Beyond The Pale

OEF XVIII Begin

One of my great goals during this deployment was to get back into the blogosphere. Nearly two months into the deployment, and not having yet written an entry, it’s time to get started if I want to make anything happen along those lines. For once, I have a couple of good reasons for not having started back up writing, such as lack of internet access and new emphasis on OPSEC along with some violations within the unit’s wife community that has caused enough backlash to make me want to steer clear of anything that could cause hiccups, at least until my promotion goes through two months ago. Yes, apparently we can time travel in the military, but I’ll discuss that in a later post once everything has been resolved.
Part of the issue is that I have been legitimately busy. Last year, anything that I didn’t do was the result of being lazy. This year, at least so far, because of where I’m currently located, I’m able to spend a lot of time setting up training and making contacts that will help me as the deployment continues, and I’ve been taking advantage of those opportunities because I don’t know when I’ll find myself sitting in a mud hut somewhere in the middle of a minefield with no hope of leaving there until October. Maurice Lednicky used to say, “The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized during the lifetime of the opportunity,” and while I didn’t agree with much that he said, it’s certainly true that the work that I can do now, if I don’t get it done within the next several weeks, will never happen at all.
So yeah, I’m busy. But everyone I know besides Aria is always busy. That’s part of the modern condition. Primitives had all the free time they wanted and no food; we have all the food we want and no time to enjoy it. But we always make time for the things that we find important. People who don’t have time for their family, but have time for a fantasy football league are probably saying more about their priorities than they are about their schedule. And I’m sure that Poor Scribbler, Linden Mueller, and All the Blessed Things all have just as hectic of lives as I do.
But what have I been prioritizing? Well, even though it hasn’t been making it into the ever so important blogosphere, I’ve been writing pretty much constantly. I’m on volume four of those big black journals that my meatspace friends see me carrying around all the time, and I’ve noticed a significant increase of production since about a month before Aria showed up, though that’s been tapering back just a little bit lately because I don’t like to write in that journal in the rain. I’m also learning to play the guitar. I didn’t think that would have much bearing on the amount of free time in my day because back when I used to play the piano as a kid, practicing for so much as thirty minutes was literally the LONGEST time in history. Agonizing pain in the brain resulted from a single scale. I figured that if I forced myself into fifteen minutes per day of guitar practice, I’d be doing better than I had any real reason to expect, and I’d still progress, however slowly. Instead it turns out that unless I have something going on that forces me to quit, if I pick up my guitar, I’m probably not going to put it down for forty-five minutes to an hour. Who’d have thought it?
Finally, I’ve been putting in a fair amount of time into two kinds of reading. First, I’ve been catching up on the novel reading that a year long attack of “need to game” caused me to miss. I’ve cut video games almost completely out of my life, but that space filled up immediately with everything from The Forever War, to Anne of Green Gables, to A Hero of our Time, all excellent books, by the way. The second kind of reading is Spanish. I’ve been working as hard as I can to get my Spanish back up to where it should be because I know that this Seventh Group, you-live-in-Afghanistan, thing is going to end eventually, and then I’ll still be expected to hold proficiency in my language. It turns out it’s a good thing I’ve been doing this, but I’ll have to explain why in my next post.
So this post isn’t really for readers. It’s for me. It’s my way of telling myself to get to work on the things that are being forgotten, and to keep at it on the things that I’ve been doing well on.

February 28, 2012 Posted by | Army, Censorship, Uncategorized | | 4 Comments

Terp Tales, Shit Happens Boss

I’m enjoying one of the great pleasures of deployment: eating filthy. I’m soaking wet with sweat, my face is smeared with grime, and my shirt looks like I got skidded over by a semi. The only clean part of my body is the palms of my hands, which I scrubbed down perfunctorily on the five foot trip from the gym to the chow hall. You can’t get away with this crap in garrison. Actually, you can’t get away with it at the larger bases here in country. But when you are one of twenty-some Americans within shooting distance, well, people make allowances.

Sometimes you just make allowances.

I’m watching the news, or trying to watch the news. But the satellite is confused, so I’m thinking about my record player, the one Andrea got me for my birthday, the one that I’ve never seen because it didn’t arrive at the house until I’d already left the country. I’m pretty sure if I took that horrible Green Day record, the one that sounded like it was probably just the rejected tracks from American Idiot, and drew zig zags all over it with my knife, smeared some peanut butter on it, and shot it a couple times, it would probably sound like the news does right not. I love military technology.

