The Matchbook Diaries
Beginning when I was 3 years old I was raped and tortured nightly by my mother. I lived alone with my mother for ten years. By the time I was 13, I’d been raped more than 3,000 times. I learnt to trust no one. I learnt that horrific things happen. The following ten years I lived in rich households dominated by emotionally violent women and alcohol addicted men. I witnessed suicide and literal insanity. From the beginning I was fucked.
The events of my life drove me into a lifelong study of redemption. My diaries offer one perspective on the use of faith as a way to harvest power, dignity, freedom, and peace. I disguise nothing. There are horrors that were emphatic catalysts in my drive to find and to articulate real redemption. I’m not selling books, building churches, raising money, or running for office. I’m revealing what I know about recovery because I’ve spent my entire life doing nothing but art and God.
Not everyone is interested in the things that fascinate and enchant me, but looking at the world as I do, I see a lot of human pain, collective and individual. Many people would like to stop hurting. I know a great deal about that process.
God has never disappointed me. I have lived in the Middle East, in China, in the islands of the Pacific, and in Africa. I have spent my entire life studying holy stories and philosophies. I am a Jewish Christian, but I claim no monopoly on words for God. It’s monumentally absurd to think that if you call God up on the phone, God won’t answer unless you use the right name or pronoun. Jesus is the lens I use, but I will not use that name in these diaries as it is a stumbling block for millions.
The name I use for God is God, without gender, without attachment to any faith. I’m an artist and I’m an evangelist. I sell my art, but I give my faith away. I’ve always run GypsyFaith this way. From the beginning I sold matchbook magnets but right along side of that process I wound up talking to customers about faith.
I sell God my own way. I don’t make anything pretty that isn’t. I am fanatically devoted to what I understand about truth and beauty. My intention is to distribute freedom, power, and peace and to overthrow the tyranny of self destruction.
Redemption does not look a certain way externally. Redemption is not service or lifestyle; it’s not about who you love, how you vote, or what you eat and drink, and it’s not about going backwards in history. Redemption is the power of the truth, the power of tolerant love. The hallmark of one who really knows God is humanity. Upon opening this diary you’ll discern instantly if it is of any use to you. May God bless your life; may you know and believe that you are a child of God, beloved beyond price, and of infinite value.
No matter how many times you shake the oil and vinegar salad dressing it will only stay combined long enough for you to drape it onto your salad. Then the dressing segregates itself again; the oil posts itself atop the vinegar where it claims permanent resting place as the less CONTINUE >
Pettiness is a luxury. In Tanzania you almost never, and I do mean never, see a child have a temper tantrum. Wealthy Tanzanian children of the elite who shop in grocery stores where I shop, those children have them continuously, but the children in the streets, they don’t complain. My CONTINUE >
Several decades ago in a dream I summoned the devil. The devil answered my summons, appearing at light speed. I was stunned. I sent the spirit away but during that same dream summoned the devil again, and a second time the same reply occurred. I sent the spirit away a CONTINUE >
William Blake wrote The Marriage of Heaven and Hell – what a bold fucking thing to say, much less to define!
