What I do when Andrew hogs the sleep

We depart for civilization in 6 hours and all I can think about is how dark it is in this room and how Andrew is in the bunk across from me hogging all of the sleep. Or: what is vacation, a place to get away or a place to get alone?

Or: what I need is fresh air and I need to dig words out of that dusty place I threw them when we got here. For some reason.

Words are stubborn when they've been wadded up. They crinkle a little in their unfolding and you have to flex them back and forth for them to be of any use. Go figure, you don't call for a week and all of the sudden they're mad at you like you did something wrong. You tell them you just didn't need them right now because you're trying to unwind and take a breath before the train hits again and they get all defensive cause they feel like you're using them. You forget that words have feelings too. And trust issues, I think.

I tell them, let's take a stroll, because we need to talk, and I figure the humidity would help with that.

I step outside and I can smell the ocean. I can feel on my skin the sticky hot Atlantic wind and the salt in the air makes me thirsty. When the air conditioner kicks off behind me I can hear the steady rhythm of the waves crashing to a meter that seems asymmetrical at first, but on longer listen is just a complex set of hits stretched out over an ambling, slow, incredibly steady tempo. We are waltzing, that sound and I. We're going nowhere in a hurry.

And now I'm asking something different. Something about what keeps sleep away. Something about what brings it in the first place. Something about the nature of things that comes alive on still hot nights like this.

I always related to Thomas the most, I think because I know I would have been the one trying to call Peter and the Beloved one out on their excitement until I actually put my hands in the gaping, miraculous, saving holes. I can look back on him and frown and ask him "how could you" when really I should just look at myself and mutter the very same words. Ask myself if I believe simply because I have seen, or vice versa. The curse of looking for reason and knowing that until you find it there will be sleepless nights. The pain in that place you can't touch when belief sometimes feels like a listing sailboat after a changed wind. When you wish you could be Elijah and call down fire from heaven not so much for proof but just to see something wet catch fire.

Sometimes even just for the proof, I suppose.

You can drown in your unbelief, and it does feel like drowning. Gasping, groping, frantically kicking your feet until your hands slide upon something already being rocked gently to sleep by the tide. When finally on the surface you realize that it is the surface itself that snapped you awake. Just when you started to think that your whole world was underwater and enslaved to wet, you burst to the surface and your lungs ache for more of whatever it is up here that just tastes so good. You realize there's way more up here than there was down there and you can see better too.

You can hear, somewhere in the distance, those waves pounding the shore being heard by a boy sweating and swatting flies on a porch in South Carolina.

The funny thing about them is that as they roll over the sand they pay no mind to us. We can build sand castles to try to stand in their way but the water won't have it. We can try to drown out the sound with music but they crash all the more. We can film them and stick them in a spotlight and draw attention to their beauty but they pulse humbly. We can mock them with barriers but they will power through them mightily.

They are constant. The same when husbands get fired and when brothers die and when babies are born and when teenagers get pregnant and when empires fall and when songs are written and when animals sleep and when it rains and when boys want so hard to just believe as fierce as the sea but let reason get in the way. These waves operate separate from reason. Blame it on rotating planets and spinning moons and shifting continental shelves and trade winds all you want and the waves will be there when you crawl back to simply see them. They represent something that goes on despite us. One way in a long list of ways God can shake us up to refresh our belief. One thing in a long list of things that proves that there is something besides us and our petty human problems.

They are beautiful to taste for a soul crying "why".

 

I believe this is all the thought I am allowed on this sticky summer's eve before my skin becomes fodder for a thousand hungry insects who will bite me no matter the vigor with which I question them.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

>Weather-Inspired Theological Ramblings, I suppose

>Ladies and gentlemen of Chattanooga, summer is upon us.

I awoke from a relatively decent night's sleep having completely thrown off all semblance covers protecting me from whatever cold might permeate the warm night. My hair had been matted into a clump on top of my head, held in place by a vanishing layer of sweat from my apparent tossing during the course of dreaming, and there were thin strings of sunlight filtering through pollen that had somehow escaped into my room through the open window and onto my arm, making me appear as though I had grown some sort of zebra scales. I could hear a bird close to me and a lawnmower somewhere off in the distance and the ever-present but quiet bickering of my neighbors over the clanking of their pots and pans as I rose to silence the alarm screaming at me to wake up. I was going to reset the little numbers to allow for fifteen or so more minutes of sleep, not because I needed it, but because it felt like the right thing to do, and besides, I had plenty of time to spare. It was not even 7 and I had no obligations until at least 9.
I was going to do this, that is, until without warning my brain snapped directly to attention. It told me to push the shower a little bit, to forgo stopping to get a coffee on the way to work, to leave the phone on the charger for a few more minutes. I stepped on to the back patio with a glass of water and felt the exact same thing I had a summer ago on a drive across open plains and farmland and through the dreadfully boring stretch of 65 that passes into Indiana. There was a breeze on my face and the silhouette of our duplex painted in shadows on the lawn cast by the sun rising on the opposite side of the building; the words of Nietzche rang in my head and brought a bitter taste to my mouth.
Gott ist tot.
I realize that this quote is often used out of context of what Nietzche was trying to say, but even a misquote gets the point of his message across: "God is dead. God remains dead. We have killed Him" (The Madman, section 125). I took a moment and knew that Frederich Nietzche could never possibly have seen what I have seen in the short 20 years I've been around. He could not have sat across the table from a woman and had his world realigned by the crinkling in the corner of her eyes as she laughed. He could not have stayed up all night and felt the oppression of darkness crushing his spirit, only to have it rejuvenated by the simple call of a sparrow and a stray beam of light coming over a hill off in the distance. He could not have looked at the spectacle of human imagination recorded in books and stories and page after page of the writings of people who had truly figured themselves out. He could not have ever been burdened by a load which was entirely his to bear, only to feel it lifted off of his shoulders and released from his carriage as long as he would let it go. He couldn't have felt the bitter cold of winter, killing all life as he claims we have killed God, because if he had, he would see that when the snow receded and sunlight warmed the grass, white lilies and green grass grew back all the more beautiful than when it had gone to sleep. The birds which had escaped south always returned to build their nests anew in the crooks of budding trees in his front yard.
We cannot have killed God, because, simply put, He is life. In the most hopeless and desolate situations, in the deepest and most inescapable holes we dig, there is always life. As long as you breathe there is life, and even after you cease your breathing, there will continue to be life. He gave us a pretty clear set of instructions to attain this life and made it centered around His Son, who died to give it to us.
I would ask Nietzche to his face today to deliver that statement again, but it seems that God is not the one who is dead, for there is a world teeming with life all around me... instead it is Nietzche.
I laughed to myself at the irony and stepped back inside.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

