Your Global Positioner
by Marvin Payne
How to use your journal in place of a GPS (global positioning system): You can buy one of these fancy global positioners to find out where you are on earth at any given moment. They magically connect you with vectoring satellites out in space and display on a digital screen messages like “You are in Barstow. At the McDonald’s.” And it will only cost you $149.95 to obtain this knowledge (in the global positioning world, we call it “data.” In the politico-military world, we call it “intelligence.” In the Interstate nutrition world, we call it “indigestion.”)
It’s a useful device, if indeed you care to know where you are, but expensive, and restricted to our planet. Or you can look in your journal for free and get an idea of where you are in all of eternity. There is an advantage to the global positioner–you can wear it on your belt. But for the difference in expense, you could probably rig something for your journal that would make it just as accessible, sort of like a six-gun. A little holster. You could be a quick-draw journalist.
(Maybe even other, younger, journal-keepers who are out to make a name for themselves would face you off in the middle of the street and see who was faster at closing the gap between recognizing blessings and writing them down. Think of how different the history of the West would be if people had toted journals on their hips instead of Colt forty-fives. For one thing there would be a lot more of it–history, I mean. And the marshall would never have had to meet you at the edge of town and say, “Sorry cowboy, if you’re goin’ into town you’ll have to leave your journal with me.” Just imagine, the modern legacy of that difference might be that now we’d have bumper stickers reading “If journals are outlawed, only outlaws will have journals.” ((Now THIS is what parentheses were invented for, to allow us, when we have gotten ourselves stuck on some bizarre tangent, to just type in a few parentheses and pretend we’re not lost at all.)) )
The primary value of knowing where you are located is that it might give you some clue as to who you are. (In the sixties we learned a phrase that covered both issues: “Where you’re at.”) This morning I looked in the bathroom mirror and really wasn’t sure at all–who I was. I mean, there was something familiar about the eyes. But if what I understand about cell replacement is correct, not only were they a little blearier and saggier than I remembered from how they used to be, but they’re not even the same eyes! (What I can’t figure is how if all your cells are replaced regularly, how come the cells that needed bifocals aren’t replaced by cells that don”t need them. I mean, how do these new cells know they’re supposed to not see so well. Well?)
Even two weeks ago I looked into the same mirror (or have its cells been replaced, too?) and knew exactly who I was–Josiah Lamborn, prosecutor of the murderers of the Prophet in Hancock County. Up until two weeks ago, people clapped, wept, and stomped their feet. Apostles stuck around afterward and said, “”Way to go, Marvin!”” (Really, only one did.) Forgive me, this angst may be just an actor thing. You see, I’m between things. I’m so between things I’m considering writing an absurdist one-man show that consists entirely of intermission. At least then there would be popcorn (and a life with popcorn cannot be considered an utterly lost life–I feel a bumper sticker coming on).
Actors hate this, when their global positioners display the words, “You are precisely in between.” When you’re in between, it doesn’t much matter what you’re between. (Actually, I”m not even supposed to BE in between. I’m supposed to be collaborating with Steven Kapp Perry on an exciting musical celebration of the Proclamation on the Family, but my collaborator is in Hawaii–ostensibly writing. Yes, when Waikiki freezes over, I think.)
So. To the journals (the other “positioners”). I haven’t even pulled them down from the shelf yet, so we”ll all see how this goes, together.
Okay, today is 19 March 2002. Let’s go back a year. Hey, on 19 March 2001 I got some new scriptures. That seems healthy. I must have been feeling like a spiritual person. Let’s go back further. On 19 March 2000 I wrote, “Honesty is merely reverence for the truth. Humility is merely honesty. If you’re honest, you”ll be humble. If you’re humble, you’ll be grateful. If you’re grateful, you’ll be happy.” Can’t argue with that.
Re-calibrate for the last century. Oops, nothing for the nineteenth. But on the eleventh I wrote about having had a sort of stroke–lost the use of my right arm entirely, couldn’t speak, more fascinating than scary, but a little scary, too. It passed quickly, after paramedics and an ambulance ride to the hospital and the beginning of myriad tests. But, according to the journal, “Before anything, Jeff Simpson grabbed Rob Honey out of the control room (this anomaly occurred in a recording studio) and they gave me a priesthood blessing, in which I was taught that the Savior knows exactly how I was feeling. As does, I suppose, Alma the Younger and Steven Hawking. I’m grateful to be writing this with my right hand.”
