Two Wings to Cover Our Face

“Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.” (Isaiah 6:2, emphasis mine)

Shining example

Think about what wings are for. Sure, in the case of chickens and rheas and dodos (secretary birds, too), they don’t do much. But the wing is for flight, how else can I say it? Isaiah opens his sixth chapter with “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” (all this happened “In the year that king Uzziah died, by the way—6:1) The Lord in repose on His throne is attended here by two seraphim. One of the only descriptors—really, only one is necessary—I can give is that of flame, “burning” as it says in Strong’s. They’re on fire and they must have been a sight to behold. And by the way, that mention of the Lord’s “train [filling] the temple” refers to His glory filling the place where He was; angels don’t hold a candle to the beauty and the brightness of the Lord.

“One thing have I desired of the the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

But first:

“Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy.” (Psalm 99:9)

Picking around through the Old Testament, an interested party can piece together an image of just what it looks like where God dwells. Yes, it’s true that He dwells in our hearts by His Spirit (see Acts 7:48-50) but metaphorically speaking, it’s almost as if God has His throne room deep in the warren of an impregnable castle at the top of a high mountain overlooking a vast valley. It takes all our effort to approach God and to truly, genuinely seek and obtain audience with the Most High. One doesn’t just happen to find themselves in the holy of holies without a little humility.

“They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.” (Psalm 84:7, emphasis mine)

Ordered Pairs

“Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might…” (2 Peter 2:11a)

What would you do with six wings? Yes, you might fly—I mean, how could you not? But that just takes two. Stay with me here. While we are not angels and even though Jesus says that we’ll be “as the angels of God in Heaven.” (Matthew 22:30b) upon getting there, we’re a different class of being. We were created in the Lord’s image and likeness and yet somehow, we don’t have wings. We can crane our neck to the sky and yearn for the power of flight, but when the day is over, we’re still earth bound. This is how God designed it. It would seem that He has seen fit to start us off at the bottom level, the ground floor. But think about the angels with me for a moment. While I can’t touch on what it means to cover my feet with two of my wings, the implication of covering my face with that which is used to fly is supremely humbling.

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.” (Psalm 100:4)

This is what we get to do. Thanksgiving is not just a movable feast occurring once a year on the third Thursday of November in America. Thanksgiving is the least common denominator of humility—it’s also its own gift; it is a privilege to be able to give thanks to the Lord on high. It isn’t that we don’t get to look God full in the face (remember, we’re not angels), it’s more about taking our gifts and surrendering them to the Lord and ensuring there’s nothing between you and He.

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons (and daughters) unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:9-10)

Very simply, it’s not about us, it’s about Him.

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A More Perfect Union

It’s really cool how everything in this world (the good stuff) boils down to a symbolism that has its root and meaning and signification in God. It says that it was “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants…” (Revelation 1:1, emphasis mine) As always, (again, with the things that are good) we get a window on the incipience of something huge, beginning on high, being handed off to Christ and in turn diffused to and through us.

“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:29)

In relation to marriage, Paul has, beginning back at the twenty-second verse, just lined out a litany of rules and regulations pertaining to the thing known as “Christian marriage”. He sews up his instruction with an admission that, “okay, I was actually referring to how individuals within the Body of Christ are to relate to their Lord. Not just marriage.”

Well enough alone

“His disciples say unto Him, If the case of the man be so with his wife (referring to the lust-filled whims of those who can’t commit), it is not good to marry. But He said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.” (Matthew 19:10-11)

