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31 January 2010

Mission City - II - The Tunnels of UT

I am copying and pasting something I wrote a while back. I don't like the prose, so I may re-write it. I seem to recall struggling with the verb tense and trying to focus on action rather than setting.

My friend and I did not actually enter the UT tunnels. I never had been down there when this mission came to me. I have been down since, when I worked at UT doing accounting. I was helping some co-workers move some items into storage down in the tunnel system, and went down just to see if it looked anything like what I relate below. Yep.

Also, consider the complexity of this story (and there is a lot of detail I intend to include when I have more time) as compared to those first sinple images I had as a young boy. To me, it appears AS IF those simple, repetitive images were simply to acclimate me to the vision dream-- As if being gently led as appropriate for my age and understanding.

Here is what I wrote some time back:

A friend, John, and I were on the University of Texas campus in Austin. Neither of knew why we were there, but my friend seemed to be waiting for me to explain and do something about it. There was an anxiety with us—a strong sense of being hunted. Neither of us knew how or why we were in jeopardy, but we each knew we were in danger, that we were being hunted, and that we were never sure if the strangers passing by were aware of our situation or part of the cause.

In fact, we had no idea how anyone in Austin could even know or care who we were, much less, have any cause for causing us harm—yet we knew it was so.

It was dusk—a warm spring or summer evening. The part of the campus where we had found ourselves was old and attractive in architecture and landscaping. It was evenly lit, for a time, by the vesper light and the contributing glow of street lamps and the office lights in the windows. For a moment, there was a sense of peace. Perhaps it was a sense of accomplishment and time for a brief rest.

It was, or it least it was as if, I had no idea of any specifics of what had transpired before, but in this time of relief, I was for the first time able to take stock, and do a bit of thinking. All I had to go by was that I was on a mission, it was dangerous, and how and why I came to this point did not matter—nor did it matter that I could not have given a reason why I had to do what I knew I had to do—I only knew I was resolved to do what I could not explain or justify—and knew it was very dangerous. Nothing in my life had ever been like this—I was living in the moment, I was acting on something powerful without the slightest idea why I was so easily—even dismissively-- complicit.

We sat across the un-trafficked street from a shorter building than most around us. It was a warm dark brown, with pleasantly proportioned windows—each with the nicest sort of louvered wooden blinds with thin slats. Perhaps we ate and drank a snack, as we sat there on the curb looking at the building. John said something to me and I answered. Whatever we did and said didn’t matter at this point—we were focused on the mission, and waiting. College students and few older persons walked past. We were vigilant and conscious that we needed to appear relaxed, calm and ordinary despite feeling increasingly out of the ordinary, under stress, and anxious.

Now and then, someone would pass by and would look a little too long and (not knowing one or the other of us were paying attention) speak conspiratorially to another by passer. We noticed. In whatever amount of time passed from that late sunset until dark, we witnessed this threat about five times. Those persons behaving in such ways, also looked stressed and unsure, yet walked with some measure of confidence. In my mind, I saw them as spies, for that is what I knew them to be. I had expected to see them, but what I had not expected was that these hunters seemed more afraid of us—as if they knew that they were not in control. I took some confidence in that. Until seeing how the spies reacted to us, I was not able to find some hope of even being able to begin the mission. A tiny bit of confidence crept in plus there was the knowledge that it really did not matter. We would do what we were there to do no matter what—there were no choices. This allowed my mind to focus again on the moment and I dismissed the doubts, the dread, and any other feeling which distracted me.

One of the blinds in the lower office—the office on the corner, quietly and slowly rose a few inches, and then a desk lamp was turned on. It glowed with a dim incandescent bulb, and the deep wood tones of the room gave the whole window a yellow brown glow, almost like candlelight does. It was inviting. In fact, it may have been an invitation. No one noticed any of this except John and me. Good.

John and I stood up, stretched our legs, and wordlessly walked across the street toward the brick building. The step up from the curb was a high one, as the manicured and lush St. Augustine grass had such thick roots that it had risen, over the years, to three or four inches over the curb height. It was so neatly edged that the lawn crew must have been there earlier in the day. A row of small bushes formed a hedge close to the curb. It was an easy step over them, but awkward in that it was likely to attract notice.

The grass was wet. Just beyond the hedgerow, the ground sloped steeply down to the foundation of the building. Descending carefully so as not to slip, we could see down into the window, looking at a neat wooden desk with two or three loose sheets of paper on the center and the chair empty. We came to the window and stood there, peering in.

I don’t know about John, but I was expecting to see something—a sign, a clue, anything that would suggest to me what to do—perhaps explain the mission. I stood there with a sense of “now what?” long enough to take in the beauty of the office—traditional, warm woods, clean, inviting, many books, neat, a desk ready for the next task, a sheet of white, yellow, and pastel green paper, the colored sheets were half-sheet size, the desk lamp with the green half-cylinder globe, the bowed slats of the desk chair, the darkness at the back of the office beside the floor-to-ceiling shelves of books. John tapped me on my side with back of his hand as he turned from the window and quietly said, “Let’s go.”

