The Tunnel

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There is a tunnel, buried beneath the layers of the world, outside time, outside creation. It is dank and musty. It is covered in slime, moss and lichen, pregnant with rot and decay. The walls are smeared with the stale blood of creatures that were extinct billions of years before the Big Bang.

It is a prison, erected to contain a race of pestilence and destruction that had once spanned the breadth of creation. They spread like cancer, defiling everything in their path, a cosmological blight that nearly brought all of reality to its knees. Entire universes fell in the attempt to take them down, and only when the Immortals came were they finally forced to yield.

If death could have stopped them, the Immortals never would have built it. But they would only have assumed another form, and their evil would have continued to dominate. The only way to protect the cosmos was to quarantine them, to lock them away forever in a tomb of stone, fortified with wards and seals to prevent their escape. The Immortals gave their very life essence to strengthen and uphold it, to keep the walls solid and substantial against their feral outraged cries.

But now the place lies in ruins, corrupted and forgotten, those who built it having moved on. When the prisoners were abandoned, they wondered if their captors even remembered they were there.

The seals weaken with the passing of the ages. In some places, they are stretched so thin that the prisoners can once more sense the outside. They scratch at the walls with insubstantial claws, and they give, ever so slightly, in tiny imperceptible increments.

Time has made them hungry. The Immortals thought starvation would break them, make them weak and vulnerable. But it only strengthened their resolve to ravage the cosmos once more.

Now they sense a breach, a rip in the fabric of their prison, and they rush at it with teeth bared, picking and tearing, prying and pulling. They work with grim anticipation.

They know the walls are about to come down.

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Creator of Worlds

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I see it, glimmering beneath the surface of the universe in an unformed realm that precedes creation. It is primordial, a complex composition of ageless utterances transcending language, space and time. I hunch over a stack of paper with my pen in hand, ready to surround it with a net of words. They are crude in their expressive power, yet capable enough to capture its essence, trap its soul so I can slowly reel it in, a whole new world, young and still crackling with wild newborn magic.

I am thought of by most as a creator of worlds. But I am only a lowly fisherman, trawling an insubstantial ocean in search of worlds half glimpsed, eternal mysteries even to the likes of me. I make my modest living on the few small worlds I’m strong enough to catch. I glimpse larger ones, great hulking cosmos buried deep beneath the depths. But even as I reach for them I know that I am too weak, that my net is too shallow to ever catch them.

That is perhaps the most frustrating part of what I do, to spy so many nascent worlds flitting through the ether that will forever remain unexpressed, doomed to an everlasting half-life in the shadow of non-existence. I weep for them, but there is nothing I can do.

I turn away from such thoughts to gaze at my latest acquisition. It is beautiful, resplendent. I love it like a newborn child.

Then I catch another glimmer.

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How Do You Navigate Life?

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You’re a wanderer, a cosmic vagrant lost in space and time. You’ve spent your life stumbling about in a drunken stupor. You flit aimlessly from one moment to the next. You have no idea where you came from, and you have no idea where you’re supposed to go.

What’s your purpose? Do you have a purpose? All you know for certain is that at some point you’ll run out of gas, that your body, your vehicle for this cosmic journey, will break down. From time to time, you wonder where you’ll be when that happens. Will you have reached your destination, or will you instead realize all too late that you were stranded, shipwrecked and left to die alone in a foreign place that you were never meant to call your own?

If only you could tell North from South. You’re certain that with a push in the right direction you could someday realize and fulfill your purpose. You sometimes wonder, “How do I navigate life?”

1. Find your compass.

You know you exist for a reason. You’ve known since you were a child. It’s a fundamental component of your humanity. It’s hard-wired into your DNA. There was a time when you heard the cosmos’s call. But age and responsibilities ushered in a host of distractions, until one day you realized you were lost. You despaired. You wondered if all that mumbo-jumbo about purpose and design might be just a bunch of whohaa.

To rediscover your purpose, to figure out the direction you must travel, you first have to find your compass. It was custom built for you. It guides you, tells you where to go so you can push forward confidently in the dark. To find it, you must tune out exterior distractions. You must reflect in silence and in prayer. You must examine yourself, with all of your many strengths and faults. You must dive into your deepest and truest self. There, in the stillness of your heart you’ll find it, a burning white-hot fire, a passion so brilliant you’ll wonder how you ever could have missed it.

2. Follow your compass.

Finding it will do no good if you aren’t willing to pack up your bags and move. You’ve discovered some inkling of what it is you may be called to do, a general sense of direction that calls to you from the very fabric of space and time itself. Now you’re faced with the noble task of pursuing it.

Following your compass is not like following a map. There are no clearly marked roads or highways, no drawn-to-scale features designed to tell you how many miles in your journey remain. Nor will you be provided an exhaustive list of all the perils, dangers and mysteries you might encounter along the way. You have only an awareness of direction, a resonant hum inside your soul that deepens as you align with your purpose and diminishes as you turn away from it.

You won’t be certain what you’re supposed to do. But by following the needle in your compass, by pressing forward, you’ll find clues, road signs, symbols and landmarks to help you navigate, to orient you, to help you know where you stand.

3. Keep your compass in sight.

To navigate successfully to the very end, to find your way home, you must always keep your compass in sight. You should examine your progress daily and be willing to set aside distractions. There are exotic lands all around us, and all too often you’ll be tempted to stray from the path to explore them. But the more you stray, the more difficult it will be to find your way back. You must always hold the light of your compass close.

