Second-lifers

It looked like the death of the saints, all over the town. One by one the saint figurines were found, toppled over. The town authorities were sure it was teenagers, bored and unsupervised, but the usual suspects had verifiable alibis. No, this was an event of a different sort.

They decided to look with different eyes. All of the saint figurines on the East side were female, and all were pointed in the same direction. The seemed unusual. At first they thought maybe the perpetrator was right handed, and had pushed the statues down going across himself. But then when the detectives looked in other parts of the town, they realized that the statues were oriented in slightly different ways. So some looked like they were pushed forward, some backward, some to the right.

The lines were plotted on a map and all led to the oldest funeral home in town. “Doc” Brown had run the place since his grandpa died, having inherited the business since he failed out of medical school. His grades weren’t good enough for living people, but his skills were plenty for the dead.

His grandpa took him on as an apprentice all those years back, getting him to drive the pick-up van to transport the bodies. His Papa wasn’t too thrilled that his son wasn’t going to be a doctor. He wanted his progeny to carry on his dreams, not understanding that each generation has its own burdens to carry and doesn’t have time for the past. It isn’t fair to expect somebody else to live your life for you, after all.

Was that the reason the saint statues were pointed towards it? A dream deferred, an accidental career? Was that the reason, or was it something darker? Psychics were called in after the detectives drew a blank. The newspapers weren’t informed of the true nature of these outside consultants, but they suspected. The police had no need to be so cautious – the town was a lot more open-minded than they could have ever suspected.

The psychics pulled out their cards and sticks and crystals. They lit incense at sites. They dowsed, they chanted, and still they had no idea what it all meant. It was only when Bessie Maguire had a dream about the statues that anybody had any clue what it all meant.

Now Ms. Maguire was as quiet as a church mouse most of the time. She kept to herself and never caused a fuss, as you might expect of an elderly spinster. She’d taught kindergarten most of her life, and if you can’t trust a kindergarten teacher I don’t know who you can trust. She didn’t want to share about her dream, but it was so vivid she knew she had to tell somebody. So she went to talk with her pastor. He said she’d have to tell the police, and who was she to go against the pastor’s orders? So down she went to Central and told them all about her dream.

The statues were pointed to the funeral home not because of what it is, but because of what it was. Long ago, way past living memory, that part of town was an oak grove. Not maple, or even chestnut, but oak. That was important. The trees had all been tall and thick, creating a sanctuary of stillness. No pagans worshiped there, but that didn’t matter to the oaks. This was long before the old religions had been rediscovered, or invented, by New Age folks. Nobody in these parts knew the old ways, divorced as they were from the old country. But the oaks still knew. They knew the same way all the cherry trees across the world knew when it was time to bloom and when it was time to drop their petals like some kind of spring snowfall.

But what the oaks knew was darker stuff that spoke of more than just impermanence, but transcendence. The oaks spoke of living on in the next generation, not just as an ancestor or as a memory, but in actuality. The oaks knew that they could hide themselves within every acorn, not as a half but as a whole. It was parthenogenesis. The whole grove was a shrine to Athena, goddess of wisdom and it was filled with owls.

So it was fitting that this Ms. Maguire, this maiden, had a vision about this place, as Athena was not only a maiden but born from the head of her father Zeus, the God of the gods. There was no coupling in her creation. She was fully made, complete, not half of her parent, but whole. She was Zeus, but in a different arrangement of elements, in the same way a lump of coal is also a diamond. One wasn’t better than the other, in spite of the dollar amount. A diamond won’t keep you warm or cook your food, after all.

And then the strangest thing started happening. The bodies in that morgue didn’t stay dead. But only the female ones. It didn’t matter if they were maidens or not, they woke up, completely healed of whatever had ailed them. Maybe this is why it was only the female saints who were affected. But even stranger, the newly reanimated acted differently. They looked the same as long as they been in the cooler when the Event happened, but they were different somehow.

Nobody knew what triggered the Event. All they knew was that there had been a strange advance notice that something was up when the saints all toppled over. Had it begun then? Or long ago? When does a person begin – when they are born, when they are conceived, when their parents meet for the first time? Or even before that?

Does it matter? Because now was all the town could handle. They didn’t have the energy for philosophy. Now they had to deal with people coming back to life. The relatives had already moved into their old homes. The estate process had already begun. The casseroles that had been brought over by kind neighbors and dutiful church members weren’t finished, but that was to be expected.

