A book unwritten

A book unwritten

This was written in the moment as we were starting out but I think it’s wrong now. This is not the story we wound up with. There’s a different story to tell. Maybe that’s the story we have to tell. A story about living intentionally with purpose, but life still shapes the journey as you go. Where we ended wasn’t where thought the road was going

The course of conversation was meandering as was typical for us. I had been attempting to read a book that should have been an exciting read but it required far too much effort for far too little pay off. I gave up less than a hundred pages into the book as the author had sucked all fun out of the story. This was my motivation to breach the subject with Ryan. There are too many bad books in the world. One way or the other, I was prepared to contribute. I asked Ryan if he wanted to write a book. With few embellishments, I gave him the elevator pitch of the story. My grandfather. A man who crash landed in the South Pacific during World War 2, punched a shark and partied with cannibals. That may be how we choose to remember the conversation or that may be what I actually sold Ryan on. His eyes lit up and he agreed without a thought. We had both avoided working for long enough, so we went on to start our days. I almost forgot about the conversation as soon as it was over. It was a nice piece of fantasy but it was never going to amount to anything. But neither of us were willing to let the dream go. The book kept popping up in conversations. We wanted to write a book, but our conversations never seemed to move past the imagined grandeur of the story we were going to tell.

Then a funny thing happened we started to get serious about this. In spite of our short attention spans, we stayed focused on Leo’s story. My motivation stemmed from my brother’s notable observation that we knew very little of our family history. For me, this was a present to him and his kids, so that they could grow up better connected to our roots and hopefully know where they come from, other than Iowa. As the conversations continued, I learned something unexpected about Ryan. The reason why he remained doggedly committed. For the better part of thirty years, he had dreamt of being a writer. It started in fourth grade for him. He wrote a superhero story and read it to his class. At that moment, he understood the power of storytelling and was in love. He pursued writing intermittently over the years and in secret. He submitted articles sporadically, hoping to get something published. He submitted children’s stories, hoping to get one published. He was reluctant to let anyone other than prospective publishers know this dream. This was his big dream that he struggled to share with people. And understandably so. There is something deeply personal involved in writing and releasing that into the world is a difficult proposition. It is a kind of fear of rejection, but writing, given its personal connection to its author, leaves a lot of possibility for embarrassment. The revealing of something deep and hidden in your life to the world is a trying experience. Even the thought of talking about writing was a difficult task.  It took him a while to even tell me about this. It was a few weeks after agreeing to writing Leo’s story that he let me in on his hidden dream. He had mentioned it in passing over the couple years we had known each other. But it never seemed like anything more than a hobby for him when he had a few minutes to himself. He didn’t even tell me this in person. I found out as a byproduct of our newly formed joint venture. We were talking about starting a blog to track our journey and hopefully entice a readership to join our trip and so he submitted an entry detailing his account of how this all started. Nestled within the words was the revelation that this was deeply important to him. Not Leo’s story, but writing. Our dreams bumped into each other on an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday and they fit together like they had been waiting a lifetime for each other. Whether we had meant to seriously commit ourselves to chasing Leo’s ghost, we were seemingly committed to it by something outside ourselves.

 

35 And Dreaming

No matter how hard I tried, this story didn’t fit the poems I have come to post on this blog. It started with a conversation I had one afternoon in the break room.  We went from dinner to dreams by the time my late lunch was heated in the microwave.  I stayed longer to hear the end of a mom’s interpretation of her son’s dogged pursuits.  It was something that she needed to release and I happened to be the one to receive it.   Bill’s eloquence in the previous post depicts the complications that come with talking about your dreams, with putting yourself out there.  Here’s a story about dreams and not being ashamed of them.

“Hey Mom can you come home at 4 today? I have a photo shoot at the house.” Saul said it so matter of fact over the phone.  “Ok honey. Sounds good.”  Linda laughed nervously at his request.  “Good luck, “she said.  “Thanks Mom.”  She hung up the phone and sighed. Her 35-year-old son Saul recently moved back in with her and her husband.  He was working for his father during the week but wasn’t really into it.  All he wanted to do was take pictures of women in swimsuits.  Not swimsuits she quickly reminded herself but burlesque.  Saul used all the money from his day job for the photo shoots.  Linda remembers the one time she got to see some of his work.

“These are really good honey,” said Linda.  Saul tried to hide his embarrassment by being annoyed.  “Thanks mom,” he replied.  They both looked back at the camera.  There was a girl on the small screen with her physical features magnified.  Pouty, puffy red lips, breasts about to burst and bare legs with black leather boots.  She was wearing a red outfit with black ruffles, and held her feather duster to her face.  She looked at the camera in a moment of truth, admitting that she just made a mistake. Linda looked up at Saul as he turned the camera off.  “I’m impressed,” she said, trying to pry him out of his silence. “They are very artistic.”  Saul looked up at his mom as he put his camera in the bag.  “Thanks Mom” he replied and walked off into the kitchen.

She found herself surprisingly proud as the camera bag slung over his shoulder.  Proud that he was so good at something that he loved and that he put so much time and effort into it. Proud that he shared his dreams with her and he was so unafraid about all this.   She thought back on her life and her pursuits. “I just wanted to make ends meet” she thought to herself.  Now here’s her son, living with her again, taking burlesque photos after work to pursue his dreams.  “35” she said aloud.  “35 and still dreaming.”

