The Reality Institute

So They Think You’re the Son of God

Let me begin by saying that… I am dead.

People die.

It should be of no surprise.

The method of my death was a bit surprising to me, however. Let’s just say that I only know of at least one other person who has died like me.

And how am I telling you this story if I’m so dead?

Well, someone else is telling this story in the first person, as me. I feel violated. But, I guess, it happens all the time. Um, let me think… Well, Moby Dick was told from the first person by a guy named Ishmael but it was actually written by a guy named Herman Melville. Or take the movie Aladdin, for example. That story was told in the third person by an omniscient narrator; that is, a narrator who could very well be God. God would just show particular scenes to keep kids interested and make sure the moral was made clear in the end. God streamlines the details to show what he thinks is important. So, the part of God was actually written by a team of Disney™ writers.

So same here. Call me Ishmael I guess.

Any questions about the afterlife? Well, if I said it was shiny, would that help? Or maybe it’s drab and plain and everyone wears plaid. I might say that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face in the afterlife because it’s so dark.

Pretend that the afterlife is a sleep over. It would be made up of two rooms. One room would be shiny and fun and you’d play with Nerf™ guns and eat Fruity Pebbles™. The other room would be post sleep over (when God comes in and yells at you, so you have to turn off the lights and go to sleep). All the good kids get to play Nerf™ wars until forever and all the bad kids have to go to bed.

Depending on who you ask, I was a good kid. I was a lonely kid too, afraid of the dark though. And I had trouble interacting with other kids until I died around the age of thirty-five (the age at which you can run for President in the United States). I got mixed up with the wrong crowd at an early age, around sixteen I guess. The crowd was made up of people considered to be mentally disturbed by their State or loved ones.

My loved ones decided I was becoming too detached and shutting myself off from everyone. My third grade teacher once wrote on my report card: “Though Ishmael receives terrific marks and dresses neatly, he does not work well with others.”

Not true.

I did not dress well; I wore sweat pants and shirts that didn’t match. I did work with others well, just not at school work. But that was third grade and my third grade teacher was a liar. But who were my parents going to believe, some dumb nine year old or a certified teacher?

If my loved ones are anything like my third grade teacher, they’d tell the mental institution: “Though Ishmael receives terrific marks and dresses neatly, he does not work well with others.” The authorities over at the ol’ mental institution would have to run a series of tests to ensure that I was, in fact, certifiably, kid tested and state approved insane.

Let the games begin.

First, they handed me a pamphlet that said, “So You’ve Been Institutionalized…” The pamphlet was a means of preparing me for life behind padded walls. It might as well have said, “So You’ve Got the Crazies…” or “So You’ve Been Pushed Aside…”.

Then came the diagnosis: Narcissistic Neurosis with a Side of Bipolar Mood Disorder.

Then came the pills.

Then God came in and made us turn out the lights and go to sleep. I didn’t even get to eat my Fruity Pebbles™!

The narcissism made me think I was important to somebody. The pills made me think I was God. Not only that, but I was swinging around on both poles of the Bipolar Disorder. Before I was just happy and sad, now I was manic and depressive.

So, during the day, they put you in a room affectionately referred to as the “game room” or what the doctors called the “mumble room”. You could either play board games, card games, or people games (those were the games I played). I’d sit around and talk to all the other crazies to see that most of them had been nullified by large doses of medication. Underneath their hazes one could find genuine personality.

The depressed folks were sad because they lost meaning in their life. For instance, Jose was a man who believed in God at one point. He went to a Catholic church where he was told not to do all the things he wanted to do or he would pay for it. And he was told to work hard because even if he didn’t make much money now, God would pay him in the afterlife. Incidentally, Catholic nuns and priests used to go around teaching this same stuff to unCatholic people all the time back in the day. That’s what being a missionary was all about, converting savages to save their eternal souls. And Jose hated his job (which paid very little in the way of cash or respect). He felt unneeded and unwanted. So now Jose doesn’t believe in this or anything at all and got checked into this place after he tried to commit suicide.