Hamza walks in.

–Hey Boss! Bundle drop today. You hear?

–Hey Hamza. No I didn’t hear about any bundle drop. You know when it’s supposed to happen?

Hamza walks over to the chow line and grabs tray, forks two big porc chops onto it, and comes over to sit across from me.

–About an hour. Maybe they will miss this time. Did you hear about the time they missed?

The Air Force must use us for training new pilots. They miss all the time. Last week they dropped a whole pallet of Dr. Pepper over the side of the ridge so that we couldn’t get any vehicles up to take it back to the base. I had a lot of fun throwing cans of pop down into the valley and watching them explode. They’ve also dropped pallets right on top of us while we wait to go gather them up. The first time that I was involved in a bundle drop here at Cobra, it ended up looking like some kind of rodeo. The bird started to fly over, we released a smoke grenade to let the pilot know where to drop the bundles, and as soon as he saw the smoke, instead of waiting until he was in position, he just dropped everything right on our heads. A few of the parachutes didn’t open, and the bundles commenced what we call “burning in.” Men scattered in all directions, hopping on four wheelers and GMVs, or just flat out sprinting for their lives. One guy didn’t get out of the impact area in time and almost got hit by one of the pallets. Parachute or not, if one of those things hits you, you splash.

Imagine this coming down on your head

–I guess I haven’t heard about them missing a drop, Hamza. What happened?

–Boss, one time, they drop the pallets right on the base.

–What do you mean by “on” Hamza.

–Look up.

I look up. The ceiling joist, a 4 inch I beam directly above my head, looks like it’s been bent into a pretzel shape and inexpertly straightened back out. I’ve seen it before but never really remarked on it. After all, this is Afghanistan, and poor workmanship is the modus operandi for this whole country, SOP for us military types. Now I really notice it for the first time, and it’s not just the beam that’s busted, the tiles that it supports are all cracked and shattered, some of them even missing. Obviously, the damage happened in place, not before installation.

–A bundle hit there. Hamza says. They were coming down all over the base. Boom, boom, boom. We were lucky no one got killed. I think they might have gotten one of the dogs!

Right then, the Omega Male walks in.

–Hey Jeremy, I say. What’s up?

–Hey David. He waves at me. He pauses and glares at Hamza. Kuni, I hear him mumble under his breath. Fag. Hamza doesn’t hear him. I know this because Jeremy keeps right on living. He walks to the line and grabs some food for himself, sits it on the table at the back of the chow hall and goes to the cooler to get two cokes and a Gatorade shake.

–What’s his problem? I ask Hamza.

–He is the pussy. Hamza says. You are not believing what we did to him last night. Jonny and I run screaming into his room and beat the fuck out of him in the dark. He cried.

Hamza starts laughing viciously and picks up one of his pork chops to eat with his hands, like a hot pocket. Deployed Army food is generally, um, bad, so if an item is supposed to be tough, it’ll be really tender (think soggy bread), and if it’s supposed to be tender, it’ll either be tough, or so tender that you wonder how many days it’s had to decay before making it to the line. I firmly believe that the lobster they insist on serving us from time to time was actually caught before I stopped eating through my navel. In this case, the pork has roughly the texture of twelve year old beef jerky, so Hamza holds it two handed, bites into it to get a grip, and then jerks his head off to the right as hard as he can, while pulling left with his hands. A bit of the meat tears off, and he commences the lengthy process of chewing.

–And then, he says around the food in his mouth, we wait until he went to the shitter this morning. He chose the stinkiest one, with the most shit in the bucket, and we lock him in. He is locked in the shitter from eight until eleven! Hamza swallows. I would kill someone who did that to me, but he doesn’t even have balls to ask who did it to him. But he knows it’s me.

Hamza smiles in what is, I think, supposed to be a mischievous way. He tears at another bite of the pork chop.

This is Hamza.

Suddenly it dawns on me what he’s eating.

–Hamza, I ask, you are a Muslim aren’t you?

–Of course. All Afghanis are Muslim.

That’s not completely true, but I’m not going to disabuse him of the notion.

–You know what you are eating, right?

–Yes, meat.

–Yeah, Hamza, but that meat is a pork chop.

–So?

–Pork is pig.

