s just that. Hope.

Falling Away, Pt 2: Hebrews 7 – 9

Ever Heard of Melchizedek? The New Gets Rid of the Old. Christ’s Blood Is Better.

“By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”
Hebrews 8:3 (NIV)

(This is the second part of a multi-part entry. I suggest that you read the first part here)

This blog has been a painful process for some of my family. I am in the minority among them when it comes to the views I express here, particularly that queerness is not wayward to a healthy life. They believe in the Christian God. Some were converts – some since birth. Regardless of when they became spiritual, there is now a fundamental disconnect between us. Ultimately, it is regrettable, and logic says that we ought to be able to overcome this disagreement. We are family. What could keep us apart?

My mother has told me before that it is impossible for me to truly fall away from my faith – God has said so. I think she is referring to John 10:28, where is says that no one shall “snatch” a believer out of God’s hand. It was to my surprise that I read this verse yesterday:

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (6:4-6)

Will told me that he was no longer a Christian – that he was “100% sure” there was no God. I quoted that adage that my mother had so often told me – that a true Christian could not lose his salvation. I don’t know why I felt the need to say this… In retrospect, I am sure that I was trying to one-up him somehow. Well even if you say you’re not a Christian, YOU STILL ARE. He had a convincing argument against that. He said that he felt he had been duped about it long ago, and that in his heart of heats, he never truly believed.

I was deeply troubled by his admissions, particularly because his faith had seemed so assured. Also, I did not like seeing a truly intelligent person deny God; it seemed like all the world’s intellectuals did understand how anyone could be Christian.

Finally, it seemed like his sexuality had been a significant factor in his newly turned faith. Yes, that was incredibly troubling to me. 

We kept in touch over the years, despite only seeing each other a handful of times. We were late night AOL Instant Messenger buddies until that app became obsolete: then, we switched to text messages.

I told him I was bisexual somewhere near the end of my Freshman year of college. That stuck for a while until I changed it to gay. But then, I kept finding myself in relationships with women, so I switched it to queer. It was all semantics. What I was really trying to tell him was “I understand you.” He got the message.

This past June, he ended up in Los Angeles for a conference, so we decided to get together to reminisce. I woke up that morning to near constant buzzes from my phone. As it turned out, the Supreme Court had just ruled on gay marriage. It was now legal.

More tomorrow.

Falling Away: Hebrews 3 – 6

Move Over Moses. Disbelief and Falling Away. The Sabbath Is important. Jesus at the Top. Swearing on Others Higher.

“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.”
Hebrews 6:4-6 (NIV)

I know a number of people who have fallen away from the church. Like me, they grew up with the doctrine firmly planted in them. They stood and sang the songs every week, swaying and clapping along with the other faithful. They prayed, and no, not just for show. I listened with pointed attention when they prayed, because their words were inspiring. I saw things in a different light due to their thoughtful prayers. I dated a few of them as well, and our union was held in high regard by others. Maybe they will get married some day, those around us thought with kind smiles on their faces.

There was Will – a scruffy guy even in middle adolescent with radiant blue eyes. You could not look at him without thinking of his eyes. He went to a school planted two towns over and joined our Bible Study when some friend of his encouraged him to go. He converted almost instantly, bringing a level of intellectuality to our group that no one had so far. He fell headlong into spirituality. I envied that – I envied most things about him. He was smart, which made me a little uncomfortable. He worked hard to get into an Ivy League school, and when they finally accepted him, our Study threw him a little celebration. I congratulated him in spite of my jealousy.

Don’t mistake my emotions; I really liked him. He joined in on a Mission’s Trip to the Dominican Republic. We worked hard during the day to disciple to children and clean a hospital, and then stayed up late at night debating philosophy and the wonders of God. On the plane ride home, we read selections from Mere Christianity about time and creation and discussed what it meant to us as an emerging spiritual generation. Then, bad turbulence hit, and we prayed and found supportive verses for those particularly scared. He was a model individual.