We’re trying this again

Dreams are hard if you weren’t aware. They require hope, not optimism. Somewhere along the way we lost our hope in making any of this a reality. Ryan and I have managed to trace the demise of hope and the frustration that grew in its place. We started this with no understanding of what we had agreed to, but we both assumed producing a piece of writing would be the hard part. That was the easy part of it. The actual process of finding someone in agreement with us has shown to be the difficult part. As we were starting to realize how difficult the publishing process is, we stumbled into a writer’s critique group, which, in hindsight, we left with the wrong impression. Sharing our finished works and works in progress with strangers was again the easy part. Having strangers, who haven’t published (or even written) anything, tell us what we are doing wrong left us confused at first. Then frustrated. Then hopeless. We had already accepted the difficulty in transitioning from unpublished authors to published authors when we had a room full of hopefully soon to be published authors tell us what we were doing wrong. The situation was compounded by the seriousness of everyone. None of them seemed aware of how silly the whole thing was. People stuck in the exact same situation as us are telling us to how to make the transition when they haven’t been able to figure out the selling formula themselves. And this is where we were supposed to go to learn how to get published. If this was our chance to learn how to get published, we would never make it. The disillusionment was slow to set in, but the seed had been planted. We slowly drifted from discussing writing. We drifted from keeping up with the blog. It all sat, collecting dust.

For me, the saving grace was that we had shared our outlandish dreams with so many people. After a couple months of dormancy, people started asking about it. Asking what had happened to the blog. Asking what had happened to Forgetful Jerry. There was a small but faithful group of friends who weren’t going to let this end so easily. So here we are, picking up where we left off.

Keys, Whiskey, Donuts and A Wrench

Keys, Whiskey, Donuts and A Wrench

The night should have been ending but instead I was on my way downtown to find the lost keys to our car.  It had all the elements of an epic tale.  The uncertainty of the adventure as a friend and I drove to the site of the lost keys.  The conflict thickens as the Triple A driver says he can’t open the car because I could be trying to steal it.  The night is getting colder, the local businesses are closing, and ,worst of all, we have to work the next day….early. These were some of the trials and tribulations of the journey before the redemption. One must read on to find out.

I lost my keys to my car

Triple A says I’m a thief.

I found the keys to my car

My gosh what a relief.

I sip whiskey for my car

The bartender says it’s on she.

I down whiskey for my car

Now there are donuts for me.

I eat one donut for my car

And remember the battery is dead.

I eat two donuts for my car

Then ask for a wrench instead.

I use the wrench for my car

To connect the car battery.

I put down the wrench for my car

The car turns on for me.

I return the wrench for my car

And sit down to finish my beer.

I realize that I fixed my car

And almost shed a tear.

Next time I lose the keys to my car

My eyes won’t get so misty.

For when I find the keys to my car

I also get donuts and whiskey.

Performing the Faith: Bonhoeffer and the Practice of Nonviolence

Performing the Faith: Bonhoeffer and the Practice of Nonviolence

In addition to chronicling our writing journey and posting samples of our writing, we are introducing a new feature. They aren’t book reviews, but our thoughts on books. We work to be better producers of words by being avid consumers of words.

I’ve long identified as a pacifist, because I don’t see any other possibility for Christians. Despite my opinion, pacifism is a minority view amongst Christians, unless you belong to one of a handful of faith traditions that actively teach nonviolence, such as Quakers. I’ve finally decided it is time for me to explore this and attempt to understand what it means in my life as a Jesus follower, so I’ve been adding to my reading list with this intention. Performing the Faith: Bonhoeffer and the Practice of Nonviolence by Stanley Hauerwas has been one of my first forays into intentionally exploring what nonviolence means.

One of the most important points Hauerwas makes is that nonviolence cannot and must not be understood as against violence, which is to say we can’t define ourselves by what we aren’t. Instead, nonviolence should be a synonym for the friendship that God has made possible and this friendship is an alternative to the violence of this world. Through this friendship with God we have been tasked with the ministry of reconciliation, which includes, but surely is not limited to, reconciling humanity to itself. Violence only serves to undermine friendship and does not have a place there. If we are called into friendship with God, so that we can share that friendship with all humanity, how can we participate in the violence of this world? Elsewhere Hauerwas states one of the most powerful antidotes to violence is conversation, willingly making oneself vulnerable in front of an other. Shouldn’t this be the trademark of our lives and not a continued participation in the violence of this world?

After September 11, 2001, as American announced “we” are at war, Hauerwas knew that his “me” cannot exist as part of the American “we”. There is not part of him that was at war. My turning point was not September 11, 2001, but May 2, 2011. As America celebrated the death of Osama bin Laden, I felt a disconnect. There is no part of me that could celebrate his death, because one murder is one too many. Like Hauerwas, my “me” has been separated from the American “we”. My allegiance is not, and cannot be, to a community that celebrates death. Instead, it is to a counter-community that would rather die than kill. After all, God decided it was far better to die on a cross then to redeem the world through violence.

Image taken from: http://archive.defense.gov/dodcmsshare/photoessay/2011-05/hires_110502-M-KZ372-100a.jpg