He swallows and looks at me calmly, stares at the pork chop in his hand, looks back at me, and takes another, larger bite of the pork.

–Shit happens boss.

May 12, 2011 Posted by | Army, NOT SAFE FOR RLC/NWAG CROWD, Terp Tales, Travel | 3 Comments

The Horse and the Rider

I don’t normally copy and paste into my blog, seeing as it’s MY blog. But I think that today, some simple passages from scripture might give some perspective to those of you who think that it’s somehow ungodly for Christians to be excited about USSF having finally taken out Osama Bin Laden, who we’ve been trying to get our hands on for last ten years.

Exodus 15: 1-10 – Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble. And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.

The Lord is a man of War? Huh?

Psalm 68: 1-3 Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.

Let them exceedingly rejoice? What?

But then again, there are also these passages:

Proverbs 24:17-20

Do not rejoice when your enemies fall,
and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble,
or else the LORD will see it and be displeased,
and turn away his anger from them.

Do not fret because of evildoers.
Do not envy the wicked;
for the evil have no future;
the lamp of the wicked will go out.

So we shouldn’t rejoice because we want to make sure that we don’t do anything to cause God to change his mind and refrain from judgment. But wait, if the point is that any death is worth mourning, then don’t we want to rejoice so that God won’t let as many bad guys die?

Ok, what would Jesus say?

Matthew 5:43-48 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

So love your enemy.

Don’t forget that turn the other cheek thing. But it looks to me like both towers came down. We don’t really have another cheek to turn there do we?

How about this one?

Matthew 18:6 But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.

I guess Osama was ok to teach his radical form of militant Islam that preached violence and subjugation because the people he was teaching it to didn’t already believe in Christ so he couldn’t make them stumble?

Obviously, I’m all over the place here. And that’s on purpose. I’m not one of those people claiming that we need to go dance in the street and burn OBL in effigy. I think that’s stupid. But those of you who claim that people are sinful or in someway shaming Christ to celebrate the death of one of the most notorious terrorist leaders in the world, a man who has been followed and respected by the same men who have killed my friends and put my family in danger, and your family too, well, you should be ashamed of yourselves for judging them because they might be wrong about what God thinks on this, but you might be too, and sometimes it’s better to just shut up and watch what happens.

And maybe I should too.

May 3, 2011 Posted by | Army, Christianity, Church | 9 Comments

Terp Tales, Meet Hamza

Operation Enduring Freedom XVI. A different year, a different place. The enemy, he never changes though. Neither do the interpreters. They are still about as quirky as Windows Vista and as arrogant as America herself. Kings, fighting amongst themselves for supremacy in their microcosmic hierarchy of who gets to fleece the Americans more.

There’s an obese mouth breather sitting by the fire in my compound, drinking tea he made from water I boiled for my coffee.

–Who are you?

–I’m sorry sah?

He’s clearly a terp. That sense of entitlement. That almost but not quite English.

–You’re the new terp?

–Yes sah.

–What’s your name?

–I’m sorry sah?

–What. Is. Your. Name? I squat down by the fire and dump two half liter bottles of water into the cast iron kettle and sit it back over the coals.

–Ah. I am Jeremy sah.

–Stop calling me that.

–I’m sorry sah?

–Stop calling me sir. My name is David.

–Ah. Ok.

–Ok. Don’t drink my water. He looks abashed. He knows he should have refilled the kettle when he dried it.

–Ok sah. Sorry sah.

–David.

–Sorry sah. It’s like a scene from a low budget film.

I need a terp who speaks English. Jeremy clearly isn’t going to do the trick. Sherrif, AKA. Steve-Dave, and Jonny Amir Karit were cuddling in the terp hut last night, but at this time of morning, who know’s what you’re going to walk in on. I check my watch. Thursday. Don’t knock. Don’t open the door. Stand outside and yell, just in case.

–TAJI MAN! I yell with my head against the door.

The door cracks opened and a sphere of hair, broken by a slit of crusty, swolen black eyes pokes through the crack. Last night’s hash hasn’t worn off yet. It’s like someone painted Keith Green brown and sent him forward in time to write bing bong songs in Afghanland.

–What’s up David?

–I need a terp to listen to something for me. You free Jonny?

–Sure, why not?