In the first week of summer after our senior year, Will sent me a message on AOL Instant Messenger that said: “I am gay, and I have been my whole life.” My internal dialogue went crazy. I was in the beginning stages of realizing that I was also queer, but I had no words for it. See, I knew it about myself in my heart, but I also knew the stakes. I was a Thought-Only gay man, someone who could only accept the shame of admission in my own head. Soon, I thought, I might have been able to move into a Written-Down, and then maybe an Out-Loud. But Will had surpassed all those steps, as he was an Out-Loud-to-Others. That was unimaginable.

Here was Will being honest, and here was another reason to be jealous of him.

I engaged in the conversation as any decent Christian would. I parsed words, said I loved him and I was there for him, no matter how hard the struggle.

But see, Will didn’t see any sort of “struggle” involved. He followed up my support by telling me that he was no longer a Christian. I think I replied, “Oh.” I may have also asked, “Why not?” I may have also said, “That’s a shame.”

My words are hazy in my memory, but his response is clear. He said, “I am 100% convinced that there is no God.”

I think those words made the first crack in my faith.

More tomorrow.

Moms: 1 Thessalonians 1 – 3

Good Work Thessalonica.

Instead, we were like young children among you.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.
1 Thessalonians 1:7-8 (NIV)

It started in kindergarten. “Can I go to the bathroom, Mom?” Even at ages five and six, my classmates knew I had committed the ultimate embarrassing faux pas. You see, my Mom didn’t work in my classroom – I had just called my teacher “Mom.”

My face fell as the laughs came on, and she knelt before me in order to hedge off any impending tears. “I take it as a compliment,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite things to hear.” I was instantly relieved when she said that. Her approval meant more to me than that of my classmates, so as long as she remained on my side, I was good.

I have frequently been “adopted” by nearby mothers, beginning all the way back in toddler-hood. In Middle School, my friend Briana and I used to spend our lunches hanging out in Mrs. Nelson’s office – that is, the office of our assistant principal. We’d chat about the goings on in school, or sometimes even just sit there in silence while studying. We even ingratiated ourselves until she let us perform the morning announcements and prayer. She just loved us.

We were also major dorks.

High School brought in a few more Moms – from school and church – but the wider audience meant differing results. I started dating, and the moms of my girlfriends either loved or hated me (those feeling the latter are probably thrilled to hear of my coming out). I had a tall and dominating presence, even though I initially presented as quiet (and got louder and louder the more comfortable I became). I don’t know – some Moms didn’t trust me, sure that I had ulterior motives. Others thought I was a good kid.

No ulterior motives. I hope time (and this blog – and the fact that I’m super gay – just kidding, a normal amount of gay) has proved that.

Now, I have several Moms. I am living with the family of one of them right now actually, tucked away in an immediate suburb of Atlanta. When I feel sick, she offers me an assortment of treatment options, and when I am hungry, she starts heating up foods without even asking me. I taught her son improv for several years, and our formal relationship burgeoned into a personal one over some time. When I came out of the closet, she was there – complete with conversations and support. I even drove with her to Plains, GA, about a month ago to meet the former President Jimmy Carter.

I have other Moms here, too. One funded a short film I wrote and tells everyone I am her son’s adopted brother. She’s a lesbian, and we bond over queer shit. Then another, her son starred in my short film. We text when we’re bored and pop into each other’s head, and we even talk on the phone to catch up, which I hate doing normally but not with her. Beyond that, I have a whole gaggle of Moms from the theater company I associate with – they even call themselves the Drama Mamas. One housed me after a surgery. Another took me in after a horrible panic attack. They all have been there for me in my extreme times of need.

My Mom – my actual birth Mom that is – has never been threatened by it. She often says that she feels grateful for them, for keeping me safe and warm away from home. When all the drama happened after I came out, someone told me that I needed to “make my own family.” I have mentioned that on this blog before. It is true – since I have come out, these Moms have been unbelievably supportive. Most affirm my lifestyle, while some may disagree but  never talk about it. I suppose if one was outright in her disapproval, well then, she wouldn’t be one of my Moms. That would be a difficult hurdle to leap, although not impossible. More likely than not she would just… fade away eventually.

But not my real Mom. Things have been tough, but we have fought to remain relevant in each other’s lives. I feel sad about it often, about how much easier this would be if I just… liked women. I often use it as an excuse… if this was a choice, would I really choose something so obviously against my closest allies?

