Saturday, June 26, 2021

I'm still here....

    No deep thoughts to share with you today. But Google Blogger is phasing out the blog-following service my few faithful subscribers are signed up to, so since I haven't actually decided to give up on blogging altogether, I thought I'd better give you the chance to sign up to the new service. So if you want to stay in touch with my occasional ramblings, even if you're already following me, please click "subscribe" in the right-hand sidebar again.

    I'm really excited today, actually, because the monastery where I am an Oblate is opening up to the public for Sunday Mass again tomorrow, for the first time since the pandemic started. I can't wait to see my people face-to-face again! I know, we still won't be loading up on hugs, but it will still be much better than monthly Zoom. 

    I did find a parish I like a lot. The congregation is diverse, and they evidently have a very strong commitment to community service as well as a genuine contemplative underpinning. But I don't know anyone there, and the pandemic hasn't been a good time to make new friends. So the truth is, I have not been going to Mass at all for a while. I went, the first Sunday after I was fully vaccinated, and I was so happy ... and then, the very next week, they announced that masks would now be voluntary "for those who are vaccinated." Maybe I'm unreasonable, but I feel like restrictions are being lifted too far, too soon. Too many people are not vaccinated, for whatever reason, and even though I am myself, I worry.... I mean, even if half of us are vaccinated, we reduce the available space between those who might not be. 

    Well, and all the same things will be true at the Abbey, but I'm not at all hesitating to go back there tomorrow. Some people may still be resisting vaccination, but I don't know -- they're already my friends, my beloved community, and being there with them outweighs the risk. Luckily, too, the weather should allow for the church windows to be opened. I will probably still wear a mask.

    So I have been staying away from Church, and it has had an effect on my faith. Not my faith in God, you understand, but the Roman Catholic form of expression of my faith. I have been without my beloved community, and without the Eucharist, which leaves me with the written word ... and without those things to give them light and context, I have found the psalms, Scripture generally, the Church Fathers, the theologians, and the grotesquely dysfunctional hierarchy more and more unpalatable. The misogyny, the legalism, the bigotry, the bull-headed insistence on what to me seem like pretty breathtakingly arrogant formulas of "truth" about the precise nature of God who, really, surely, is far beyond our ability to define and describe. There is room for "mystery" in Catholicism, which is one of the things that most attracts me to this faith, but I often feel as though the boundaries of allowable mystery are shrunk as far as men can shrink it, way beyond the point of ridiculous mental gymnastics. 

    The self-assured, pompous pronouncements of theologians remind me of the letters to the editor in the Mensa journal. I joined Mensa a couple of decades ago, first of all to see if I could qualify (it's a society for people with high IQ), and also for something to put on my résumé to compensate for the lack of a college degree. "See, I'm smart, I just ... can't hack college." ADHD, I guess, mostly. Who knew? As a line on the résumé it was a failure, by the way, since I worked in a mostly Latin American organization, and as it turns out, "mensa" means "moron" in Spanish. A new vocabulary word for me! No, but my point is this: the Mensa journal invariably carried letters to the editor expounding elaborate crackpot theories about UFOs, mad conspiracies, I don't remember what.... it was wild! Really, really smart people, getting carried away by their own ability to work out systems of thought both intricate and all-encompassing, and then convincing themselves that what they had worked out was actually true. Just like a bunch of theologians.

    It was a really good lesson for me! Not only am I Mensa-smart, but I'm also a solitary, which is two-thirds of a recipe for crazy thinking, since there's no one to nudge me back on track. But -- silver linings are a thing, you see -- I had been through some s*t. I had suffered. I had found myself unable to cope with life, with some of the most basic things about life that most people of average intelligence handle perfectly competently. So already, I understood that my brain, a gift for which I am grateful, is only one kind of human "giftedness." And the Mensa high-IQ crackpots just reinforced that lesson. And for the gift of that lesson, I am doubly grateful.

    And anyway, staking out a position is not, in my experience, conducive to peace. Keeping an open mind is more difficult, it takes vigilance, but the peace it allows is much deeper and broader. I do have strong opinions (no, really? astonishing), but I try to remember that they are only right for certain reasons, and other people's contrary opinions are often equally right for a different set of reasons that matter more to them. Or even if not, the thinking, feeling, influences, personality traits and life experiences that lead them to their wrong conclusions are real and valid and worthy of respect.

    Yeah, I'm wandering. I'm OK with that. Isn't that progress?  :-) I mean, in self-acceptance, embracing my scattered brain. Enjoying the birds bringing their babies to my feeders, so cute! It's a beautiful, beautiful day, and now I think I'll get up and go pull some weeds for a while. There's someone paddling past on the river in something that looks kind of like a kayak, but pedal-powered, with three fishing poles hanging off it -- oh man, if there was an 800 number flashing across my porch screen I would be in serious danger of placing an order for a boat like that! I love my life. 

    Well, so anyway, yes, I will be happy to go back to church tomorrow, at my own monastery, with my own people, the friends I love. I will be happy to partake of the Mystery, and hope that the magic of the sacrament and the community will again combine to put all the ..... oh, I can't just off the top of my head think of a nicer word for it than "bulls*t" .... back into context. I am convinced that God cannot be contained within any religion, which I suppose already makes me a heretic. But I'm only human, and from my side of the relationship, for me to relate to God, language and symbol and practice really help. My spiritual director, God bless him, is not worried about the state of my soul. But for myself, I'm relieved to be going back to the Abbey for Mass, back to the sacrament, back to my beloved community. 


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