That’s not me, I assure you. Maybe for a time I subconsciously excised that part of me that was looking out for “the one” and instead just looked out for number One (it’s capitalized because it’s not me). Yes, in my time of singleness before the Lord, the Father showed me how to protect myself and to grow and exercise my gift of discernment in order to keep those who would be detrimental to my health—spiritual and otherwise—out. But I was focusing on Him, you understand. I have always had the desire to get married and to meet the one (it’s italicized because I do believe that through the ebb and flow of will and desire, you meet the person God made for you). But it’s a fluid thing. Up till the last great heartbreak of my life, I had always thought I was smart enough—and also sensitive enough to the Lord—to know when I’d see her. I was pretty keyed in to the type of girl I found attractive and if they matched an internal-preference, uh, flow chart, I would pursue. And please understand, it isn’t about hair color or body type, it’s fluid. Not that it changes, either, and I’m not mercurial. There are things I find attractive and things I don’t. Simple as that. But again, there was that deep, wordless part of me that was holding back for God-knows-what. For a time, I understood that there were aspects to my psyche and perception that were skewed from having witnessed my parents divorce and so I held back because I was not ready. I should also like to make mention of the fact that during my time of infatuation (or convalescence between coupling attempts, whichever) I missed out on some with whom the Lord most definitely didn’t want me enmeshed. It’s always interesting to look back at the order of operations that kept me from getting involved with the wrong woman.

The main word of caution the Lord issued to me when I met “the one” (it’s in quotations because she wasn’t) came from Luke’s Gospel (7:19b): “Art Thou He that should come or do we look for another?” While in prison, John sent a couple of his disciples to Jesus in order to determine whether or not He was the Messiah. Jesus didn’t answer with “Yes I am.” We know what happens when He asserts Himself in such a manner (see John 18:6). No, Jesus answered very practically. He essentially said “look at the fruit”, the results: “Tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.” (7:22) When I met this person, I had never been so on fire for another individual. But, as God knows all things, He gave me this very simple watchword: How does she respond? And you know what? She didn’t. At least not in the way that I wanted and was holding out for. This isn’t in any way against her, just that someone who was your cosmically betrothed would have indicated that s/he had the same love for you that you had for them. And so was shattered that paradigm of meeting “the one” at the outset. Praise God. In talking to John’s disciples, Jesus also says, at the end of the list of things He’d been doing that proved He was Messiah, “blessed is he (and she), whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (7:23) The person with whom your’e looking to unite cannot blunt your faith. Don’t let it happen.

What followed was one of the hardest lessons I had ever been blessed to learn: that of understanding how Jesus feels when He wants someone who in turn doesn’t want Him. He was the only person outside myself who truly understood the hurt I had felt. The rejection and bitterness and resentment. He validated me even as He let me in on a part of Him that is reserved for those who are willing to suffer in order to get there. I also learned that Jesus is Lord over believers who are so radically different from one another that the only thing in common is each other’s spiritual heritage. Different minds, different hearts, different genders and different life trajectories.

Taking a side

“But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” (John 19:34)

See, it’s a fluid thing. The same thing happened to Adam when “the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Both Adam and Jesus were asleep (more so in the case of Christ) and so God could operate. The same act of opening Adam’s flank in order to produce Eve is made perfect in the splitting of Christ’s side so as to resurrect His Bride (see Revelation 19:7-9), the Body of Christ. But there is necessarily a death of sorts. In the case of us—I write this to single, unmarried men in the service of God who desire a wife from Him—we must have that part of us turned off, for lack of a better term, so that God can surprise us with someone wonderful.

“And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam (speaking of Christ) was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from Heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:45-45-47)

Room at the Inn

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7, emphasis mine)

It’s called an “inn”, for whatever reason.

“And the first beast was like a lion…” (Revelation 4:7a)

I find it remarkable that the God of the universe hadn’t prepared a place in what many civilized people would consider to be a natural location befitting, at least a peasant, if not a king (Not even one room?). A modern-day, entitled attitude sees everything—not as a gift from God—but as evidence that they are “living right” and therefrom somehow earning and deserving-of, say, that parking place at the front of the lot. But! We have “the mind of Christ”, right (1 Corinthians 2:16)? Fast-forward a little to the time in the temple when Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to Simeon in order to sanctify Him unto the Lord according to the Law of Moses:

“And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)

When one is called to affect a piece of the world for God, He’ll bring the person in question down to the lowest of the low, the least-common denominator in relation to the sphere to which they’re called. In the case of Jesus—“the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29b)—it’s like His Father started Him at a lower place than would be necessary for anyone else.