We went to our right, walking southward around the side of the building reaching an entrance which, for some reason, I cannot recall in any detail. It occurs to me in hind sight, that there were times when I mystically knew what to do, and in those times my feelings were cut off, but my senses heightened, acutely aware of the dangers, and only nominally aware that I was participating in carrying forward the mission by every little thing, each step, each turn; and all was occurring in cooperation. I never felt controlled, but rather it was closer to an intuitive knowledge of what to do and where to go that simply felt “right.” By “right” I mean in the moral sense, “right” as in good and virtuous. That is the cause, I suppose, of the complicitness by which I acted: I knew I was participating with good.

Moreover (although that was sufficient for me) was that I also was aware that the spies, those who presented the danger to us, were cooperating with something evil. As we entered the building, we were unseen, and we knew it. It is possible and reasonable to assume that the spies were at least as aware as we were, and in seeing us waiting for darkness, had done what they were tasked to do. However, I had no such consideration in the moment.

John and I went inside, and somehow found ourselves in the basement. A steel door represented the place we were to go, and we found the door unlocked and passed through. We went down the underground passage with enough light in places to see our steps, and followed the twists and turns for several minutes.

Something happened down there-- a climax of the Mission of which we were a part. I only have a sense of that action—the life and death struggle, the awareness of mortal danger yet with no sense of panic, no anxiety—it was like finding oneself in battle with too little time to consider actions and acting out of intuition in combat. Perhaps it was not like that but was exactly that. I truly remember nothing but incomplete thoughts: Descending deeper into the tunnels, encountering an unseen foe, a desperate battle of two against many.

Hours passed, and I have the impression that I was very tiered and weary, and I know there were times when I wondered how I had the strength to continue.

We both seemed amazed that we were more or less fit to continue. Not a word was spoken. I continued south in the tunnel and after a turn one way and then back, saw the gray of dawn before us.

As we stepped to the light, we realized that the tunnel did not naturally open to the outside, but rather, the ground had been torn away from where the tunnel once led. We stepped to the edge, and saw that it opened from the side of enormous crater. Outside we could see what remained of the city. Before us, to the right, the capitol dome had partially collapsed just at the edge of the far side of the crater, many buildings lay in ruins, the sides closest to the crater stripped so that the buildings had been bisected, laid open vertically—all the floors exposed. The Oklahoma City bombing of the federal building was like that. Although this vision took place in 1977, the image of the Murrow building laid open was a microcosm of what lay at the far rim of the crater.

Only to the east was the crater’s rim without sign of devastation—toward the cemetery as the rim seemed to end just about where IH 35 once existed there at MLK. Below the rim, as we scanned the devastation, we could see that layers and layers of tunnels had been exposed by the removal of the ground, violently torn into. So dense were the tunnels opening into the crater, that they, too, had the appearance of an office building with its walls stripped away.

What John and I took in was the surprising extent of the underground tunnel system now exposed—the entire city—at least between the University campus and the State offices-- had been crisscrossed with these secret places where so much evil dwelt. We stepped out toward the east, and climbed upwards as best we could-- traveling eastward as we ascended. There were others about—almost all in pairs. Everyone had the look of a smile about to appear on their faces, as well as looks of wonder and gratitude. All of us were making our way to the original ground level—the rim of the crater.

When John and I reached the grass, the gray misty morning was brightening and we again found ourselves resting on lush green grass. There was no debris—all that had been destroyed lay inside the crater. We began to listen to others who had come to the surface—some before us and some just joining us. There were statements shared by all of us to the effect that we had made it, that it was over, and that the danger had passed. Up until then, I had been unaware that any other battle had taken place. No one was surprised—not even me—that so many of us had seemed to have had the same experience. Hundreds were appearing when the vision ended. It was only a few in relation to the city, but that there were hundreds, and all safe, all friendly, all knowing we belonged together—it was a moment of ease and joy.

Interesting and perhaps meaningful that I find myself on a determined mystical journey while once again living in Austin. I don't need to go underground to find the meaning. The fight has already begun: The Harrowing of Hell and the Resurrection are quite clear in the vision dream. I have also had personal experience with the corruption on both sides of the crater. I'm still standing, although I have taken blows from each side.

Brain Zaps, Mysticism, Depression, SNRI’s

I was tempted to title this something like "Touch the Monolith," "Fall Through the Looking Glass," or "Take the Red Pill."

I always tend to err in saying too much, but for those who are interested…

I also know better, as a writer, to mix just a little of the “deep stuff” with the “neat stuff” or else the reader will lose interest. So don’t read this if you want only neat stuff. Maybe the story will tell itself without my heavy handed asides. Anyway…

I am aware that I have often made decisions which I knew would leave me vulnerable, but which were the only decisions which my own (informed) conscience could tolerate. In many cases, but by no means all, that vulnerability was, as I feared, exploited by others.

My missions in this life and in Mission City always include a sense of naked vulnerability. In this life, I submit it is not a mission but a task if it does not include such vulnerability.

Sometimes, my missions in Mission City include a partner, a helper, a friend or some such person. Sometimes, I am following that other’s lead, sometimes others are following mine. The main difference between missions in this life and those in Mission City, is that in this life, there rarely is one for me to follow—not many seem to be trying to do what I am trying to do.

I told a friend of mine who I am convinced is trying to do the same thing I am trying to do, that I needed him to stay in touch with me and leave breadcrumbs that I can find to know I am not utterly lost.