Back a year further. Nothing for the nineteenth, but on 16 March 1998: “It’s between three and four in the morning. This Joseph opera has drawn me out of bed to the writing desk more than once. I’m working with Joseph, The Rose of Sharon, intending it to be an enormous Impressionist canvas, a storm of feeling rather than a barrage of fact.” Sounds lofty. Okay, let’s get a ten-year bearing.
Ouch. First marriage unraveling quickly. Still, lots of comfort from the Spirit, who, in my life anyway, has been most evident in several instances of rescue. I suppose I could say He has been my constant companion, but mainly owing to the fact that I seem to be in need of fairly constant rescue. Testimonies of the feeling of rescue fill these pages. “Spring is here with winds of grace. I lie quiet and feel blessed.”
Let’s try ten years earlier. Whoa. Interesting entry. Dare I share it? Something that has become a bad joke in my life is everybody recognizing me as the Dad in Saturday’s Warrior. This happens in McDonald’s in other states. (I think it may even have happened in Barstow.) I usually admit it, because nobody means any harm by it. But once somebody said, “Hey, aren’t you the guy I saw in Shenandoah?” and I almost picked him up and swung him around for joy, but he was a Jehovah’s Witness who had come to my door and I wasn’t sure if they believe in dancing, so I didn’t.
Well, nobody ever asks how I FELT about being Bob Flinders in several dozen performances on the road in two or three different tours, not to mention the holy video, so what the heck.
20 March 1982
“Early morning at Warrior rehearsal. Got home from last night’s at about one this morning. I’ve felt strange working on this piece, a little lonely and on the outside, because of being off in the Northwest (where the first leg of the tour was), and because of being such a newcomer in this world of theatre where everybody else seems so comfortable… But late last night something happened that I suspect will change me. There is a scene at the graveside of the crippled daughter in which her rebellious twin brother, Jimmy, is reunited with the family.
“Michael Flynn, the director, took the family into the hall and asked each of us how we felt about Pam, who had lived pretty nearly perfectly and was now gone, and about Jimmy, who was a real pain in the neck and might now come home. Michael thought about his recently-killed sister. Mrs. Flinders, Beti Trauth, thought of her daughter, who died this winter. I thought some about my family, some about Peter Garbett (a young man I regarded highly who’d just been killed), and some about my sweet friend Rosanna Ungerman, who plays Pam, but mostly about Robert Flinders, pretend father, who’d just lost his pretend daughter.
“I really, for the first time, got into the guy. I told Michael that Pam’s death would produce in me an almost irresistibly fierce desire to go beyond the veil myself, and that her death would leave a dark and wide void on this side that nobody, not my wife, or my work, or any of my children could fill–except Jimmy. And as I said it, I broke. And soon others were crying some as well. I said that if I could have Pam back for only one moment I would give anything for it. How eager I would be to have Jimmy back, how utterly oblivious to his faults.
“Then we came in and played it, improvising entirely, and even the little kids wept. We were a family. Dave Morgan, who plays Jimmy, hadn’t been with us in the hall, but cried and held me with love that was somehow beyond acting. The whole thing was kind of sacred–the worth of souls.
“I wept hard on the way home, more when I got there.
“This is a crazy show, sometimes masquerading as ‘the beauty beyond,’ which is the gospel of heaven, invariably accepted by audiences in lieu of that beauty, and occasionally putting me in touch with that beauty.”
There. See you at McDonald’s. What are the coordinates then, in this eternal positioning exercise? Yesterday’s disappointments and tomorrow’s uncertainties? Are these what I am “in between”? No. We have, chronologically, weeping over the worth of a soul (even a pretend soul), the Holy Ghost as a cavalry of One galloping in to rescue from spiritual Apaches (figure of speech), an irresistible passion to tell the Restoration story in art (this piece will come to the stage), the priesthood as a cavalry of two galloping in to rescue from physical Apaches (figure of speech), the dawning in my little head of the very simple idea that honesty will lead to humility leading to gratitude leading to happiness, and the gift of golden scriptures.
Well, that helps me know a little more clearly my position. Where I am is in between that stuff and, one would reasonably hope, more stuff like that stuff. Not really a bad place to be, at all. Thanks for so patiently observing the process.
(Actually, by merely expecting a column this month, you compelled me through the process.) Better knowing where I am, maybe I’m more likely now to discover who I am.
“Awright Old-timer! You carryin’ a positioner? Draw! Write!”
“…come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift…” (from the last page of the Book of Mormon)
2002 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.