“and the second beast like a calf…” (Revelation 4:7b)

Think about what Simeon spoke aloud regarding the Lord: “that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” What is a “thought”? Can I see it? How does it affect the way I live and the world in which I live? And, do I have “thoughts” or is it something more akin to atoms and then molecules? Sometimes it’s hard to do what Paul describes in his second letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 10:5b, emphasis mine): “[bring] into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Sometimes it feels like the things running through my head are not individual objects that can be separated one from another and sifted through but more in line with liquid, or sludge. Dear God. I find comfort in this scripture: “In the multitude of my thoughts within me Thy comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19)

Jesus is Lord of all. When Paul said “we have the mind of Christ”, this means that we have a capacity, a lens through which to view the thoughts and emotions (like the aforementioned “atoms and molecules”) that come at us and arise within and through us. Jesus started at the bottom in order to build up that mind, in humility, to be able to gift it to us via the Holy Spirit.

“and the third beast had a face as a man…” (Revelation 4:7c)

Behind each face is a thousand thoughts, sometimes more, operating in and around and interdependent of one another. There’s no way we can read another’s mind, let alone our own. “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.” (Psalm 94:11) The sad thing is, there is no room in the thoughts of man for the Lord Christ. This is why the Father had to start off as He did, with His “holy child Jesus” (Acts 4:30b). This notion that we have earned anything on our own merit, preparing for an ushering in to the kingdom of Heaven, is anathema. It is beyond irrational. The Father didn’t keep His Son from being born into comfort out of maliciousness, it’s just that He started Jesus off on the right foot so that He could bring everyone else up from the bottom as well.

“and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.” (Revelation 4:7d)

Take a second this Christmas—maybe around the time you retire to your after dinner coffee and before you remember those little stocking stuffers you forgot among the rush of the big presents under the tree (assuming you even got anything for Christmas)—and give Jesus a thought, a moment, an emotion. He more than warrants it. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes for us and placed, not under a tree, but with the animals. Let us go out of our comfort and present Him a place in our minds and hearts.

“And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from His power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.” (Revelation 15:8)

The Right Way to Do a Christmas Song

I was listening to Alice In Chains’ Christmas album* the other day when I realized some traditional Christmas carols are best served by certain artists. Seen another way, it might be best to express that one particular artist put his or her stamp on the song and it maintains a synergistic relationship with them and their career. The best example I have is that of Bing Crosby and “White Christmas”. Vince Gill does a good cover, sure, with his stellar electric guitar picking—good enough not to sing it after the instrumental, honestly. But Bing is White Christmas, if I may.

I love Christmas music and look forward to mid-Autumn re-downloading what tunes I have in the cloud. I have about thirty handpicked Christmas songs with exceptional holiday staying power, and while I’m not one for the gimmicky, department-store background noise, the versions and covers of which I’m fond warm my heart during the Christmas season. Here’s a few from my own personal Christmas playlist.

Take, for instance, Enya’s Gaelic rendition of Silent Night (Oíche Chiúin). One may not understand anything she’s singing but the warmth in her voice and the drawn out tones make for an altogether refreshing take on a Christmas carol standard. Then again, if you need a standby “Silent Night”, you really can’t do better than The Temptations’ take. They go from high to low in a lush Motown version you’d want to fall asleep to (but in a good way). Sleep in heavenly peace indeed.

Enya continues with her otherworldly “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. She opens the song with her signature mezzo and ends the first verse with two utterances of “Rejoice”—clear as ice. Then the high druidic background vocals enter to complement and also add depth to what may have become a long-forgotten and no-count carol that carries the weight and seriousness and message of the Christmas season. At least, this is my interpretation.

