Beyond The Pale

From The Dark, Standing In The Shower, A Vision Springs Eternal

Standing in the shower, watching the steam rise to cloud my face, I rubbed the shaving cream that someone sent to me for Christmas against the bristles of my burgeoning beard. I don’t use shaving cream. Soap works just fine for me, but since it was a gift, I decided to use it until I find someone who needs some. As my face slowly disappeared behind the mirror fog, I heard the voice of my darkness say, You are all alone, as you have always been. And for a moment I believed it.

I was reminded of the scene in Rules of Attraction where the beautiful homosexual, Paul Denton, after having been rejected as a romantic possibility says to Sean Bateman, sitting in the bleachers under the snow, “I just want to get to know you.”

The Bateman says one of the most painful lines of all literature, one that I believed, wanted to believe for a long time, “You will never know me.” And I don’t remember if it is said or implied, but what he is really saying is “No one will ever know anyone. We are all irrevocably, tragically alone. This is what it means to be human.” This is a story of all our pain, our alienation, and for a time, this is what I believed.

I wiped away the fog from the mirror, revealing a blurred image of myself, and began to scrape the wiry bits of dead cells from my face. In the shower, some of the normalcies of typical hygiene are negated, so rather than rinsing my blade with each stroke, I let the watery cream turn grey with the fragments of my hair and run over my thumb and down unto the back of my hand where I stared at them as if they were the sacred ashes of the sacrificial lamb, which in a way I guess they were. Finished shaving, I put my hand under the water and watched bits of myself flow down off of my wrist and elbow into the drain that eventually finds its way to the stream that flows to a cistern and eventually out of the base and into the outside world, commingling me forever, just a little bit more, with all of the people who will drink the water and eat the food of Afghansitan. I became a little bit more a part of this place. That’s one way that I’m not myself.

At that moment, I hear a different voice, not the voice of the darkness, not the voice of my lighted self, the voice, rather, of Dustin Hoffman in I (Heart) Huckabees saying “There is not an atom in your body that was not forged in the fires of the sun.” What a beautiful thought, that we are all, inextricably linked by the very atoms, perhaps the strings, that construct our bodies from almost nothing.

This is part of why I am so strongly opposed to western burial traditions. A hundred years ago, when the poor among us, especially in rural locations would have been buried in pine boxes, the worms that our bodies become might just as quickly have consumed the casings in which we tried to persevere these carbon shells, freeing us to rejoin the great cycles of composition and decay that God invoked in us when he imagined the magnificent, frightening process of physical death and diversified resurrection. But we have ways of hiding our discarded shells away, denying the very atoms of our body the opportunity to return to the earth that God so graciously loaned us, breaking the cycle of death and rebirth. I’m not speaking here of an oriental, non-theistic migration of the soul from one body to the next until reaching nirvana. Rather, I refer only to the very fission formed atoms that we wear of such a brief time, not that which makes us conscious, but that which makes us for our allotted time, ever revolving, us. But now, we hide in boxes of stone, and even those of us who would have been released back into the carbon chain centuries ago are buried in these metal boxes that will hold us captive for tens, if not hundreds of years.

But the atomic connection between us isn’t my main point here. It’s a delectable thought that we bear something beyond the atom. We are organized in such a way that we are self aware, filled, sometimes to overflowing, with conscious thought. Beyond that dispersal of atoms, the consciousness that we attain, be it eternal as we Christians believe, or only an perquisite of the complex interactions that take place in a brain during the single life that many embrace, that statement, “You will never know me; you can never know anyone, not really,” is a statement about that part of us that the scientists can’t seem to find, that part that isn’t made of atoms, but something else, something ungraspable, but undeniably present in each sentient being.

