One Thing I Supposedly Learned in Iraq



The small apartment is mostly filled by mattress and box-springs suspended on cinder blocks. The walls are bare except for a couple of posters. The floor is littered with pizza boxes, Chinese take-out containers, and empty Yoo-hoo bottles.

We join James Franco and Matt Damon in mid-argument. Matt Damon paces back and forth like an animal in a cage. 

MATT DAMON: You don’t understand man! It’s like being a prisoner in my own brain. I’ve got to turn it off. I’m going out of my—

JAMES FRANCO: (laughs) Dude please! No clichés, my GOD!

MATT DAMON: Don’t you “dude” me!


You know what? Fuck this. I’m not in the mood to listen to these queens tonight. A couple of nights ago (I think) I mentioned to you about a journal entry I wrote when I was in Iraq having to do with how my thoughts create my experience. I’m going to see if I can find that and put it up as tonight’s blog post. That line of thinking has been very much in the foreground of my mind lately. It’s also helping me to further move on and up and out of the obsessive thinking about my divorce. Mostly because I don’t want those negative thoughts clouding up my consciousness and standing in the way of my new and improved goals and dreams. Okay, now I go look for that journal entry.

Okay, I found it. I’ll let the journal entry speak for itself. As most of you know, I read my journal to my fellow Marines while we were in Iraq. Mostly they seemed to like hearing them a lot but I do remember reading this one particular entry to a Marine who had been in BAS (medical) for several days with dysentary. (Tons of us got it over there. I lost twenty pounds in the course of about a week.) This particular devildog, upon hearing the entry you’re about to read, said a little prayer over me and seemed certain I was hell bound. It’s always remarkable when I get and uncommon response to anything I’ve written. Everybody’s different and I think art in all its many forms hits each individual differently but— well, that was the only time I remember reading anything to any Marine in Iraq that I ended up getting prayed over.

Anyway, enough about that. Here’s the Journal entry— OH WAIT! So what I— another thing I though about when I was searching for this is that it’s part of a 250 page book that I wrote, which contains my war journals and some further writings I did after I got back (that pretty much descend into PTSD madness) but they definitely do tell a story. Why the fuck have I let this book just ride around in my computer (actually pass from computer to computer a few times) now for all these years instead of trying to get it published? I mean, I need some fuckin’ lunch money y’know? I did actually send it to one big fancy-schmancy New York literary agency. The agent who read it wrote back and told me that it was great and thought that it had legs but that there was one part that needed to be fleshed out more. The part she was talking about is the “flashback” I wrote while I was in the hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. During the ten days I was there waiting to get flown back to Camp Pendleton for surgery, I basically wrote about my childhood and my adult life leading up to when I became a Marine. Y’all have heard some of that if you’ve been reading since I started this “year to live” journey. She seemed to thing all the abuse and bullying and radical coming out and prostitution and drinking and drugging and whoring around were an important part of the story but since I had tried to cover all that in the ten days I was in Germany (and injured and fresh from war) you can imagine I didn’t do an exhaustive job of telling that part of my story. So after I got that note from that agent, I should have done what she said (especially since I completely agree with her) and sent it right back as well as to every other literary agency and publisher in America (or beyond). But instead (because, I suspect of the fear of rejection) I just went on to start other projects instead.

I just need someone to come in and take over my writing career from me— make sure I can eat and have a place to live (in New York please) and help me to organize my workday and get all these nearly finished products finished and get the ones that are finished out there so they can get produced or published. If anyone was in a position to do that and had the willingness, they’d be my besty forever and I’d make sure to share my inordinate wealth with them in a way that would reflect my profound gratitude. Think about it, especially those of you with that kind of cash. Aren’t you tired of your current boring life? Don’t you want to come help me become a famous writer? I promise you’d never be bored.

Here’s the journal entry— OH! One more thing first. By this point in the journals (and the war), I was doing daily loving kindness meditations. Can you imagine that? Here’s this fuckin’ Marine in desert cammies sitting in the sand cross-legged and sending out thoughts and visions of kindness and peace to humanity in the middle of a war! I would actually invision light waves emanating from my body— only I didn’t send them out from my heart chakra; I sent them out from my solarplexus which, incidentally is where my body literally opened up physically which required the surgery. Yes there were physical contributing factors (all the thousands of pounds of marble, tile, and cement we’d moved that week) but I’ve always found it interesting how my body opened up at (or very near) the place where I had been envisioning opening up my spiritual body to send out love to my fellow humans.