But we fight and we fight and we fight. We fight for each other and with each other. That’s just what Moms and Sons do.

I Once Knew: 2 Corinthians 1 – 3

Some Passed Time. Trips and Plans. Always Forgive. “The New Covenant.”

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you?”
2 Corinthians 3:1 (NIV)

Everyone needs a leader.

I had several throughout my childhood – from football coaches to shop teachers to charismatic church leaders – but besides my parents and family, I never had that years-long adult to child mentorship. I wanted one. I really did, more than anything. I envied those students adjacent to me who had found seemingly lifelong relationships with wise adults dedicated to building into them.

I had Mr. C, my gym and chess teacher in middle school. He never favored me and treated me just as every other student. I joined his basketball team even though I wasn’t very good. I made one double-double in the entire tenure of my basketball career – that is, I made ten points and ten rebounds in one game. Beyond that, I played baseball as well, and again, I was never very good. But our real passion was for chess. We would play throughout the day at school during free periods and lunch, and even online on Yahoo at night. He trained me in higher level play – creating “off book” scenarios for my challengers (that is, playing in a way that my opponent couldn’t predict my next move) and even had me play blindfolded. I won some tournaments and lost others.

And then I graduated middle school and entered the public high. We fell off from then. I saw him maybe a handful of times after that – not at all in the past 10 years.

The loss never stung. I don’t like goodbyes – never have – but I rarely process them with outward emotion. It’s an anxiety of mine – what will life look like without this person or in this new place. Sadness does not make me feel down. No – the edges of my vision get blurry and objects look unfamiliar. It’s like my life is a crib mobile, spinning slowly and indefinitely, and when someone important leaves my life, it’s like one of the strings gets cut. Things get wobbly. They get unsure.

I have made a side career out of being a “leader” for others. I have acquired other titles – nanny, therapist, teacher, mentor. I prefer that last term. I mentor teens and young adults, when kids tend to take those first steps away from their parents. I teach drama classes and lead social groups and “outings.” We work on interpersonal skills and socializing in real world environments where the lessons are most applicable. I tell parents that I work to make my input obsolete. The hope is to wean them off of me until I am no longer necessary.

If I am doing my job correctly, then one day, the student will say, “Oh yeah, I once knew that guy, but not anymore.”

I wish I had had a steadier source of leadership throughout my life, particularly someone within the Christian community. There is no blame – it is simply the way that it worked out.

Hopefully, I’m not screwing it up on the other end.

Insurance: Romans 7 – 8

“For What I Want to Do I Do Not Do.”

“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”
Romans 7:6 (NIV)

I chose to be baptized around 16-years-old. The thought occurred to me when some gentle prodding from my mother lined up with a baptism announcement in our church pamphlet that read: “Want to make it official?” I was a sparkling example of Christianity already – I think – I mean, I always showed up for missions’ trips and volunteered when necessary. It just seemed like the logical next step. My parents had my older sister baptized as an infant – a sort of spiritual insurance policy – but then they abandoned the ritual for my brother and me. They had changed their minds about the whole thing. It needed to be a conscious decision on our parts. She would not hold our hands through this.

I couldn’t just jump in a pool and take a dunk; my church required those willing to take the plunge to work through a six-week course, all centered around the biblical importance of baptism. As I understood it, the purpose of it all was two-fold. First, it was a public declaration of faith, sort of like a wedding ceremony between you and Jesus. Second, it cemented our intention to remain a loyal follower of God.

But there seemed to be a third purpose, unspoken and implicit, that encouraged each of the eight participants in the class. We wanted the insurance policy – the same one my mother took out for my sister at infancy. Paul sums it up nicely:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:38-39)

That is exactly what I wanted. I demanded a guarantee that no matter the source, nothing would rip me away from my faith.

My parents their invoked this sincerely-held belief when I came out of the closet. It was her proof – in addition to my love of football and a long-held crush on Jane Fonda – that I was not gay. I had prayed the prayer. I had delivered my testimony. A pastor had dunked me into the body of the river after I had announced my intention to be baptized.

I had checked the boxes. I was covered, right?

