2016

The many celebrity deaths in 2016 serve as inspiration. When I go, I want to be remembered just as fondly. I want them to say I inspired them. Made them laugh. Made them cry. I want to die knowing that the human specie is better for having had me in it.

Fence Posts.

I’m spending Christmas Eve with my wife’s grandparents. Her parents are here as well, along with a few other relatives. We drove six hours, ate a delicious dinner, and opened gifts. Afterwards, we sat together and talked. At one point in the conversation, my mother in law and I sat alone at the kitchen table, discussing my recent marriage to her daughter. This post is about the topics we discussed. Love, and sacred moments, and fence posts.

My wife and I dated for several years before cohabitating. I didn’t think marriage would change much. We were already in a monogamous relationship, living under the same roof. We were already having arguments and making compromises. We were already in love. What would marriage provide? Nothing more than a certificate and a tax break… and maybe a piece of jewelry to symbolize that this hot stud was off the market.

Now, this is going to be very sappy. But I explained to my mother-in-law that being married brought our relationship to a different level I couldn’t quite explain. It’s an intangible, indescribable feeling. As an atheist, a skeptic, and a scientist… I realize it’s a mixture of societal values, inherent beliefs, and neuro-chemical reactions… but I’ll be damned if this honeymoon phase doesn’t seem somehow ethereal. My mother-in-law, being Catholic, described it as a Sacrament.

Being raised Catholic, I understood Sacraments in a purely academic manner as a covenant between God and his chosen people. As an atheist, I understood Sacraments from a social and psychological perspective. But as a son-in-law, I received a new definition. A Sacrament is an outward expression of inner grace. I liked that definition. It appealed to me in poetic fashion.

She explained that Sacraments don’t occur as part of a ritual. They are a specific moment or moments not bound by words. She asked when I felt the change I described… the incorporeal shift in my relationship. I answered immediately.

I’m a performer. I’ve performed on stage, in crowds, and on the internet (not in porn, you pervert… well, at least not yet). I don’t miss cues. I don’t forget lines. I don’t stumble on choreography. I nailed the wedding rehearsal. Go up, stand there. Wait for soon-to-be-wife. Retrieve her from father. Walk her to altar. Words words words boom let’s eat. The day of the wedding, I was relaxed. I was ready. I walked up the aisle as practiced. I turned to the front. My soon-to-be-wife and her father walked out.

That was the moment.

I froze. She got to the front of the aisle. She and her father stood there, waiting for me to see his cue and retrieve his daughter. But I didn’t. I simply stood there, eyes welled. I don’t believe in a soul… but if I did, I would describe it as having left its vessel for a moment. I snapped back to whispers of my groomsmen… and my father-in-law… and the audience… and the priests… and the wedding coordinators… all telling me to go get her.

That was the moment.

It led to a discussion of sacred moments. Or as I like to think of them, “fence posts:”

As you will see in future posts, I’m a man who enjoys the wackiness of life. This existence is chaotic, and it’s fun to sit back and enjoy the stupidity with detached amusement. I enjoy making jokes, I enjoy being silly, I don’t take myself too seriously, and I don’t subscribe to societal standards of what I should (or shouldn’t) be.

But to enjoy this chaos, we also need moments of seriousness to give it perspective. We need sacred moments. I don’t mean sacred in a religious or spiritual sense. I mean sacred in a way where… for a brief moment… you feel at one with the universe. The random clumping of atoms that compose your biology become aware of the other atoms making up everything else. It’s a sense of grounding… that everything simply  is. A moment where we solemnly celebrate the uniqueness of the human condition… that we are temporary accidents in a grand timeline, and that all we have is now.

These sacred moments are fence posts. They serve as guides… stable foundations to ground ourselves between the empty space between. We whirl around in a pandemonium of rules and impulse, of plot and quirk, of life and death… and it’s all meaningless unless we have these fence posts to rest on, and look back, and think about the vastness of it all.

