So soon you will be in that part of the book where you hold the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin whisp of the story in your right hand. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative, that the author is wrapping things up. You will begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself slowly toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something beautiful, of the end of something long and earned, and you hope the thing closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic sentiments feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification.
I need wonder. I know that death is coming. I smell it in the wind, read it in the paper, watch it on television, and see it on the faces of the old. I need wonder to explain what is going to happen to me, what is going to happen to us when this thing is done, when our shift is over and our kids’ kids are still on the earth listening to their crazy rap music. I need something mysterious to happen after I die. I need to be somewhere else after I die, somewhere with God, somewhere that wouldn’t make any sense if it were explained to me right now. At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know the chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay. And wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow. I don’t think there is any better worship than wonder.
No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath.
I always thought the Bible was more of a salad thing, you know, but it isn’t. It’s a chocolate thing.
When you build a city near no mountains and no ocean, you get materialism and traditional religion. People have too much time and lack inspiration.
[of Dallas] If there is one thing they have in Texas, it is land. There is no need to build things tall or close together; everyone gets an acre; you get an acre to live on, an acre to work on, an acre to park your car in, and an acre in case you need an extra acre. Driving to work or the store may take you an hour because nothing is close together; no space is conserved because, save the cosmos itself, there is nothing quite as big as the Lone Star State.
[Of Flagstaff, Arizona] Many cities, these days, seem to have people living on the surface of life but hardly in its soil, diluting the deeper questions of life in television monologues and reality shows, amusing ourselves to death, as Neil Postman would say. It feels like these people have come up with different answers to the why questions. Houston makes you feel that life is about the panic and the resolution of panic, and nothing more. Nobody stops to question whether they actually need the house and the car and the better job. We can’t see the stars in Houston anymore. We can’t to the beach without stepping on a Coke bottle, we can’t hike in the woods, because there aren’t any more woods. We can only panic about the clothes we wear, panic about the car we drive, sit stuck in traffic and panic about whether or not the guy who cut us off respects us. We want to kill him, for crying out loud, and all the while we feel a need for new furniture and a new television and a bigger house in the right neighbourhood. We drive around in a trance, salivating for Starbucks while that great heaven sits above us, and that beautiful sunrise is happening in the desert, and all those mountains out West are collecting snow on the limbs of their pines, and all those leaves are changing colors out East.
[of Las Vegas] This is a circus too heavy to travel.
I know it happens the way Paul says it happens because he doesn’t shift his eyes when he talks and his stories are never long.
Paul is better than me in this way. He can appreciate the person inside the persona. To him, people are more important than ideas… He has advanced further in altruism, which I have always considered to be a kind of emotional genius… When with Paul, one is confronted with the notion that life maybe much easier than the rest of us believe it is, and than things we worry about are not worth worrying about, that a low bank account or unfashionable clothes won’t give you cancer… It makes me feel that Paul gets it and we don’t – that if you live in a van and get up for sunrise and cook your own food on a fire and stop caring about whether your car breaks down or whether you have fashionable clothes or whether or not people do or do not like you, that you have broken through, that you have shut your ear to the bombardment of lies that never, ever stop whispering in your ear. And maybe this is why he seems so different to me, because he has become a human who no longer believes the commercials are true, which, perhaps, is what a human was designed to be… “You will feel what you were made to feel if you buy this thing I am selling”. But could the thing you were supposed to feel, the thing you and I were supposed to be, cost nothing? Paul seems to think so, or at least to act as if it were true… He doesn’t want to rifle through the sports page and make sure that the team he has associated with his ego is doing well. I don’t think he is trying to win anything at all. I just think he is he is trying to feel what a human is supposed to feel when he stops believing lies. And maybe when a person doesn’t buy the lies anymore, when a human stops long enough to realize the stuff people say to get us to part with our money often isn’t true, we can finally see the sunrise, smell the wetness of the Gulf breeze, stand in awe at a downpour no less magnificent than a twenty-thousand-foot waterfall, ten square miles wide. This is what I was made to do. This is who I was made to be, and life is being given to me as a gift, that light is a metaphor, and that God is doing these things to dazzle us.
Christian spirituality was not a children’s story. It wasn’t cute or neat. It was mystical and odd and clean, and it was reaching into dirty. There was wonder in it and enchantment.
…I want my spirituality to rid me of hate, not give me reason for it.
Dying for something is easy because it is associated with glory. Living for something is the hard thing. Living for something extends beyond fashion, glory, or recognition. We live for what we believe.
Everybody wants to be fancy and new. Nobody wants to be themselves. I mean, maybe people want to be themselves, but they want to be different, with different clothes or shorter hair or less fat. It’s a fact. If there was a guy who just liked being himself and didn’t want to be anybody else, that guy would be the most different guy in the world and everybody would want to be him.
The thing about new things is you feel new when you buy them, you feel as though you are somebody different because you own something different. We are our possessions, you know. There are people who get addicted to buying new stuff. Things. Piles and piles of things. But the new things become old things so quickly. We need new things to replace the old things.
I’ve got my eyes looking for snow like a child would for a deer after one had jumped across the road. I’m fixated by the idea of snow… People in Houston dream about it during winter. Winter is just summer with an ice cube and a straw. As a kid I’d always dreamed about living in a place where it snowed. I picked Maine on a map because it was as far north as you could go and still run for president… I notice a pile of snow a hundred feet away and walk over to examine it, coming to it slowly, a celestial carcass, like some angel shot out of the sky, falling to earth to glisten and melt.