To look back on it all you'd swear it would have all come to nothing potentials running dry and crazily down steep slopes, sure to fail, sure to crack wide open on the dry, red rocks that coated the valley floor like a damn shag rug violated by the idea of pure beautiful anarchy and sweet red wine. it was totally unpretentious, damn parade was so small they used to run it around twice. a rise of residential institutions and a couple of libraries later we had a manifesto in the making "denominational phenomenon" they used to call it but who knew anyway? we were all for it and so what if he was drunk most of the time...let it come down to this: some things are meant to be and some things are meant to mean something more than just inevitable suffering and discord being the foundation for true, fluid chemistry lost on professor's daughters running around naked with indian headdresses and beads scantily holding up bathtowels--it was an american shame really--we'd divided human beings into four sub-species with top of the list being shaman and so what if they weren't anything really in the long run didn't it all come out to common sense and proper decency? are there really too many questions trundling around stacks of bookmarks and laundry detergent stacked up (we were stacked up on the pavement) we knew it all!! we knew every damn thing is nothing was working--no more gasoline. lack of the good clergy of the eighteenth century wish you could shoot it in the eye, don't you wish your name was Samuel Stanhope Smith, lacking in common sense as it turned out saved his vain little life not privy to this information for next week...we got art put Hamlet on quaaludes and throw a backbone into Claudius and you got yerself a completely different play! by god i saw it with mine own eyes the sentry duty sexual favors museums and opera houses burning to the ash covered ground, burning back to the roots they grew from, burning burning burning what chances we were given at life eternal well i wouldn't start window-shopping for eternity just yet there crybaby, made her cry so that was nice. the whole gaddamn script smelled like gasoline and old shoes. "gimme those shoes" some water all that i want, so i tell her about the bastard's bad attitude--in a desperate attempt to keep her on the line you understand--it was rag and bone shop of the heart all over again (Yeats) ((yikes!!)) the circus animals weren't leaving of their own accord, they were forced "do you hear what i'm saying to you?" into the pastures and jungles, alien as it was, to kill/be killed as it has doubtless been since the beginning of all history. some people can't stand to be with their own minds (she thinks daddy's lonely, you see) literary friendships spring up and take root in the early morning coolness of April methinks you walk like strangers. This is the West: dry, cracking open granite with sliced limestone running thick with bones of the long dead kings of the earthly prison, tooth and nail clatter into broken glasses spilling over blood and water to the mosaic painted tiles below; Shannon throws a stoned birthday party "Holland Haters Anonymous" we all sit around in the same tired circle without a single thought of dignity while Jeff shows us handstands and preaches (soapbox) philosophy and's all getting to be too much for a tired old soul to transcend the fall from the Garden, the fall from the second story window onto a second-hand beat sofa left there the night before by two crazy teenagers with hand rolled cigarettes and a pocketful of licorice mints.

(there are no spelling errors in this entire letter, mind you!)

There's little to contain the damage done now is there now as you're looking like one who just might want to offer a little help no help can undo the done can it. I swear as we offered ourselves to each other that fitful frightful expulsion into a nightdream daysweat it was hard to tell which was the rightful owner of what portion of that we both knew. You see us sitting in that yellow cab rain falling on mud-soaked streets of grime and souls ground down to the bone while no one notices us yelling punches thrown trying to hold them back they hurt not only the body. Souls are dying here. Barlights and street fights with the dust that won't remember squat while fumes howl don't dare say that he's not even your type while I'm festering with the memory of the sheet that we first knew. Long live the dead as they walk all over us in synapses that misfire the memory right on cue you watch that livewire emote is that really me or was I misremembering.

Q: What impersonal objects were perceived?

I saw the most elegant paradigms of a generation implemented by committee, baroque overengineered crufty,
dragging themselves at dawn through the marketplace looking for a bug fix . . .

America why is your software full of misfeatures?
I don't feel good don't bother me.
America, I won't write my program till I'm in my right mind.

Thanks to il miglior fabbro, no foolin'. Pseudo_Intellectual beat me to it. Yeah, and that other guy too, for the catechistic bit.

Shall we talk about depravity?

Though it's not something we really dwell on in Anglicanism, that's really a Calvinist obsession - it's worth noting what it means, because it's a fundamental idea in Christianity.

Real Talk. Our lives are broken. The chances of our lives not being broken in some way are absolutely zero.

That's not a judgment of you, or me, or anyone else. We're born as animals, and anyone who's dealt with small children know they strike out, they bite. They cry if their needs aren't immediately met. From an adult perspective, they're selfish, they're sometimes violent, and so forth. But we're talking about creatures who don't yet have object permanence or understand the concept of self and other. All of their animal urges need to be socialized - and during that process, children have been known to soil themselves, masturbate in public, and break taboos when using their newfound powers of speech.

Most religions believe you're not truly responsible for what you do until about the age of 12. 