It was like a criminal line up in there, a cast of odd characters who all might as well have been committed for the same crime. Some people might have called us “cut ups”. I was the tallish one with neatly trimmed hair and a clean shaven face. In case you’re wondering, I resembled my Jewish, Mexican father (who’s darker than my mother). He came to the United States ten years before I was born. My mother was classically beautiful, in the European sense. Her family came to the United States an undetermined number of years ago from Norway by way of boat. I came by way of birth canal to eventually find myself in St. Joseph’s Home for the Mentally Disturbed. I really did dress neatly though, as neatly as you can dress in a mental institution. The nurses would have named me “Easy to Deal With”. My psychiatrist might have called me “Narcissistic Neurosis with a Side of Bipolar Mood Disorder”. My loved ones might have called me “Certifiable”.

You can just call me Ishmael.

If I were God, I would know that somewhere on the other side of town, a group called the Movement for Christ was trying to plant churches in areas that didn’t have any churches. They’d send out a parish member to this area and get them to preach and recruit members to form a new church.

Meanwhile, I was in a very dark place where my sadness and neglect was reflected all around me and I couldn’t ignore it in any way except by taking more and more pills that might as well have been called the Purple Jesus. See, if the pills don’t seem to be working the doctors up the dose. So I said,

“More please.”

And then they would say,

“Patient may respond to higher doses of something-something-olol or blah-blah-aphine.”

And then I’d say,

“More please.”

At first, my psychiatrist spoke to me like the grown kid I was, but I would throw a tantrum, saying,

“I don’t want to be in here, there’s nothing wrong with me.”

Then he’d give me some pills and say,

“You’re really coming along nicely, Ishmael. You’re really maturing.”

By the end, before they released me he said,

“You’ve come a long way, kiddo. Man, when you came in here, you were a real troublemaker.”

Then they kicked my ass out the door. So long Ishmael.

While all this was happening (the increasing doses and complacency), the Movement for Christ organization was having trouble planting these little churches. For instance, Deacon Bob was preaching in one of the poorer neighborhoods. He’d preach on a stoop,

“And the sin of sloth must not be ignored. For it is sloth which spits in the face of the Lord, which throws all that God has offered back into His face. If you work with all the faith in your heart, in your soul, God will cherish you and reward you with the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Deacon Bob was not a people person. He didn’t know how to respond to those who claimed they had worked and nothing showed for it. He just said that business about sloth again, confused as to why these people weren’t falling for it. The Movement for Christ cared about the future of Christianity and the souls of the supposed damned on Earth. They wanted everyone to be happy in Heaven even if they wouldn’t be happy on Earth. So they didn’t give up.

I was still in the hospital at the time, when a priest and a nun came in to pay my psychiatrist a visit. The nun and the priest were nice enough middle aged folks. My psychiatrist, well, he’s a doctor. He went to a pretty shiny school that gave him a shiny stethoscope and a shiny piece of paper that said he was a shiny doctor. He knows he’s shiny too. The difference between my narcissism and his is that we carry different certificates.

What the doctor didn’t know (because he’s not God) was that the nun and priest had been given orders from a higher power, a person who was, incidentally, also not God. The head of the Movement for Christ had connections which had shown him a list of all the people classified as “Narcissistic” by the State.

Why? Why would this man do this? What need did he have for a list of people classified as “Narcissistic”? This man, Edward B. Buxby, believed in a place called Heaven and a place called Hell. He believed good people went to the former and bad people went to the latter. He believed himself to know exactly who these people were and wanted to help get the bad ones to become good ones. He believed the end justified the means.

If Edward B. Buxby was in that mental institution with me, my doctor would have called him “Delusional Narcissist with a Side of Bipolar Disorder.” My doctor would say to a tape recorder,

“Patient believes in a shiny place where fairies play trumpets and a man with a big white beard grants wishes to those who can afford it. Reads a book that he believes counts as a free pass to said place. Suffers from shifts in mood. May require high doses of something-something-apan.”

The tape recorder would say, “Click click…” to show it was listening.

By the way, it was funny how similar Buxby’s image of God and Santa Claus were. Coincidentally, he didn’t get coal for Christmas. He did, however, interview a psychologist in town with at least ten different degrees (which made him a psychologist to the tenth degree). Buxby asked,

“How exactly can I get this church planting to go well, Dr. Stevens? I mean, is there a particular type of person that can get this sort of thing done? I’ve been quite successful, but the other people we’ve used so far, missionaries of sorts, just can’t get these people motivated, if you know what I mean.”

