May 17, 2011

And in the end...

But I just had to look...

Sunday, at five-o-clock in the morning the breeze turned brisk and cold. Fifteen minutes later I witnessed the most unusual form of precipitation I've ever seen in all the years I've lived in, Dayton, Ohio. It was as if every drop of moisture simultaneously coalesced in the atmosphere around me and I suddenly found myself sitting in the midst of some giant Slushy. Not a frozen form of precipitation I'd call sleet, this was something different. Unlike rain, this meteorological phenomena did not fall, but seemed rather to hang in the air, suspended between the skies and the earth below. It swirled and danced in the atmosphere. It was like watching a swarm of watery gnats flying about in the cold morning air. And it made the strangest sound. It didn't make the pitter-pattering sound of a normal spring rain. It hissed. A slow-sibilant-serpentine hissing unlike any sound I've ever heard precipitation make before in my entire life. It sounded predatory and confident, almost evil.

By five-thirty the temperature had dropped into the forties, the breeze had grown into a full fledged wind and I was being pelted by water droplets that stung my face and exposed legs like hungry sand fleas. (I was wearing the shorts that had seemed so appropriate for the weather when I'd left the apartment on Saturday morning.) It wasn't long before I was cold and soaking wet. My teeth chattered. I shivered and shook with a bone-chilling cold that I thought would kill me before the McDonalds opened and I could warm myself with a cup of coffee and a sausage and egg biscuit. It was a miserable experience and I've had more than enough of these rainy weekend nights during what has been a miserable spring and I just snapped and started raging at, God.

"What the fuck, God! You've got nothing better to do with your omnipotent self at five-thirty in the morning on a Sunday than torture a poor soul with no place to be other than an aluminum park bench in front of a Krogers store in, Dayton, Ohio? What's the message here, God? What meaning is there in this experience? Just how in the hell does this night work to anyones glory? Just what the fuck is the meaning of the last nine months of my life and just exactly when does the bullshit stop? Where are my green pastures? Where is my shepherd leading me to still waters?"

And the only response I received was the hissing sound of stinging water drops that seemed hellbent on freezing me to death before dawn's first light. There was no message. There was no meaning or divine revelation. There was only me, sitting outside on an aluminum park bench, on a night not fit out for man nor beast, cold wet and miserable. It sucked. Eventually the McDonalds opened and I joined the crowd of homeless people waiting in line for cups of coffee and sausage and egg biscuits. We sat at our individual tables and shivered collectively while we dried our hair as best we could with white-paper napkins. By ten-o-clock in the morning, our alloted second refill of coffee consumed, it was time to head back into the elements. Out into a steady rain and slowly dropping temperatures.

By the time, Phil, arrived to give me a lift home at five-forty in the evening I was sleep deprived, cold, wet and exhausted. Gratefully my weekend on the aluminum park bench was at it's end. Robert and his kids had enjoyed a good weekend together and all was well with the world as I now know it.

Over the course of the last several months I've grown accustomed to weekends out of doors while Robert and his kids spend the last precious days together as a family that they may know for a very long time. It is a small price to pay for the generosity he's shown me in allowing me crash space when I've really needed it while I attempt to bounce back from the breakup of my marriage and the subsequent separation from my own son. I find myself these days much indebted to generous souls like, Robert, and also those of, Phil and Elaine Cheesebrough. I count myself very lucky to have these generous souls among the very few people in my life right now that I can call my friends. Without them I'd have probably wound up dead on the streets just another broken soul beaten down by the heavy-weight punches of life.

Monday was a day of sleep as tired old muscles ached and complained against the efforts of the weekend I'd just put them through. The rains from the weekend continued unabated and it was a gray, dreary and cold day. Again I looked to heavens and all I had to offer was, Really?". Tuesday morning I awoke and is my way, I got online to see what was happening in the world and was greeted with this post about, Stephen Hawking, calling, Heaven, a fairy tale. In that article one of the great minds of this or any other generation said, We should seek the greatest value of our action.” And it shook me to the core of my being...

It was still rainy and cold Tuesday afternoon. One of the coldest days in, May, that, Dayton, Ohio, has experienced in the past fifty years. I stepped out onto the front porch of the apartment building to smoke a cigarette and was immediately greeted by the sight of a fire engine parked in front of the building across the street from the one I currently dwell within. I watched with increasing interest as two police cars and an ambulance pulled up behind the fire engine and then everyone raced into the building. It was soon apparent what had happened inside the building as all the firemen, para medics and policemen made their exit, got into their respective vehicles and drove away. Quietly...

By the time the crew from the morgue arrived to perform cadaver removal at three-thirty in the afternoon, the death was the singular topic of neighborhood gossip and had only served to dampen further the already gloomy spirits of far too many people, who've endured way too many rainy days in what has been one of the wettest and dreariest Springs, Dayton, Ohio, has seen in a very long time. Again I looked to the heavens and asked, "What is the message here today? Where is the meaning? Where is the glory?" And then the words of, Stephen Hawking, came to me, "We should seek the greatest value of our action.” And it took only half of a nano-second for the words of a twenty-first century atheist genius to lead me to one of the most profound truths about, God, I've ever learned.

It doesn't matter if you're a believer or a non-believer, practicing or non-practicing, or even someone like me who daily wrestles with the very philosophical question of whether or not there is or isn't such a thing as a living god. There is something we all can do to bring meaning to each of our individual lives. Beyond all denominations, ideologies, philosophies or political affiliations each and everyone of us can seek the greatest value for our actions. Even if, God, doesn't exist, each and every time we seek the greatest value for our action, everything we do do will still work to his glory. Arguing or even worrying over the existence of, God, isn't what's important. The endless debate never solves anything. Seeking the greatest value in our action...

I wish I was more skilled in applying this simple truth. Sometimes my actions don't seem to have much value at all. I'll work on that, of that you can be sure. One thing I've learned in the past few days is that my life no longer needs, God, to give it meaning. It just requires my actions...


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