Chapter and Verse

What book could you read over and over again?

Just one book? Forever? If I only get to have one, it’s a Bible. Not because I’m a religious zealot. I enjoy theology and reading criticism… but in the absence of other books, I’d have to make my own. Very, very hard without the source material. Over time, I would absolutely entertain myself by writing both First and Second SpongeBob to see if anyone noticed.

The Bible isn’t an answer. It’s a lens through which I see everything else. By taking these stories seriously and not literally, I can tap into something useful… the power of me. When I look at the historical Jesus, I’m looking in a mirror. I feel like every Christian says this, but I’m never sure if they mean it. They leave out the “historical” part and that’s what creates problems. They’re not connecting to him, but the marketing campaign that tried to rebrand him as white. They’re connecting themselves to something that has never even existed.

The “prosperity gospel” people drive me up the wall, and it is extremely important to understand why. Jesus is all about setting priorities, and money wasn’t on the list. I am angry that so many people think Christianity is *only* mega churches so that small communities engaging in social justice are also thought of as suspect.

Meanwhile, the income disparity just gets more intense as people want church that looks like a rock concert, when to me it’s the very worst of both. It’s pedantic to preach to people on an eighth grade level. Assume your audience is smarter than you are, because it is true.

Moving what is basically my textbook out of the way, you guys already know I love Argo, but it’s not my favorite book by Team Mendez. That’s Spy Dust, the love story between Jonna and Tony. I read it shortly after I met Jonna in person, and it was exactly the book I needed at exactly the right time. They’d both been married before. It was their second act after facing lots of hardship, and it was beautiful (both their relationship and the prose that came out of it).

Fiction changes by the hour. It would be impossible to list all the novels I love. When push comes to shove, I still can’t pick one.

Catcher in the Rye comes up quite frequently. People love it because of the foul language (for the time) and the “Holden Caulfied is just cool” factor. I also love those things, but it’s more than that. It’s written from my favorite perspective, probably because I’m a blogger. It’s first person with an unreliable narrator. Holden’s were stories that were all true and God knows if any of them happened.

I am also very impressed with my own writing, but not in the moment. It takes about five years for me to be proud of an entry because I have to be a different person than I was when I wrote said piece. I’m proud when I look at it with a more objective eye… I feel like I’m connecting to another writer and critiquing their work because at that point, I’m not emotionally attached to it. I also have to be my own biggest fan, because to make my blog dependent on external validation is crazy. It’s a journal and you’re invited, both to read and talk back. To need your love and adoration is to handicap myself, because it’s letting the audience become my boss, writing what they want to read rather than this space actually being useful for my own growth and development.

I absolutely do go back and read what I’ve written, because again, that’s what’s useful to me. I read my entries and look at what I was trying to accomplish and ask myself if I’ve done it. Most of the time, I am not sure. What I do know is that people don’t think I know how I come across, and they are very worried. To me, that’s caring about what other people think more than I care about myself.

I’m not being cruel and callous about hurting people with fallout. I am saying that I can’t think about the outside world. I have to let the audience find me because I need this web site more than everyone else.

My personality type says there are callbacks and patterns, so I go back and find them. I throw things back in my face. I get angry at myself. And somehow, good writing comes out of it sometimes. Not all the time. Sometimes I’m an angry, judgmental dickhead. I like the bumper sticker wisdom of “when you ask yourself ‘what would Jesus do,’ remember that flipping over tables and chasing people with a whip is a viable option.”

This is why I’d take a Bible over anything else. People worried over him the exact same way that people worry over me. They even say some of the same things. It is enough to make me shut down this whole site at times, and I have to force myself not to do it; I’ve done it once before and it really screwed up my future.

It screwed me up inside when the same people that tried to force my hand were so outraged in the moment, then months later said, “you were always such a great writer. Why don’t you do it anymore?” Notice I said that they tried to force my hand. It didn’t work. What did work was feeling so terrible about anything and everything I’d done that my poor self esteem cased and trashed everything I’d built in less than 20 seconds. At the height of my popularity, I was up there with Wil Wheaton and Heather Armstrong. Dooce had only started a couple of years before me, when she actually talked about things that got her in trouble. She built her entire audience off of brutal truth…… and then….. didn’t.

I can’t be bitter, because it was my decision. I am just telling you the cost of shame that comes with having readers. As a writer, you only fear two things. The first is that no one will read your work. The second is that everyone will.

Over the years, people start to appreciate my writing more and more, and I’m not talking about strangers. I’m talking about my friends who don’t remember what happened when and I’m the only one that remembered to write it down. That’s why I’m so careful to talk about people in a three dimensional way. Once the subject removes themselves from the equation and starts reading about themselves as if they were a different person, “all of a sudden” I’m the greatest writer who ever lived because mine was the story that stuck.

You can look it up in First SpongeBob.

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