Fair enough - but look at what happens in the interim. Is that socialization going to be 100% positive? In other words, are you going to be born to that one in a million saint who won't inadvertently transfer his or her human prejudices to you? In an extreme example, I know for sure three of my high school classmates were sexually assaulted by parents. Some I've seen deal with recurring emotional abuse. 

There's no way that cannot affect you.

Modern society tries to insulate people from their inherent brokenness - "trigger warnings", extreme censorship and identity politics which amount to "I'm okay, you're a jerk." Couple that with the self-esteem movement, which divorces someone's sense of self-worth from any metric other than "because I say so", trophies for everyone - and you have a toxic brew of simply denying these impulses exist. I'm not putting down the motivation behind this set of impulses - to want to shield everyone from objectionable words and behavior and tell everyone they have inherent worth. I'm saying even the most secular, liberal, hip folks still recognize that damage exists.

And that damage is total.

If you don't believe we can be turned into monsters easily - ignore the cruelty we ignore on a daily basis - excusing slavery in the name of cheap goods, ignoring the shootings in the inner city and the horrible income inequality or even the historical records of a Nazi Germany - just read the Milgram Experiment.

Everything we are and everything we experience colors every aspect of who we are. Even the most saintly of us had moments of selfishness, doubt, and condemnation. And even if we don't - we still belong to systems that cause hideous damage by proxy. Mr. Rogers may have never uttered an unkind word in his life (urban legends that he was an ex-sniper to the contrary) but he drove a car - and in order to keep that car supplied with oil and gasoline, we've incurred a lot of dead Arab kids. His taxes went to pay for warheads and soldiers that toppled democratic governments and installed US-friendly dictators.

"But it's impossible not to" - you say. Ask the Amish.

Where I'm going with this is that to have a world, as the Eurythmics put it - with "no fear, no hate, no pain, no broken hearts" we have to let go of literally everything we hold dear. The amount of sin, selfishness, damage, trigger warnings, self-justification, coping strategies, prejudices, and so forth has to be literally zero. It has to. The Bible explains that all of this stemmed from the slightest deviation from perfection - eating a fruit we were told not to. "Big deal" some have said, reading that story. "It's just a stupid apple". It isn't. It's the principle that there was a choice - what I want vs what someone else has asked me to for good reason. And within a generation, we had murder.

That's what we mean by total depravity. Unfortunately the connotation of the word implies, usually, some kind of Marquis de Sade unstoppable sex maniac or some gibbering, Joker out of the Batman comics style freak. 

Two very high profile cases broke this week - the Ashley Madison hackers dumped 9.8 GIGAbytes of text data into a torrent and basically showed the world the complete goings-on therein. Jared Fogle of Subway turned out not just to be in possession of child porn but to have had sex with at least 14 children, travelling to New York to pay for this. He was into child porn, the younger the better, in his own words.

Too many people would dwell on the condemnation here: of course Jared has done some horrible things, and there's a certain glee in knowing that Josh Duggar was a member of Ashley Madison and preached with an upraised finger in the light, while skulking around cheating on his pregnant wife in the dark.

But there's something we're skipping over here: there are 14 children who were sold for sex - we never heard what's being done about that. Even with the pimps involved in jail and getting their just desserts, you can't give a child back their life 100% after something like that.

There's a young woman with a man's child inside her publicly humiliated and dealing with the aftermath that he was looking for other women to insert sex toys into, with people doubly putting in the boot because of her unpopular religious beliefs.

Jared's wife is leaving him not only because he preferred the sexual company of young children, but also animals. And, forgive me my sympathy for the devil, but Jared cannot have been 100% comfortable with having to skulk around in the dark, in constant terror of one day hearing the marshals at his door and feeling handcuffs around his wrists, knowing he's headed somewhere where his kind are raped viciously - if they're lucky.

There's a problem with our language here - "total depravity" suggests condemnation. Judgment. A value judgment. Scorn. But in Christianity's case, nothing could be more from the truth.

Some religions preach of a great judge who sits in the sky, ready to hurl lightning bolts and condemnation. Jesus simply responded to a Pharisee demanding the required scriptural remedy for adultery - death - by writing something in the sand, something which made the man get up and hurry away. We can't know what it was - but most have come to believe that it was some past pecadillo of the Pharisee - written out in the sand. A reminder he had no business throwing stones inside his glass mansion.

Some say the solution is to deny everything and deny one's self, shave your hair, shave your eyebrows, eat once a day, close your eyes and dissociate from this world. The Christian answer is marvellous - that God himself decided to reach into the muck and mire of human existence, taking on our form - to suffer with us, to be in our midst, to hold out a hand and say "grab a hold of me, I'll pull you out of this. Just trust me." God knows full well who we are, how often we miss the mark - the dark secrets we all carry. And that can only begin when we surrender our own ego and our own sense of righteousness and admit that we're just not wired to be anything other than selfish and broken, and that our lives are often so horribly messy.

But His solution is not to rub our faces in it - but to come amongst us. To forgive us. To tell us to forgive each other, over and over. To be mindful, to be caring, to realize we're not going to always get it right - but hope that it'll get better.




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