I’ve always been down for doing something different so yesterday when a dear friend gave me the opportunity to take in a catholic church service, I readily took it.
The exteriors of churches here are fairly indistinctive compared to architecture of the west, but inside it was quite nice. We pulled up a pew seven or eight off the front. I found myself sitting directly in front of a 2 and a half foot high plaster cast statue of Jesus which was alcoved in the front wall. Well maybe not directly in front then only 30cms off, just enough to get a hint of shadow and profile. Just above the alcove was a three-digit, red diode-style display used to signal the parishioners the hymn numbers. He was standing there, holding a red drapey bit of material around his robes, with a heart in the other hand at chest height. The insta-moulded bone structure and paint colours of the beard and face were brought to life by the medium-to-low lighting, the statue’s impish size and its distance from me.
I stood there for a while, oblivious to whatever the priest was talking about, because I couldn’t understand it, and not so much staring ahead, but holding an unflickering gaze where the outlines of objects slowly become frayed and dim. The digital readout came to life, blipping its message three times then holding it constant for another three seconds before displaying the next three-charactered word.
It took me some time to process this. Mostly because I wasn’t sure what really was up. It’s all so confusing these days. And to this moment, today, still don’t really know if I replied speaking aloud or if I just thought I was talking. My friend says I didn’t say anything.
Jesus I don’t know. In a lot of ways – uh, I mean there’s a lot of areas in my life that I don’t feel like are moving fast enough — y’know I’m really impatient – or I don’t know – am I impatient? or is just that I know what I want now? But on the whole life feels like it’s hammering by like a helicopter gunship — and that I’m not really getting anything done at all.
To tell you the truth, I come here and I look around me and it’s weird ’cause I kind of feel this twinge of something that’s almost like envy… yeah envy Can you believe that?
I mean, I have my own beliefs – and they work, and I even have my own people that share these – but it’s not enough. I want yours too. I want to belong. I wish I wasn’t left cold by the whole thing. I mean – I know you’re speaking to me, but that doesn’t mean you’re real, right?
Plus there’s all the stuff. So much .. great .. stuff. I’ve been looking at the stuff for a long time. My belief system is very minimal on stuff, and while logically I know that it’s not needed – no, more than that – in my heart I know that stuff is irrelevant, all the same I am facinated by it as only someone from the outside looking in could be.
‘What do you mean?’ I sense you are about to ask. No don’t ask it – I will tell.
It’s hard to know where to start, but you know – the pope. Particularly the little old one. He was ace. Tapestries. El greco. Michaelangelo. Byzantine gaudy golden stuff. The confessional box. The whole process of confession and the words, ‘forgive me father for I have sinned..’ are the opening line of so many comedy routines that it stands by its self as a whole nother category. Nuns, Vicars – Irish and otherwise. Sandal-wearing Fransiscans. Rosary beads. The Inquisition. The conquest of south and central America. Barbed-wire, blood and bruises. Mel Gibson. Queen Mary o’ Scots. Dark, wooden three-dimensional reminders of pain all over the place and not to mention *Guilt*.
And I’m not even an expert.
Gimme a sign man. Or as Ziggy Stardust once sang, ‘Gimme ya hands!’