When I am in agony I say, often loudly and incessantly, “I know you are here with me. I know you are here…” I say it over and over again CONTINUE >
There are two kinds of wars, ones where you are trespassed upon by a foreign nation, and ones where the trespass is internal. When you are little you’re likely to sustain a foreign war. After that time most spiritual war is civil. The peace of God is something people often CONTINUE >
The war is always between my ego and my heart. My heart is the bravest thing there is in this world. It’s bigger than any nuclear bomb, bigger than any billion man army of hate. My ego is the shit clinging to me. I try to wipe off the stench CONTINUE >
I have lived as a stranger in a strange land for much of my life. My son has done so for all of his life. Expatriatism certainly lends a unique perspective; there are the moments of glamour, when you wind up getting shit faced with friends whilst eating oysters on CONTINUE >
Wanting and loving are not the same. Wanting is what a child feels when he sees a toy at the store, his lust for it is almost painful. He needs it, must have it. He wails. He lurches from the little basket where he is pinned. When he cannot have CONTINUE >
In movies people chase one-of-a-kind substances required to save a galaxy. But in holy stories the substance or approach used by a true prophet lacks theatricality. You get to the part where the holy person is making the big, splashy move and oh, – the person asks for a handful CONTINUE >
Quality of life is determined hour by hour, moment by moment. We enter this realm with three tools: freedom (will), time (life), and heart (passion). How do you make decisions? Do you make them based on profit (social, fiscal, professional)? Do you make them based on comfort (pleasure, freedom-from)? Do CONTINUE >
I have been to remote monasteries in Nepal, to centuries-old churches in the snowy forests of Romania. I’ve been to jungle shrines on a tiny island in Thailand. I’ve been to dozens of temples in a small city in India, as well as to many holy places in China, Vietnam, CONTINUE >
People are differing cocktails of fire and ice. You meet both ends of that spectrum. My best friends tend to be in the ice category. They would tell you without hesitation I’m all fire. At the core of every version of faith you find the same balance, fire and ice. CONTINUE >
You know when love begins. You feel a surge in your heart, maybe you clutch your chest or your throat, or maybe you smile to yourself in a knowing manner, secretly, suddenly, aware. Then it can feel like you are tumbling, skidding, but the fall is unavoidable. You are “in” CONTINUE >
In every holy text I’ve studied there is a universal theme – if you are faced with an impossible situation, the constructive and most accurate path is to proceed at your own expense. Those crossroads routinely come in small ways. However, there are times when I know I’m on a CONTINUE >
When there is a very big problem, one that effects the lives of millions, there is a way to address it meaningfully and forcefully through prayer. When there is a pernicious, persistent, slippery personal issue, the same is true. Prayer is often referenced, but it is referenced as a last CONTINUE >
God laments that it is nearly impossible for a rich person to enter heaven. I, a rich person by any measure, live in a city of 7 million of desperately poor people.
To say life is hard for those 7,000,000 people is to understate the matter.
There is about 86% unemployment here. CONTINUE >
I savor contempt the way people savor wine. I hold it in my mouth, move it around with my tongue, feel it, linger over it, and swallow the poison. When I was too young to fight back, I did not fight back. I’ve made up for it ever since. Whilst CONTINUE >
When there is excessive suffering there is an instinctive desire to get out of the pain. By excessive I mean substantial trauma over a period of years and years, not the kind of minor or even major irritations that are part of daily life. It’s particularly hard to navigate long-term CONTINUE >
The application of a label escalates and facilitates positive or negative connotations to almost everything. A common strategy for those seeking attention is to boldly connect with a label and then to slide publicly to extreme end of that label. A label is not alive. A label nearly always implies CONTINUE >
Children and animals are charming because they are themselves. Animals remain unselfconscious for their lifetime, so, whilst they loose the cuteness that they have in their infancy, they retain their enchanting authenticity forever. Years and years ago I was in some swanky downtown area of Palm Beach with my Uncle CONTINUE >
Faith is the opposite of magic. Magic is a violation of the limitations we believe exist – I am not interested in determining the value/truth of illusion for the sake of profit or entertainment. Wishful thinking leads to a desire for magical outcomes, ways to avoid the conditions required. Faith CONTINUE >
In the face of intolerable injustice, my instinct is war. Had I not been a warrior I’d be either a crack whore or dead. The problem with being a warrior is that most situations call for finesse that I have the maturity to glean, but not the will to exercise. CONTINUE >
Going public about faith I feel how it must feel for someone else who comes “out of the closet” about something they are. I think this is how it must be to admit something you know will be judged, misinterpreted, flung back, or rejected. Most public pronouncements of faith are CONTINUE >
In a shipping container on our land in north Maine I found a handmade sign that reads “I love you more”. The letters had been crudely cut from plywood and then attached to a spare piece CONTINUE >
I was blurry when I was coughed up into adulthood. I was a muddle, a sort of odd conglomerate of myself and many adopted mannerisms and behaviors that I’d attached to CONTINUE >
Summers in high school my father flew us to New York from Texas so he could race his sailboat at the Babylon Yacht Club on Long Island. He won nearly every single race. If you win the national championship, get three chevrons on your mainsail. My father had those three CONTINUE >
Because of what happened to me, anytime I feel close to someone or something ugly, I am terrorized. Ugly is intolerable; it’s torture. As a child I was connected to something ugly. My mother once reprimanded me severely for asking her a question she disliked. She picked me up from CONTINUE >
Two years after my mother died, I felt compelled to buy and to watch several seasons of the old TV show NYPD Blue. I do not watch TV, but the compulsion was strong to do this. So while I did my design work, I vaguely watched the shows. I wasn’t CONTINUE >
I repeatedly dreamt I was in public without underpants on. In childhood I was required to spread my legs widely every night, and then they were held down while my mother performed long sessions of oral sex on me. I was not allowed to move or to speak. I would CONTINUE >
I’ve watched The Gambler like 20 times (approximately). It’s about the fuck-you position, the position of being unencumbered and un-mastered.
