The Matchbook Diaries

Oil and water

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 dense of the two liquids.  Oil and vinegar are not a compound, only a mixture.  To fuse two things together you have to have a chemical reaction.  The human soul is a mixture, not a compound.  Discussion about redemption either directly, or, in more liberal circles, veers lightly towards the idea of someone becoming a “better” person. In no holy story I’ve studied is the human being ever made “better”.  In every holy story God does astronomical feats to reach us, not in the hope of making our lives better, but rather in the service of saving our lives.

It’s not about bad and good.  It’s about life and death.  When a person is relatively pure, usually in childhood, they have a lot of life in them.  They dare, they tell the truth, they believe, they show their heart.  Later, polluted by death, the person chooses comfort over adventure, convenience over integrity, money or power over faith, and façade instead of humanity.  It’s not worth discussing if an infant is pure, but, in general, people are more open hearted as children than as adults.   Children have more life in them, more “personality”, which is why children are so compelling, so easy to love.  I have to smile when I see a little person in public when I know they’ve been permitted to dress themselves.  In that moment you see the life in that person they’re wearing a tutu and rhinestones or wielding a pick ax and wearing a loincloth.  Stuck in a long queue the other day a little fellow whose nap was interrupted was itchy and bored and his momma told him to run up and down the ramp beside us.  He glanced up and me and revved his arms in cartoon style takeoff mode and said, importantly, “I’m a blur.”  OMG.  I’m just smitten with that child in the instant.

Marketing is my passion.  I absolutely love understanding why people attach themselves to a specific brand.   If you can get a customer when they are 12, you’re likely to have them for life.  The most valuable marketing segment is not the one with the most money, but rather the one with the most longevity.  So, for example, a person in their 20’s is far more lucrative than one in their 60’s.  The younger person has a lifetime of purchasing ahead.  This is only true because as death begins to impede the life in us, we stop being willing to change.

One way to wedge a brand into someone’s life is to hit them at their crossroad moments.  A person is much more likely to switch music preferences, perfume preferences, and even soap and cereal preferences when something monumental, bad or good, has happened.  So, if your customer has just graduated or lost a beloved person, if they’ve just gotten a first job or just been diagnosed with a serious permanent condition, if they’ve just gotten married or divorced, in those moments that person is susceptible to suggestion and innovation whereas in everyday life people rarely change. In these situations the person has had something with radical power enter their lives so you can sneak in a brand in those moments,  otherwise we are distressingly stagnant.

My son is into horror films.  Zombies are a big staple.  You have these disfigured, apparently soulless creatures stumbling about with no object in their empty minds.  The human being in a zombie film is reduced to un-living.  They are not making choices anymore.  Their humanity is erased.  They are like ghosts but are now driven cruelly, compelled to exist without choice or joy.  But zombies aren’t real.  We have choice; it’s all we have, really.

Choice is about life and death, not good and bad.  Bad brings death, good brings life, however, except in very, very rare cases the choice itself cannot be categorized as bad or good at the outset, but can definitively be categorized in the aftermath.  So the tipping point is not, is this good, which is very hard to discern, but rather, is life in this choice?

Because of my saturation in abomination, there is a great deal of death in me.  Hate pours readily out of me in any event where I feel scared or challenged.  The holy reply to these triggering situations is to choose to embrace rather than to strike.  When I see these events as opportunities to change the balance of death in me, I respond better.  I don’t give a shit about being good, and while people talk about that nebulous idea, I don’t think most people are motivated by that goal either.  I care a lot about life and death.  Life is effervescent, it’s illuminating.  Life is buoyant.   Life is my goal.  If that is true, then I will choose love over hate.  I will pray for people I hate.  I will stop masturbating with gratifying judgmental thoughts.  I will stop those habits because I seek to change the volume of death in me.

We are not capable of compound life.  We are, while here, a mixture of life and death.  In the end, though, life and death cannot be chemically combined; there is no version of the salad dressing suddenly becoming irreversibly intertwined.  God’s goal isn’t about making me good, which would be hopeless, but rather is about pumping life into me to combat the death that rages in my soul.  Redemption is a spiritual transfusion wherein my demon blood is infused with unicorn blood in the hope that I’ll stay attached to the tube long enough to fly before I reach the abyss.  So long as I’m clear about that I’m likely to choose love over hate.