Thursday, October 12, 2017

Soul Searching

I don't pray very often.

I just don't much anymore. Not because I don't believe in the power of prayer, but simply because I've gotten out of the habit of actually petitioning God for anything other than to do God's will. While I go to church more often these days than anytime since I was a child (I try to get my kids there every Sunday), and I do meditate and thank the good Lord for my many blessings and ask for aid to all the folks who need it, etc. there WAS a time when I could...and would...pray at the drop of a hat. For aid in all sorts of things. Things that, objectively, one might consider selfish. To do well on a test. To not get caught doing something I wasn't supposed to do. For the local team to win a big game. Things like that: the normal petitions of a young Catholic who believes in the intercession of the Trinity (and perhaps a saint or three).

I watch my son pray, and I find it amusing. He'll pray that he wins a hand of cards (we play a lot of cards in my house). Or that the Seahawks make a field goal. Or that we make it to [wherever] on time. He closes his eyes and clasps his hands and prays silently, unashamed of who may be watching. I admire him for it...even envy him a bit (I was never so demonstrative, nor...I fervent, except perhaps when praying for God to save us all from nuclear war and Mount St. Helens). He prays with equal fervor for folks affected by hurricanes and earthquakes and mass shootings. He's a good little kid.

Why am I writing about this? I've been thinking about soul searching lately, self-meditation, praying for guidance. The subject keeps coming up for me the universe telling me it's something I should be doing. Because lately I feel like I've been ignoring my "inner voice" (what some might consider the whispering of the divine) in favor of simply treading water: going through the daily routine, doing my day drinking, grinding out some semblance of substance in a life where I often feel like some slacker fraud.

I am reminded of an incident from my childhood, where my father gave me the worst tongue-lashing I can remember (and deservedly so), when he discovered I had his words..."pulling the wool over his eyes." Pretending that I was the model student when I was, in fact, really letting shit slide. It was horrifying on many levels, and probably gave me all sorts of negative conditioning that still haunts my psyche to this day. In the moment it was occurring, I really thought he was going to take me out.

I wonder how much of this has been passed on to me and become part of my own "parenting style."

[terrible thought]

I picked up a copy of Michael Thomas's BLUEHOLME Journeymanne Rules today, and had a chance to read through it. I am a big fan of Thomas's original BLUEHOLME (the "Prentice" rules), and wanted to see what his concept of an expanded ruleset would like. I was...well...underwhelmed. The book itself is beautiful (the artwork and layout is fantastic), the scale (less than 120 pages) is about perfect, but the content isn't much more than the original, save that it "goes up to 11" (or 20...level this case).

And perhaps that's enough...perhaps that was Mr. Thomas's objective in writing it. If I didn't have the Prentice rules (or a copy of Holmes Basic), this would be a "must-have" book for this edition...this style...of Dungeons & Dragons. That's what Holmes is, after all: the world famous D&D game in a slightly different flavor. And while he offers a couple of new innovations (for instance, I like his variant weapon damage that makes sense within the style and scope of the original), on the whole it feels like it could have been more.

But how can I fault him? Really...who am I to pass judgment? He has created a very nice retro-mash of Holmes and the OD&D supplements, packaged it in the most pleasing form (art and layout) of ANY OSR clone yet (honestly, I can't think of a nicer looking OSR clone that I've seen), and provided all the rules he feels necessary for his preferred flavor of D&D. And me? What the hell have I done lately?

The truth is, I've been on an extended hiatus, due less to the busy-ness of my life and far more to straight-up lethargy, inertia, and my various addictions. I'm just saying this to "come clean" I sit here at the German pub, drinking beer and ignoring my other obligations. Hell, I just ordered a second half liter as I was writing that last sentence. The fact is, if I didn't have my family to anchor me (and really, it's just my kids) I would probably have no reason to go home at night. Or shower and shave (occasionally). Or clean my house. Or grocery shop. Or anything productive at all.

And being "productive" isn't the same as being "constructive." Productive is simply treading water at this point in my life, and that feels like a damn cop out. About 18 months back, I was writing about how I never learned to "hustle," and worrying about my damn legacy and a bunch of other bullshit. Part of the problem I'm seeing now is that I actually have an idea, an inkling, of what I should be doing with my life...and yet I'm not doing it. It's so easy to rest on one's laurels, to celebrate the small victories instead of seeking out the new challenge, the next mountain to summit.