Paul discusses the “death of the law.” He speaks in convoluted terms at times, laying out arguments for Christianity that sound more like riddles than tenets. For example, when explaining the relationship between sin and the law, he says:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.” (7:15)

I don’t know about you, but it took me about four times reading that to even unfurl all the “dos.” And even then, it made little sense to me. Why would the act of doing evil, as the third sentence asserts, lead to the conclusion that the law is good?

Do I have to understand this to believe in God?

I thought all I needed was to check boxes?

Religious Cult(ure), Pt 3: Romans 3 – 6

The Nature of Righteousness.  

“Someone might argue, ‘If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?’”
Romans 3:7 (NIV)

This is the third and final part of a three-part entry, told intermittently throughout the course of the past year. It refers to a renowned church leader named Frank who ended up committing evil against our community. I recommend reading part one and part two before diving in.

Frank did not contest the charges set out against him – the evidence had piled up so high and so fast, we could imagine him thinking: what was the point? It was strange, seeing the mug shot of our charismatic leader, the favorite of all the kids throughout the years, now plastered on the internet paired with graphic descriptions of his crimes. The experience felt like a personal 9/11 – one of those world-flipping scenarios, but on a much smaller scale. But still, it seemed as though a layer of paint had been stripped on the walls of my childhood, and some ugly varnish was all that was left behind. I knew Frank to be good, and it turned out he was a menacing evil. How do you live in such raucous uncertainty?

The news reports were blunt – a little too much so. It was enough to hear personal accounts from friends and family, recounting what they thought happened in general terms, and now here we had some journalist spelling everything out in clinical language. The evil became palpable in such a vicious way. Suddenly, it felt immediate – the locations were divulged, and the details provided the entire context. The victims, although nameless in identification, were obvious in description. It felt too heavy. Nothing like this was ever remotely imaginable.

There were a handful of victims – I personally knew two. Both remained devout in their faith. Both spoke out openly about the experience. They gave speeches. They spouted their belief in God as a binding factor, something that held them together during the “tough time.”

I didn’t get it.

God does not promise utmost protection for His followers. He warned that he would open Paul up to martyrdom with regards to his actions, and we all saw what happened to Jesus at the height of his ministry. The Bible is clear: Christians will face persecution at a continual pace. We may have eternal safety, but the temporal is not guaranteed.

As Paul says:

“…We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (5:3-4) 

How do you look in the face of such insurmountable evil and determine that, “well, at least there was some good that came out of it”?

With a tremendous amount of faith.

The One Way: Acts 18 – 19

Corinth. A Schism. Further Travels. A New Baptism. Demons Retaliate.

“But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them.”
Acts 19:9a (NIV)

Paul hits a rough patch in his ministry that perfectly symbolizes the state of the modern church. In Ephesus, he encounters some disciples of John the Baptist’s, asking if they have received the Holy Spirit. They haven’t, not even aware of who this being is – then Paul realizes the fault. They were baptized by John the Baptist, not in the name of Jesus Christ. Paul dunks them, and they accept the Holy Spirit.

This comes directly after a schism between him and his fellow disciples. We learn that Silas and Timothy antagonize Paul, leading him to abandon them to preach alone in Corinth for a year and a half.

There is but One Way – salvation thru Jesus Christ. Disagreements in theology mean schism.

We have seen a ton of churches split over the years (and a great amount of this blog has been dedicated to the little disagreements that have resulted in separate sects). Some disagree about what exactly “The Way” is; others argue about rules and regulations, the most relevant to this site being LGBT-acceptance. In many ways, this epitomizes the conflict between liberalism and conservatism. The former believes in “Many Ways” – that the less judgment on the journeys people take, the better. The latter wants something closer to “One Way,” a moralistic pathway for everyone to follow.

I empathize and understand both. Life can be a simple joy if everyone agrees on the same moral ground, but with increasing connectivity, a person’s individual idiosyncrasies are broadcast. Difference was not tolerated in an age long ago, because people could not understand what a “homosexual” or a “feminist” looked like from afar. It was not until a person in their house, or in their neighborhood, or state, on a friend on Facebook announced it. Then, empathy kicked in.