Dr. Stevens proceeded to explain that he could do some research for the Movement for a large fee. See, what Stevens would do was he’d look at the members of the parish who had been successful in planting churches. He’d look at their personality types and, if they were willing, test them to formulate a personality type that was best suited for church planting. A perfect gardener of sorts.

As Fate, or God, or Santa Claus, or Miracle Grow™ would have it, that perfect gardener would be the type to suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Or so it calls us in the DSM-IV, the psychologist’s Bible.

Buxby’s finding this all out, while I’m saying in the mental institution,


And then pills.

And then,

“More please.”

Separately, the nun and the priest interviewed all the Narcissists in the ward. A deal was at hand. Not only were they offering a ticket out of a Hell, but they were offering me a ticket into a Heaven. In fact, they said if I worked all my life for their cause, I would be repaid, in full, after I died. You know, how much better can it get? All I had to do was plant some churches because of my charming, self-obsessed personality and I’d be in the clear.

“Mr. Salizaar, what do you say?”

“Please, call me Ishmael.”

“Well, Ishmael, do we have a deal? The tests say you’d be perfect for the job.”

“Sure, brother.”


“Whatever you say.”

“Then we’ll meet you out at St. Martin’s? Monday at eight a.m.?”

“Hell yes.”

The interview adjourned, hands were shook, and I was declared a free and certifiably sane man. Before I left, I was given my doggy bag of pills, ready to face the world as a messenger for the Lord Almighty. Halleluiah!

First, I went home. Houses were things made of walls and roofs and rooms. Homes were things that were supposed to be made of love. Mine was made of a feeling of otherness and loneliness. I sat down to dinner with my mother and brother, hoping for a home cooked meal.

“So’d you break out, Brodeo?” My brother watched a lot of television drama about rich kids in California, so he talked like that. My mom watched whatever he watched.

“No, just got released and everything…”

“So you’re all better then. Well that’s very nice,” my mother said, patting me on the shoulder.

“You bet, Mom. Figure I’ll just go perv around downtown after dinner. You know, like old times.”

When I said something like this, hoping someone would laugh, I was met with awkward glances instead and usually something like “okay”. I think that this is the scene my loved ones thought they were experiencing:

“Hey, Everyone, just got back from the mental institution and boy is my mind tired. But have I got a show lined up for you!”

Then, I’d swing the microphone around in my hand. I’d do some magic tricks, maybe swallow something sharp and foam at the mouth. In their minds, they were enjoying the magic of the “Great Certifiable” or the antics of the fifth Marx brother, Nutso.


Call me Ishmael.

I had, as my luck would have it, gone from one place that resembled Hell to another. This time, it wasn’t state sanctioned. But, hey, family first, am I right? For some reason, I was supposed to ignore the way they treated me because they had the same blood that I had. And I would. I would ignore it, until I had a new family that hung on my every word.

I was met at St. Martin’s by an army of Catholics, each with their different rankings, soldiers of God (the Crusades come to mind). I was going to become one of those, Colonel Salizaar or something. It had a nice ring to it, but, of course, I was on a lot of drugs. Some member handed me a pamphlet that read “So You’re Going to Voice the Word of the Lord…” And, with a little help from my friends, I immediately began my mission from God.

Up on that soap box, I turned on my charm and no longer felt like the man I hated back at home. I lured people in with my boisterous voiceterous voice, bellowing about the after life. All anyone needed to hear was a new and magical tale with details like diamonds. I’d filter out all the unimportant things to keep them interested, to keep their eyes lit up. Hopefully there’d be a moral in the end, because most American folks are used to Disney™ movies. I could say almost anything as long as I was confident, as long as I believed the lies I told. This was, in fact, extremely easy when hopped up on blah-blah-ium.

Then, at Movement meetings, I was praised as having the divine gift. Deacon Bob was there. So were the nun and the priest. And, of course, Edward B. Buxby was pretty much in charge of the whole thing. I was his right hand man and he knew people who knew people. God, for example. I was the hand of God, really.

“You’ve really come a long way, kid. My, we’ve turned you from a real troublemaker into one of God’s soldiers, you know that?”

“’Course, Ed.”

“Now, people, we’ve got to get whatever this boy’s got.” What I had turned out to be large doses of something-something-ide, “Let’s get these people moving! Now, am I right?”


