A friend of mine named Tyler Schwanke (best. name. ever.) does stream-of-concious writings in which faith and heart issues seem to be voiced and processed. I asked him to do a late night walk in Denver, with Lent on his mind. Here are his incredible meanderings:
“An Evening Stroll Entree Salted With A Purging”
My inauguration into the season starts with me leaving my familiarity. I open the front door to the outside world and begin to drink in a night of simplistic self discovery. I breathe in the simultaneously dirty and clean evening air as my eyes bounce around coupled with the dance my neck does in syncopation to the thoughts flying in my head. My thoughts are at once non-existent and drag racing down narrow streets. My hand fumbles in my pocket for what could surely lead to an early demise. With hesitation I take a step forward to the tune of my lungs exhaling smoke. Accompanying the rhythm of my breathing is the clanking of my keys reminding me how distracted I am, always somewhere else, always adrift in my thoughts, and rarely present with my surroundings. It’s time to focus. It’s time to take in my surroundings like the breath oxygenating my blood.
With every step on this journey do I undergo a metamorphosis? Is their existence between street lights, or do we fade away like the happiness does when we find ourselves alone? Either way I’m dressed to impress, and time will tell if anyone was. We all want to leave an impression. It’s apparent when we present ourselves to dates, or the words we desperately grasp at like life rafts in interviews. You can catch it in the way I walk down the street in a part of town unknown. Why should I fear, or more importantly, why do I fear? Isn’t it the fear of what lies inside or fear of judgment of what’s inside? Insecurity is my motto. Can I crave security and adventure with the same brain? I only give you a glimpse when I’m dying to be understood. It’s like trying to form an opinion on what that house holds, when all you see is the light piling out of a third story window. What dreams are being created inside? What possibilities are found, and how many lie undiscovered? As far as I’m concerned it lies somewhere between endless and the forethought of tomorrow. I am both frightened and encouraged by that prospect. But isn’t that us? Aren’t we fearfully and wonderfully made? Whoever is in that room, holds treasure, holds hope, and will change the world. Where do I, in my one life, fit into this equation?
Quickly I realize on these streets I am an outsider, though I do belong to an established family. I share the common connect of disconnect with all who walk tonight. It may not be blood, but it breeds understanding, and that’s half of what it means to be a family. Still, I am but one bastardized orphan in a long line, and as unfamiliar to others as I am to myself. I’m not the kid asleep at the bar, nor am I the prostitute or dealer walking the same slanted sidewalk as me. A breath of honesty rises as I pass through the spot-street-light. I’m not confessing when I say I’ve partaken in their trademark in one form or another. Let’s try this again. I am, after all, on stage and the only one in the audience. I need to acknowledge the visible differences that make us individuals, yet I am forced to see that we both bleed. We both desire the same things, so why draw another line in the sand? I’m too divided already. Why not call her sister? Why not call her by her God-given name?
But I continue on. I look on and wonder who they are. Without my realization they see me, walking about, moving toward them on the same sidewalk. At best we resemble two trains on the same track, pulling our weight, heading for impact. They are probably thinking the same until we’ve successfully disappeared from each others view. Modern street magic. Now, I see, we are family in thought, and our familial crest is the painted picture of two souls trying to be oblivious, trying to ignore one another. We’ve mastered the mark of many families, namely the tragedy of being too busy to know what’s going on. It leaves us isolated. Alone. Removed from life. Stop. Look within. It’s my sin. It’s safe to say there is enough lumber here to build a house, and oh what a glorious mansion has been crafted. But what would lie inside except me? Empty rooms. Empty promises. I have a funny feeling I’m going blind. What I thought I saw, I can’t. I don’t recognize the me reflected in the frozen mud puddle.
My talent, God-given though it is, is lying in wait. I’ve stared at it, even poked it, touched it, groped it, but I don’t know it; nor do I own it. But you can be sure as tomorrow will come, I will ring that bell when I’m hungry, and complain when what I find presented before me isn’t a five star supper. When will I stare it in the eyes, put it in a headlock, and master it? The same can be said for my surroundings – I’ve peered, wondered, and judged what is what, never taking the time to understand what makes me myself and them they. Have I ever looked past my skin, or do I know as much about me as I do what lies inside these buildings? They all carry titles, but what can you tell by a title? What lies inside? Unwrap me like a present were the last words I whispered.