>Drunks, Lovers, Sinners, and Saints

>

A lady stepped in while I was working at the desk at the church today and mentioned that there was a man sprawled out on the concrete next to the door, and asked if I knew anything about that. I told her I didn't, but I would check it out. So, I sauntered around the corner, opened the door to the outside world, out of the air conditioning and into the beginnings of a sticky Chattanooga summer. I couldn't see the top half of his body, as it was blocked by a section of the wall, but his legs were rather contorted and glistened from the humid air around them. I stepped around the wall and first noticed that he was fairly well-dressed: Yellow polo shirt tucked into his nice khaki shorts with a brown belt to match the brown boat shoes on his feet, with sunglasses shielding what I could tell were closed eyes.

The lifeguard inside of me snapped to attention as I squatted down to tap him on his shoulder. Step one: survey the scene. Step two: check for signs of life (read here: consciousness). His eyelids fluttered to life and as he smacked his lips, and I could tell by the foam around the edges of where they met that this man was parched. "Sir, my name is Hamilton, is there something that I can do for you?" I said. His lips moved, his vocal chords shuttered, but it was not words that escaped from his mouth. "I'm going to help you up," I said. "Are you ok with that?" He nodded his approval, but recoiled immediately with the slight change in altitude, burying his face in his hands. I sat down next to him.

He didn't even have to talk, because I could smell the alcohol radiating from his pores in the hot sun. I asked him to scoot back against the building with my help and wait there while I went inside to get some water for him. I returned in about thirty seconds with a cold bottle of water, only to find him dozing again. I asked him if he wanted me to help him inside so that he could sit in a chair in the air conditioning. He then explained to me through words rear-ending each other how he was here for a function being put on inside of the church, but he had "messed up big time." The people in charge of the dinner kicked him out for being drunk and left him outside the front door because they were going to miss their dinner inside the air conditioning. 

I kept talking with him, and he kept on asking me something kinda puzzling. "What are you trying to get at?" The first time I didn't really know what to say, so I repeated the statement I had said before, something about asking if he wanted to come inside. But by about the fourth time he asked it, I simply said "I'm just trying to talk to you, man." He turned away for a second and his voice got shakier, rather than slurrier. "You're the first person going in and out of this g--d--- building who's said anything to me." He didn't say thank you, he didn't start crying, he didn't even look at me, but I knew he didn't need to to get his point across. It made me a little bit sick, knowing that it wasn't a traditional, shirt-and-tie affair we're talking about, it was a recovery program. They weren't people going into and out of a strip club, they were entering a church building. 

Two people stepped out of the room right about then and lit cigarettes as soon as they tasted the hot air. "Come on, Mike, let's go. We're taking you home," they said. I helped him get on his feet and find his balance. They walked side by side in front of him as they strode with resolution towards the sea of cars in front of them. Some people coming to work out walked right by them and tossed their glances backwards as they passed. I went back inside, whatever relief coming from being out of the heat evaporating as soon as I saw the big room full of successfully "transformed" people talking jovially amongst themselves and tossing their leftover barbecue, potatoes and broccoli into trash cans at the doors.  

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

>The Silence

>Starting two days ago, I began what I am calling a Silence, and I think that it is something that everybody needs to try. What happens is pretty simple, actually: I am cutting out all superfluous noise in my life for two weeks in an attempt to fill my head less with what other people are creating or saying and replacing it with what I'm creating.

I started work on a new album and I have been having a terrible time giving it a unique touch, and it dawned on me that this is because I have everybody else's ideas floating around. So I'm taking a break from the deluge of extraneous thoughts and doing everything I can to start fresh. Zeroing the scales. Resetting the status quo.

Doing this has already affected me: when I'm driving in silence, I roll the windows down and let God serenade my ears with the sounds of whatever's chirping or whirring or purring or chugging or sputtering along outside of my car. I let myself get lost in the sound of my engine as I shift from first to second, second to third, third to fourth. I hear the people in the cars next to me talking to their spouses, best friends, lovers, sisters, teachers, doctors; I hear white kids blaring Rihanna and black kids blaring Nirvana and the sun helps me see that this world is a more beautiful place than I originally realized. My thoughts have drifted away from myself and I begin thinking about where the person in the green cadillac is headed, where the lady driving the red F-150 lives, if the girl in the blue Bug knows that I can hear her belting Avril Lavigne from across the intersection.

Atticus Finch only said half of it when he told Scout to see what it's like walking in another man's shoes. You can't just walk in their shoes, you have to deprive yourself of your own shoes. Once you take yours off, it's that much easier to slip into somebody else's.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.