Stop short I must. Because despite my zeal to write them, speak them to you, I realize my words appear to effect an attack on all things you apparently still hold dear, using examples of verbal exchange that you may not even remember given our difference in ages which may have been the measurement of what sanctioned our friendship in the first place. Young and impressionable minds of a certain stature soak up much that a mature busier mind tosses off in a fleeting moment as general knowledge perhaps unaware of the intensity with which the uninitiated might be paying attention. Couple that with the genuine urge to teach which was your passion, and we have an immediate imbalance. I may have been a fool, but I am nobody's fool. With each passing year I am still astonished by others as they recall something I have apparently said to them, invariably almost in passing, and yet the impact on their lives is alive and vital to their own surviving calculus.
Fortunately, we have the madcap antics of Christ and his disciples to clear us of any whims we might have of linguistic perfection. The needling paradox of Christ as I see it now, is that however plain it might be to us that Jesus Christ is the Word, words almost never suffice in explaining one’s faith in God to others, to oneself, or especially to rogue fictional character pushing for an importance that not for the taking. Perhaps here I might insert a poem I wrote in Corpus in 1982 as I struggled among various underpinnings of faith in religion, in myth, or in anything available to mind and intuition proved only by mass acceptance and repetition. A favorite definitive effort:
DIED IN MY MOUTH
A silent tongue unravels the strangling noose,
Its path, unheralded by truce.
Odd scratched and scribbled graffitti,
Peacemaking my splintered head,
Ballets in dizzy nymph
Arousing the needy.
A parlor hunger, birds unfed.
My mind, a blank page.
My head leaps as a small frog,
There is no comfort.
The nothingness crowd is quoted no more,
Altared but undevoted they pay by nod.
My mind, a cluttered page.
My head sleeps as a burnt ephemeral log,
There is no comfort.
(Yet told around gracious Sin Avenue
camp fires spotting downtown Machinery Row
to the lilies laughing over a fine glass
of the best Napolean brandy
noonday dollars never doubt
where sheer distance is divided by
voteless cog, the mist of democracy
is seen reflecting upon our names
an appointed fog grazing upon
the tracks of method....)
And the saint thus
Spoke scantily to the prophet:
"He who demoralizes another
"Can claim no morality for himself."
To this the prophet said nothing, but
He knew in part the saint
For a shanty fool.
(And the unfed,
Left to perish among
The unwelcome, left to ravish
The beauty of beast, and the beast
Of beauty, established
Many fine logics.)
I fell blank at such a formula—
Asses built on caged numbers observed,
Deserved and dirty word reserved
For quaint molecules and family,
Where my occupation is a gift to anyone
Stroking along fishy fables,
Mentality tables, cradled
Images, daisies, nightsies,
I am the yellow sheep
I can’t earn my keep
Proving the fallibility of this text
World without maps
World without worldliness
My mind, an accurate page.
My head keeps to its own symbol,
There is no comfort.
I wonder what proof died in my mouth.
In Corpus Christi I lived in a tiny garage apartment measuring eight feet wide by twenty feet deep. Painted a heavy pink like the main house, it was comfortable and private. My landlord lived with his elderly mother up front in the rather small big house. Don Allard Gottselig was first generation German American. His parents, both career telephone company employees, had immigrated to Corpus to escape Adolf Hitler in the 1930s although his father had been deceased for several years before I arrived on the scene. Over the course of a very complicated year, Gottselig became my third and final mentor on the basis on his admitted inability to pigeonhole me, or figure me out, as he said he prided himself on just such a spirit of discernment. His early quip that at age 25 I was going through a premature mid-life crisis, immediately caught my attention.
During those gritty twenty months of wandering through Corpus Christi on an unrehearsed cavort to crack the code reinforcing heaven on earth it was indeed my sound pleasure to learn that not only do lean rigorous Nazarene theologians, boorish Appalachian coal miners, big city unreformed lawyers, zealous vegetarians on the supper take, millionaire ballplayers mopping up life on a single talent, culinary specialists with an eye for the spices, steel-hardened biker broad roughnecks laboring on an icy rig out in the Gulf of Mexico, top shelf economists stuck on desk duty, foul-mouthed construction workers, brainscorched rock & roll lemmings, dinosaur poets in search of the perfect metaphor, early shore race-threatening Connecticut yankees, Alabama rednecks, 20th century negroes in search of the lost dynasty, and let’s not forget the well-defended forts of snowdrop women of all cuts and reward, and children of every coinage from sea to shining sea, all speak in their own peculiar jargon, genre-busting the human identity, each group ceding a language built and maintained for the esoteric control of the situation at hand to its own groomed members, so yes it can be stated simply and securely that not only do all of the abovebut alasalso goeth the homosexual underworld into a language of their own making. And I do not find that amazing in the least.
This knowledge of God however chiseled deep gorges of restraint into my very being and I found myself unable to preach, unpersuaded that I might be right about anything great or small, and I suddenly knew myself to be a relativist, a solipsist, a sightseer thwarted in my desire to point fingers and lay blame on the state of things in conflict. All arguments could be justified, and who was I to state emphatically my own special warping of facts filtered through the prism of eternity’s pulp? But on the upside of things, from within this mix of spiritual release and mortal confusion, after five convulsive years of great visceral strife I was finally able to shake off the yoke of textbook fear that the Jehovah Witnesses had been so successful in grafting onto me. That fear was truer than feathers on a chicken. My journey into the claims of God versus the claims of Man was not ended but had barely begun as my true nature under God became linked with the testament of my contemporary times.