Obviously, no one was as good as me. I was a rock star out there.

“Step right up, step right up. What do you need, sir? What is it that you desire?” I called out to a stranger on the street.

“What kind of question is that? I would like to feed my goddamn family. Money. Something. What do you think of that?”

Sure, some folks were mean at first, but as my reputation grew, so did my words. I did a lot of big talking.

“Well, sir, then you’ll have some Goddamn money. God grants those who respect his divine wishes with all the Goddamn money in the world.”

A kid came up to the gathering around me at this point and tugged on my pant leg,

“You mean it, mister?”

I didn’t know what I was talking about, but I believed every word. I was planting churches left and right, but no one wanted to hear the word of God from some priest. They wanted to hear it from someone who had no divinity training at all. They wanted to hear Brother Salizaar.

You can call me Ishmael.

People refused to go to the churches I planted if I didn’t speak at them. So I became like a doctor making rounds, from church to church. I made friends pretty quickly, but, as it turned out, was making enemies out of the people who created me. The Movement spread word about my clinical past. They wanted me out and wanted to cut off any connections they had with me. I made up some of God’s words that cancelled out any negative words they had about me. It was like a dirty sword fight where charisma was the poison at the tip of the blade. I already had these people. I had a grip and could move them. We sang. We danced. We prayed. I was happy and at home.

It was about the time that people started calling me a leader of sorts that I ran out of pills. My prescriptions were all used up with no more refills and no psychiatrist in town would fix me up again. Buxby had his hands in every doctor’s pockets because he knew Mayor Bradley, Governor Fillspiddle, and even the President of the United States.

No more pills. Shucks!

My head church, the People’s Church of Christ, was where I spent my withdrawal. Wood and stone have never looked so beautiful together. I never wanted it to be so tall, but the Movement insisted on it (before they cut me loose). It was like the church had to prove it was friends with God, reaching up to Heaven to shake His hand. I never told these people that Heaven was up in the sky, but they must have got it from somewhere.

And I lay in a hard wooden bed with a fairly comfortable mattress and let the details of my wooden quarters distract me from the pain of fever and delusion. I could trace the lives of splinters as an impartial observer. In fact, I kind of saw Heaven for a minute as I was going into my little seizures. Or at least this is what I’d tell my following. I did have an experience though. It wasn’t like God was talking to me. It wasn’t like the Devil was talking to me. It was like I realized what I was doing to these people who so badly needed to believe in something.

My parish had grown large and interconnected. The people were mostly poor folks of all colors. They had this existence in common and recognized the suffering around them. I really wasn’t even necessary in this experiment. I was just the common uniting factor, a leader I guess. They didn’t think I was God either, which was humbling because those pills certainly thought I was. So I told them about Heaven once again.

“What happened to you, Brother Salizaar? There was word that you were sick?” asked Sister Carleton.

“Is it true, Brother?” several other members responded.

“I have seen Heaven, my brothers and sisters. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears, tasted its tastes, smelled its smells, and touched its touchables. And it feeeeeeeeeeels goooooooooooood!”

Smiles swept across the crowd. My smile was real and so were theirs. This was my final lie. Slowly, I removed stories about Heaven and Christ from my schpiels. Jesus became just another smart guy who was born to die not because he was the son of God, but just another human being. People could relate to that (and find power in that) because he was as (in)fallible as their Uncle Chris or Grandma Maria. Heaven became a place we intended to create because why wait until we were dead (just in case death was a period and not a comma or semi-colon). Hell, Heaven was already waiting for us, we had everything we needed: people games and good times. I was content.

My friends, family, loved ones, my following, they weren’t as content. They argued that we had to spread this happiness and that that was what God wanted. I couldn’t argue with them, I had already planted the idea of God in their heads. I figured, well, hey, that’s not such a bad idea. What could be better than spreading happiness?

“Heaven is not where you may think it is, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers, cousins and… cousins. You see this church we stand in that reaches so high up into the sky? It is not in some desperate search for Heaven. We are not desperate are we?”

“Hell no!” went the crowd.

“We are not fools! We create Heaven in the darkest places, under the heaviest stones!”

“Hell yes!”

“It’s in the prisons, in the schools, in the minds of the forgotten and forlorn, the faithless of the faithful! It’s in the caves of our world, where we think we’ll find Hell, we’ll find Heaven!”

