Master Peace- Benjamin
March 24, 2021
Nathan Stanton has spent the last 10 years as a pastor, church planter and artist on the West, South and Northsides of Chicago, and is an Interfaith America Racial Equity Media Fellow.
The following short story and poem are a part of a series of vignettes from Stanton that we will be publishing each month and are connected to a larger narrative called Master Peace. The narrative is about characters seeking personal solace in a time of unrest. You can find the earlier installments using these links: Celeste, Darnell, and Audra.
An Urban Mistake they treated him but an Urban Mystic is what he became. Staring down at the cup of juice he felt as if all of history came crashing down on his head. All of the crevices of the cubes and bubbles that rose to the surface and became the scenes of history he’d imagined for his entire life. It was as if some unseen mystery had touched his heart and brought these seemingly arbitrary instances to the surface of his consciousness. Now like those bubbles he felt as if he would burst with anxiety and expectation. He felt as if his heart would burst and that he was waiting for some event to happen. The outcome was unknown and so frightening that an ambulance was called. When they arrived and saw that all of his vitals were fine and tried to convince Ben that there was no need for him to go into the hospital. Yet he wanted to make sure he would be alright.
You see there had been a national emergency that demanded attention in so many ways and had determined to change the way we lived. We would discriminate against those who were brown in a new way. Black people watched the persecution that washed though the nation with a knowing look. As many ethnicities sought to be accepted by the established culture. Unfortunately there always felt as if a moment would push them back to their own. Like a wave being rebuffed by a marble fortress. In this city like so many others, segregation had become the norm. Benjamin attended college for a little while then found the contradiction became too much. Maybe he could be some sort of wild monk in the world blowing on the embers of love that would ignite a fire for all of mankind. He dropped out unceremoniously which is how these things happen. To begin some time ago the education that would come in the overgrown neglected neighborhood that surrounded his former college. As year after year parents left their children to fend for themselves in an environment that opposed familial structure like none other could. It was as if an inferno was surrounded by a shark tank. Ben made the determination to enter the shark tank for at least he could see the danger coming from afar off. It came fast and furious with drug addicts breaking into the home he shared with other unsuspecting former students. Addiction lurked at every corner and animal-like treatment at each turn. It became obvious to Ben he was a mistake that had to be hidden away in the decaying part of a decaying town in the midst of a decaying culture.
Sitting in the back of the wailing vehicle with his heart still beating a million miles a minute. He was adamant to not go to the more public of hospitals thinking maybe he would not make it out. As he came in they sent him to someone seeking to get him to sign a piece of paper to receive treatment but it felt as if anything could happen after that moment. The hurdles necessary to overcome to receive help were daunting. Nurses and nurses and finally a security guard came and stuttered his way through an appeal for him to keep his eyes on the prize of help. Ben could not be convinced and eventually drifted back out to the street without the help it seemed had been necessary a moment ago. Wandering the streets of this upcoming progressive city felt vital in this moment as the air waited for the morning to materialize.
Then the ground shook and opened a flash in the sky that got Ben’s attention. For the last year there had been many inexplicable events that were similar. He decided to explore and wove himself through a swanky neighborhood to the most prominent park in the city. You know those places where people use strollers that could feed a family for a year where Ben lived. The flashes continued the closer he got and beckoned him from afar. There was a wrought iron fence surrounding a circle of towering pine trees he could not see beyond without first scaling the fence. As he mounted the structure someone called out from a few hundred feet to his right. “Hey get away from there, what are you doing here?” The voice came from someone with a ugly park uniform approaching with a flashlight. Ben responded, “Nothing much but just taking a look at the flashing coming from here. Flashes retorted the employee with a shock that bordered on mockery. Ben undaunted “Yes I had a rough night and coming here to check out this light gave me some hope. Could I just take a look? The employee rotund with a belt that barely held up his pants mulled over the appeal and request before stating sure. “But lets go through the open gate on the other side”, he retorted proud that he had reclaimed control of the situation. It hadn’t occurred to Ben to look from another angle so he walked with the man in silence to a side where he got a better glimpse that invited him here in the middle of the night. Like following the setting sun that bends around the horizon, the anticipation in his heart continued to rise. Even as the ground shook beneath his feet and the aloof park ranger pretended he could not feel a thing.
My shortcomings mistook one for a failure
committing to the ways and aves that evade
torture daily as if the most sinister game
with vices of the most depraved name and
I’d clean up what could be destroyed by the flame
marginal ready to tame the individual
yearning that one would pray instead of act
owing to the discourse that borders on fact
persecution allowed me to
enter 100 sanctuaries daily when only it
took the rocks of bottoms to sway me
away from the generational curse of poverty
thrust upon the ancestors and therefore me
shrugging like the life that comes because of calamity
promises land in the heart of those open when
the story attempts to paint you as the deviant
in fact you are divine made fresh and vital for another time
that will understand and explore your way
over eons and centuries marvel
at the mistaken mystical patience
American Civic Life