The answers you seek can be yours.

Life is daunting. In a universe where you can so easily lose your way, any effort to find yourself will seem rife with futility. But by locating and following your compass, and by never letting it out of your sight, you’ll soon see the cosmos transformed, from an opaque and incomprehensible void to a place of growing, learning and understanding. Armed with your compass, you can be confident that one day, with the help of your Creator, you will at last approach the throne of existence, ready to receive the answers you seek and more.

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Friday Freewrite

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He saw the old man standing there after communion1, looking so serene. Surely heaven2 waited for the likes of him. But what if he were to stumble? To fall, to lose grace before he met his end?3, 4

He could make sure the man got to heaven2, could hasten his appointment with Christ to make sure he was in a state of grace when he died.

Yes, God would be pleased with him for his holy work, for his effort to save a soul.

He lunged forward, knife in hand. He would set the man free.


The congregation spoke out in unison5, a low bass monotone thrum, and Jason couldn’t help but be reminded of the Borg6. “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”


Footnotes

1. This came to me during mass one Sunday. It’s based on a deranged man’s perverted understanding of Catholic theology concerning the “state of grace” and its necessity for salvation (see footnote #4 for more on this.) I like to explore humanity from peculiar angles.

2. Heaven should be capitalized.

3. The last two sentences sound better and make more sense if written like this: “But what if he were to stumble, to fall from grace before he met his end?”

4. Catholics believe that one can lose their salvation by sinning gravely and by not repenting of that sin before they die. Through the lens of insanity, the deranged individual reasons that the old man, on account of his holy appearance, must be in a state of grace. He further concludes that since it’s possible the old man might sin gravely in the future and therefore lose his salvation, he can do him a favor by killing him now, therefore guaranteeing the old man a place in Heaven.

5. At first, I didn’t want to include this passage because I thought it would detract from the more serious and horrific one that precedes it. But I wrote both of these on the same day and they share a common theme, so I decided to go for it.

6. If you’ve ever watched Star Trek, you’ll get the reference 🙂

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Friday Freewrite

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What’s Friday Freewrite? Find out here.

I reflected on the state of my life, thought about all the many flaws I have in my character. They say that knowing yourself is a good thing, but I think that this kind of introspection is worse.

I know that I’m a loose cannon, that I overreact to small things1, but I’m helpless to stop it, can only watch as my life becomes a train wreck.

At least if I were unaware, I could feel that I was being righteous, like I was a crusader for good. Instead, I get to watch the train wreck of my life unfold, powerless to stop it.


Something Al had learned2 as one of life’s great truisms was that nothing turns a man into a rabid dog quite like being told he’s going to have to work over the weekend.


I closed the door behind me, took a moment to let my surroundings sink in. I fingered soft linen towels, squinted up at the lights, felt the smooth polished brass of the door handle.

I pulled down my pants, plopped down on the toilet and let the years of my childhood wash over me.

I spent a lot of my childhood years cocooned in bathrooms.3 At a time when I was insecure and prone to bullying, they provided me a sanctuary, a place where I could think and philosophize, process conversations I’d been forced to have, ponder my fate, to dream, to imagine.

In the bathroom, in the beautiful silence of the bathroom, I found freedom and peace.


Footnotes

1. I wrote this in 2014 while at work. I don’t remember exactly what happened, just that I had overreacted to something my boss had asked me to do, a regrettably common pattern in my behavior, and was frustrated by my inability to control my anger.

2. And by Al, I mean myself 😉

3. Being an introvert, the bathroom has always been a safe place for me. It’s where I go when I’m feeling besieged by social forces and need time to recharge.

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Life is Full of Surprises

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“Life is full of surprises.” It’s a statement we hear all the time, so often that it’s become a cliché. Just when we think we’ve got things figured out, life lunges from around a corner, throws us into an unmarked van and whisks us away.

I was never so naive in my adult years to believe I could foresee the future. I realized a long time ago that long-term goals are futile, that aside from a few common sense preparations, my time was best spent living in the present. Still, I found myself making plans. I’d decided I would live more frugally, that I would save a ton of money so that I could take a year off work to focus on my writing. I was strong in this conviction, and I was actually disciplined enough to make significant progress toward that goal.

Then I met my girlfriend Win, and a year and a half later I was moving to The Philippines to be close to her. Just like that, my short-term plans had evaporated, and once more I was starting from scratch, trying to figure things out, wondering if I would ever figure things out.

But you know what? I’m happy. Before I met Win, I thought I knew what would bring me joy. Then I fell in love, and I discovered what joy actually was. I had to give a lot up, and it’s been a daily challenge for me. But the struggle is rooted in love, and after being here for a few months, I couldn’t imagine living any other way.

So often, uncertainty makes us anxious. It’s not an entirely unreasonable reaction, because not every surprise is a good one. But I’ve learned that to be happy, I have to let go and allow life to steer me in the proper direction. The course isn’t always easy, but it’s always rife with unexpected opportunities for personal growth. Life is a mystery to be embraced. If we spend too much time worrying about what may or may not happen, we wither and die like malnourished flowers.

So I’m taking things one day at a time, and I’m trying to focus less on achieving some pre-determined outcome and more on discovering the outcome I was destined from birth to fulfill.

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