Day 45

These days, “it’s hard to be mindful of the stuff that’s most important,” said Rev. Rummer as we met for our final Friday–the Good one.

That about sums it up, and that was part of the long-term purpose. To “tune-up” and not allow the hectic-ness of daily life to get in the way of what’s important. Interestingly, Rev. Rummer seems to have latched onto my brewvana tagline, “an ideal condition of harmony, beer and joy.” He’s sited it a couple of times in reference to my general life-search, and encouraged me, as we sought meaning in my peculiar dream from a couple of nights ago, to not hesitate to continue seeking after something beautiful (as I had been with the photograph). “Finding harmony and joy in the universe is not something to give up,” he said.

With or without a beer, I’d add.

God is powerful, and that’s where the buck stops. Perhaps there is a part of me that was subconsciously sensing that the spiritual part of this journey was more dangerous than anticipated. Rummer then turned to the words of Annie Dillard to put this idea in perspective:

“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping God may wake some day and take offense, or the waking God may draw us out to where we can never return.”

The ice is thin near the deeper water, Kierkegaard pointed out.

To drive back to the two good parts of life I like so much, Rummer bumped us back toward food and wisdom with a passage from Proverbs 24: 13-14:

“My child, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, you will find a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”

I know that the hokey-pokey is a pretty big deal, but what if this quote is what it’s really all about?


Day 44

I don’t know if it’s sleep deprivation or a divine light shining down through the windows of the Triple Rock Baptist Church at Jake Blues, but I had a powerful dream last night that woke me up rich in peculiarity.

As the reader has become aware, I hit the bathroom at 2 a.m. Tonight, as happens on occasion, I couldn’t get back to sleep, so lay awake until 4 a.m. when nature called yet again. Sleep was fleeting after that, but eventually I did nod off, and at that point I slept hard. I awoke in what felt like seconds later, weirded out by the intense imagery I had just witnessed:

Michelle at the wheel, she and I pulled into the parking lot of some unidentified country cemetery in the evening. The sun was preparing to set on the day, and it was gorgeous. The orange, pink and purple sky was spectacular. And so was the cemetery. The gravestones where big, rich, beautiful. And so I pounced from the car with my camera in hand working quickly to combine the sky and the right monument into a beautiful photograph. I hurried, I stumbled, I trounced over the top of graves in a reckless fashion.

Clicking fast, I kept working and reworking the scene. I noticed a spectacular stone tomb, dead center. It was the size of a small garage and inside its opening I could see an amazing monument, so I rushed forward, shooting like mad. Inside, captivated by the elaborate stonework, I rushed to the center for a closer look. 

Zap! An intense shock shook my chakras to their very foundations. I hit the ground. The electrical buzz held me down and I struggled to reach my feet, unsuccessful. Michelle arrived, thinking I’d simply fallen, not paying attention in an alarmed fashion. Instead, she began reading from a placard next to the central tomb. This was holy, holy space, the burial site of saints and more. 

Slowly, I reached my feet, still vibrating and now sounding Michelle’s alarm, as something was clearly wrong. At about this same time, a busload of children unloaded and invaded the graveyard with the same level of glee that I had done. They poured past my half-upright frame toward the central stone I had approached, and I called out to stop so they would not face the same consequence, still unsure what had happened.

They touched, maneuvered and crawled over the entire structure without incident. My tenseness relented when I saw that they were not stricken to the ground. I tried to explain to Michelle what had happened, to make sense of it, with little success. I was breathing hard and couldn’t put words to it. Electricity still vibrated in my extremities.

I gave up for the moment to compose myself and turned around to find no children and no central monument. It was blank. Vanished. And the sun was setting.

And then I awoke, with a slightly vibrating, labored breathing.

Children are innocent, and that protected them from God’s powerful discipline. I, however, knew how to act in a graveyard, in a sacred place. To get the amazing photo, I had ignored that law and been reprimanded. When you know, I believe, you are held to a higher standard. And I had just been reminded.

Perhaps this is my only true revelation, my only wisdom to share. This weird dream near the end of my weeks’ long search for something big.

Or not.

Day 43

I’m wearing down. It’s been a busy couple of weeks at work, and since I pee so much, I simply don’t get a good enough night’s sleep. Today is relief from having gotten to the downhill slope of my extra work obligations, but also tiredness from having pulled it off and a profound lack of rest.

I’d say I genuinely feel hunger now and very much look forward to a return to pizza, tapenade, hummus, cheese and pork products, among other delights.

People keep asking me, “What have you learned?” Much like, “Where did you get the idea to do this?” this question is difficult to answer. The answer is, “I don’t freaking know.”

I turn to the words of John Muir: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

Is that a good answer? It sums it up, so it will have to do. I’ve found that all the thoughts I’ve mustered are all so tied together that it’s nearly impossible to put into words. I also find that when I use words like mustered, I think of other words, like mustard.

There are, of course, specifics, which I’ll sort out in the days to come…today, I just need a nap.

(137.5 pounds)

Day 42

It’s hard to avoid starting each post these days with, “Holy cow! I’ve done this for 35 days!” or “Holy cow! I’ve done this for 40 days!” or “Holy cow, I’ve done this for 42 days!” Each day is a new milestone and the bigger the numbers the more amazing it sounds.