Okay now I swear, here’s the journal entry. It’s from like three or four days before I was med-evac’d:

1 June, 2003

1527 Zulu

I figured it out.  Energy follows thought.  I know, I know.  I’ve been preaching that shit for years but I finally got it.  It’s the simple base principle of all things spiritual—metaphysics in a nutshell.  We are created in the image likeness of the Father.  That doesn’t mean that there is some anthropomorphic deity “out there” somewhere, no old man with two eyes and a nose poofing sickness and poverty into some lives, health and wealth into others.  God is the totality of all spiritual Law.  God is Love.  God created man in his own image and so as not to be outdone, man recreated God in his, endowing him with qualities like anger, hatred, and jealousy.  Yes I know, the Bible speaks of God’s anger being provoked at one nation or another.  God is a jealous God.  God hates this, that or the other.  The Old Testament is full of it.  I can read.  I’ll say it again.  We are all God’s chosen people.  Not just the Jews up until the day of Pentecost or the Jewish sects that would become known as Christians thereafter.  Not the Roman Catholic Church that would go on to use scripture as authority to perform all manner of atrocities up to and including the endorsement of the Nazi party, not to mention the break away denominations which use scripture to condone everything from slavery to homophobia to misogyny.  Not just the Buddhists or the Muslims or the Religious Scientists.  All.  The Bible is a wonderful book, several books in fact written over thousands of years.  It is the story of Man’s pursuit of God; his seeking to understand the nature of the Universe and his own existence.  “Man,” to mean collective humanity, but also to mean each of us individually.  It was/is not an accident that those sixty-six books have come together to be known as the Bible.  There, in those pages, is my story.  I have had my genesis, my slavery, my exodus.  I have known my Cain and my Able, my Solomon, my David.  There is the part of me that doubts like Thomas, believes like Peter, betrays like Judas.  I have suffered for the sins of the world, had my crucifixion, died, was buried and now I am resurrected.  I have written and continue to write my epistles, judged, loved, went to war, healed the sick.  I have been the prostitute, the adulterer.  I know my Samson and my Daniel, my Esau and I am very familiar with the component of me that is the rich young ruler.   It’s all my story.  All the answers are right there and here–let me piss the Christians off…if I didn’t have that book, I’d still have access to all the answers.  They are right there in the secret place of the Most High.  Man does not need, nor has he ever needed a priest or a rabbi or a book to introduce him to God.  We are God.  As much a part of God as the drop of water is a part of the sea, made of Him as the baby is made of the parents.  We are truly children of God.  When Jesus said, “These things and greater shall ye also do.”  He wasn’t just whistling Dixie (or whatever they whistled back then).  The Jews missed the mark when they taught that God wanted them to slaughter innocent animals to appease Him, pay the debt for their sin.  Christians miss the mark when they teach that God demanded that Jesus be slaughtered to pay a debt to Him.  It is part of man’s eternal unwillingness to take responsibility for his own actions.  In the beginning was God.  There was only God.  He set the whole system up.  What kind of god would set into motion a plan whereby the only way for this “debt” to be paid would be the slaughter of his only and beloved son?  He could see the future.  All time.  Forever.  He had and has the power to change anything.  God is Love and Love wouldn’t set up a plan like that.  You can’t break God’s law but you can sure as shit break yourself on the law.  You reap what you sow.  Period.  There is no debt.  God is forgiveness.  Jesus never wrote anything and if he did we don’t have it.  The account of Jesus’ life or more accurately three years of Jesus’ life is told in the four books of the Gospel written by men who, by their own admittance, continually misunderstood the teaching.  Even up to the Gethsemane, even to the day of Christ’s crucifixion and beyond, “Look Master the law says this whore is to be stoned to death, whatd’ya say?” “I say let ye who is without sin cast the first stone.”  Love, forgive, judge not-over and over!  How can the teachings of the most perfect soul who ever lived be used to condone the things we do?  A price will be paid for the sins we commit, a blood price, but not the blood of Jesus.  It will be the blood of our children.

