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Click play to listen directly from Richland Correctional Institution. And after each post be sure to check out the song that I left you.
I heard a statement once that said, “Hell is the absence of God’s voice in one’s life.” I’m not one to speak about who or what “God” really is, and if I had a personal idea of Heaven and Hell, I would say that it leans outside the box of traditional Religious views. However, some of the experiences I’ve endured in the past couple of years brought me to a point of remembering that statement… and I guess you could say that, lately it has began to resonate a little bit with me.
Before I move on any further, maybe I should explain who I am and my current circumstances. Besides the names “asshole”, “drug addict”, “whore”, “junky”, and other seemingly incorrigible titles, people know me as Mark. However, 15 months ago, while writing in a jail cell, I concluded I didn’t like what my name stood for. And so I decided that anytime I write, expressing the essence of my spirit in utter honesty, my name will be titled as
For the time being there is no need to elaborate on its meaning, but this is how you will know me. Out of the small handful of friends that I have, some like the idea of the name, and others make humorous remarks that I may have consumed too much LSD in my lifetime. Either way, when this ink translates my soul onto paper, it becomes my world, my art, my realm, and my existential escape into a mental sanctuary. And if I can satisfy my expectations and meet my own standards to paint a picture for you; to reach your heart, or inspire you… then I am no longer the person who some may used to have known as a drug addict or criminal. I am fulfilling the man who I strive to be. Nice to meet you. You can call me Pureheart. It’s a little weird, I know – but just stick with me, because it’ll eventually stick on you.
I write this to you with a notebook on my lap, sitting indian style on a top bunk in a prison dorm. I’ve been incarcerated almost 18 months now and I have about 4 months left before my release. I have a couple good friends who encourage me to write, and now, somehow, in this crazy innovative world of mass media, here I am communicating with you. From a very dark place of solitude, violence, and pain – where concepts like “hope” and “happiness” are insidious and typically unheard of – I reach out to you with blind courage, seeking truth of purpose, and the attempt to connect with your heart in any way that life sees fit. I believe we as human beings must learn how to identify with one another, to act in love and selflessness to the next man – opposed to comparing, and reacting in fear and repulsion. That is of course, for those of you who would like to make the world a better place, and believe that our actions in this life play a role in doing so.
I’m obviously nothing close to a saint. I’m not a preacher. I’m not pushing religious or political views, and I’m definitely not trying to establish some freaky esoteric cult. I am one man who is currently in prison. Like many other people in this world I’ve struggled with my own pain, hurt, regret, and loss. And all I want to do now is be a better man. I want to feel a sense of substantial wholeness in my life. I’m not talking about the often insipid validations that we can sometimes make priority or measure our wealth with. Not the money. Not the sex. Not who looks like the better parent, or who has the better job. I’m talking about in the end. When you’re lying on your death bed with absolutely no clue where you’re really going or what’s about to happen. When all that…”stuff” that once had so much importance in your world means nothing in that moment. What will you think of yourself then? What will measure your wealth, or bring wholeness and satisfaction to your heart? I like to think that maybe I could leave behind a legacy. A legacy of good spirit. Whose lives did I effect for the better? Who did I love, and who did I help? Who knows that I love them, and did I do anything in this life to make a difference for the better or act in essence of my heart?
You may not have been as bad of a person that I’ve been or feel the insatiable need for atonement and charity that I do. But maybe you have your own void inside that needs to be filled. And maybe… just maybe, I can help you, or inspire you to understand or find out what that is. In turn, it would help me just as well to believe in a purpose and something bigger than the world I’ve personally known. And if anything, I can simply leave you a piece of myself. So if you’re willing to listen, then I’m willing to tell you.
You may wonder what I’ve been through in my own life for me to qualify enough to say that I know pain, or that my influence or experience can somehow make a difference. Maybe through enough time, with an open heart and open mind, you can progressively register what I have to say with an underlying moral value.
I’ve lost nearly anything and everything that I’ve ever loved in this life because of the choices I’ve made. I’ve hurt many people, thrown away beautiful relationships that I can never get back, and found myself in positions that I never thought I would be in. Most of my closet friends that I grew up around are all dead from either suicide, murder, or overdose. After so long in darkness, the concept of family is no longer familiar to me and has been quite foreign for many years now. Most of my family will not speak to me, and if they do it’s pretty short and awkward. To be quite honest, I don’t really consider myself a part of a family at all. Besides a small handful who continue to stick with me and believe in me, I am basically just a “distant relative” to the others who exist.
I went from a decent middle-class upbringing, to a very cold and dark life. As the years went by, I’ve watched so much of the world that I once loved crumble before my eyes and die away. The funerals of friends. The hurt. The disappointment on people’s faces as I stood, disgusted in myself – skinny – ashamed – sunken in with track marks that crawled up my arms. Sleeping outside in the cold under a pile of leaves because I had nowhere to go. Carrying guns in paranoia, or getting robbed and pistol-whipped left for dead bleeding on the cold cement. Crawling on a jail cell floor, shitting myself and vomitting simultaneously as I punch myself to make the internal pain go away. Chanting Hail Mary’s in pathetic desperation because I’m too numb to cry anymore.
I’m not saying these things to depress you or seek pity from you. I’m letting you know a part of the world from which I came from. I would like to tell you that most of my years were spent doing better things, but we all have our own paths – and this was a path I chose. But now I do strive for better. Now I strive for more. And here I am at this moment, humble in my words and meager in esteem, sharing it all with you. Every one of the things I mentioned is a story. A story that I can’t tell you at once, or may never be able to tell in its entirety. But I’d like to hope that as I share some of my life with you, it can inspire you, or encourage you through your own. A Human Project of sorts.
Please come back next week for Part 2… it gets a lot cooler.