These are my breadcrumbs.

Very close in time, around age five to twelve, to the onset of these vivid and mysteriously meaningful vision dreams, I experienced what many refer to as “brain zaps.” I think it happened two or three times over a period of months at that age, and maybe two or three times since, stopping sometime when I was a teenager, with one final “zap” when I was in my late thirties or early forties. For me, the brain zaps and the vision dreams are connected – not paired, but connected, in that they both have a mystical and benevolent source and result.

Interesting that I find that almost all searches on the web indicate these as a withdrawal symptom of antidepressants; considering I was not on anti depressants as a child, nor depressed that I knew of, but I was desperate for the spiritual life.

The internet is a terrible way to try and do some statistics, but all of the perceptions I had, save one, of these “brain zaps” can be found online by others describing their experiences. That one exclusion is that, for me, they always occurred at the onset of sleep.

Here is I find that others report that are also in agreement with my own experiences when they are reported without a connection to antidepressants:

  • There is a short electrical discharge sound which seems to come from inside the head, a zapping sound. If you know what a 60 Hz hum is, then you have the idea, although the frequency is not the same.
  • Many, it seems, also report a positive feeling of a sort of awakening, transcendence, or new awareness associated with the zap. In my own case, there was always a sense that my mind was changed and that a result of the zap would be something beneficial—new insight.

One person wrote of a zap occurring while examining her father’s darkroom equipment and commencing with the zap, seeing them in a new and enlightened way. Another reported experiencing the zap and from then on, seeing common objects with a new awareness and appreciation.

In my own case, even at a very young age, I associated the very first zap I experienced with somehow being changed by God so that (emphasis on the “so that”) I would be able to be aware of things others would not notice. From the first, to the last, the zaps had such a meaning to me. Each time a zap occurred, there was the feeling, the sense, of opening me, permanently, to a world of deeper meaning and myself to greater ability regarding that new perceptiveness.

Empirical evidence would obviously be difficult to provide, but I will state that each of the half a dozen or so zap experiences have, indeed, seemed to accompany the onset of a significant spiritual development in my life—as if, without the zap, I could not have transcended, or perhaps that the zap indicated a completion of a previous state—a “leveling up” I suppose.

Need to know about anti-depressants in relation to my Mission City? Read the fine print, else, skip down:

Losing my children—not even knowing where they are for months and sometimes years, at a time, and finding the courts unwilling to enforce my visitation rights nor the clause requiring my ex to receive court permission before moving out of any county—brought about a terrible situational depression.

Given a string of failures to have the courts act upon my many requests and having used all available resources (including thousands of dollars), I sank into despair. Only then did I agree to try a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI).

What happens in situational depression (as in, if you are not depressed by your circumstances, there is something wrong with you) which is almost universally experienced by parents who have lost a child or children, is that the mind continues to work on finding a solution to a problem which cannot be resolved, AND which solution is considered vital to the person’s life.

Cited in several places as being the worst form of situational depression is the occurrence in parents who have lost access to children either by divorce or by kidnapping. This type of loss is explained as being worse for the parent than the death of a child or children because the grieving process cannot reach the final and healing stage of grief: acceptance.

So it is that when a circumstance which a person finds intolerable for a worthwhile life exists, the mind cannot stop searching for a solution, bringing on despair, and therefore, presenting the physical reduction in serotonin and norepinephrine available to the body’s chemistry.

The clinical answer, at present, is to artificially increase the available serotonin and norepinephrine by reducing the body’s ability to absorb these neuron transmitters: SNRI’s or antidepressants.

This does not make the “permanent grief” go away, but the medicine does allow one to function.

Okay, enough of the primer.

The Connection?
Here is the reason I explain all of that:

The vast majority of “brain zap” experiences are related to symptoms of withdrawal from anti-depressants.

Also listed as a symptom of SNRI withdrawal is vivid and unusual dreams which are not quickly forgotten after waking as normal dreams are forgotten. These are “usually” reported as being hellish or very disturbing. Not in my case, but then again, I love to be in Mission Mode.

So both the zaps and the vision dreams seem to be related for me in that they both began when I was about five, both have a spiritual association for me, and both seem to have a source or cause outside of my own mind.

I will add one more finding. That is that there is a theory (and heavily debated, I understand) that depressed persons have a statistically significant higher reporting of “religious experiences” (e.g., visions, insight, and the like).

For your consideration, the debate seems to center upon which is cause and which is effect. For example, does depression cause spiritual experiences or do spiritual experiences cause depression?

If a person is not spiritual, but comes to find life lacking in meaning, might both depression and awakened spirituality be expected to commence as a result? If a person is spiritual and then becomes depressed, might it be expected that worldly success becomes unimportant?

Breadcrumbs Ahead of Me
For a friend of mine, I will note that William Blake would say (pretty much did say) that either extreme merely describes a fool to be considered by others as wise. I say William Blake was a lousy poet and worse prophet—should have stuck to printing. Blake seeks chaos, I seek order. I claim no wisdom, I claim to be paying attention.

Smile! Mystery is fun!

And if you are familiar with St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul, than I highly recommend you read the Ascent of Mount Carmel and The Spiritual Canticle. The Dark Night is not the whole story. There are those Nights when the Bridegroom comes and steals away with you to be alone as young lovers desperate for the consummation that will become full at marriage.