Fence posts aren’t religions or doctrines. They’re moments. They’re shared experiences. The ceremony itself isn’t the fence post. It’s the gravity you give to the situation, the contemplation of the circumstances that brought you there and the realization that things are different. They’re transitions. They’re changes. They’re growth and loss and solemnity.

This blog will have a couple fence posts. This entry is one of them. There was something sacred about the conversation with my mother-in-law. I call her “mom” now, a title I hold with only one other person on this planet. Some posts will be similar, a sacred examination of this life that grounds me in my hopes and fears, my doubts and aspirations. Some posts will be whimsical, nothing more than a reflection of the controlled chaos of an existence I share with you, my reader. The collective idiocy of our lives, if you will. The fence post entries will be a bit more serious. The whimsical ones will be… well, whimsical.

It’s late, I’m tired, and I’m probably going to edit this post quite a bit in the morning. But for now, despite any grammatical (or worse) errors in the text, and despite how horribly the above paragraphs may flow, I can boil it down to a basic concept.

Life consists of sacred moments that ground us in times of chaos.

 

Trilobite.

Elrathia kingie. An invertebrate arthropod from the Paleozoic era. They swarmed in the sea. Some scavenged the burgeoning sea floor. Some fed on unsuspecting plankton. One specific trilobite, a tiny little bugger living millions of years ago, drudged in the primordial sediment when it suddenly expired. Perhaps it perished of old age. Perhaps it had succumb to a prehistoric parasite. Perhaps it simply lost the will to live.

The sediment hardened around it. With time, the organic material… its guts and brains and irrelevant memories of trilobite life… dissipated, leaving only a skeleton nestled in a tiny imprint. Meanwhile, the world changed. Mountains moved and climates shifted. The sea in which it had been born, and in which it lived its entire life, rose from the depths to become dry land. The trilobite… or at least, what remained of it… existed through major eons in earth’s history. It listened to the emergent roar of the dinosaurs. It felt the meteor’s impact which dethroned them. It felt the tiny vibrations of soft feet as a new specie, a mammal this time, seized the throne. While the trilobite lay buried, deep underground, history continued. Silk roads and spice trails blazed across nations, testament to humanity’s ability to one day explore beyond its own planet.

…and this tiny little bugger of a trilobite lie snug in his little sediment home.

Forgotten.

Insignificant.

Alone.

That is, until a kind archaeologist freed him with the sharp clank of a pickaxe and the gentle sweep of a brush. And somehow, through a complex series of transactions conducted on a global scale involving currency transactions transpiring via an invisible yet instantaneous network of digital programs leading to the authorization of massive vehicles, engineered by geniuses and fueled by compressed organic matter, to transport the trilobite miles away from its deathbed, it ended its 540 million year journey…

…at a shop in Historic Old Town Park in San Diego. Specifically, in a wicker basket with a five dollar price tag.

That is where I found the little bugger.

It sits on my desk now, amidst a luchador mask and various Magic: the Gathering cards (I have a lot of hobbies). It is my inoculation against the all-too-common feelings of existential angst. The great big WHYs and WHENs and WHAT-IFs. The looming SHOULD HAVEs and COULD HAVEs. And of course, the scariest of them all… the dreaded WHAT HAPPENS AFTER. These feelings are everywhere. Look at Facebook: Angst. Look at my bank account: Angst. Think about my future: Angst. If my life were to be be transcribed into the plot of a movie, Angst would be my protagonist. I battle it daily. Sometimes, hourly.

And when that happens, I turn to my trilobite. My little bugger.

You see, it was minding its own business when it died. It didn’t have much purpose, nor could it even conceive of what “purpose” may be. And yet, 540 million years later, it is serving a purpose. It inspires me… that some day, 540 million years from this date, someone may look back in the record books. And some part of me… some small, insignificant part of me… may inspire them. And my life will not have been a waste. That my fossil… whether it be my skeleton, or my family tree, or… maybe even this blog… will help them.

The trilobite didn’t know its purpose.

I don’t know mine.

Thank you for reading my thoughts.

-Billy