Stuff I believe, now that I’m sixty-one and basically a grown man


I once believed that I was an agent of original thought, now in the five-o’clock shadow of life, I see that I am something like a lego-man—a composite of longings and various bits of knowledge that have been borrowed from a host of others.

And so here, issuing from my own blockhead, is a list things I would not have believed this morning, but now hold gently, perhaps even gingerly, but with confidence:

I believe that words, in moments of grace, as Elie Wiesel said, can attain the quality of deeds;

I believe that despite the crazed magnificence of our vanities, our screwy obsessions and our generally clingy, messed-up lives, our deepest desire is to be each other’s joy;

I think that an inner void—you know, that shadowy one at your heels which is the same one that smacks you on the forehead when you’re alone and silent—must not be leapt over, but into;

I believe you can love the earth and not love God, but you can’t love God without loving the earth;

that mycelium will remain mysterious;

that there is life on Gliese 581 C, and Charles Bukowski and Peter Popoff live there;

that the mind is not separate from the body, except perhaps for Benny Hinn, augurs and certain certified psychics (not to mention a few thousand French revolutionaries).

that the big bang happened because God was f-ing around with a cherry-bomb;

that a sock prefers the single life;

that snowflakes are the ghosts of fallen leaves;

that should you get anything absolutely right in life, it is critical you go back to correct it;

that if scientists were mere sceptics we still wouldn’t know about the Copernican system of planetary movement, and what would we do without that metaphor?

that beauty is intoxicating, and laughter is champagne;

that when the impulse strikes to go walking in the woods with the birds and the weeds, or even around the block, take it;

that doubt is necessary and healthy but that the spirit of skepticism is a sickness;

that most things we think are true are by way of other authorities, so it’s pretty critical we pick our mentors well;

that it was exalted certainty that sent the boxcars to Birkenau and not iffy disconsolate minds—which is to say that the primary reason the world is terrifying is because of fundamentalism, in any of its forms.

that to live without faith (and fundamentalism is the furthest thing from faith) is impossible, and to attempt it is a castration of life;

that there are more than a few fish swimming around with coins in their mouths, but Peter still had to fetch his pole and head to the sea;

that imagination stands on its own, but reason without imagination is dead;

that desire is triangular, and its nature is mimicry, which is why Nespresso paid Mr. Clooney 40 million dollars for his endorsement;

that the cosmic weirdness of grace means God loves Stephen Harper just as much as s/he does your grandchild or your friend’s baby, and that’s quite a lot.

that a cultural obsession with sex is not a sign of social depravity but an indication of deep loneliness;

that if and when we humans become fully real we will no longer impose ourselves upon creation but see ourselves as one aspect;

that Gary Larson and Al Purdy and Woody Guthrie were beautiful tellurians—each in their own way;

that science is humble in theory but not so much in practice and that this is what it has in common with religion;

that reason needs a trellis, faith needs a frame and theology needs poetry;

that both the existence and non-existence of God can be proven by symbolic logic—and a formally valid argument can nevertheless be false…so whaddya do with that?

that the argument of infinite regression is absurd, nevertheless, the earth rests on the back of a turtle, well, actually, a succession of turtles;

that positive universal claims and negative existential claims are not testable in all possible worlds—and all ravens are black, except for one or two, maybe;

that presuppositions are held viscerally and emotionally and half-consciously, and are located in the kidneys;

that God is a verb and not a noun;

that the word piffle can be appropriately applied to a plethora of propositions—including this one;

that things repair themselves if they are unplugged for a while, including humans;

that our deepest and dearest beliefs are not logically verifiable, and if they were, life would cease to be;

that “every separation is a link,” …thank you Simone Weil;

that miracle is still the best word to describe life’s origin;

that love-and-mercy is stronger than hate and violence, which pretty much sums up Jesus;

that Holderlin was shining in his wooden tower when he wrote, “But where danger is / grows the saving power also,” and so at the end, there’s no apocalypse of extremes, just the apokatastasis of hope, reconciliation and restoration, which is really more like a beginning…I know it’s a leap, but look around you, it’s one people keep taking.

Well, that’s pretty well it. Except to say that in the morning of life I thought time was a line, now, as I approach evening, I know that time folds, bends and has a thousand shapes we move in and out of—death, loss, hard, hard, hard, maybe it helps to wonder time.

Oh, and this: I used to think that love was to be discovered like some burnished gem at the top of a mountain. Now I know that love comes to find me in all the fractured layers of my life.

Years ago I knew many great and grand principles of life, today all I know is that a hug can be healing.



  1. Extraordinary elicitation of the jagged components of life being healed by a hug. Given the location of my presumptions I now need to relieve myself at my assumption commode!

  2. HAPPY BIRTHDAY,, being born on NOV 5 you should have been named Guy , !!! but then , of course you are the GUY ,, best wishes Phil

  3. Oh happy 61st birthday dear brother in law Steve.
    So many words used here I don’t understand – but the ones that I do are beautiful from your heart.
    Hugs, your sister in law Erika

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