I used to love the idea that I was alone, that no one could really know me. And how could I not? I am a creature of shadow, stalked by the night, spoken to by the void, shown visions of beautiful chaos, but never of God. What could possibly prompt me to allow myself to be know, assuming that there existed someone capable of knowing. For what reason should I show this darkness? But standing under that scalding water, lathering my man parts with shampoo, preparing to embrace again a little more of the isolation of this mythical postmodern condition, I saw a radiant vision, like the lady of the lake, sword in hand, but the sword was the intensity of a piercing blue eye, and I know that I was known in all my facets, my todestrieb, more prominent in my persona than in most, or at least more fully exposed to those with the eye than most who would pretend that everything is alright. Everything is not alrigh. And before that eye, piercing as it was, I was completely exposed. I realized that I am know, not as God knows me, but in the greatest way that one human can know another.

I could not drop to my knees in this bacteria ridden shower, but my EGO felt the pull and I metaphorically fell weeping at the discorporeal act of communion with a woman 9000 miles away. She knows that she keeps me here. She know that my love is the connection that I can’t let go of, can’t abandon, and these strands between us cannot be broken because of a psyche that has touched, and I’ve given her part of me, and she’s given me part of her as two moving forces colliding in vacuum trade energy and depart from each other permanently changed. When two souls collide, this transfer takes place, but in our softness, our palpability, we trail little pieces of each other forever thereafter, pieces of me are now pieces of her.

All our interactions are such an exchange, and we leave gossamer threads stretching between each soul with which we have contact, sometimes they become very strong, sometimes they are but the thin weavings of a thought, or a breath. But those connections can be soiled, severed, reinforced. We can do with them what we wish. The ultimate selfishness is the attempt to live the solitary life, to be devoid of contacts that a strong wind won’t sever, to wave our arms about in the fragile web of those who would love us if we would let them. We can’t break these bonds; you are part of me; I am a part of you. No “Dear John” or Text can sever these bonds. No torch or flame can melt them. Neither will a Damascus steel blade so much as cause them to quiver. Even hate is a bond, a connection almost as profound as love. The only weapon that can destroy these connections we make is apathy, and there are relations that I’ve apathetically allowed to dissolve, I pray that what bonds I develop will be the bonds that I will cherish.

These are the thoughts that ran through my mind as the steaming water ran over my hair and dripped off of my nose and chin, and I thought of the titanium strands I’ve woven between myself and Andrea, Jonathan, those other strands that erode over time from lack of reinforcement and extenuation. How could I fall into the dark? When God takes us, those bonds of affection are strengthened and preserved, for they will be needed again, especially for those few orthodox who believe that resurrection is exactly that, a recorporation of the physical form, regardless of the atoms. It’s not which, it’s how they’re organized. When we chose to leave of our own volition, we sever the connections. We make scars that will never heal completely, always leavening the itch of a missing finger, for we have amputated parts of those others with whom we had pretended to have an eternal bond. We harm—no it is the destroyer who harms through us (but who, really is the destroyer? Do you think that the human race would be any worse without a Devil than it is with one? Or rather, to clarify, as we seem devilish enough ourselves, would an anthropomorphic Lucifer make any difference?)—damage those how we claimed to love, or ,a stranger bond, still loved us.

The bond of love is stong; the bond of being loved is the strongest bond of all, for those who can feel its bindings. And these bindings, while being just as strong as any iron chain and collar, are the gentlest, most healing of all constrictions.


December 17, 2009 - Posted by | Army, Christianity, From the Dark


  1. Stunned. Overwhelmed. Frightened. Blessed.

    Comment by arvallian | December 18, 2009 | Reply

    • Arv,

      Check this out, WordPress thinks you are spam. I just found your comment in my spam folder. HA! And you thought I was ignoring you.


      Comment by davidjgross | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  2. I just read this. Just now. And how could I have possibly missed it in reading through your other posts? I have a problem: every time I read what you’ve written, I’m left nearly speechless. Whether it’s the content or the style…no, it’s both, anyway, it’s always hard to know how to respond. Because I feel I should respond. Because I want to encourage you (brotherly love). Because I want to keep reading (pure selfishness).

    It’s interesting to me that after these many years, Daniel and I are still getting to know so many of the deepest parts of each other. The bits of ourselves we’ve worked so long to cover or hide or deny (not from each other, but from ourselves, from everyone) slowly emerge and beg for a different flavor of love.

    Also, I hope you have looked into natural burials.

    Comment by Rachel B. | December 28, 2009 | Reply

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