He closes the door, and sounds abstracted directly from a Laurel and Hardy skit begin to pipe through the chimney, the mouth of which pukes smoke beside the door, right into my face. From the swearing, I think that Jonny must be walking on everyone in the room, looking for his boots. “Sure, why not?” is Jonny’s catch expression, which he thinks means “of course” or “right away,” and we put up with it for the most part, those of us who know him, but it’s always funny when a new guy to the team asks him to do something and he says “sure, why not?” Just as my mom never really asked me to take out the garbage when I was a kid. We never really ask Jonny to interpret for us. We tell him politely, but when he drops that line on new guys, they tend to stop being polite.

I walk back into the courtyard and direct my attention toward the fire. There’s steam pouring from the mouth of the kettle, so I unhook the metal cup I attached to my belt when I woke up and pour in two packets of powdered “Via Starbucks” instant espresso, top them with the almost boiling water, and set about stirring with my pocket knife. Jonny is taking forever, and I’m starting to think about having Jeremy help me—or maybe going over and stopping up that chimney—when I hear a motorcycle roll up next to the side door of the compound and die. Machine gun fire doesn’t ensue, so I can guess that the partner forces have decided that whoever was driving it wasn’t a threat, which at this time of day, in this location, means it’s got to be the one and only…

–Hamza! I yell.

–Hey Boss, what the fuck is going on up in this place? He responds amiably with his bizarre accent that I’m not even going to try to spell.

–Where you been dude? I haven’t seen you in weeks. I open the compound gate, and he thrusts his wiry body through the gap to give me a hug and offer me a cigarette, which I take with relish and only realize is a Pine when I cough my lungs into a bloody heap on the ground a moment later.

–I went to work for the other team in Sarab. But I’m quitting because there’s no action there at all. I am not a terp for talking. I am a terp for killing Taliban.

–No action at all? I ask him. I’ve heard that the Sons of Uruzgan, as they call themselves have been doing fairly good work.

–I fucked all the elders’ daughters. And now I’m bored. I want to work for you guys and fight again. Check out my new boots boss.

I see that he’s wearing Jonny’s boots, and he’s written his name on the heel with sharpie marker.

I shake my head and chuckle, pour him a cup of coffee, and we set to work.

April 17, 2011 Posted by | Army, NOT SAFE FOR RLC/NWAG CROWD, Terp Tales, Travel | 2 Comments

On Filtering

I haven’t posted on here in quite some time, not because I’ve not wanted to, but because I’ve not been able to access the site due to the stringent rules set up by the Army’s deployed Websense server. Those of you who keep up with me on Facebook might have noticed more than a little ire regarding this issue in some of my posts.

And now I can post.

I just wanted to make a couple of comments about liberty and why there is some possibility that maybe some of the madness going on in our country will eventually have a positive effect. If websense had been run by some kind of rational human being, and it had not filtered out almost every web site on the internet, I would have been content to work under its restrictions. I would have obeyed the rules. However, the system’s overzealous nature has worked against it. Where it could have only blocked those sites that are most problematic to the austere bandwidth issues that we have out here, aka, Youtube and other streaming sites, and left access to such low bandwidth sites as Io9 and WordPress, it blocked everything that I wanted access to. I could have put up with no access to Youtube, as the restriction makes sense. But because the restrictions were over the top, ridiculous, I went out and found a way to get around them. And now, not only can I post to my WordPress account, but I can also go to Youtube. Thus, the overzealous nature of the system administrators works directly against their goals.

Maybe our increasingly meddlesome government should consider this trait of human nature as it progresses with it’s plans. The Tea party movement, of which I’m NOT a part, isn’t necessarily the result of some cranks getting a hold of the American imagination. It’s the natural bucking against what many Americans see as a progressively dangerous government. Perhaps they should try taking a looser grip on the reigns.

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Army, Censorship | 2 Comments

Terp Tales, Carjacked

This isn’t really going to be much of a post compared to the length of what I usually write, but I can’t pass up on this one. Actually, if I’d thought of it sooner, I might have a whole other series of blog entries called “Terp Tales.” Maybe next rotation.

Anyway, I was standing on the top of a mountain talking to a terp today, and since he is an American citizen, I asked him where he lived when he was in the states and how long he’d been there. He said he’d lived there for 17 years, and that he lived in Oakland. This naturally led to conversations about when Andrea and I were living in California and the trail run that I ran in the Oakland area. From there, we went to jobs, specifically what we’d done before we decided to go work for the United States Government. He said that he sold electronics, which tells me that he was probably a dealer in stolen goods, but I could be wrong. He said that he also drove a Limousine on the side while he was getting his electronics company up and running.