Up until yesterday I would have told you that my mind was overflowing with positive thoughts, loving and forgiving most of the time.  Is this not what I continually strive for?  Then I started paying attention to my thoughts.  All day and night long, I run little scenari in my head, one fantasy after another.  I’ve started paying attention to them.  They’re horrible!  One imaginary negative encounter after another; you don’t even have to be present to participate.  I could have an argument with a dead person!  What if he said this and then I’d say that and I’d win the argument, but then he’d probably do this to me and then I’d have to…on and on and on, all negative.  So if I really do believe that energy follows thought, that I’m creating my own experience, look what I’ve been creating for myself!  Discontent, strife, anger, worry.  I don’t deserve that.  Lord knows I’ve suffered enough.  It’s time for me to be happy.  So every time I catch myself doing this, which is often, I replace it.  I don’t try to switch that particular scenario around to a positive outcome; I replace it with a completely unrelated but very positive scenario.  If I find myself playing out some little drama in my head about say, some NCO giving me shit and my getting all pissed off or coming back with some wise-ass comment, I just press “stop,”  take out that DVD (or whatever) and pop in a new one.  Something like…

I’m outside Graumann’s Chinese Theatre.  It’s a beautiful, sunny, Southern California day.  Everyone I love is there along with tons of people I don’t know but who love my work.  I have a great sense of accomplishment in that my films and my writings have exacted a real positive change on planet Earth.  The press is there.  I know several of them by name.  They’ve been so good to me.  I kneel down by a big square of wet cement and with flashbulbs flashing for a solid minute; I sink my big paws into the cool, wet, soft rock.  I can feel the sand in the mix on my fingertips.  Someone hands me a towel and I stand to step onto the palate of fame with my size thirteen black cowboy boots.  As they wipe off my boots, everybody laughs as I start to teeter and steady myself on Johnny Grant’s bald head.  I look around to see those closest to me in tears of joy to celebrate my victory over death.  It is a victory for all of us….all of us.

Now that’s a fantasy worth having!  A lot more fun.  I don’t feel sick afterward and if I really am creating my experience, hadn’t I rather live that one out than some argument I end up hating everyone for?   I got a million of ‘em too.  I got a great imagination and the details are the funnest part.  

Walking the red carpet on Oscar night, cutting the ribbon on the Hollywood Drug and Alcohol Treatment Complex, throwing my mom the keys to her new Mercedes, falling in love again.  These are the things I desire, so these are the things I think about.  I’m very gentle with myself when I find myself in the old pattern.  I just laugh it off and replace it.  Here’s the miracle:

For whatever reason I have of late chosen Sgt. Deville as the villain of most of my imagined situations. Time after time I had him saying something or doing things that made me want to kill something.  Guess what?  Time after time he came through, behaved as I had imagined, played the role I cast him in.  Then, shortly (and I mean shortly) after I began running my little experiment, my little fantasy switcheroo, it was as if some outside god, had touched him on the head with his friggin’magic wand and changed him!  Now if you’re thinking, “Well he probably started acting differently toward Sgt. Deville….”  No, I wasn’t around him at all.  “Oh, well that must be it then…”  Look, if you find yourself having a lot of resistance to what I’m saying, my suspicion is that you’ve been running some negative scenari of your own.  Try my little experiment.  See if you like it and if it works for you.  It’s not like I’m asking you to drink chicken blood or sign an oath in your own excrement.  If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.  If you want what I have, do what I do.  If not, that’s okay too.  I’m not into proselytizing…at all!  If you don’t like it, we will gladly refund your misery.  

After dinner last night I wanted a cup of coffee so I put on some water for Taster’s Choice.  We’d cooked some chow over an open flame so there was some heat left, not much though.  That cup of coffee was going to be a long time in the making.  I looked over and Sgt. Deville had added another stick of wood and was fanning the flame, moved my canteen cup to the hottest spot, actually tended my water as it got hotter and hotter.  “Hmmm.  What is he up to?  Maybe he’s going to take half my water for his fucking hot chocolate, or worse, take all of it and tell me to make some more…”  Wait.  Stop.  There I go again…negative.  Oscar night, Oscar night, Oscar night.  You know what?  He was making that coffee for me!  I’ve thought about that young man on and off throughout the day today and I ain’t got nothing but brotherly love for him.  I gotta tell ya, this shit works.  That was one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had.  Energy follows thought.

End of journal entry.

Okay, that was it. What do you think? I really do believe that shit by the way. (Incidentally, I now know that the gospels were transcribed from the stories according to those apostles and not actually written down by them. I didn’t know that in Iraq when I wrote that journal entry. Now I do.)
The sad part is that I wrote that more than eleven years ago. What would life be life for me now if I had actually put to work all those profound lessons I learned at war? I guess that’s futile thinking. All I can do is move forward from this point and do a better job of using the tools I got. War taught me a lot. Being a Marine taught me a lot. It’s a shame when we don’t use the lessons we’ve learned, especially the hard-one ones. I resolve to do better with this. Pray for me. I could use the support.

See y’all tomorrow.

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