Finding Christianity

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Joshua, 1977-

“To me, it is not about hell and heaven, but ways to act and live on the planet, harmoniously with other people and still survive. It led me to find value in other things, other than the things I thought were valuable.”

I used to be the guy who said Jesus pretended and Mohamad was a thief. Talking ill of religion, and strongly against it. After my wife died, I started asking, ‘Why? Why? Why?’ A lot of it was self-pity and wanting to feel loved by someone. There was discovery getting to it this way, but there was also a need to believe again. I started researching religions, from Sumerian to Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. Trying to understand why people believe, trying to find faith, but failing. I found that Buddhism isn’t a religion, it is a mode of learning, being a student. That led me into the theology side of religion, and I found Christianity.

To me, it is not about hell and heaven, but ways to act and live on the planet, harmoniously with other people and still survive. It led me to find value in other things, other than the things I thought were valuable. That is when I decided I was not going to quest for things and went on the road. Whatever God puts in front of me, that’s what I’m supposed to have. In the gospel, Jesus tells his apostles to get rid of everything they own and go out, take nothing with you, no staff, no water or bread. Go into a town, and if they accept you, stay in that place, bless them and teach them about love.

Jesus didn’t tell the apostles to teach about him, he told them to teach how to love thy neighbor. For example, take the story about the widow who gave her last coin. She gave more than the man who gave a hundred coins. She gave everything. Why? Because she knows she is going to get it back, and she knows that in order to receive something your hand has to be empty. I have been learning these ideas, still trying to grasp what they mean.

I don’t attend church. I never encountered hostility, and I can always get help from a church if I needed it, but I tend not to. In my situation, people tend to freak out, ‘Oh my God, you are homeless?! Where do you eat? Where do you sleep?’ It becomes all about that, and when it is the center of attention between me and somebody else, it sours the relationship. While they say there is no judgment, there tends to be, and I just want to listen to a nice sermon, or do some singing. Besides, God is not in there, he is right here, between you and me, right now.



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A Firefighter

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Joshua, 1977-

“Trees would explode and ambers, the size of bowling balls, would come hurling off the side of the hills. The fire, so windy, like a tornado, still lifting things up and shooting them into the sky, and then they start falling down like meteors.”

For about a year and a half, while serving time, I worked as a firefighter. I was on the valley fire last year, in 2015. He points at his shirt with a Valley Fire print on it.

It was very hard work, but a great experience. You work long hours, 18 hours a day, and you get dirty for two-three weeks. While everyone was complaining about the filth, I was accustomed to it, ‘This ain’t nothing!’ he smiles. Our job was to stop the fire from burning into green areas, which is the main objective of wildland type II firefighters. We stayed in the black zone, where the fire burned, everything black, and we edged. Stifling hot coals with sand, and digging out roots, or else they would keep burning for weeks on end.

I never experienced anything scary or life-threatening, but we were close enough to see the raging fire. Trees would explode and ambers, the size of bowling balls, would come hurling off the side of the hills. The fire, so windy, like a tornado, still lifting things up and shooting them into the sky, and then they start falling down like meteors. I have seen a wall of flame, as high as a three story building, running through the side of the mountain, rolling over it and going down the other side in less than fifteen minutes. It is the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen.

I also felt free. When you are out on a fire, you are working and your mind is meditating away from ‘I’m in prison, I’m in prison, I’m in prison.’ And when you work with other men who are free, who see your value and don’t treat you like a prisoner, but like a human, then you truly start forgetting you are in prison.



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Seattle: A Homeless Haven

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Joshua, 1977-

“They have two stadiums one next to each other, and if you work there, they allow people to camp right off the property edges. You can work for the games, then have your tent safe, away from the street.”

If you are homeless, Seattle is a great place to go. There are many soup kitchens that are good, which don’t feed you decomposting food. I won’t go to soup kitchens anymore, but in Seattle I do. Berkeley used to have good ones, but not anymore.

Seattle also has a homeless-to-work program, giving homeless people municipal jobs. They have two stadiums one next to each other, and if you work there, they allow people to camp right off the property edges. You can work for the games, then have your tent safe, away from the street. Or you can work cleaning the wharfs or city streets, and get room and board for it.


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On a Spiritual Quest

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Joshua, 1977-

“I consider myself more a vagabond, on a spiritual quest. A spiritual nomad; I don’t see myself homeless, honesty. Wherever I live is my home.”

It started right after identifying her body. My wife died on Thanksgiving evening, the last sign from her was a receipt for a Tuborg six-pack she bought just outside of Chicago. When she came into Iowa city, she went off the embankment, the car rolled six or seven times. I went in, got her few possessions, notified her mother, and I left on the road within 24 hours. On the last night at our apartment, I tried to set the coach on fire, but felt bad and put it out.

I i-80’d, and about two weeks into it, people picked me up outside of Denver. They took me to their house, washed me up, I’d been on the road for almost two weeks at that point. I was in a bad shape, drinking heavily. They showed me a different way to live. They were hippies and they taught me about travelling kids and a place called Rainbow; they changed my life. I’ve been doing this off and on ever since.

I consider myself more a vagabond, on a spiritual quest. A spiritual nomad; I don’t see myself homeless, honestly. Wherever I live is my home, I know it is a cliché to say, but it is a personal feeling inside that I get that justifies what I do. I knew such a thing existed, I know you could live out on the roads. People who are a little different, they are not out there because they are forced out or they gave up on life, they are here because they seek something else. There is a flow out here, a spiritual flow, and it washes even on dirt. And if you are honest about what you need and don’t ask for excess, you survive, not easily, but comfortably. All depending on your comfort level, of course.

Being on the road also keeps me away from hard drugs. I can’t get into a rhythm where that becomes the main objective. My main objective when I wake up, fortunately, is to go to the bathroom, but second is find something to eat, then decide if I need to move or hang out for a while.



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Mt. Shasta

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Joshua, 1977-

“There is a picture of me as a kid, running through a pot field. I still remember doing it, an uncle giving me a quarter for every row of pot plants.”

My stomping ground as a kid. When you live up in the mountains, you live outdoor. Camping, fishing, you spend most of the summer outside and don’t want to come back home. Then comes winter, and you are locked inside with six feet snow everywhere, burning with cabin fever.

Mt. Shasta is part of the mountain valley marijuana growers’ area called Valhalla, at the center of the triangle. There is a picture of me as a kid, running through a pot field. I still remember doing it, an uncle giving me a quarter for every row of pot plants. I would run and slap the bottom of the plants. You want the bottom branches to break down a little, but not break off. It is part of growing, stressing your plants; makes them more potent. I remember getting a handful of quarters for just running down the stinky rows, as I thought of them back then. I did not like the smell, as a kid, it smelled like skunk.

Shasta is also the name of my dog, a Lab Shepard mix, she was with me for three years, until she was taken away when I was arrested. She found a good home, according to the ASPCA. My mom kept track of her for me.



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