Here’s one of the ways that the second-lifers acted differently – they could talk with owls. I don’t mean that they could imitate their calls, but that they could actually understand what the owls were saying. It turned out that the myth was true – the owls were indeed speaking about upcoming deaths. They didn’t cause the deaths. They just knew, somehow, and talked about it in the same way that some people talked about the weather. But the second-lifers didn’t share this information with the regular people. They couldn’t handle the truth anyway.

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Poem – the room for actual dying.

Finally I was in the room for actual dying.
Not all the dying are dying.
Some are just practicing.

But finally, now, I’m there.

We’ve waited so long for this room,
this time.

We’ve waited, breathless, hopeless. Helpless.

We couldn’t even drag ourselves here.

We fell on the conveyor belt of life and inched along
until we got here.

I wasn’t supposed to be here.
I was supposed to be an observer.
I was supposed to help.

I was supposed to be the compassionate one,
the listener, the solver of problems.

I wasn’t supposed to be broken,
Empty and aching
Hollow and hurting.

It was a surprise to see myself
in this room of bones
these sacks of flesh
these walking wounded.

I’m not a zombie.
I’m awake.

But veil after veil after veil
reveals, unveils

That I’ve been fooled.
Again.

Poem – the way of the zombie

Zombies and the way.
The Way of zombies.

Bring meat in breath. Being meat that breathes
pray the Lord has a hard drive.

It is a long road home.

Anywhere you sleep the second night
the bed will be harder.
The benefits of this is that the way home
is me saying
You are the way.

You are the way
once you wake up.

We are all zombies.
We are all dead.

We are animated meat, my friends.

Unplug yourself to come alive.
That TV, that movie, that fashion, that style,
they chain you down, tie you up,
leave you breathless and brainless

Zombies, all of us.

Turn it off
to turn inward
and outward
and onward.

Disconnect to connect.

Skeletons in the middle class
Home page
Home run
Run away
Wake up.
Come alive.
Come outside.

The water is wonderful.

Let me baptize you
with your own tears
you’ve kept inside
for so long.

Don’t be a zombie.

Who are you?

Now, who are you really?

What have you always wanted to do? What is your dream vocation?
Are you doing it? Why not?

I want to encourage you to dream big. I want to encourage you to be the person you were made to be. I want you to wake up and see that life is indeed what you make of it.

My father wanted to be a conductor. Not of trains, although there was one summer he got to operate the trolley at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. What he really wanted to do was conduct an orchestra. His first and truest love was classical music. I remember him telling me a story that when he was young he used to listen to his classical records in the closet.

He was listening to classical music. In the closet. He was hiding as if he was doing something wrong.

He never lived out that dream. Perhaps there was shame that was put on him by his parents. I can imagine them telling him that conducting an orchestra isn’t a practical job. It won’t feed a family. Perhaps they convinced him that he wouldn’t be good enough at it to make it. There aren’t that many openings to be conductors. Why try at all if you can’t be the best?

When parents or coworkers or friends or church members or strangers tell you that you can’t do something, they are really pushing their own insecurities on you. They don’t think they can do it. They mean well, usually. They think they are saving you from the pain of failure. But really, they are killing you.

Not being who you were created to be is the worst kind of death. It is a death within life. Depression comes from being suppressed. It comes from your true nature being denied.

This doesn’t mean that you have to quit your job and move to Tibet. This doesn’t mean you need to find a job at a non-profit. This doesn’t mean that you have to stop reading fluffy romance books.

Or maybe it does.

This means that it is a good idea to realize that life is short and it is time to really think about what you are doing and where you are going. This means that it is time to give your dreams a try. This means that now is a good time to be yourself, really you, and not what everybody else thinks you should be.

Sometimes what we do to fill our time is just a distraction. We think we need to read the latest bestseller, watch the latest TV series, or buy that new dress that the movie star was wearing.

When we do this, we are being zombies. In a very amusing podcast called Paradosis by Father John Hainsworth, an Orthodox priest, he talks about what it is to be human by using zombies as an example of what it means to NOT be human.

He tells us that zombies look human, but they aren’t. What separates zombies from humans is their appetite. They are mindless in their need to consume. They will do anything to fill their appetite.

How are we different from zombies when we are mindless consumers, having to buy into the latest trend? How are we different from zombies when we sleepwalk through our lives, just going through our routines? How are we different from zombies when we aren’t truly alive to who we were made to be?

It is hard to wake up. It is hard to know what we want, and who we are, really. It is so easy to just go with the herd and be part of the mooing masses. But who wants to be a cow, led to the slaughter?