Early on in my research I spent time with a woman who did a 92 day juice fast. With “juice,” one at least gets the benefit of variety: orange, apple, carrot, etc. But with my little adventure, it’s very mundane. And so I’ll happily meet my 46 day goal, but I don’t think I’d want to fool with it a whole lot longer.

To be honest, I’m just plugging away to the end right now. There have been no late revelations or hallucinations that I would consider notable. Has the spiritual element left me? That’s a good question. I’m just doing it to finish my goal at this point.

What I really am at this stage of the ball game is an expectant mother. I have been nesting. Nesting, I tell you. That’s the word for it.

I’ve been puttering about fixing problems in the basement, working in the yard and planning out meals. I’ve been cooking some for the boys, I ordered a pork belly and shoulder to smoke and have been fooling around with spice rubs that I won’t use for a week. “We’re out of paprika and brown sugar,” I tell Michelle, and she looks at me like I’m insane.

I can’t help it. I have a greater appreciation for my bounty, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to getting back to it.

(Somehow, I bumped up to 139 pounds today.)

Day 41

There are, you know, monks that live in the world.

The Dalai Lama comes to mind. I follow him on Twitter and am inspired by his (office’s) posts every time they scroll through my feed. He’s out there in the world, living it, speaking it, being it. And having a positive impact in so many ways.

There’s Bono. He’s selling the records and making the Benjamins, but at the heart, though he belts not only tunes but expletives from time, he’s a guy with his eyes on the prize:

“At the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that. . .  Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.”

We are all so many fool-headed jack-monkeys, laden with daily “stupid stuff” that only grace can cover.

And then there’s Johnny Cash. He was a bit of a rascal in his youth, but the man in black carved out a life of which he could be proud, well beyond any chart accomplishments that may woo us when we are young. “How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell,” said Cash. “There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man.”

I, too, was an unmotivated knucklehead in my earlier years. And then came grace. I have three choices–ignore grace and God, cloister myself and become a monk or “simply” become a monk in the world, living at a higher level whether I am a beer drinker or not. In my visit to Conception Abbey, I learned that the pews were very hard and six services a day hurt my back, and since I’m unwilling to send my cinnamon girl packing, I must trudge forth, goblet aloft, in the world.

I have learned much and nothing during this project. Like my beloved Chicago Cubs, I must simply keep pressing forward. Cub fans are the most forgiving and committed on the planet, and they are nothing compared to God. There are rewards stored up in heaven, and like the Cubs, I, too, will win in the end with my feet firmly planted on the right side of the chasm.

(136.5 pounds today)

Day 40

Holy cow, it’s Day 40! Here’s a quick video check-in:

Day 39

Historically, I haven’t done a very good job caring about issues that are important. That’s changing, but I’m still small-minded at times. When we first got married, Michelle likely noticed that I didn’t sweat so much the politics du jour, but it annoyed me to no end if she cut the onions in the wrong way for a certain dish.

Once, we were making stir-fry. She chopped an onion for me, but I wanted it sliced. I was flipping livid. It was our last onion. A do-over would have taken a trip to the store. It still tasted fine, but it looked wrong and I had a hard time being cordial.

I’ve improved. I pay more attention to political issues now and sweat less about silly things like onions.

But, I’m not cured. If I could accomplish one last task in my final week, one giant leap in the world of grace, it would be to get over this vegetarian thing. Apart from an allergy or other serious physical malady, being a vegetarian is a choice. And I’ve never heard an argument that’s been convincing.

To me, it boils down to the kind of teeth you have. Herbivores have flat teeth, which are appropriate for grinding grasses and such. Carnivores have the sharp, pointy kind, good for tearing meat away from a carcass. Humans have both kinds of teeth. Like bears, we are known as omnivores. We enjoy both berries and flesh.

If that argument’s not enough, there’s always the wisdom of John Cleese: “If God did not intend for us to eat animals, then why did He make them out of meat?”

And so it is with this strong belief  that I must confront the fact that Michelle turned vegetarian about two months ago. While I  disagree with the idea of vegetarianism, I don’t really begrudge folks that lean in this direction unless they’re obnoxious about it. My uncle, for example, is a very accommodating vegetarian (for cholesterol reasons). But some people act all pious, and those are the ones I detest.

Michelle’s been decent about it, but it just hits too close to home. She says it need not impact me, but this is impossible. I’m happy to eat a vegetarian dish now and again. We do it often, in fact. I’m not opposed to eating tofu any more than I’m opposed to giving frog legs or dog legs a try. But there’s this wonderful world of meat that is being degraded for reasons I do not understand, and my boys and I are left to love meat in our tiny piece of the now empty-feeling world. We love Michelle, and we want to share our joy with her. And this is becoming a lost part of our family. Our life is forever altered.

Why? Why? Why? There is no answer good enough. I don’t like it, and I’m having a hard time accepting it, but I have no alternative. I don’t want to be impacted or bitter. I don’t want to be a jerk-hole for the next forty or fifty years. And so I must find grace on this topic. That will be my great suffering this week, stupid as it seems.

Being a Christian is itself a choice, so I guess I really must find a way to forgive the noble girl, though secretly, I’ll dream of her return to the dark side. That delicious, meaty dark side.

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