Fuck. I'm really NOT trying to be poetic here.

It makes me want to (mentally) beat myself up, but I understand and realize that's truly a counterproductive waste of time. If someone came to me with this same, sad sack bullshit I'm writing here, I know what I'd say to him/her. But I've discovered in recent months how useless words can be to changing someone's behavior, let alone their life. Only self-action (i.e. actions taken by oneself) can change the road you're on, not helpful...or compassionate...or shouted...or constructive advice.

Time to put down the fucking beer and get on with it.

I started this post writing about prayer. I can't explain why I find it so difficult to pray (outside of church, when I'm modeling behavior for my children), except that I'm fucking out of practice. God doesn't care if you pray for selfish things, and as long as you understand God's answer to your prayers might well be "no," there's no harm (or foul) in doing so. I think I might benefit from doing some prayer...especially the deep, soul-searching kind. The last couple months I've been doing a little of this during Mass, and I've been receiving some inspiring ideas...ideas that I haven't done much about. Too tired, you know? Or too "busy." Or too lazy. Or something. Whatever it is, the inspiration fades after a couple donuts and a big, Sunday brunch followed by the football game on TV...just your typical, habitual Sunday ritual.

I think I need to start praying on days other than Sunday.

I'm going to leave it at that for now. I want to talk more about BLUEHOLME in a separate post (after I give it a second read and collate some of my more random-ish thoughts), but at the moment I've got some other stuff I have to get to.

Later, gators.

[EDIT: just re-reading this, my writing...and sentences...appear very short and "clipped." I want folks to know that, mentally, there were a lot of loooong pauses in my brain when I was typing this up]


  1. Remember, it isn't necessary to take huge steps when trying to break out of lethargy (I, too struggle). All it takes is one small step at a time and before you know it, something significant has happened...

    To that end, I give you the shortest prayer I know: "Lord have mercy."

  2. God loves you just the way you are, no matter what. You taught your son right. It is good to pray unashamedly.

    You sound guilty and ashamed of something. That is a horrible way to live! The best gift anyone can give himself and his family is to forgive himself.

    It's easy to say but not to do.

    We love you, we think you are marvelous. Not because of anything you do but because you are God's special gift to the world. Just by being you.

    I am personally so happy every time you post! It doesn't have to be D&D every time. Just happy to know you're alive.

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  4. I am always surprised when someone talks about the spiritual life. As a person in AA, it is a necessary part of my everyday, but I practice prayer with varying degrees of sincerity/attention. It was nice to hear your thoughts on the matter. Thanks.

  5. @ Scott:

    Thanks, man...that's one of the nicest comments I've ever read on this blog. : )

    @ Everyone:

    Thank you for the kind...and helpful...words. I appreciate it. Really.

  6. What a great post. Years of reading the blog and my first time commenting I believe. Anyway!... I wanted to echo what others have said and also to note that one need not rely on themselves (or even the Lord, that is for and by/with themselves) for their strength/guidance. Know that others too are also lending you their prayers as well for added support. Here's to you finding the ways and means and path to kick your own ass down whatever road that you must....that you can. You can. Cheers!

  7. I hear you. And I applaud your transparency. That isn't easy to do.
    I love hearing about how your son prays. My 8 yo daughter always jumps to say grace, but then she thanks God for the grass, the sun, the swing, the trampoline, etc etc and the rest of us want to eat already. But it's beautiful how children talk to God.
    I was just thinking the other day that too often we approach God the way we do Facebook following. You know, when you have someone you enjoy seeing in a movie, or you like their podcast, etc and you follow them on Facebook, but you don't ever talk with them. They aren't really friends. You couldn't call them when you need to move to help with carrying boxes or borrow a truck. You just like to read about them. It's good to read, but the true knowledge only comes from talking to someone. You can't really know God without talking to him.
    I just saw this quote from St Francis yesterday, "We should seek not so much to pray but to become prayer." That's deep.

    1. @ Brian:

      Huh. Yeah. I think I have more of a Facebook relationship with God than I probably should (and for the record, I am terrible when it comes to using Facebook). I agree...we do need more dialogue with our inner spirit / higher self / God if we want to build a relationship.

  8. I go to church more often these days than anytime

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  9. All change has to come up from oneself, i could not agree more. May you get the wisdom to discern your mission and the will to tread it. Our inner self knows things we dont! Learn to hear it!