The Swamp . . .

Here’s another “sneak peak” of the autobiographical piece, The Diary of a Despairing . . . I Mean, Aspiring Author, I’m working on.  Last week I posted the forward which can be read here.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Please keep in mind this is only the first draft.


The Swamp

My earliest memories are of the swamp.  Viewed through the lens of a child the swamp is at once magical and terrifying; filled with beauty, wonder, darkness and terror.  In this way, swamps are a microcosm of the universe.  For our cosmos is both majestic and frightful—awe inspiring and unnerving.  The swamp is beautiful in its own way, full of unexpected pleasures, yet, also leaves one with a sense of dread.  Like the rest of existence, it is a paradox; an unlikely combination of darkness and light.  It is in this setting, surrounded by thick mud, honeysuckle, toadstools, crawfish holes, sugar cane fields, snakes and alligators, that I formed my first coherent impressions of reality.

I remember hunting for pecans in the back yard, digging elaborate tunnels in the mud for baby frogs to navigate, and watching doodle bugs roll up into defensive positions at the touch of a finger.  I can still taste the cream soda my mother purchased from the convenience store at the entrance of our neighborhood on hot summer days.  I also remember countless fishing trips with my father:  “Before you put your hands in the water,” he used to remind me, “Check for snakes.  When you see a long streak in the water it is most likely a water moccasin . . . so, don’t put your hands in.”  Instructions I was all too happy to follow.

One of our greatest adventures occurred the day we stumbled upon an eleven foot alligator.  I’ll forever remember its terrible presence.  It floated near the surface of the water, perfectly still, its lifeless eyes staring uncaringly at our boat. I could see its massive form beneath the haze of the muddy water and was aghast when I noticed several jagged teeth protruding from the sides of its gigantic mouth.  Naturally, my father paddled us right along side the creature.  “Keep quite son, don’t make a sound,” he said as he slowly picked up his fishing rod.

I watched in horror as he carefully lowered the tip of the rod above the monsters hideous head.  Sweat ran down my face as my mind raced with images of the creature suddenly jumping out of the water and chomping my father’s arm off!  After a moment of hesitation, he gently tapped the top of the alligators head with the rod.  In a split second the motionless behemoth disappeared in a gigantic splash; diving with surprising speed and agility.  The shockwaves from the creature’s sudden departure gently rocked the tiny boat.  I sat gripping the edge of my seat as my heart pounded with excitement.  My father looked back and our eyes locked—we could read each others mind: “Mom must never be told about this.”

I have many fond memories of the swamp but all of them are tinged with a sense of dread; and anyone who has taken time to reflect upon nature will share this feeling.  The same world that shocks us with its complexity and beauty is also cold, heartless, and destructive.  The same tranquil bayou, with its flowers and lily pads and calming aura, will, given the chance, destroy you.  The alligator, a truly marvelous and intriguing creature, will rip you in half without giving it a second thought (or a first, if you consider the size of its brain).  Most of us experience this feeling of dread, which comes from pondering nature, at an early age.  At some point we look at the world and see underneath its brilliant and mysterious exterior; recognizing something sinister is at work.  If only for a fleeting moment, we become acutely aware of the harshness of reality and of our fragility and this makes us apprehensive.

Let Me Be Forward . . .

I’ve never successfully completed an entire book–although I’ve enthusiastically outlined and written introductions to at least five!  This, of course, fails to include the vast number of book ideas that seem to enter my head every week (sometimes every day).  With the coming of the new year I resolved to narrow this list down to three projects.  I then made the decision to focus all of my efforts on completing one of these projects by this summer.  It was extremely difficult but, after much deliberation, I settled on a little book I’ve tentatively entitled The Diary of A Despairing . . . I Mean, Aspiring Author.  

In the coming months as I slave away writing, and re-writing, I intend to share “snapshots” of my progress.  I would very much like your feedback.  To get things started, I’m pleased to share the forward of this unusual little book:


 

The Diary of A Despairing . . . I Mean, Aspiring Author

FORWARD

How does one find meaning in a world that is meaningless?  This question has lingered in my sub-consciousness for many years.  When I was a boy I didn’t understand the problem because I didn’t understand the words of the Preacher:  “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless!” . . . I was naively optimistic.  It took time for me to recognize life’s futility; time and real encounters with gratuitous evil.  For in the midst of true anguish and despair it is impossible to avoid the hopelessness of our plight.  Outside of these experiences, however, it is all too easy to drown the nihilism out.  We’ve become experts at this in our culture.  At any given moment there are a plethora of vain distractions at our disposal.  Nevertheless, in times of intense suffering, though we are unwilling, the existential crisis is thrust upon us and we come face to face with the reality that our lives lack intrinsic value.

This book is about my encounter with meaninglessness.  It chronicles the defining moments in my life, when suffering was unwillingly thrust upon me, and the internal spiritual crisis these events caused.  Don’t get me wrong; compared to most, my experience of evil is more akin to a walk in the park.  In essence, my plight is not terribly different from that of the average middle class Westerner.  But this is precisely the problem I wish to highlight.  We accept nihilism with such ease in the West because the majority of us live a life of ease.

The wretched soul sleeping in the gutter in Calcutta will, therefore, have no use for this book; he understands, far better than I, the futility of life.  This book is for those of us who live in wealth, and comfort, and privilege (i.e., the majority of the West  . . . even the “poor”).  For those who are naively optimistic and or, simply, too frightened to face the void . . .

 

What’s New for 2014?

Hello friends!  Im excited to relate some of the projects I’ll be involved in this year.  As many of you already know, I’m the co-author of The Christian Watershed – a blog established by my long time friend and subversive writer Joel Borofsky.  I’m proud to announce that Joel and I have acquired ownership of two other exciting websites:  Hipsterdox and Orthodox Ruminations.  We are in the process of re-imaginging how these sites will look in the future and in recruiting additional writers.  In the mean time, we shall continue to post regularly on both blogs.  Joel is a member of the Orthodox Church and I recently converted to Eastern Catholicism; so, we do have an ecumenical vision and are excited about the chance to promote Christian unity.  Please check them out and show your support!

Additionally, I currently have three books well underway.  In no particular order, the titles are:

1. How I Killed Nietzsche and Became the New Übermensch

 

2. People are Essentially Good: Why I Don’t Believe in Total Depravity

 

3. The Diary of a Despairing . . . I Mean, Aspiring Author

 

I’ve been working on these projects for quite some time.  Sadly, I don’t write for a living, so things have been slow going.  Nevertheless, I’m pushing through, and I have made it a personal goal to release at least one of the books in 2014.  Please keep me in your prayers as I work toward this goal.