I fell in love with Vince Gill’s Let There Be Peace On Earth when I was a kid and digging the early nineties country scene. And while I still have a few affectionate holdovers from that era, my musical tastes have matured and refined and now my internal playlist features music—Christmas and non—from across the spectrum. This being said, his rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is still stellar. Move over with me, however, a little to the Northeast and take on James Taylor’s version. The soft brushes on the drums and spare piano chords highlight  Sweet Baby James’ yearning for a little peace during “the most wonderful time of the year”. It’s wistful, hopeful and realistic in equal measure.

Sawyer Brown’s Christmas album is one of the aforementioned holdovers from my time as a Country fan. Released in 1999, I purchased it in full for old time’s sake a number of years ago. Throughout the album, they talk (okay, Mark Miller sings) all around the story of Christmas from the perspective of the wise men (“The Wiseman’s Song”) to Mary (“Sweet Mary Cried”) to the children in awe at the wonder inherent to the season (“Where Christmas Goes”). The title track “Hallelujah He Is Born” and the musical reworking of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, however, are worth the price of admission. They also take on “Little Drummer Boy” with aplomb as well as the not-too-stuffy, if quite elegant “Angels We Have Heard On High” (pronouncing “Gloria in excelcis Deo” without a hint of Latin inaccessibility). I met keyboardist Greg Hubbard one day and personally thanked him for what the album meant to me. He asked for my address and I received a signed copy of the cd a number of weeks later. Great guys.

If I had to label my favorite Christmas song, it’d have to be “Away In a Manger”. I realized this year that I hadn’t ever purchased a copy and only the few bars that resounded in my head were the ones that I sang, or hummed, to myself as the Christmas season approached. In light of this, I hunted around about two weeks ago for the perfect version, one that would not displace the sweetness of what this simple song meant to me, and happened upon a version curated in the Celtic Woman holiday album. Something about the nameless singer’s Irish lilt lends a new and welcome flavor to what I consider to be the humblest of the Christmas carols.

There’s really so much you can do with this, so many places to go. In much the same way that Bing Crosby imbues White Christmas with what makes the song a classic and a standard, Nat King Cole’s seminal version of “The Christmas Song” is about all you need. The sense of urgency at about a minute-and-a-half is rendered with pitch-perfection—that hush of wonder at whether or not reindeer are able to go airborne of their own accord. I remember having received my Super Nintendo for my ninth birthday and playing Super Mario World with this particular “The Christmas Song” playing in the background against the soft glow of the Christmas tree. It is one of my favorite Christmas memories of all time. This being said, Celine Dion’s offering of the same song shines with a beauty that about equal’s Cole’s. As an aside, I’ve never seen a Christmas compilation (I don’t think) featuring “Feliz Navidad” done by anyone other than José Feliciano.

I have a soft spot for The Eagles’ “Please Come Home For Christmas”. Aaron Neville does it well as well but if one had to judge an album by its cover, they couldn’t do better than a bunch of guys sitting poolside with a cheapest sub-Charlie Brown-looking, plastic Christmas tree alongside. The midwinter LA sky looks beautiful and that palm tree in the foreground as well. The simple piano notes that open the track draw you in to a (potentially) lonely season in a poignant way and then bid you goodbye.

The Christmas after my Nintendo memory I received my brother (December 28th). As he was severely jaundiced upon parturition, he remained in the hospital for a week. Mind you, Christmas had come and gone (and, at least that year, was effectively eclipsed with Ian’s coming forth into this world) but my dad and I would go back and forth across town to visit both he and my mother. My dad had what must have been a Christmas mix tape featuring Gene Autry’s exceptional “Here Comes Santa Clause”. For me, no other version will do—not even Elvis’. This is one song I haven’t obtained yet because the memory stands out with such beauty and stillness and wonder that the actual object of the affection (in this case, a digital MP3 file) would only serve to blunt and/or sully something deeper. The line about “[giving] thanks to the Lord above because Santa Clause comes tonight” has always made me chuckle.