The impetus for writing this, previously unintended installment to Mission City is that I don’t feel depressed but excited, and I don’t feel sick, but have slept more than 18 hours each day for the last three days. In that sleep three days ago, I had a prolonged vivid vision dream of Mission City. So I began looking on the Internet for what is wrong with me. It appears to me that I very likely forgot to take my SNRI dose one or two days last week.

Still, I have always thought these mission city vision dreams mean something, unlike any other dreams I have had. My instinct is that persons who seek a spiritual life mimic depressive moods inadvertently (yet, possibly requisite?) causing lowered serotonin and norepinephrine availability because such persons are applying the mind to the non-physical, non-intellectual reality which the soul craves but mind and body cannot attain on their own.

Further Reading

Religious Experience and Psychopathology (a large pdf)
Juan J. Lopez-Ibor Jr. and Mara Ines Lopez-Ibor Alcocer


In this context it is clearly shown how coarse it is to compare delusional ideas of patients suffering from schizophrenia, for example, with mystic or religious revelations, however apocalyptic or innovative they may be. Delusional ideas are individual and therefore frustrated truths. They start and end at the delusional person; they are not oriented towards somebody else. Patients with schizophrenia never share their delusion and hardly ever their worries. Their isolation comprises not only the world of the sane but also of their kind.

Delusions are the replacement of common sense by a very private sense and a way to fulfill the need to communicate of every human being.

Phenomenological and existentialist influenced psychiatry has described how delusional ideas consist of the desire to control one’s own world, idios kosmos, or the common world, koinos kosmos. Each one of us is in two worlds at the same time, the one of common reality and one’s own in which fantasy, dreams or simple longings and hopes reign. The sane person is able to distinguish one from another, and even to pass from one to another even when doubts about that radical ambiguity of our consciousness assault him or her. In delusions everything is different. Not able to live in a koinos kosmos, the patient substitutes and misappropriates the idios kosmos in such a way so as to not be able to distinguish what is what. All this is carried out accompanied by a deep sense of drama hard to perceive during a superficial treat that only states social withdrawal or a state of emotional dullness, but that can be seen in pictorial productions, in some psychological tests or in a deeper relationship. The brilliant, innovative man, creator of new worlds feeds in an idios kosmos, but immediately communicates it, drags others to participate in it and recognize in themselves the creating force. Truth with capital letters, enriching as a contrast to the private truth of the delusional individual that is but the dramatic effort to reach a truth illness denies.

The Dark Side of Mysticism
Mary Jo Meadow

Most people writing about mysticism emphasize mystical exaltation, ecstasy and union with God, divinity, value. Such experiences—the crown of mystical endeavor—are surely important aspects of mysticism. However, mystics also acknowledge periods of dryness, darkness, and religious despair—the keenly felt absence of God. These features seldom receive scholarly consideration hi spite of their importance in virtually all mystics' experience.

Psychologists have studied mystical states simply as altered states of consciousness, and also in relation to drug experience and psychotic episodes. Some writers consider both drugs and mysticism self-chosen ways of diving into the depths of the same inner sea in which the schizophrenic person struggles and drowns (Campbell, 1972). The Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, in their 1976 report "Mysticism: Spiritual Quest or Psychic Disorder?", concluded that distinguishing between mysticism and certain psychiatric disorders is virtually impossible (Coleman & Davidson, 1979). Most psychological studies, spanning more than three-fourths of a century, emphasize mystical exaltation.

Psychologist William James (1902/1961) considered insanity the opposite side of the coin of mysticism. In both, there is the same sense of importance in small events, the same words having new and exciting meanings that other people do not discern, the same feeling of being controlled by external powers, the same sense of mission, the same exalted emotion. James also pointed out differences: in insanity, the emotion is pessimistic compared to mystical optimism; there are desolations instead of consolations; the meanings are dreadful instead of wonderful; and the powers are enemies rather than friends.

Recognized mystics also report desolation as well as consolation, dryness as well as the dew of mystical grace, yearning as well as fulfillment, entombment in the awful continuing ordinariness of frustrated longing as well as upliftedness to a personal heaven. These aspects of mysticism might more aptly be compared to such

And my Favorite:

Transpersonal Psychology in Psychoanalytic Perspective
Michael Washburn

No Excerpt: but Chapter 8 and Chapter 9 are good drink and food for the thirsting and hungering soul.

30 January 2010

Mission City - I - Early Experience

Just before my first vision dream, I should relate one of my earliest memories. It is segmented and the memory is more of a feeling then a recollection. None-the-less, here is what I know combined with how I remember it. My mother drove us somewhere, and I recall it as having been downtown Fort Worth, but perhaps that had been the start of the errands that morning. I must have been four years old and had the feeling that we were around tall buildings. At any rate, I now know we were on Lancaster. We walked down a sidewalk, and came to a small narrow set of steps going down below ground level.

I had no idea where we were or what we were doing there, but there was a nice lady that was very kind to me. So far, so good. The lady was dressed in a habit and there were other sisters visible. My mother remembered the event and the woman's name was Sister Bea (Beatrice). This was the Tuller School then on Lancaster.

