This is a true story, part 1

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New York’s Long Beach after Hurricane Sandy, January 2013 (Photo by: Tracy Smith)

It was a decisive moment.  An epiphany of sorts.

As he sat in his apartment, tormented and struggling, he cried aloud, asking God to reveal Himself.  He waited for something to happen, anything.  Nothing happened.

“I felt so utterly alone and completely abandoned by everybody,” he said.

That’s the moment he decided that he was officially done with Christianity.  It took 10 trips to the dumpster, but eventually he eliminated all traces of books and commentaries that were once a beacon of his faith.  He did save one bible, but only because it was part of his Easton Press Books collection of the 100 greatest books ever written.

Everything else was trashed.  Literally.

Dan, 50, sits across from me on a sunny afternoon at an outside table at Panera.  His  silvery hair flows neatly from his hat with the word “Antietam” embroidered across the front.  He’s wearing vintage glasses from the 1850s and a copy of Patrick O’Brian’s Post Captain sits on the table.

Although Dan would describe himself as “an outsider, introvert and socially awkward,” he admits to being comfortable with who he is.   He is soft-spoken and measured, confident in what he is sharing.

For the last 23 years he has worked at the same medical supply company, but his true passion is writing.  He poured seven years into writing the novel Cornfields of Steel, a coming of age story that takes place during the American Civil War.

“I’m fascinated by human nature and I like to observe human nature when writing,” Dan said.  “Be careful or you’ll end up in my novel.”

But the story he begins to share with me is his own narrative.  He’s the protagonist, navigating through childhood traumas that shaped his earliest impression of Christianity.  There are conflicts leading up through adulthood, threatening to ruin him.  And there is a resolution.  Sort of.

“I don’t have a bone to pick,” Dan said.  “My last gift, as bittersweet as it might be, is to share my experiences because something good may come out of it.”

Noah Hawley, the creator and writer of the FX television series Fargo, said the following in an interview with The New York Times:

“It was always my intention in this season to try to deconstruct that opening sentence, “This is a true story.” More in a metaphysical way than in a political way — the whole idea that we start each hour with a lie, and that the events that we’re depicting are purported to be true. It was never intended to be a statement on our modern conundrum here. I just ran headlong into reality.”

Unlike Fargo, this is a true story.  It’s Dan’s story.  Similar to Fargo, it’s a cautionary tale.