Is there One Way? Yes and no and maybe. Jesus is a key factor. He may be the only factor. But the Way to him? Is there only One Way?

Yes and no and maybe.

Paul runs into some more issues on the road. A group of citizens begin panicking over a public conflict, involving one of the most sincerely revered deities in the area:

The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. (19:32)

So a riot breaks out within the walls of a theater over the divinity of the goddess Artemis. People are shouting and throwing things, causing violence, and most of the people did not even know why they were there?

This is my concern: that many jump in without any knowledge. They go the way of Christianity, because it was told to them. When I first started writing this blog, my mother took heart in the fact that I had already given my heart to Jesus, and salvation was a one-way street. I prayed the prayer at 6-years-old. A decade later, I was baptized in a warm lake amongst others my age.

But it always felt like a riot, and I had jumped in with everyone else.

And it’s well worth the effort to see what exactly I stand for – especially after another decade to ruminate.

Travels, Pt 1 : Act 16 – 17

Derbe. Lystra. Macedonia. Philippi. Thessalonica. Berea. Athens.

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
Acts 16:31 (NIV)

I tend to wander between jobs. I do the math to figure out what makes sense: 300 miles a day (average drive distance) times how many days I have off (trip length) divided by two (way there, way back). That’s how I decide my location. I bought my car four years ago with 60,000 miles, and I have put 25,000 a year on it since. That feels good to me, but not enough. During those years, I have managed to hit 49 out of 50 states – Hawaii excluded. Sometimes I bring a companion – sometimes I go it alone.

What do I do when alone on the road?

I talk to everyone. I listen to all the little stories.

I have settled on a few generalizations about this country, both positive and negative. This country is beautiful and vast, and it blows me away how much of America is unpopulated. Alaska is the most mesmerizing state but God help anyone living there when the sun is up all day and night. I slept an hour in four days while there in the summer. Nebraska is like a giant cracker, and driving across it will test the limits of your boredom. Utah is an enigma, as it has the most diverse and staggering landscape (desert, mountains, hills, pasture, cities) and yet the most uniform population (old school conservative). In almost every rural area I visit, someone knows someone who knows someone who has gotten into meth. Gossip is everywhere – I spent a week in a small town of about 1,000, and everyone had an opinion about every other person. Have you ever thought about moving to getting away from the “drama?” I guarantee that is a foolhardy idea.

I have also learned some things about myself. Deserts give me anxiety. Mountains in the distance remind me of C. S. Lewis for some reason. I talk to myself – out loud – way more than I would like to admit, and at some point in every trip, I point to it as proof I am going insane. I don’t do well driving at night on highways, because I always end up leaning forward to see the stars, and always almost crash. Life needs balance, I have realized. I should never straight up wander, and I also shouldn’t make too much of a plan. Find a place for that night, and maybe the next, and then don’t think about the rest. That keeps me at an appropriate amount of knowing and unknowing.

I stop and take a picture of every wind turbine field I see. They fascinate me in their utilitarian nature. They remind me of 1984 and Brave New World.

I cry every time “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” comes on the radio. I also cry whenever something makes me nostalgic; for this latter reason, I avoid road trips in the autumn. I think I would spend the whole time crying.

People are generally good, and I know that. In most towns, someone will invite me to dinner or to spend the night, and I have accepted those offers enough times to make my mother anxious every time I go off wandering. People will tell you anything if you listen intently. A middle-aged woman invited me over for dinner after chatting with me in a grocery store, and when I arrived at her house, I discovered that she was caring for her ailing father on his deathbed. She made pork chops, but he wouldn’t eat it. She blended it with some mashed potatoes, and he kept it down. I slept on her sunken couch, listening to his heart monitor beep at disturbing long intervals.

I wrote her a letter a couple days later, to say thank you. He had died a day after I left.

I always take note of abandoned churches. I see a ton of foreclosed buildings, with punched out windows and drizzling grime, but for some reason, the only ones I remember are the churches. I think this proves that I obsess over religion, and it may not be healthy. I find local Christian radio stations and mock them, and then immediately afterwards, I feel guilty. This also points to my obsession.

Paul goes on some travels. Let’s look at that tomorrow.