The Matchbook Diaries


Civil War

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, most spiritual war is civil.  The peace of God is something people often exchange with one another, but peace is exceptionally rare.  I am a troublemaker, not a peacemaker.  When someone infringes on my family my reply is rarely meant to solve the problem.  Usually my reply intends to hurt the one I perceive as attacking, and, often, since their aggression is countered by mine, my replies escalate the conflict, dig it in deeper, widening the radii of pain. 

Vengeance is God’s territory, but it is one of my most frequent sins.  I relish the opportunity to attack, to demean, to humiliate, and I am exceptionally good at it.  The danger of hate games is that they don’t end, they reverberate, they curl up into a small, tight wad of mean thoughts and plans and then pop out to ruin a sunny morning or a blissful rainfall in an afternoon.  Then they do the work that the devil intends, they poison me.  My thoughts, which might have been revolving around some lovely pleasure, or some external delight, twist inward, immediately I tense up, and my mind, which was relatively relaxed, returns to its normal position, bracing, and maneuvering.

A piece of God lives in every conscious being on this and any other planet.  God’s vengeance is perfect and inescapable.  Mine damns me.  Peace, peace was never particularly appealing.  I grew up from the infancy amid my mother and father fighting over the breakfast table, which was scary, but I was being raped nightly by the time I was 3, and at that point my daily life was utter terror.  So the sheer thrill of hate, the menace of a pending fight, these are what I expect, what has been normalized for me.  Peace is incomprehensible, an insipid, distant concept with very little to recommend itself.  It’s not sexy.  It doesn’t appear to connect with my need for power.  When I think peace I think trickling streams, modest weather on a tin roof.  When I define myself I see violence, the vehement thrash of a wild ocean, the wide-eyed shock of an unexpected event.  I’m not a peacemaker.  I relish the chance to condemn.  I love to slam doors.  I love to call names, really mean names.  I love to turn my back on people and leave them forever.

And I’m tired.  The long term outcome of my troublemaking has been devastating.  When a new threat looms I develop a plan of attack….then I sit back and think, “OK, but if my intention is not to punish, but to resolve, what would I do?”  Drawing a blank there.  Conflict drives me, not peace.  I’m not looking for resolution.  I want to punish those who disappoint me.  I want to hurt those who hurt my family or me.

Why does God get to hoard vengeance?  Because it’s poison.  When I feast on it, which I have for 55 years, I’m expanding the center of death in my heart, giving it leverage, feeding my soul to it to gratify my lust for revenge.  A writer I’ve studied declares something like, “I’ve never met a mere mortal.”  Every conscious being is a piece of God.  When I attack, I attack God.  I will pay for those mistakes.

To be a peacemaker is to want peace, to value it.  Alas, I do not.  Just as I was once surprised that the reason I cannot sleep is because I’m not trying to sleep.  I’m trying not to sleep.  So now, the reason I do not connect with others is because I am not trying to connect, I’m trying to disconnect.  Because every night when I was tiny and my mother was raping me and talking violence to me at the same time, I was saying, in my head, “Please don’t hurt me.”  I said please.  I was politely asking for the rapist to not hurt me because I had no other defense.  I’ve spent the rest of my life with a stupendous chip on my shoulder proving how tough I am, what a stone bitch I can be.  And never once has that given me a moment of respite from the terror that lives in my heart from the past.  Never once.

God’s actions towards human beings in whatever format you choose are ultimately designed with peace in mind.  I want one thing more than I want revenge.  I want to be loved.  I want to feel God’s life shimmering in my soul, radiating, emanating.  In Ulysses, James Joyce imagines picking up one end of humanity’s umbilical cord and hollering into the tube like it’s a telephone, speaking through it as if my belly button was a spiritual black hole that put me in touch with Eve, with the maker of Eve.  Hiya, God, how’s it hanging?  There’s no need for a time breaching umbilical phone cord, we are talking to God directly every time we speak to ourselves and to another conscious being.

Warriors like me are not beautiful; not sexy.  It’s lonely.  In the end I’m on the bathroom floor night after night howling in pain, in shame, desperate for God to touch me, to be with me, and there God is, night after night, touching me, staying with me.  The longer I am saturated in the love of my Maker, the less I value the pleasure of hate, the less gratifying it is to walk out of that joy and into the cruel thrill of hate and rage.

It’s glamorous to be a peacemaker.  It’s languid, it’s nearly erotic to be able to forgive, to offer gorgeous resolution that is authentic and lasting – it feels good.  It’s a feast – I’m sooooooo rich, lemme toss you this priceless gift.  That’s how it actually feels.  It feels fabulous, like a martini in sunshine, like a mango, jalapeño margarita in the middle of the day in Lisbon.  What’s boring, what’s common and cheap and dull is troublemaking.  It’s incredibly easy to break shit.  Then you need a new relationship to break.  It’s profoundly satisfying to build shit, to connect stuff back together and make it effective and beautiful – that’s peacemaking.  The piece of God in me wants to hook up with the piece of God in you.  The evil that works against us wants to be sure we never reach through to each other.  The evil wants us to spend our whole lives hating each other and, best case, not even know why.  Then we hate ourselves right straight into hell.

Let’s don’t.