Karla Bonoff’s “The First Noel” is awesome and the award for best instrumental that may or may not have anything to do with Christmas beyond the title goes to Ryuchi Sakamoto’s “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence”.

In closing, I know I said that “Away In a Manger” was my favorite. It’s my favorite due to its sweet innocence and simplicity and the Celtic Woman cover, as I mentioned, does nothing to supplant the memory I hold in my mind. But if there was one song on the list I’d keep, barring all others, it would be Peter, Paul & Mary’s medieval-tinged “A’Soalin”. If “Away In a Manger” renders the Christ child in all his helpless glory, “A’Soulin” identifies the plight of those whom he came to save and to serve. The hope is palpable (“the streets are very dirty/my shoes are very thin/I have a little pocket/to put a penny in”). The “reason for the season” comes around full circle with both songs. I’m sure other artists have covered the song but the holiness of the original is enough to not even desire to search out other interpretations.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you.

*Alice In Chains doesn’t actually have a Christmas album

Windows to the Soul

“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3)

People’s eyes are a world, or a void, depending on how you look. They can be the first thing you notice about someone or they can be the two things you avoid in spite of looking their way and seeing everything else about them. Whenever I make a connection with a person, I seek to look them right in the eye. Around ten years ago, I read about making eye contact and how one should do so in the interest of asserting themselves in the world at large. I went out shortly thereafter with this rule: look everyone square in the eye. This didn’t last long. Life became a staring contest when in the course of natural events and spontaneous interactions, I would (literally) look to hold a person’s gaze and to have, as Vanessa Carlton once put it, “[my] vision bore out [theirs]”. I wasn’t doing it to be rude, just to slowly grow (at least this was my thought) my person and my confidence. I was coming on too strong.

Love at a glance

“The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in Heaven: His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men.” (Psalm 11:4)

Just because God does it doesn’t mean we get to do it. When it says in John (3:17) that “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world”, we know that God would never look at a person based on the outward indicators of some inward fault or flaw. When we discern, however incompletely, something about someone that’s beneath the surface, best to either look away or ensure that the love of God is shining through our eyes. Life is so short and I feel that, very simply, everyone’s calling is informed in a major way by the twin motions of love and forgiveness. Keeping those things in focus throughout our day, then, is more the order of the day than any posturing and assertiveness shown by simply staring someone down and condemning them.

Look away, look away

“A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.” (Proverbs 20:8)

But what about this? The proverb above talks about how with just one look, the king can negate or otherwise disperse and dispel anything bad that would be lurking about. But what does this look like for our life? Our day-in, day-out existence at work or school or what-have-you? God knows. Think about the bad things where you’re at. I’m not talking about demons and monsters and bogeymen, I’m talking about unkindness and complacency and standoffishness. Are you an outgoing, type-A personality? Were you born that way or were you shepherded into it by friends and family who validated that part of you? Maybe you developed it through years of stepping through the erstwhile shyness that you thought was you but wasn’t really. Because, assuming you’re not doing it to draw attention to yourself (if you’re that way, you already know you attract attention to whatever degree, lesser or greater, if I may), that element to your personhood is shining through your eyes all the time. And then, as a standout individual in that place, you get to be the one to ensure that all evil is “[scattered] away”. When Solomon composed the Proverbs, sprinkled throughout is reference to “the king” (see Psalm 72:1). It’s obviously talking about the maxims he learned while enthroned. Here’s the thing though, it doesn’t have to be “the king”. It could be whomever it is (you) in charge of whatever aspect you’re called to affect where you’re at. God wants to put you in charge of things if you’re inclined. It’s Him who “worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

Taking it all in

“Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.” (Psalm 77:4)

Then there are things that we don’t want to look at. For whatever reason, we’re scared or intimidated or shy. Don’t ever think that the thing of which you’re unwilling to face for whatever reason has to be zeroed in on by way of God daring you. There are things we’re blind to that we are unable to see correctly—or see at all for that matter. God knows this too. He knows how to show us and how to make us see. So long as were looking at him, He’ll open our eyes.