“One time,” he said, “I had a guy get into my limo and put a gun to my head. He said ‘get out of the car, and leave your keys and wallet.” I have NO idea why you would want to steal a limo. Talk about standing out in the crowd.

The terp continued. He said, “It’s not big enough.”

“What’s not big enough?” the carjacker asked.

“Your gun. You can’t carjack people with a gun this small. Here, would you like to use mine?” The terp asked and pulled out his .44.

Apparently, the carjacker was either working with a replica Snatch style, or he didn’t realize that having the drop on someone is more important than what caliber weapon you used because he just yelled “He has a real gun!,” jumped out of the car, and ran away.

Terps are full of these stories, most of which probably aren’t true, but maybe next time around, I’ll collect them and pass them around to those of you who bump into this site.

January 10, 2010 Posted by | Army, Terp Tales, Travel | 3 Comments

Thanksgiving 2009, A Different List Than I Might Normally Post

I know that Thanksgiving was quite some time ago, around the 24th of November. I never bothered to learn when exactly Thanksgiving was. When I started noticing the holiday, I was dating a girl by the name of Sara Daugherty, and her birthday was on the 24th of November, so I just always remember that Thanksgiving is on the Thursday of that week, which I suppose Andrea might find to be one of the worse possible ways of remembering the holiday, but I think that she knows that I love her enough that my way of remembering a holiday says nothing about my feelings for her.

Still, I think that I should post a Thanksgiving post, but this time I’m not going to do the typical type of post. I’m thankful for my friends. I’m thankful for my family and the freedoms that God has given me as a member of the West. I’m going to write my thanksgiving list from the perspective of someone in my current position, someone whose thanks might seem trite, thanks that will look more like a shopping list, perhaps, but those things that this year, away from my family, I’m most thankful for having access to here, in the present. So here it goes:

  • I’m thankful for my journal.
  • I’m thankful for Zots (look them up).
  • Hey Jude
  • I’m thankful for 3×5 notecards.
  • I’m thankful for Uni-Ball Vision Elite .8mm liquid filled pens.
  • I’m thankful that NPR has podcasts of Fresh Air and Pop Culture.
  • I’m thankful that deployed soldiers get paid extra so that I’ve been able to put my family into the right financial position so that I can, for the first time in my married life provide for my family, even if I’m not there, perhaps because I’m not there.
  • I’m thankful that I brought $300+ in books with me on this trip.
  • I’m thankful that I can wear a girl’s hat for a whole deployment and get made fun of constantly. It tells me something I’ve always wondered—that I just don’t care.
  • I’m thankful for Harper’s.
  • I’m thankful for The New Yorker.
  • I’m thankful for letters from small children that I’ll never meet.
  • I’m thankful for the women of Curves who sent me warm socks for Christmas.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love all of the things that I’m supposed to be grateful for. I’m thankful for loving parents and a loving wife and a friend who is with me when we’re 9000 miles apart. I’m thankful for all the things I should be, but here, those things become less of something to be thankful for and more of a reason to live. The things I’ve listed above, with the possible exception of the Zots, which Andrea bought for me while I was in Basic Training, and I’ve carried with me, without exception, ever since, are things that I could live without, things that make my life easier, that make my life less of an existence and more of a life, and I think that in 70 years when my kids donate my journals to some university library, someone will be thankful for those things as well, not because my writing is something of eternal value, but because writing something longer than 156 characters is becoming a lost art, and I want to leave something of myself behind, something that will annoy my children and give future students a taste of what life might have been like for a mentally troubled, but enthusiastically so, young man stuck in the middle of a war that is really just as bureaucratic as anything that you might have read in the most satirical of fiction.

December 20, 2009 Posted by | Army, Literature | 1 Comment

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 | 3 Comments

On Childhood, The News

My parents, Baby Boomers by birth if not inclination, tried to raise my siblings and me in a manner that would keep us from becoming part of the next Television Generation. As a result, our television viewing was restricted, though not as much as I might now wish. We didn’t generally watch commercial television, and when we did, Dad would either mute the commercials or turn the TV off entirely. What’s more, our viewing options were severely reduced by the prohibition of any programs or movies that contained foul language, depictions of adultery, or short skirts.