In this light I am reminded of my last visit to Houston some evening when you took me to a businessman Christian's meeting, an odd appellation I thought, but I was there with you to give them a shot. Gathered in a fine house full of genuine, nice-looking, smiles a mile folk offering gracious hors d’oeuvres, an ecclesiastic folksinger on acoustic guitar and an opening prayer conducted in these same warbling unfamiliar tongues I had also witnessed at Oral Roberts, and despite all my research, I considered mere syllabic automation, basically, a hoax. My own sense of well-being was instantly corrupted when two or three interpreters, straight from the urging of the spirit, such as it was, had to remind the holy there gathered that "outward appearance was not what was important but that which was on the inside, and that one should overlook..."
Instead of presuming flattery or favor that I was being "accepted" I felt chafed and slandered. Hearing that mature born again christians still had to pray themselves conscious of such a fundamental principle as hair length on a male was preposterous to me. That folk-singer on stage surely didn't arrive by way of the Gregorian chanters or the John Wesleyan devotional hymn school of praising the lord in song. No, he stole the style from long-hairs and colored folks, but cut his hair short to meet his Maker's will, or something like that. And the colored church music I sat outside an old shack Baptist church in Darien to hear, not unlike Jerry Lee and Jimmy, was not exactly what I call devotional. It was ecstatic. George, you prepared me to understand that these people were no ordinary life-long churchgoing frontrow hypocrites the stereotype depicts, but rather, seasoned lambs of Christ girded in faith, bubbling with joy, repackaged shakers and movers, apostles of self-confidence, full of zest in their relationship with the Lord and oh so financially successful according to their firebrand challenge to the sowing and reaping doctrine, and oops—perhaps this is where spiritual blindness was allowed to seep in. A doctrine based on financial success leaves little room for the sheepskin and sackcloth crowd. This cash cow for believers concept however, is an Americanized doctrine, yet somehow, it does not really seem to cure what ails us, but certainly seems to open up huge languishing holes for watershed grievances to take root.
There is much to explore here but I would rather treat fiscal matters later when the chronology permits. I just didn’t want to leave out such an important event, a veritable public enzyme supercharging the reaction of my spiritual molecule, so to speak. Fully aware that any and all of these fleeting moments in time I describe, can be reslated and proposed as something entirely benevolent and thus mean just about anything anyone wants it to mean, I am not placing blame on anyone. The fact that I reacted in a certain homeopathic way is telling of my own nature, and of the rise and fall effects that are peculiar to the individual and usually can not be thwarted without the pressures of an effective discipline administered in the freedom of individual choice or enforced from outside with any power available, which is of course, the complete opposite of the freedom of choice, except to the contrarian who knows his metes and boundsthe boundary lines of the hand and mind, with their terminal points and angles, describing the hand and mind by listing as many compass directions and distances of the boundaries that the surveyor can muster. It is often used in connection with the Government Survey System. Yes, as you said of me in 1978, I am a born surveyor, but did God create me to take a job at some engineering or construction firm measuring distances from sticks to stones, from pipes to wood, with chains and transits, knuckleheads and time clocks? I think not. What's a mere job to God the Messenger?
But years later, here from Washington, I sent Robert Tilton a hundred dollars. His ministry only cashed one of the two fifty dollar checks I sent, that being the one stapled to the front page of a 24 page letter. The second check was stapled to page nineteen, and never made it back to my bank. Several months later, news reporter Diane Sawyer broke nationally the story of Tilton’s ministry fraud, highlighting his tossing into dumpsters outside the studio thousands of personal prayer requests and letters with little regard for his flock.
All monies went to pay for modest office overhead and the salary of one person, Jules, his palatial, and I do mean P-A-L-A-T-I-A-L home on Lake Barcroft in Fairfax County, suburban DC. A very prestigious zip code for very prestigious people. In other words, a scam, plain and simple so that this one man could live high. Oh sure, he talked to a few people on the Hill every once in a while. I mean, what's better than that? A prestigious job among prestigious people, and a wonderful glam palace to bring his women to visit. I forgot. There was a modest salary for my wife the accountant, one of those women before I'd met her, who'd gotten permission to bring me in for a day to help in the backlog of mail. How much did Jules accomplish to lower taxes in the Reagan years? None, I suspect. He was not on the Reagan team. He wasn't needed. Reagan came into power on those words of lowering taxes. In short, his job appeared to be nothing but a typical political sham in fleecing mostly Depression Era and WWII seniors who took their seats at the table in Washington somewhat seriously, a lot more seriously than the rest of us.
Tall tale short, I used what I learned from this one day at the political action office to spot that eye-fluttering televangelist a regal opportunity. That a famous TV personality took him down a few weeks later, I can take no credit, not even as an anointed instigator of the Most High. But it's not the only high stakes example I have of such lightning coincidences. In fact, there are many. Too many to neglect. We are just getting started. I saw God written in black magic market upon a pink bathroom wall one day. My hand had pushed the marker, but who on God's green earth pushed the conspicuous message through the electrical cables snaking inside my head? It read simply, "Do not neglect thy holy memory."
© 1994 - 2013, Gabriel Thy. All rights reserved.