There’s nothing like busting open the head of the Blessed Virgin Mary to remind you to slow down. Here’s what happened: I was having one of those mornings when I was not in the moment. There were way too many moments trying to be represented in every in-breath. I had a chiropractic appointment and a voice student. And even though there was no reason why I had to cram all this into one morning, I was also going to do laundry, pay some bills, and run a bunch of errands on my bicycle: get a new watch battery, make copies at Kinkos and take her porcelain statue of the BVM to my friend Joan who had left it in my car the day before. When I got to her house, I dropped Mary on the porch and cracked her head clean off her robes.
Sunday, Joan and I had gone up to Christ the King Fall Festival which they are now regrettably calling Bite of Broadview. I had been up there once already on Saturday with my neighbor, Gwen, the one who knows something about just about everything. I love this little festival; I’ve been going to it since the 1980’s. It’s a slice of childhood summer carnivals; I’m certain the rides are older than I am. They have raffles and bake sales; if you get there early enough, you can get some fudge.
There’s the usual plethora of craft booths, including Catholic ones which seem so exotic to me. At one table I fingered all the rosary beads and learned how to use them. Another table, Steps Against Domestic Violence, breaks my heart. It’s run by the family of a young woman who was murdered by her fiancé. For a donation, you could pick from a table full of small religious statues. Joan and I chatted with the family; each of us made a donation and we each took one of the two statues of Mary.
I was raised in the Church of the Miserable Masochists. We were Pentecostal, evangelical, fundamental, in-errantistical –pretty much everything you see and hear on those shameless religious television channels. I have tramped through a dozen belief systems since my mother chased me around the house screaming that God was going to punish me; and finally found a home hanging out in the intersection of psycho-analysis, Buddhism and Christianity, trying to not get hit.
Joan, my friend with the theological chops, was raised Catholic, and she can tell you what she believes these days when she gets her own blog. I enjoy talking religion and theology with her. We were having lunch one day when she said something that I loved so much I put it in my book, 99 Girdles on the Wall, which is currently sitting in the in-box of an editor at St Martin’s Press. We were talking about Jesus Christ who I never had anything against; it was the hermeneutics people who made it impossible for me to believe what Christians say they believe.
Joan shoved aside her plate and said, “Look. For Jesus to continue the road he was on, he was going to run into trouble. He could have avoided it. He could have gone to Greece. But to be the person he believed himself to be, he had to do what he did.”
So here’s what I believe: It’s no different for any of us. We all either stay on our road, or we escape ourselves and go to Greece. We are here to be who we are, not to imitate someone else, not to co-opt his vision, reduce it to concrete and bludgeon the rest of the world with it. I find fundamentalism in any form pretty un-interesting; it kills conversation. It can also be quite terrifying; it kills people.
If I have any absolutes, it is that I can believe anything I want to believe. No person alive knows what happens after death. However I am the only person alive who knows what it feels like to be me on earth right now.
So: frantic morning, broken BVM, Joan, religion, my book (which is in the in-box of an editor at St Martin’s Press, did I say that already?), what I believe, what matters most in life, take a deep breath, slow down. That was the trail of associations.
I gave my BVM statue to Joan. She had made the larger donation.