I liked Sister Bea, and liked the place, but I did not like my mother leaving. I was very unhappy, sat by myself and did not want to be with the other kids-- none of whom I knew. The sisters tried to coax me into joining in, but there was nothin' doin'. One sister sat with me for quite some time, and that was okay, but I wasn't budging. Until...

Until they began to sing "Onward Christian Solider." All of the children stood and marched in place, all of the sisters marched in place (with dramatic and comical marching) and finally, I stood and marched in place. Could be it was my first favorite song, and I knew how to sing the refrain. So the sisters had them march around and the sister who had been sitting with me took me marching with her, and (clever sisters) I was marching and singing with everyone.

I don't remember how many times we sang the song, but as an adult, I have a feeling that they sang that song as long as it took for me to join in. It is a very nice memory, and the sense of place and peaceis somehow tied to my Mission City-- not to mention the song.

I don't remember the first time I had a dream which recurred, but I remember being five years of age, having just moved from Fort Worth to Dallas, and waking one morning, with a vision-dream distinctly not fading from memory.

The vision dream stayed with me all morning, consuming my attention. If I had been at least a teenager, I would have sipped my coffee alone in my room an hour or so later and said something out loud to the walls like, "What the heck was that?"

I knew then, that I had the vision dream at least twice before, the familiarity with it was somewhat problematic due to its simplicity. I would later, as an adult, read somewhere that it is also quite a common recurring dream-- a flying dream. It was not that I was flying that made it stand out, it was the sense that I would see the dream again and again until I questioned it, until I analysed it and tried to wring out some mager drop or two of meaning.

I sped over a desert at very low altitude, maybe at two or three feet. I could see little to my right or left, and had no horizon at all. My angle of view was maybe thirty degrees below the horizon ahead. Running into an abrupt high spot in teh landscape simply was not a concern. I did npt have any concerns-- no anxiety, and yet I was not in control. I could have just as easily been lying on my stomach on a cart being pushed by a benevolent other.

On occasion, the sands, and dry, cracked clay passing beneath me was interrupted by a low and flat plant of some kind. These plants, their variety is of no consequence, but image an "airplane plant" usually found in hanging baskets, but one that is growing out of the desert, and has not been watered. It is just before dawn or dusk time, so there is not much color to see. The plant leaves appear more brown than green, but it is not possible to tell if that is due to the low light or due to lack of water. They pass underneath and out of view so quickly, that there is no time to study them. In fact, its is only because I saw so many pass ina flicker of an instant that I have any detail at all to share of them.

If there is any feeling inside me as I observe the soil and occasional plant pass under and behind, it is a very slight sense that I am going somewhere, and that I have a pleasant sort of anticipation. The anticipation is almost silent inside of me as I am uite content to wait. The plants are very much like the birds I described before-- seen from the narrow field of view through the back window of the car. They seem to mark passage of time in an otherwise timeless scene.

If I could have seen the horizon, I could tell you whether it was pre-dawn or dusk, because I know I was speeding east. For that reason, I consider this desert scene, in the map my mind has constructed of Mission City, to be west of the city. Only in hinsdisght and experieence do I view it that way, as I have never been back to the desert in my vision dreams since I arrived at the city.

I suppose it is only an assumption that this first experience represented the beginning, the start of my journey toward the city of mission. But, I speak of worldly things. At age five, if I had possessed the vocabulary, I would have told anyone I might of shared this experience with it was somehow a spiritual representation of a spiritual event which I had found myself experiencing. I told no one.

What I am about to write, I cannot stress strongly enough that I speculate, even now, as to the Source of this first and all subsequent vision dreams. So with that it is speculation and only speculation in mind, I will state now that I speculate that it is the One True God who flew me over the desert when I was five.

Unexplained truths are projects for mankind to resolve and explain. Unexplainable truths are mysteries to be enjoyed (or perhaps endured) as mysteries. I suppose one has to believe in truth, and I do. I suppose one must believe in mystery, and I do. I suppose one has to believe in the (not just a) One True God, the Lord God of Hosts, to find any meaning in anything I am going to write. Then again, perhaps I write of something familiar to many people.

If someone is born with three eyes, all functioning, they may be a freak, and yet also have an advantage-- a gift of sorts. If someone is born with six functioning fingers on each hand, they also may have an advantage, but may also feel ashamed of the difference. For that matter, I know of left-handed people who want to hide the fact that they are left handed because they feel ashamed if others notice. Well, if someone has spiritual visions which impart information or use symbols that the person has no experience or ability to interpret, then hey may well be considered to be gifted, but they are probably more aware that since no one else talks about such things, they are freaks.

I had not learned to read yet, had never heard of visions or mystics, nor knew of anything of prayer beyond what was done in church, at table and at bedtime.

So, at age five, I had nothing to do about the desert vision dream other than "ponder it in my heart."


My brother told me a story a few years later. I was probably about eight or nine. He told me that a friend of his and fellow acolyte at our parish had told the story on himself. I cannot, now, recall the boy's name, but I am going to call him Brice.

Brice had been praying, secretly, for a sign from God about a perceived vocation to the Priesthood. One day, his family was having a garage sale. Where we grew up, their were alleys behind almost all of the houses, and so drive ways and garages were behind the house. garage sales were, therefore, held in alleys.

