The Journeymen

This is the opening to a novel which is bouncing around the inside of my skull:

A pair of lines.  Running not quite parallel.

                These are the things you notice at first.  It takes a minute for them to resolve.  There are sidewalks flanking the lines.  This is how you figure out is a road.

                It is not foggy.  Or blurry.  It is almost foggy-blurry, here, but it is not quite that.  It is more like living an illustration, a place where the details are only hinted at by the illustrator in the hopes that the imagination will furnish the rest.

                There is a figure down the road, walking toward you.  He is still far away.  In a few minutes, he will be in the circle of  pale yellow, so perfectally round it looks like a cookie cutter stamped it out of the blackness.  It comes from the street light that is nearly directly across from you. 

                His walk is slow and methodical.  He is undeniably heart broken.  You ask yourself how you can know that, from just the way he holds himself, just the way his slow strides gradually eat up the distance between him and you.

                Have you ever thought about that cliché?  Heart broken?

                Here is living proof of a reality behind the words.  This boy-man is broken, deeply broken.  He is past a point of tears, of surrender, of giving up.  In the way he walks, there is something deeper than resignation.

                If you can watch such a thing and you do not wonder what might cause this to happen, perhaps there is something broken within your own heart.  That, though, is not the story we are here to hear.  We are here for the story of what happens next, after the heart break.

                He walks slowly.  As he nears that pool of light, you begin to suspect something subtle is changing.  It brings to mind that painting, The Ascent of Man, but only if that painting had shown man and his ancestors not just walking in a line but slowly transforming one into the other.

                But it is not some evolutionary progression being passed, ever so slowly, here.  It is age.  If he was barely a teen ager at that far end of the street, then now, as he crosses into the light, he is a young man.

                He does not agnowledge you as he passes by this place.  He walks on.

                He seems to be still-aging slowly.   He is lanky now, perhaps in his early twenties.  The point at which he should have stopped growing.

                Look closer, would you?  You will see that he is not growing at all.  At first you might think that the setting he walks into, that generic suburban landscape is shrinking.  But if you were to look closer still, you might find that this is not right, either.

                There is the breeze.  Not a breeze.  Not a specific breeze.  It is, like the rest of this place, an archetype, not specific.  A breeze in the abstract.  It makes the noises a breeze should make, and yet, there is something else.

                It is carrying words.  The words become clearer as you focus on them, as though tuning a radio station.

                “Perspective lines are straight lines, drawn at an angle from the edges of objects, back into space.”  You look to the sides of the road again.  Those first lines you recognized here.  “Finally, those lines converge at the horizon line.”

                “The horizon line.   It is a fool’s errand to chase after it.  It would be like a shadow trying to catch the object that casts it.  The horizon line moves with us, keeping an equal distance, forever away.”

                And as you hear the strange words, this pseudo-lecture, you see that the figure is not growing and the setting is not shrinking.  Instead, what is happening is this: the young man, nearing middle age, he is gaining on the horizon line itself.   He will reach that point where the almost-paralell lines converge.

                And what then?

                It is a terrible impossibility.  Unnatural in the deepst sense imaginable.  You wish that you did not have to be a witness to something like this, I think. 

                He is there now.   It doesn’t seem like  he should be, but he is.

                It hurts the eyes to look at this.  No, it hurts somewhere deeper than the eyes.  It is all wrong as he steps up and over the place where the lines meet.  He steps past the horizon line.  And mercifully, you won’t have to see him anymore.


                But I want to tell you what happens next.

                A man stands before a canvas with a brush.  He is impossibly solid, unimaginably real and concrete.

                His brown and wiry hair is thinning.  He is not an attractive man.  His skin is blotchy and his nose is too big for his face.    His white smock is splattered with paints.  A first impression, before one quite realizes that they are looking at the man, is of a clown.

                But his demeaner belies this image.  His profile is to the heart broken man.  He is absorbed in the painting.  The painting is of the street the heart broken man has just left.  ‘

                The artist turns slowly.  There is fear in his eyes as he sees the other man.

                “You” he says.  His voice is familiar.  It is the voice that was carried on the wind.  “You can’t be here.”

                And then, the heart broken man was gone.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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