Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chapter 11 Continued. Finding Faith

Faith is a funny thing. That I lacked it wasn't Emily's fault, it was mine. 
Having sat through so many sermons and listened to countless testimonies in church, I had already made the deduction that faith was the easy way out.   
Fuck up, ask for forgiveness, it's all good.
That may work for the laity but people of science don't get off that easily nor would they care to.  From Newton to Kierkegaard to Einstein to Tesla, they gave up lifetimes to understand the mysteries of the world. 
When I left high school and set my love for Emily aside, I decided that the answers I sought would be found in science.  I was certain of that.
And when I first had the vision of the walk, I struggled with it.  In fact, I walked away from it because it was too risky to the boys.  I didn't want it, didn't need it and yet it didn't leave me. 
The turning point was a sermon I listened to about the difference between a dream and a mission. Discerning between the two turned out rather easily - you can only walk away from one. 
I would soon learn that having faith is infinitely harder than learning and erudition.   And I couldn't take the first step without it. 
YBD's Notes 1: I killed my laptop so I'm writing on a Sony Vaio which isn't so easy with my large hands.
YBD's Notes 2: I can't believe I spelled Kierkegaard correctly the first go about it. 
YBD's Notes 3: Only 2 Chapters left in the first book.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

THE ROCK: Chapter 11 Finding Faith Continued

The Fire and The Flame


You wouldn't think the two are intrinsically different.  But oh, they are.  The flame licks and loves and flickers  to higher heights to live and breath and believe.   

But it cannot exist without the fire beneath.  The smoldering, suffocating heat that when once reached its terminal intensity, is absolutely unapproachable, like the slag heaps of the lost and forgotten steel country.  


Emily was the first woman I ever loved.  She was a cheerleader back in my High School and to this day her smile is unforgotten.  She was the embodiment of grace and goodness and she was raised as a strict Southern Baptist.  But that didn't stop me from pursuing her.  My own denomination was Episcopalian, or like we like to say down south, Catholic without the guilt.  

But as soon as I met her I signed right up to her Church and I went to every Bible study, retreat, and revival just to be near her.  Hell, I think I ate more pizza in my teenage years for her because that's what they serve at revivals to lure in unsuspecting and desperate youths. 


Emily didn't really care for me and I can't blame her because I was, well, mostly a geek.  In Sophomore Biology while most of my classmates were gathering leaves as part of their final project, I collected brains. And I gave a lecture about the difference in the anatomy and physiology of cerebral morphology in about ten species.

From there I interned with a Neurologist to study Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and then a Neurosurgeon for Post-Traumatic Syringomyelia.  Yep, huge nerd.  But in truth I was trying to reconcile my love for a woman of faith with my fascination for science, but inevitably it doesn't work that way.   


I loved her flame but not her fire and as soon as I left high school, I took a Bunsen burner to my memory of her and by extension all belief I had because of her.    


YBD's Notes 1:  I don't fault the notion or intent of Baptist revivals, but really, the tactics need a little modernity.  Sushi not pizza.  

YBD's Notes 2:  Post-Traumatic Syringomyelia - I still think that's what caused Bruce Lee's death and I'm the first who ever posited that notion.   

YBD's Notes 3:  This post was inspired in part by a snowshoeing adventure with my good friend Larry while we were attempting to start a fire in two feet of snow.  I miss you guys.  

YBD's Notes 4:  I had fully intended to wrap up Chapter 11 by now but this is a big big thing about me.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Rock: Finding Faith


Winter 2009.  Franklin, Kentucky

“You cannot have faith in the absence of doubt”.


Hudson Murphy and I were already almost a 1,000 miles into our journey when we set aside time to join a Sunday Bible study in the private home of the friends we were staying with in Franklin.  We had met spiritual leaders and pitched tent on sacred ground many, many times before Franklin but the two bald headed former priests that day spoke to me.  

Belton, TX 

Most kids grow up in a place.  I grew up between two. My father was a physician, and my mother a devout Christian who, aside from being a small business owner, raised me and my three brothers― Matthew, Mark, and Jon, The Gospels as we were known. Our Sundays were spent simply. My mom made sure our mornings were spent at Saint Francis Episcopal Church and my dad made sure our evenings were spent sitting around our kitchen television watching Nature on PBS.

Indeed, my upbringing was balanced between science and religion. Mom always made certain her boys had a quarter in our pockets to tithe with but it was Dad’s job to ensure our education extended well beyond both the pews and the classrooms. For him, erudition was everything. He came from humble yet decent beginnings, putting himself through medical school; when he wasn’t practicing twelve hours a day, seven days a week, he was reading his medical journals. Piles and piles of New England Journal of Medicine and Journal of the American Medical Association to name a few were stacked all about our home, and anyone who dared rearrange or relocate them would incur his wrath.

I experienced this firsthand. Solitude unsettled me as a child so I read and early on developed a habit of reading everything around me.  As I got a little older cartoons just weren’t cutting it for me anymore so I picked up anything around me and poured into it. In our home that was either the Wall Street Journal or medical magazines. I didn’t understand what “New Developments in Vascular Repair of Atherosclerotic Venal Blockage” meant but it sounded big or at least better than Family Circus or Hagar the Horrible anyway. One particular morning after an equal helping of Count Chocula and “Renal Failure and Long-Term Care of Dialysis Patients,” I neglected to return the journal to its original place and boy did I get the ‘what-for’ from my father that night.