Brice was bored hanging out with his parents in the garage and wanted to go inside and watch TV. His parents told him to go around and use the key for the front door, because they did want to unlock the door from the garage into the house lest they be overwhelmed with people asking to use the facilities. He took the key and ran around the side yard toward the front where he was shocked to encounter a man there. He ran on past, assuming the man had parked out front and was on his way to the garage, when the man spoke to him.
The man held out a small box toward Brice and said, "Someone told me you ought to have this." Brice stood still and took the box while the man walked around the corner toward the street in front of the house.

When Brice had the box opened, inside was a fine crucifix attached to a chain -- one he could wear around his neck. He closed the box and ran after the man, but when he turned the corner, there was none there at all. He walked out to the street, and saw no sign of the mysterious person who had given him the gift.

That was the first mystical story I had ever heard. as you might imagine, I was fascinated, and stirred up.

29 January 2010

Mission City - Foreword

It started, there, in that picture, I think. There has been a lot of changes to the UT campus since 1977, but I went searching for a place that looked like what I had seen in a vision dream. This vision dream did not recur, but it is part of the mission city-- a place I have dreamed of of since childhood.

It is not a "Mission" in the since of a Church structure, although it is a spiritual place; rather it is a place where I always find myself in what I call, "Mission Mode."

I like being in Mission Mode, it is exciting, it is comfortable, it is purposeful and it is familiar. I like it in this life, and I like in my vision dreams where it is even more real. In real life, less real, it is when the adrenalin has been kicked in by some outward threat. Somewhere and sometime along my life, I became so accustomed to be in such situations that I no longer experience fear, at least not in any distracting way. Part of PTSD, I suppose, but a really good symptom to have-- like another symptom that is a good one to have: hyper-vigilance.

When you wake up several nights a week, being kicked and punched, these things happen. That, however, is not what this is about-- just a short explanation of how I came to find grace and poise in battle.

When there is no justice, and revenge must be denied, vigilantism IS justice.

The last recollection I have in real life of Mission Mode is when I was told that a man behind me on the bus and with whom I had some words a few minutes before was now holding a knife in his hand with an exposed blade. I smiled. I smiled because I knew how it would end. I knew that if he attacked me, he would end up bad, and I would be unharmed. I'm not bigger or stronger. The only advantage I have is the one that cannot be easily overcome-- I lived it so long, that such sudden combat is a normal part of life for me. When I came out of that life with daily beatings, daily attacks, constant and unpleasant surprises, I worried how I would survive in a less violent world.

It turns out, that in a less violent world, that not being restrained from fighting back as I had been for sixteen years, had a very healing sort of feel to it. The abusers, the bullies, the evil people can get hurt in this new life of mine, and on a few occasions, such persons have been.

I sense such people. I have no good idea as to what it is I recognize when such abusive, bullying people are near, but I know it when they are close. Call it intuition.

I am easy prey. Slight build, a face that when relaxed smiles and eyes that are always searching, indicating (giving away the fact) that I am always expecting someone to hurt me. I expect to be hunted, and harmed. I am just the person sociopaths seek out, just the person by appearance, I should say.

Sixteen years of experience, and I know exactly what it takes to prompt the enemy into taking the first shot, the first punch, or make the first lunge. Few would be able to notice any threat, and before any does, I not only have noticed, I am waiting for opportunity. I am both bait and trap. "Everybody needs a hobby," I joke with friends who have seen me do this without understanding, but who are concerned that such a side of me exists.

Up until a few months ago, I had not punched a person since I was in high school. Over sixteen years in that life I had just before coming to Austin, I could not punch-- or would not allow myself to do so. In fact, in the first combat situation I experienced after coming to Austin, I remember saying to myself, in my mind "Don't punch him, don't punch him, don't punch him..." throughout the thirty seconds that the combat lasted.

I was afraid not during, but on a few minutes after it was over. I was afraid because the mans face was red and swollan, and he was bleeding from somewhere. I pulled a freind aside, almpst frantic, darm near crying, and asked in fright, "Why is he bleeding I didn't hit him did I?"
My friend answered, "No, he did it to himself, hit his face on the table to try to keep from falling."

You see, I had been talking to my counselor about my biggest fear: What I might be capable of when unleashed. Now that I saw what would happen to me if I only resisted, only tried to subdued, only attempted to restrained evil. Evil does not just use violence, evil also uses lies. You can't beat evil by being patient.

It was a simple lie which ended my life as I had known it, ended my ability to do my life's work, ended my family. Evil had no fear of me. I could have punched a certain fear into the face of evil, but I never did. Having lost everything, I worried very much what someone with nothing left to lose might do in releasing that rage.

It was so bad, my expectation and my fear, that I had taken to sleeping with a bowie knife in one hand. Not under my pillow, but in my hand. Over sixteen years, most of the attacks came when I slept, and even though I was no longer vulnerable to that person, I began arming myself, because, I knew I was now able to release my rage. Also, because I still expected to be attacked.

But, while worrying what if, I had a burglar wake me one morning, with a flashlight in his mouth going through my wallet. I never showed him the knife, hid it from his view, never touched him, but last saw him picking himself up off the street, where he had knelt, begging me for forgiveness. I was both relived and ashamed. I was relieved that I found restraint and control of myself -- a part of my character had not departed me; but I was ashamed that what the man saw in my eyes, was enough to have him fear for his life and beg. I wore dark glasses after that, unless I was in a place so dark as not allow what was in my eyes-- or what could be in my eyes, to be seen. I was hiding the part of me that not only scared me, but others.