“Hell yes!”

“That’s the truth!” cried one member. I became silent which, in turn, silenced the crowd. I looked down unhappily and heard the member ask, “Isn’t it?”

All this talk made the Movement for Christ mad, to say the least. Well Buxby had a big round body, but a small little head. Plus, he thought that Heaven was for people who wanted to compete, so he was all about competition. He was determined to push Ishmael Salazaar’s Kids for Khrist into inexistence. Survival of the fittest was what he wanted and he thought his God was fittest of all.

Happiness to the Kids for Khrist meant freedom for everyone (like in the United States Constitution). For example, we traveled the country, trying to incite revolutions in prisons, mental institutions, schools, ghettos, and anything we could find. The Kids thought everything was broken and needed to be fixed. These problems were bigger than blah-blah-aphin could fix. They were bigger than a jail cell or a text book could hold.

Let’s just say that the FBI wasn’t too keen on this idea. They weren’t happy that people weren’t content living with the lights off. And the Kids for Khrist party wasn’t on the ballot of the upcoming Presidential Election, but people thought it should be. The FBI also didn’t like my slogan:

“Call Me Ishmael”

So they had to make it look like an accident or, better yet, a crucifixion. Man, it was genius. I was dead three days before Election Day.

“Police say that suspects were a black and Latino male who had broken out of St. Joseph’s Home for the Mentally Disturbed, but the suspects have yet to be apprehended,” went the white news man, “Both suspects were actually believed to be members of the Kids for Khrist movement and practiced the religion behind the institution’s walls.”

Headlines read something along the lines of: “Fanatical Khrist Kids Crucify Savior”

Freshly inaugurated President Buxby spoke to the country,

“Though I am happy to accept the office of President of the United States of America, it seems that the events of the past few months cannot be overlooked. The riots in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Chicago over the death of the humble and charitable Brother Ishmael Salizaar have brought certain issues to light. He was a personal friend of mine,”

Not true.

And that’s Mr. Brother Ishmael Salizaar to you, sir.

And all teary eyed,

“And his death pangs me deeply. His words will live forever burned into our minds and the minds of our children. And he spoke: history will paint itself forever with the remnants of the heroes past,”

I never said this.

“His actions and life have shown us a brilliant, shining, white light of truth, a way to move forward, his efforts to reform education, for instance. The public school system in this country has been on a steady decline in the past few years. Children’s potential is going to waste, which is why my office plans to institute an act that will attempt to pull these kids forward,” and he muttered quickly under his breath, “And if they fail to do so, will be forgotten… But the new Forever Forcing Children Forward program will fix these problems like Band-Aid™ Brand adhesive bandages on the scrapes of the nation’s elbows,”

And it went on and on…

Not long after I died, a few movies were made. One in particular had a bigger budget and was, therefore, more successful. It depicted his life as the great hero he was, whose life was meant for death at the hands of his own people, a group of (mostly brown) lunatics at St. Joe’s. He was nailed violently to crossbeams in his own Church, which reached up into the Heavens as if to ask God for the forgiveness of all His children.

The thing about technology is: words move faster. The grapevine becomes a synthetic network of wires and infrared something-somethings. So, it didn’t take long before my story was a regular truth. No one could refute it because no one could refute God. In the tradition of Harrison Ford movies, Home Alone, and E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, my movie Brother Salizaar and the Search for the Golden Truth became aired annually at holidays. I became resurrected in film every year three days before election on a national holiday known as “Salizaarapalooza”.

On this day, loved ones gather around the television and watch my life and death as portrayed by a white Ben Affleck. Mom’s there in the movie, played by someone classically beautiful, in the European sense. Dad’s not there for some reason; he turned into some mystical kind of in vitro robot or something. I didn’t know my life was so overdramatic or magical. The cinematography is beautiful though. There’s at least one dove in every scene (I watched the director’s commentary).

And when you die someday, you might meet me,

Up there

In the sky,

Just follow the second star to the right and straight on till morning

You’ll walk through a door into a dark dark room and say,


And hear,


Then there’ll be a pause and,

“God told us to go to sleep.”

And, if you listen close enough, you might just hear one voice, as remarkably indistinctive as the rest, whine,

“I didn’t even get to eat my Fruity Pebbels™.”

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