As I see the ambulance haul away another one of tonight’s entertainers, I realize I’m next. A purge is coming. I smell it between the aroma of alcohol, burgers, and cigarettes. ABC. Next it will be me. Here it comes. I will not back down. As my teeth begin to clench, my spine turns to iron. My eyes will not look away. My resolve will be met before I am. I will stand, greet the four horsemen with a handshake, and force them to look me in the eye. Take me. My purge demands more than release. I confess I don’t know how to purge without an indoctrinated ceremony, so I will crawl onto the altar and lay bare hoping that the very doctrine is removed like the tumor of conformity that lead to its birth. Before I can relax it begins raking over me; invasive as the police walking down the street in full riot gear. Is this what I signed up for? What has been dug out of me? What was found inside? This is beginning to feel like too much. I’m wondering if I have the will to see it through. Please, make me purge as I pass through the drive-thru. It will have to be either a botched surgery or introspection on the run, on the run through the darkened streets I have never known.
As I careen down the dark at breakneck speeds, I find myself down streets I do not know. Streets with names hailing the accomplishments of someone somewhere. They left an impression. They are remembered in the history records of street sign literature; almost some sort of ancient aesthetic, or an artistic annal if you think about it. But again, this is my adventure, my story…or is it? Isn’t my story part of their story and vice versa? And isn’t it time for me to admit to myself like I have professed to others that I am simply following, or at the very least trying? Should I focus on another in my story; perhaps the Story-teller? But could one argue that a dizzying point of purging through introspection is to fix what’s incorrect so you’re able to be more outward focused?
I stand lost in these street signs once again, holding a monument of granite that came from some bizarre inward dimension; namely me. This strange boulder was what was removed. Is this what we call a heart? In the midst of this stone obelisk is something beating and red. It faintly reminds me of something familiar, something I once knew well. I think I will keep it in the palm of my hand. Clenched. My heart. My treasure. I notice a man who calls the street his home looking at me as I look at him. His eyes start to tell a story before his lips have moved. I fear what it could tell, and believe perhaps I should move, though in which direction I am uncertain. Yet I cannot deny the magnetic pull nor the magnetism of this interaction at this intersection. It’s funny how at that moment of uncertainty a familiar feeling rises from the ashes like a long forgotten phoenix as bright as the neon lights haloing the distant buildings. I wonder if this is the same feeling that walks beside him? Does that make us brothers? I believe the feeling is universal, and that if I were to describe this to someone they would begin to feel it almost instantaneously. Brothers. Is it that feeling that binds us, or more? Something sure does, because I can’t look at him without feeling. And this feeling trumpets action. Oh, it’s you again. I might have known. After a moment I continue onward. In the next few steps I resemble a child fumbling with a treasure that only they see, or in this case I see. When I open my fist clenched around my treasure, to my astonishment everything has changed. What was once a magnificent monument of cold reality, was now loose. It resembled the old tattered wrappings of some ancient mummy from a land that sounds interesting. At once I realized these were facts. Facts that more resembled beliefs than scientific insight. These facts I had stuck to my heart like stickers on a lamppost. This is what the purge was after, and what you were after. As I hold it with an open hand to my surprise and expectation I find much change. There in the moment pieces of truth begin to fall off like the leaves on Autumn trees. What remains is a sliver of the monster I once clenched, and yet a terrible burden of weight swells. My arm aches from the load. My hand strains to keep hold. Again I walk the streets until something hits me and leaves me dead in my tracks. Frozen. Our eyes meet.
Jesus. I saw you earlier, but I missed you. I was caught up in whatever I felt was important for that inconsequential second. Still, I can’t help but wonder what you’re doing here? It’s cold and windy. Where’s your jacket? Wanna step inside and a have a beer? I have a few questions to ask. First let me say it feels like molting. It feels like you’re forcing me to rid myself of all that truth I hold so dear. My facts that I take for granted. Do you realize the things you are ripping from me? It is doctrine. Theology. Politics. Religion. The very things someone told me that make you up. All that I was taught, which I was told meant I was following. Even the comfortable rebellion I have raised to keep me far from them. Christians. Everything that has caused separation. Everything that keeps me from everyone else. Are you aware that this leaves no room for division? That this leaves no room for any sort of me versus the world mentality? Does it come to your attention that in this state I am without defense? After my successful vent, painted with the carefully crafted curse, you sip, smile and whisper. What I hear shakes me. That was the point. My lips part, and a thank you spills forth. I entertain the thought you propose. I need to start over. I guess I will learn to love – everyone. Had you left me to my own devices, left me to my disconnect, I would have been standing alone when the music stops. Even now I wonder why it hasn’t already as I recall the times it should have. Yet, once again, I feel lighter. Better. I feel as though I’m ready to step outside and see what’s in store. Adventure. My mind swells with what wonder waits beyond that next step towards home.