My counselor smiled when I told him, and said, "You do not have it in you to seek to harm someone, or even to plot their harm. You are who you are, and whatever you may become will not deviate from what you are." I wanted to believe him. But so far, I had merely met and confronted one abusive sociopath, and struggled with and subdued another. What if neither confrontation or subduction would suffice?

So it is last summer, sensing evil, I paid close attention. I set a trap and waited for the abuser to find it. My friends simply left the table when the sociopath began acting out, I sat quietly until I alone remained with the abuser and his lackey. Soon, he sprang the trap, and I knew he would. I knew, and I was in control, but an abuser never, ever, expects their prey to be prepared. I was not only prepared, I was plotting.

In a discussion about Werner Von Braun, we disagreed. I was proven wrong, and took it well, how upset can aperson be to have said, "I don;t think Von Braun was ever an SS officer" and then learn that the Nai rocket scientist, indeed, had been? Taking it well was not what the sociopath expected, nor wanted. So his lackey announced to everyone within earshot, "Don't f**k with me about history! This guy should not have f**ked with me!"

That is obviously an over-reaction to being proven correct in a gentle discussion about a Nazi scientist. I flipped my hand and continued smiling, indicating to them that I was nonplussed. After all, it was quite a bit short of what I was used to. I could, and probably did, sleep through worse verbiage and at higher volumes.

They were nibbling at the bait, but not yet biting. The sociopath, not his lackey, was the one I wanted to battle. Having gotten no reaction from me, other than a dismissive and non-threatening wave, the sociopath lost patience during the silence and repeated, in a loud voice intended to draw attention from others, not so much me, "You really should not have f**ked with my friend."

He didn't know me, he was not sure if I was the prey he sought. He wanted to try a little verbal push. I took it and said nothing. I thought he had just bitten, but waited for him to run with it. My lack of response prompted him again to break the silence, this time, nervously sharing some comradery with his lackey. "Man, did we score some good s**t tonight?!"
"Yeah, man, that was some good stuff."

They were talking about some cocaine they had been bragging about before the others started to leave the table. The source of false self-perception I was witnessing-- and which I was manipulating was in part the cocaine talking, and partly the personality disorder.

The bravado went on like that for a few back and forths, and in my quiet observation, the lackey used his eyes to indicate to the sociopath that they had retained my attention. The sociopath leaned forward toward me, and I leaned forward, scooting my chair closer to the table to indicate I was going to speak something quietly to the two. Surely they assumed I was going to ask for some of that cocaine.

The sociopath looked almost friendly, like he thought I wanted to join in and be a bad boy as they thought they were being-- as they wanted everyone to think they were. Instead, I very quietly, for their ears only, spoke, "I don't like the way you have talked to me. You have no call to speak to me that way, and I don't plan to put up with anymore. Is that clear?"

It took a few seconds for what I said to seep in. I said it in a friendly, conversational tone, but there was no question being asked of them. It was statement, and they knew it.

A normal and sane person would have taken the unexpected reprimand with some form of backing off. A friendly personality would have apologized. A person on cocaine would have stopped short of apology, but backed off the abuse, pretending it was not intended. But a sociopath would do what this guy did do.

He went ballistic, began cussing and yelling and pounding the table; and drawing no reaction from me, as I smiled and watched, he stood and stepped so close to me (still sitting in my chair) that he went beyond "invading space" he actually began bulldogging against the chair, trying to turn it over as he continued his rant.

I stood up so fast that he stuttered in shock as he finished yelling that I would have to fight him for talking to his friend the way I had done. A rule of sociopaths is that no one is to tell them to stop being abusive. He waited for me to throw the first punch. That surprised me. So I provoked him, with the same sweeping motions of the arms he had been using to draw attention to himself at the table, I bellowed back at him, "The way I spoke to your friend? I haven't heard a single utterance from your mouth without the word 'f**k' in it, and half of those have been directed at me. And you don't like it? You don't like it that I told you not to talk to me that way? I haven't even used the word 'f**k' yet, and you two can't stop yourselves!"

He bulldogged his chest up to mine, and I shoved him back, sending him staggering to keep his balance as he crashed through one of those plastic patio chairs one sees everywhere. He got his balance and lifted the chair, so I stepped forward to put myself too close for a swing of the chair to hit me with any force. He did swing it, but I blocked the motion with my wrist against his wrist and he lost his grip-- the chair went behind my back and clattered to the patio deck. He ran backwards a few steps to get away from me and grabbed another chair; and again I stepped inside the swing and blocked the chair with my arm.

He held on to this second chair and began poking at my face with the legs of the chair-- like a lion tamer might do. With my left arm, I shoved the legs of the chair to my left, collecting over a dozen bruises from the four legs before successfully doing so, and I believe his exact words as I did so were, "This f**ker can't talk to me that way."

He was playing to the crowd, and hearing no reaction, looked away from me for an instant. My right fist came arcing up, around and past the chair tapping him squarely in the cheek. The poor guy was still trying to talk, when he should have been more aware he was in a fight that he, not I, had picked.

