Wow. I got out of bed earlier than usual with the thoughts a poppin'. Maybe it was a night of good sleep. I can rarely go to sleep without waking up at least a couple of times, followed by a walk into the kitchen for some water, and for the last several months, my current obsession with the expanding universe. Sleeping lately, has to be accompanied by the sounds of astronomers evangelically standing in fields of grass expounding on the complexities of the universe. I remember during my following Jesus, (the period I call The Jesus Days) for weeks on end, I would look in the paper to find evangelists who were in town and speaking at some little church, or sometimes in large auditoriums, healing the sick and poetically waxing on the virtues of following Jesus. The more extreme the meeting, the more satisfied I was. I remember once being in Blythe California at a Four Square Pentecostal church listening to an evangelist in Spanish and watching him knock people to the floor with a swoop of his hand. Several of them even hit the hard cement floor without benefit of catchers who would catch the fall as they were being slain in the spirit. It's interesting to think of these things now, and how at the time, I was really like a journalist who was willing to participate, as it all seemed like some strange exciting drama.
The most important experience I had in this regard was being at a retreat with the church that I was involved in. There was a man speaking named Dick Smith, who claimed that he was a prophet with the gift of knowledge. At first, things seemed tame enough, a blessing here or there as he laid his hands on a few people towards the front of the congregation. People had their hands in the air several were speaking in tongues. Suddenly, Dick Smith walked up the isle to where I was standing near the back and began to frighteningly speak in tongues. He walked straight up to me, laid both of his hands on my head and began a long and dramatic prophecy concerning the trajectory of my life if I followed Jesus. A large group of the congregation also gathered around me as this dramatic prophecy unfolded. He told me that thousands of lost souls would come to the knowledge of Jesus through my words. He declared me an evangelist, and that I should go into the desert and consecrate myself.
Now logic would reason that perhaps these unusual events would have led me into the desert for a life of saving souls and preaching the gospel. Contrarily, it had the opposite effect. It was shortly after that my faith began to falter, and that for many reasons. It was actually, the beginning of the crisis of my faith to follow this particular path. Now I've looked back often at that particular event, and I suppose reasoned that there was indeed a certain evangelical quality to my personality, but if it did anything, it began to open my eyes to the hypocrisy of religion, and within the culture, like any society, a penchant for the celebrity for those who were deemed, gifted. I went from just being treated as one of the pack, to someone with great expectations. The great expectations didn't materialize as I began reading my way out of the fundamentalist thinking. I never really left the church, but I did find it in the theatre where the ideas of faith, folly, and philosophy did not always have the same plot. I suppose in the theatre I've been sort of like a circuit preacher, carrying the message of ideas to the small buildings and rooms on the outskirts of towns and villages depending on the kindness of strangers.
As I've recently began analyzing my writing, mostly the plays, I can see the influence that these dramatic gospel times had in my writing—from shock to God, and now I suppose, to the universe. I suppose the continuance of looking for the answers to being human and what it all means has finally forced me to leave the earth and humanity, and look deeply into the cosmos for answers to the questions that I seek. So, my new evangelists are these scientists and astronomers who are searching for meaning and reason millions of light years away. What would it mean if we were suddenly confronted with a solar system with life abounding in a far away place? What if heaven was merely another planet on the other side of the universe? When I listen to these astronomers and scientists talk about these discoveries, I get the same feelings I used to get when a great evangelist would come to town. My only concern is that perhaps my penchant for the far reaches of the universe is tied to an early exit, and that is where I must be careful. Perhaps the innocence and belief in mankind has become more and more jaded the longer I live, and that subconsciously, I'm increasingly disgusted in the way we treat each other.
I am coming closer, however, to learning and beginning to write about love again, as I experience the void that the lack of it seems to teach. Oddly, in a time of feeling a deep sense of loss, it's my dog who has given me back the simple nature of it. This morning, as I was getting my coffee, walking outside, getting ready to write, she was following me around, forever trying to catch my eye. She follows me from room to room, tilts her head when I speak to her as if she is understanding everything I say. It's interesting to have such an unexpected experience of deciding to find an animal to take care of and love, you begin to realize that they are really taking care of you, and teaching you something that you needed to learn. Perhaps she can teach me the nature of someday sharing this same connection with a human being. Every morning I write, she lies serenely at my feet, and knows that support is what I need. A thousand prophets singing of the universe could not even begin to speak of it, one simple and constant act. Wow.
Reading through this short essay, it occurs to me that we should not be afraid of seeking out new experiences. When I went obsessively to hear the great evangelists of the world, I had no thought of what people would think of me—I wanted answers and was willing to seek them. You can't walk into an auditorium of sick people wanting to be well and watch someone attempt to heal them without being moved. Each thing we do is an act of faith. I don't ever feel contempt for these people who are willing to step out and try to heal someone, the contempt I feel is the mixture of capitalism and religion. As religion continues to permeate our political system, its evident to me that money really is the source of evil, and its very easy for one to succumb to it from an innocent genesis. However, just because you realize these things, don't ever stop seeking for the answers. The answers may be as hazy as a quasar spewing gas five billion light years a way, but the thought of it, the movement of it, can give you hope for another day. There are charlatans in every field, blight in every eye, but to see through the window even dimly, is sometimes enough.