The Matchbook Diaries

Navigation by Velveteen Rabbits

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 you make them based on safety (professional, fiscal, physical)?  None of those are compass points; these three biggies are all Masters seeking slaves.  You see it all the time, people consistently making choices based on one or all of those considerations.  Are they, above all else, free?  Nah.  They are the opposite of free.

At the end of my father’s life he had lots of Rolexes, lots of cars, lots of houses, a few million in cash, and a few boats.  I watched him begging for mercy all the time, begging for mercy from the miserable master he chose.  My dad died still sure that if he could just have gotten hold of a little bit more money he’d finally feel better.  Instead he died of liver cancer at the age of 63; he died with a flourish, as he did with most things.  It was so pathetic that it was very hard to watch, but I did.  I watched him die.  It took a little more than a week.   My mother believed she was in charge.  She was sure she was, even when she was sitting in a pile of her own feces in an unheated Montauk estate.   My mother was sure that her limitless willingness to lie would be enough to insulate her from trouble.  I watched my mother die in a darkened hospice room where I’d just moved her when they advised me that she had absolutely no chance of recovery.

Nothing saves anyone from trouble, or pain, or aggravation, or loss, or chaos.  Lying can’t do it, money can’t do it either.

And God won’t do it.  God is annoyingly unattached to our safety, privacy, comfort, sleep time, and bank account.

What are you aiming for?  People think they can make choices.  But do they even know what they want?  Or do they only know what they don’t want?  The problem is, people rarely listen to their hearts once they reach puberty.   Once social consciousness kicks in, the real slavery begins.

The heart leads.  Nothing else leads.

Our heads, our genitals, our bodies, they follow.  The heart is the only leader we have.  The heart starts us on a path and we begin to whine about comfort.  We start complaining about being broke, or afraid, or lonely.  We start saying we don’t know how.  We say it hurts, that it doesn’t make sense, that there’s no way to make money doing it, that it’s suicide.  The heart says, “Yeah, so?” We demand a guarantee then, insurance.  We say, “Tell me ahead of time it’s all going to work out.”  Then the heart does not deign to reply at all.  In the stony silence we sit, shaking our heads.   So then we amp it up, work ourselves into some kind of tantrum or coma, either way on that spectrum.  Then, if we give in, the only real leader we have has been sidelined and the other Masters step in with the hideous, ravenous grins that only demons summon.

The secret ingredient to utter joy is utter detachment to any particular outcome; the path to joy is a relentless attachment to what you love.  What brings a secret knowing smile to your face?  What has always fascinated you before all the bullshit starting raining down?  What do your daydreams tell you?  God is not in the business of stamping out risk; God is, above all else, a gambler.  How do I know?  Because I have the right, God gave me the right to choose.  No one, whilst I am here in this realm, no one can stop me from doing anything.  At all.  No matter what it is I want to do, I can do it.  I might be killed, or die, or there may be some other outcome.  But, right now, there is literally no limit on me.  That’s how I know God gambles.  God gambles that love is more powerful than the masters that sidle around obsequiously flattering, lying, or threatening.  God gambles that at least one person in every hundred, or one in every million, or one in every one hundred million will figure that out and act on it.

When I was 13 and in the initial stages of puberty I decided I’d be a writer.  I wanted to be a writer because I love stories and the truth.  But mainly, I wanted to be a writer because no one sees a writer.  That was the secret lust that perverted me.  If no one ever saw me, no one would rape me again.  I am not a writer.  I do not love to write, at all.  I love the idea of writing.  It comforted me.  I scripted all kinds of lovely fantasies about what life would be like when I was a successful writer.  All of those filthy, slimy ideas were based on my terror, my sheer, ripe, horror at being connected in any literal way with any person at all.  Writing would let me remain utterly alone, anonymous, faceless.  I suck as a writer.  Absolutely suck.  I applied all the leverage my very clever head and my kind of big wallet allowed and not once did my writing ever get anywhere at all.  There was no life in that pathway.  It was a dead end.  Now when I write for my website I literally have to force myself to sit down when some truth hits a tipping point and I can’t help it.  But I sure as hell know it’s not going to “sell”.  What I write now is only what I know, and to me it’s worth what I paid for it, which is everything.  But if you don’t want to pay for it, cool, cause I’m giving it away for free!