The first chair was "turn the other cheek." The second chair? I had run out of cheeks. In my check- list of required actions before I allowed myself to engage, that ws the last item to tick off. He should not have been trying to convince his imagined "audience" that he was in the right, because in doing so, he never saw the punch coming and might have had his jaw clinched as mine was. What came from his mouth I have never heard from a man before. It most closely resembled the sound of a suddenly startled cat.

He dropped the chair and I was moving closer to prepare for the fist fight to ensue, but before the chair had bounced a second time, he was running away while making that startled cat sound. His lackey was nowhere to be seen.

Thirty years since I had punched another human being and I enjoyed the act itself, the self-control I felt (I really did have mental check list), and even (but to a lessor extent) the description I heard days later of his face from that one punch, "both eyes blackened, and a jaw that looked like a baseball was under the skin."

I felt like I had just dispensed one fair measure of justice and it felt very, very, good.

Oh, but my counselor was upset with me! I admitted to her that I had a strong intuitive feeling that they guy would test me, and seek me out as prey; and so I settled it in myself to wait for him to do so, and bait him if possible. That was where she took exception.

I answered, "If I had left, who would have brought fear into that abusers life? Who would have made him think twice before repeating his evil way of finding pleasure? If I had left, who would have learned that I am not easy prey? A few days after, I started hearing stories about how he would cuss out and embarrass waitresses because he knew the girls could not risk losing their jobs. I didn't know the man but my instincts were dead-on accurate. I got one of the bad guys."

She conceded both points but disliked my wanting the situation to escalate-- using my experience with such people to bring about an occasion to harm someone. Good point, I thought, except I have always wondered if my abuser and accuser of sixteen years might have been helped if someone along the way (other than me) had found occasion to knock her teeth loose for her pathological abuse.

My counselor then said she would have expected me to do what I seem to do so naturally-- that is, to look for what had hurt the other person so badly to make them abusive to others-- to have scarred their psyche so as to live such a miserable and meaningless life.

I answered, "My abuser was abused as a child, I only know part of the story. Maybe a parent or both parents, maybe a sibling or siblings? I never heard the details, well, not many of them. I also know that she killed a man, was charged with manslaughter, willful manslaughter I think it was, but was no-billed by the grand jury. She did it, but they just did not want to prosecute. She also aborted a child before I knew her, which she, as a catholic girl, never got over either. Yeah, she had it bad.

"I had compassion for sixteen years, but she stole my children and my life. I don't care about abusers anymore. I want to hurt every last one of them-- maybe that is what stops them? Maybe it is what all of their victims need to heal? Maybe it is what I need to heal?"


Well, all of that is not my mission, but it explains, I hope, why I feel "whole" when in Mission Mode, why I no longer experience fear, but only control when threatened-- and why some of my friends have voted me "most likely to die by gun shot."

If you think about, if you lost children and lost everything you owned, and lost your life's work, your hard-earned reputation, your dreams, and so on-- if you lost everything...

What have you got to lose?

And who do you desire to please?

Which brings me, finally to the story of the Mission City.

The Mission City - Intro

When I was very young, my parents read to me a picture book about a Tug Boat. Perhaps ten years later I sensed something. I had stayed in the car while my mother had run into a store. It was gray afternoon. I don't remember what time of year, but I was not aware of being either warm or cold in the car.

She had parked the car in shopping center off of Coit Road down around Spring Valley Road. Is that the one that ran west alongside the golf course and emerged at or near the Church of the Transfiguration? I think so. Anyway, with nothing to do, I lay down in the back seat of the car as Mom left the car to go inside, and just did nothing. I watched through the back window of the car an occasional bird fly overhead and in my state of mind, that was enough. I mean, I was at peace, no time seemed to pass, I was not anxious, I was not really thinking, I was just there and content to remain there.

Without eyes, ears, nose, tough or taste, I sensed something. Still, I just lay there-- not trying to concentrate on what I sensed, I just remained. Another bird flies by. I feel familiar with the timelessness of my present. The familiarity strikes me, and I do try and concentrate on that, and then the familiarity drifts away, unable to be caught by my senses. Two more more birds pass by limited line of sight. In my mind's eye, I see a harbor, arge cranes there to load and unload cargo ships. It is a vivid image, yet surreal-- familiar and unfamiliar. The image the like the deja vu some time before, distracts for a moment, but fades. A bird passes.

My mother unlocks the car and gets in saying something in greeting. I don't remember what it might have been. I respond, and want to return to that timelessness and contentment, but the world is the world, and I am master of nothing in it. As we swing out onto Coit Road headed north, I ask my mother, "We never lived by a harbor, have we?"
"No. We only lived in Richardson and in Fort Worth before our home now. Why?"
"It is almost like a memory -- of a harbor big cranes, but even though I can see it, laike a memory, I don't remember ever seeing anything like that, not like when we have been to Galveston and Houston. It's a memory but not a memory."
My mother then told me how she had a "memory" like that, of an ivy covered house, and how she had asked her mother about just as I had her about the harbor.

When I was reading a tug boat story to my children many years later, I turned the page and saw the harbor I had seen that day in my mind's eye-- close enough to solve the mystery...

... to solve that mystery.