The philosopher-loan-shark in The Gambler says this, The wise man’s life is based around ‘fuck you’. The United States of America is based on ‘fuck you’. You’re a king? You have CONTINUE >
A few days after my boys leave for Qatar, I uncover why my mother is stuck and broke. The long term, legal tenants on my mother’s Montauk estate, Joe, who found me, and Mark who helped me continually, tell me about Dusan. Yes, that’s his real name. I did not CONTINUE >
In my guest powder room I have a sign I handpainted. I got this tin pig cut-out for free someplace, so I covered it in pink roses, and along the top I wrote one of my favourite lines of all time, “One charming motherfucking pig.”
When we moved from the richest CONTINUE >
In the US, particularly in high end retail environments, smiles are hard, eyes are fierce or averted, parking lots are war zones, and people dart around one another with a veneer of politeness that frequently tips into competition or flight. CONTINUE >
Chapter 4: Tsui- Gathering Together, Massing: “Through the collective piety of the living members of the family, the ancestors become so integrated in the spiritual life of that family that it cannot be dispersed or dissolved.” – from I Ching the 45th gua
Twink’s heart sees him coming before he CONTINUE >
Chapter 3: Hsű – Nourishment: “The height of wisdom is to allow people enough recreation to quicken pleasure in their work until the task is completed.” – from I Ching the 5th gua
Reno Hobbes moved into the space Moses arranged for her in Venice Beach, but she spent most of CONTINUE >
When the damage from the past is incomprehensible, the byproduct is that our own behavior becomes such. We can’t control our self-destructive behavior because the fuel for that fire, the catalyst for it, is shrouded. I do a lot of weird shit because of what happened to me. I find CONTINUE >
Chapter 2: Shi-hooHo- Biting Through: “The man who makes the decisions is gentle by nature, while he commands respect by his conduct in his position.” – from I Ching the 21st gua
We all met in primary school, me and Andre, Rock, Johnny, the twins Jax and Wheezy, Simon, and Kinch. CONTINUE >
I decided to write a pop novel articulating God as I understand God. This project has been a side project for me for more than 5 years. I have had a lot of fun with this, and if you enjoy this sort of fiction, then you can read it if CONTINUE >
Raped nightly at the age of 3, life was scary so I ran. I sprinted into imaginary hyperspace. My soul remained frozen in my mother’s bedroom, trembling in horror, self-talking in quiet triples: “Help, help, help.” Every night until I was 13 my body was forced to return. But when CONTINUE >
I have a lot of grieving to do. The agony hits me night after night. Once in a while, I have CONTINUE >
In Southampton, in my mom’s room, is gray haired old woman. I say, “No, I’m looking for my mother.” Then I realize it is my mother. She turns and looks up at me from her bed beside the window with the expression of someone who is used to being surrounded CONTINUE >
I ferreted out a fellow Jewish New Yorker in an airport once when I was leaving Miami for Dar. I’d been alone, away from my family, to fetch supplies for a summer trek and a NY accent really gets my attention. So I started to talk with him. The time CONTINUE >
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time thinking about hell. Hell is the place God is not. In Hell, the luxury afforded here, the luxury of avoiding the real, is gone. Hell is eternity faced with oneself without mitigation.
My mother is there now. CONTINUE >
We live overseas and have for decades. My son, who is 13, has never lived in the United States. Expats are fond of saying that we’re all running from something. At a party once a woman told me CONTINUE >
When I was a terrorized child I told myself, “No one knows. No one knows.” At the time this expression partly reassured me that I was unexposed. My secret life of shame was not public. I comforted myself by acknowledging this fact. There was a second, important message in my CONTINUE >