There was one type of TV, however, that we were always allowed to watch, news programs. I sometimes feel as if I’ve lived all the important historical moments of my life through the lens of the television. My first public memory is of watching the news the day of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion (My earliest private memory won’t be discussed, but it involves either being told by one neighbor that the doctor said she was pregnant and would have the baby when she turned 20, and I was the father, or reneging on my side of a certain “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” arrangement after the other party had already filled her side of the bargain. I don’t remember which happened first), and from then on, my childhood and adolescence through the present is sprinkled with those moments that I will one day describe as the defining historical moments of my life. Each of these moments is remembered through the static of a television set.

I remember staring with trepidation at the television as the results of the 1992 Presidential elections came in. And after my parents sent me to bed before all the results were in, my conservative programming in came in, and I lay for hours—so it seemed—staring at the ceiling and wondering if I was going to grow up before the rapture happened, as Clinton’s election clearly foretold the coming of the apocalypse. Of course, in the times since, I’ve realized that every age is the End of Ages, that the end of the world awaits each of us after our last breath, that the second coming is the first second after death. But I didn’t get that from my parents’ theology, or from the television. In fact, I think my dad stumbled upon it about the same time I did.

I remember watching the news on June 12th, 1994 as we received live coverage of the police chasing a white Ford Bronco down the highway, and as I was homeschooled, and my mom tended to spend her afternoons working at the church or driving around in her maroon Aerostar, conducting worship songs with both hands and driving into ditches, I spend numerous hours during the next several months watching the live videos of OJ Simpson’s trial for the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. They were fairly boring, but I couldn’t stop watching them, so after I finished my math, I would put a cassette tape that I had made of Star Wars IV: A New Hope, and listen to the movie over the monotony of the trial, only pausing it when new evidence would be presented.

There were other events: floods, hurricanes, the Oklahoma City Bombing, Columbine. They roll on in my mind, one after the other like a series of movie listings on a marquee.

My junior year at Central Bible College, I was taking some theology class at the earliest possible time, 7:50. This meant that I spent most of my time in that class taking copious amounts of note, not because I found the material all that interesting—the only thing interesting about that class was the professor’s style sense, Indiana Jones meets Minivan. On a certain morning, the professor walked into the classroom with his fedora gripped tightly in white-knuckled hands. He said that something terrible was happening in New York, that we needed to cancel class for the day. He said a prayer and told us to plant ourselves in front of the nearest CNN or Fox News enabled television that we could find. I met my girlfriend of the time, some of you know her, at Zee’s Student Union, and we stood hand in hand and watched LIVE as the second plane flew into the already burning towers.

The next day, as we were driving past the Get and Go by the highway, I told her that I was probably going to join the military and go fight in Afghanistan because I was already sure that we were going to war. She sincerely hoped not. I didn’t realize it at the time, but part of what I was saying was that I was sick of watching history happen on television, that I wanted to be a part of it.

It took six years, but I eventually got around to joining, and I’m here, fighting in Afghanistan, seeing things first hand. But being a part of events is different from watching them on the News, and in the way that you might think. It’s not all horrible, there’s just no perspective. If I want to have any kind of perspective on what is going on the world, I still have to go to the places that I’ve gone my whole life, the TV or Internet. Those are the things that give us the illusion of perspective.

What dawned on me this morning was that while there is really no escaping our television-filtered view of the world, we need to remember that the historical perspective that television gives us is an illusion. That’s all it is. We can’t really see beyond our actions of today, and we can’t understand an event as it happens. It takes time to gain perspective, and while the news might give us facts, the analysis that they offer is dubious at best. Still, I suppose it’s better that whoever the new Jerry Springer might be.

November 8, 2009 Posted by | Army, Childhood, Christianity, Church | 4 Comments

A Poem, Smoking Last Night

Last night, standing under

a streetlight by the wall,

staring at my shadow and

wondering at its crispness, its poise

I raised a cheap, Afghani

cigarette to my mouth and

watched my shadow do the same.

I pulled smoke in to taste and watch

the cherry instead of brightening to

an amber glow in my eyes,

darken to blackness eclipsing the night like

the morning sun eclipses all stars

and I glanced at the wall just in time to see

my shadow grow blurred, a glow fading

from the tip of its grainy, concrete fingers.

October 31, 2009 Posted by | Army, Poems, Travel | Leave a comment