My mother’s influence over the household was equally pervasive. She collected religious antiquities and curiosos with fervor and she filled just about every nook and cranny with them: statues of saints in the gardens and atrium, crucifixes hung on every wall in the house, an ancient pew from some church in Europe, and Milagros or Spanish charms representing religious stories like Santo Nino de Atocha. I cannot recall the total number of Bibles in various translations and versions.

Most of my youth was spent in Belton, which in retrospect seems important since it’s just about the midpoint between Waco and Austin on the I-35 corridor. Waco is considered the southernmost reach of the Bible Belt and home to Baylor University, one of the top ranked Christian schools in the country. Austin on the other hand, couldn’t be more its opposite. An artistic, liberal city known now as Silicon Hills because of its robust technology community, Austin is also reknown as a haven for hippies, has a slogan ‘Keep Austin Weird’, and has one of the lowest church attendance rates in the South.

It was between these two magnetic poles I was raised and both seemed to pull at me in a fight for my soul. I didn’t see it as a battle back then, religion versus science. Youth isn’t known for that kinda circumspection so I studied both with equal fervor and as I would later learn, the two are not mutually exclusive. Still it fucked me up pretty good.  But in a good way.  


YBD’s Notes 1:  Typographical errors tonight due to slicing the shit out of my left index finger down to the bone.  Or maybe I was watching Nathan Fillion on Castle.  
YBD’s Notes 2: I don’t like this chapter.  I never did.  Not even when Ed and I worked on it in 2010 and I’ve changed it vastly.

It’ll never say what I want or need it to convey.  But I could never get away from it as a part of this story and it must be told.  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Flight of the Pyr Fur

Wednesday was the shittiest day I've had in a long long time.  I mean it was unapologetically shitty maybe intentionally shitty maybe just damn mean and shitty

And as i was sitting there, perhaps feeling sorry for myself perhaps thinking things through, the mid afternoon sun and wind lit up a strand of white fur stuck to my desk and it was magical.

It danced oh so delicately like a single stranded symphony and it spoke to me.  I think I should thank Sam Mendes.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

THE ROCK: Chapter 10 Continued

Amor Fati.  Love Thine Fate

They say that men of action accept fatelessness as their guide whereas men of the mind, of deliberation, are men of providence.  

Both have their misgivings it seems to me.  

I believe in the the inevitability of things.  But not back in 2007.  I didn't believe in anything.  Not even myself.

But I didn't let that stop me.  2 Dogs 2,000 Miles was inevitable and once started, I knew it couldn't be stopped.  


I could devote three maybe four chapters about the amount of effort it took to plan, prepare, equip, re-plan, re-prepare, re-equip, re-re-plan, re-re-prepare, and re-re-equip but out of consideration, I'll spare you most of the process and give the reader's digest version.  

The single most important aspect of training and preparation was my relationship with Hudson and Murphy. If we were going to make it as a team, I knew we would have to communicate in both spoken and unspoken language because fractions of a second could mean the difference between life and death on the road.  

And that's no easy thing.  I've said it before Pyrenees are a willful breed and those of you who know me, I'm pretty resolute and unmoving myself.  But that dynamic between the three of us as we trained, it was fascinating.  I was in Temple, TX at the time and we started training at Lion's Park which out of all of the nearby locations was ideal because of its varied terrain and trails.  

Murphy had never carried a backpack up until then and I was slowly adding weight to it as we added mile upon mile on our hikes.  I started with newspapers in the pouches then added bottled water.  We were doing great with training and one day, I think it was three or so miles into our hike, Murphy just down and outright quit.  He stopped and refused to take another step.  

And for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why.  Well I knew that we'd never make it cross country if Murphy wasn't going to do more than a few miles stretch and for weeks, it was the same thing.  Tried to incentivize him with treats and that didn't work and I was beside myself and bumfuzzled.  

Invariably when I tell this story, trainers always ask me why I didn't bring someone aboard to work with us.  It's a valid question but I figured even back then that if I can't understand what my boys are telling me, it's all moot.  

And it took me weeks to understand what Murphy was saying.  


Research, which I always do a ton of before I do anything, indicates that dogs have a much greater constitution than men.  Study after study has shown that.  Murphy was fit and fat happy but he wouldn't budge.  

And then it hit me like two tons of stones.  I was telling him what to do.  It wasn't a partnership but a dictatorship and like me, Murphy was unrulable (is that a word?).  This is the moment that the phrase 'alpha male' became meaningless to me.  

And just like that, I set aside some time to let him lead Hudson and me, off schedule and off the beaten path and once I showed him that respect, we never looked back.   


Together, we reached our stride, the three of us.  It was the trust and instinct that would keep us all alive on the road.  Still, something was missing - not between us but inside me.  

I knew what it was.  And I knew that before we took our first step, I'd have to do something I'd never done before.  And it was inevitable.  


YBD's Notes 1:  I speak in my own gender and I mean no disrespect.  Women, in my life experiences, are often much more capable than men but history has been unkind to.  All of my greatest ideas, once and always, are inspired by a muse and I create for her.  All great men do.  

YBD's Notes 2:  Next week.  Chapter 11.  Finding Faith.  

YBD's Notes 3:  Murphy taught me many things in life and he told me plenty.  Still to this day, why he never told me he had a tumor in his head, I'll never understand.