What did I love really?  I love God.  I love the truth, I can’t help myself.  I literally consume every book, every film, every song I find that my heart tells me is true and real.  Oh my God!  I love songs, books, films, pictures.   And I love saving things.  I love seeing into something, seeing in it what it might be if it were liberated from its current state of abandonment or decay.  I love anything with a long history.  I treasure things with so much life in them (Velveteen Rabbits), things that had been touched, handed from one person to another.  I love things; I have several houses full of them.  I don’t have fancy things.  I just have things I love.  I see no profit in this.  But I cannot help myself, even when I was 13 I started collecting.  That was my heart.  The trouble with my real passions were that they put me on a social collision course.

People thought my faith was amusing, or provincial, or idiotic.  People thought my collections were weird, or adorable, or too useless to even form an opinion.  I did not want to be an artist and I sure as shit did not want to be an evangelist.  I’ve met so many wanna-be artists and evangelists, the latter being people who are sooooooooooooooooooooooooo keen to talk about God with authority, so keen to model their moral superiority, the former being people super excited to show how special they are with their exotic, or clever, or erudite, or countercultural, or provocative or educated art.  Puh-leeeeeeze.

Wee hints about what you love:  if it’s gratifying, it’s not your heart.  Your heart doesn’t give two shits about what feels good.  Your heart could not give one single fuck about what you want or what you need.  If it’s talking, it’s your head or your dick or your family.  Your heart won’t talk.  No.  Your heart will insist.  It will persist, long after you think you’ve ripped it out, shut it down, you’ll feel it alive in you insisting goddamn it, fucking persisting.  Your heart is recklessly brave, brave unto bankruptcy.

There are so many holy stories about brash behavior.  Someone, you, perhaps, banging on a remote neighbor’s door in the middle of the night.  Finally the guy inside gets up since you won’t stop banging on the door.  He gets to the door and, without unlocking it says, “Shut the fuck up, asshole.  Or I’ll whip out my trusty Glock and fucking shoot you!”  And what do you do?  Balls of motherfucking titanium, you fucking knock again. OMG.  Yep.  And what happens?  The guy on the other side gives up, unlocks the door, and gives you, you fucking pain-in-ass, whatever the hell you want.  That’s your heart.  You can’t make it shut up.  You don’t have that authority.  Your heart is your Leader with a capital L.  You don’t get to usurp that role; you can try all you want.  It’s categorically impossible.  The heart will just keep plugging away.  You have one Leader and then millions of iterations of demons begging to be your master.

The holy stories about impertinent, relentless insistence remind me of the summer we spent hiking in Sweden.  The lights never went out since we were above the Arctic Circle.  And so, me, I normally have terrific trouble sleeping because of what happened to me.  Now, there we were and it was fucking freezing, and the lights never go out and we are in tents.  Anyhow, the first or second of 39 nights I wake up and God only knows what time it is – ’cause it looks like 11am 24 hours a day.  But I wake up because there is a bird, and that bird is singing.  Normally I love birdsong.  But in Sweden they have Cuckoo birds.  Oh my God.  So I’m like, hearing, “Cuckoo.  Cuckoo.  Cuckoo….”  Shut the fuck – Cuckoo.  It’s an interrupting bird, FFS.  Then I’m crazed with irritation and I’m in my head saying, “Shut the fuck up or I’m –  Cuckoo.”  It interrupts me.  Then, I move into apocalyptic stage, still lying there in my sleeping bag.  I’m daring it, I’m saying, in my head, “Don’t even – Cuckoo, CUCKOO….”  I writhed.  Seriously.  And then I thought, because I was just so tired from the massive hiking we were doing which was so far beyond my comfort level as to be well into the absurd category  – I thought, “I’m gonna go outside this tent and I’m gonna find me a rock and I’m going to kill that…CUCKOO.”  It interrupted me again and then I realized – first – ain’t no way I’m finding a rock under what – 3 meters of snow?  And, second, if I did, do I have the precise aim to hit a fucking BIRD that’s probably 60 meters away in a tree?  (In the background of this thought was that I don’t even know what a Cuckoo bird looks like.)  And thirdly, as if I needed a third – am I actually going to kill something just because the song it sings sounds like an idiotic word to me?  That’s your heart in a nutshell.  It gives not one squirt of piss if you are atomically annoyed.  It’ll just keep incessantly, relentlessly insisting, and, worse, it is not even mildly, not evenly SLIGHTLY deterred by any violence you attempt or threaten.

God is a shepherd who leads sheep.  If you are being driven, God isn’t your leader.  Your heart is that bit of God that was installed in you when you were miraculously conceived in the heart of holiness.  When life was first breathed into you, that first breath, that was love, that first piece of you, the thing that ignited you, that was love.  Let it lead you.  Don’t be a slave.  Follow only that one butterfly path, hither and yon, scrambling here and there.  Oh my, what a heavenly life you will lead, the moment you begin.