 

Year In Review

2015 was without a doubt the busiest year of my life.

A year of singular events and signal turning points. While I got to see my favorite band on their farewell tour (Rush), they didn’t play my favorite song (Limelight). No matter, it, and they, will always be my favorite. They did, however, play my second-favorite song (Subdivisions) on the 21st of July in Portland. And speaking of “turning points”, I had to get my car’s power steering motor replaced before going up to see them—totally worth it, and essential I might add.

I also got to see my second-favorite band (Collective Soul in May) on the unofficial first stop of their new tour. Ed Roland announced partway through the concert that the red tape tying up the release of See What You Started By Continuing had been cut the day before and that the Lincoln City audience (of which I was a member) was first privy to what the rest of the world would soon hear. They released the album in October, only one of whose songs I’ve genuinely warmed to (Without Me), okay two (Exposed).

It was a year of music for sure. I got to see, not just my favorite bass player, but also the world’s preeminent: Victor Wooten. Got to meet him, too. He’s an extraordinarily humble and kind individual.

My brother came out to the West Coast, not once but twice. During the latter visit, he treated me to an evening at the Britt festival in Jacksonville; we watched The Punch Brothers. While they didn’t play my favorite song (a stellar cover of Radiohead’s “Packt Like Sardines In a Crush’d Tin Box), they did play his (Another New World).

Two other musical honorable mentions would be Enya’s new album (Dark Sky Island) which features the exceptional “Echoes In Rain” and Seal’s 7 which has another single I appreciate (Daylight Saving). It’s always cool to see an artist whose catalog you happen upon while they’re in their heyday, so to speak. As time goes on, you continue to warm to them and appreciate them and catch up to them (as I did in the case of both Seal and Enya in the mid-2000s) integrating them into your internal playlist. And then when they release new material that’s in keeping with the quality of their early stuff, the stuff they put out when they were hungry, you feel a circle has been completed. Music is one of the most subjective things in this world. Consider that the root of the word, when you rewind back to Indo-European, means “to think”. It’s a broad correlation from one reference title but our musical tastes are as varied and unique as are we.

William Gibson became my new favorite author in February. My other brother Jesse had read Neuromancer for his “Introduction to Cybernetics and Cyberculture” class. He loaned it to me after finishing it and while he didn’t really dig it, I did. I continued on with All Tomorrow’s Parties. Having seen that Gibson was prolific and that his dense, yet highly descriptive style reminded me of someone else (me, though I suppose this was somewhat subconscious), I elected to sink my teeth into his body of work. While All Tomorrow’s Parties thrilled, I learned it was the third in a trilogy. No wonder so much of it didn’t make sense. I shrugged my shoulders and soldiered on.

A number of years ago, I had seen his book Zero History at The Dollar Tree and thought (having seen and heard of but never read him): “Odd that an author of his caliber would have been relegated to a buck on the bottom shelf.” I remembered this and so went for a copy. I picked it up (it was still there, after all these years) and cracked it open. I found that Zero History was likewise third in a trilogy—The Blue Ant trilogy, so-named for the design firm that features throughout the three books—and I began to see a pattern. My next Gibson outing, then, would be the first in said trilogy: Pattern Recognition. So enjoyable was Pattern Recognition that I ordered hardbacks of it and its sequel, Spook Country, to complement that hardback of Zero History I’d picked up for a buck. I also read that one again, just to round out the storyline. It all made sense now. While I was reading this trilogy, I had this epiphany. I slowly realized that this trilogy, this story arc had been waiting out there in the media ether—to coin a phrase—for nearly ten years and that I was just now coming into its knowing. I took it upon myself to buy up all the copies at Dollar Tree and distribute them to passersby, unsuspecting and non (over a dozen). Needless to say, Gibson is not represented there anymore. I continued with Virtual Light and then Idoru before reading All Tomorrow’s Parties again. He published his most recent standalone novel last October and by the time I was done with his excellent essay collection Distrust That Particular Flavor (and after a little respite from his universe), I was ready to read The Peripheral. Though the paperback edition I happened upon at the book exchange in Ashland (same city in which I saw Victor Wooten) was from the UK. It was still a week before America would get to read it in that format. Good stuff!

I also read the Zanders’ Art of Possibility, a Self-Help-by-way-of-the-Business-section title on remaining open to that abstract. While possibility is all around us, if I had to posit my two cents, I would have to say that we as adults (assuming you’re past a certain age) subconsciously seek to remain in control to the neglect of what is possible. The Zanders (husband and wife) open their slim, bright yellow volume with the fiat: “A book of practices.” Twelve chapters exceptionally detail a way of thinking—illustrated with the authors’ own anecdotes and narratives, of course—that ensures the reader hold a better objective standard in their own life with reference to events and relationships. Chapter three (titled, “Giving an A”) is worth the price of admission. He (Ben) is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and she (Roz—Rosamund) is a therapist and each brings their discipline (music, counseling) to bear on the subjects addressed. Check it out (or buy it, whatever) if you feel so inclined. I probably wouldn’t have read it had it not been in the Business section, just so you know.

I lost my father this year. If all that came before were the high points, this was certainly the low. There are still people who ask how he is when they see me, not knowing he’s not with us anymore. The two offerings I give when answering that question and upon the querier’s (one who queries) hearing of his passing are: “He’s not suffering anymore.” and “He’s in a better place.”  These two statements hold true to this day, five months after the event. My time in Portland seeing Rush was a welcome relief to the busyness and stress of what happened. This was the first time my brother flew out to see me; we miss our dad.

I started college. About four years ago, I met my best friend and he and I shared coffee and conversation every week without fail (unless he was out of town) for three years. He and his wife moved away last year. While our mutual brainstorming sessions yielded the first stirrings of an unformed idea resembling a “creative center”, the horizon would look a lot different. I came to realize that without some formal education, something like that would never get off the ground. In light of this realization, I felt like the best approach to still doing what Dylan and I had discussed was to become a teacher and see where that takes me. Everything’s goes well on that front.

I drink black coffee now; this happened around Spring. My morning usual had been for years a 12 ounce americano with an artificial (pink) sweetener and about an inch of half-and-half. I had long wanted to cut out artificial sweetener from my diet and so I took that plunge, switching to one raw sugar per cup. This tasted about right, not quite that saccharine high I’d been accustomed to since God-knows-when, but more even, mellower even.

But then I had another morning-cup epiphany: why not cut out the sweet altogether? I mean (reasoning to myself), isn’t coffee meant to be enjoyed on its own? It may well have been the fact that I was probably just ready for a change, yeah. So now I got half-and-half, only, in my joe. This winnowing would continue with the elimination of cream to just black. Coffee is the bitter element in the drink and the milk fat balances that bitterness (I came upon this in a book, it makes perfect sense). Then the sweet only serves to complement that balance. This isn’t to say—barring the other two elements in my morning coffee—that I am content with bitterness, no. I appreciate the subtle distinctions to be found in each cup of black coffee (I also stopped drinking americanos, I’ll get one now for every ten cups of black, drip coffee) and I seek to savor each first sip. It is a ritual that I enjoy every morning. Thank you very much.

There remain about two-and-a-half weeks before the year ends. As awesome and momentous a year as this has been, it’s not over yet. We’ll see how it turns out! If I had one piece of advice for the closing of one season and in light of the next, it’s this: be grateful. Appreciate what you have and remain bright in the face of what comes.

Happy Holidays!