Tag Archives: Christian

Joy

20 Apr

I hear that it’s a holiday – a holy day – today. I hear it’s called Easter.

I don’t know what that word conjures up for you, when you hear it. A Midwestern-bred Catholic who decided to expand to the larger term of “Christian” in her early college years and now claims no grand ability to judge the Ultimate Truths of the universe, calling herself no one dogmatic label but saying she is open to learning, to questioning, to experiencing, and to revising ideas – the word “Easter” conjures up a lot of rather disparate images for me.

Countless Easter baskets, each of them packed with neon green and pink and purple plastic shavings, filled to the brim with garishly designed chocolate-encasing wrappers, maybe even some of those 25 cent plastic Easter eggs you can buy at every discount and drug store right around this time of year. Probably some horrid but oh-so-delicious chocolate mockery of a rabbit. (Seriously, why do those things even exist? “Here, kiddo, today’s all about celebrating new life, NOW RIP ITS HEAD OFF WITH YOUR SALIVA-DRIPPING TEETH AND FEAST UPON ITS CORPSE WHILE ITS MELTING BODY SMEARS ALL OVER YOUR FACE!”)

Uh, yeah. Easter baskets.

There are images of family parties that pop up, too. Somebody – usually my grandmother, I think – probably made a ham. Not that I’d be eating it, thank you very much. There would be some Easter egg hunt, little plastic capsules filled with quarters and dimes and HOLY FUCK THIS ONE HAS FIVE DOLLARS strewn around the front yard or the backyard or the living room, if the weather were too wet or the adults got too lazy. I’d participate for maybe ten years or so, then help moderate for the littler ones as I got older. (“Hey, three-year-old cousin, stick with me and you’ll be good to go. I’ve got inside information.”)

For a long stretch of years, there are images of church. Me and my younger sister and my mother and every other female there decked out in our best dress, many of us probably having bought a new one just for the occasion. (Why are Easter dresses a thing? Why must small children be bedecked in white fluff and nonsense that they’re only going to complain makes them uncomfortable and probably get grass stains all over within five minutes? Why don’t we all just wear jeans? The day’s about freedom, yes?)

A lot of those years, the church-going was fairly mindless. You went to church on Easter because that’s just what people did. It was like stopping at red lights or eating soup with a spoon. That’s just the way things worked. You stood outside in the cold (because of course Missouri would decide to revert back to freezing temperatures instead of the spring it had been inching toward – I mean, wouldn’t want to overheat the occasion or anything by venturing above 60 degrees Fahrenheit…) and waited for a really long time and got really bored and then you went inside and the adults around you mumbled some stuff and belted some songs and went through this routine of sitting and standing and kneeling and sitting and kneeling and standing and burning weird-smelling stuff and generally doing lots more waiting and being bored…

And then in my first two or so years of college, there was nobody around to tell me I had to go to Easter mass. Or even what Easter mass to go to. I went because at that time, I wanted to. I went because the Catholic and then broader Christian faith held meaning for me. Helped me get through the fucking large amount of hurting I was going through at the time. A day where I could go to the Pentecostal church the next suburb over and throw my hands in the air and sing as loudly as I could in a room full of people clapping their hands and waving their bodies and smiling at me, at each other, at the ceiling past where they imagined their God to be, where we could make noise and stomp our feet and feel things because that’s just what we wanted to do, just how we wanted to show our belief and our thanks, and whatever we brought to the table, our God would find that acceptable? Would find it good?

I went to that kind of mass for a while.

And now, Easter, being a word associated with that set of religions that I’ve become not entirely sure about… it brings up flashbacks of scenes of doubt and anger – at the God I had been taught to believe in, at the men I had been told to believe. Discomfort and hesitation, because the book I was told to put so much stock in had some passages that seemed to not make sense, or to exclude people I knew were damn good people, better than a lot of the Christians I knew – more loving, more supportive, more accepting, better parents and spouses and partners and friends, sometimes even better believers – I was being told that I was supposed to “pray for their souls,” because they were sinning. Or something like that. There was a whole sector, multiples sectors of human life, human experience, that had so many rules and regulations, many of them seemingly arbitrary, that the joy there… just died.

I thought Easter was explicitly about the opposite of joy dying.

My journey of faith and un-faith and re-faith and not-quite-faith and whatever the hell the proper words for the dynamic spot of saying I don’t know all the answers and I’m just going to love and serve people and celebrate this earth and its inhabitants as best I can and hope that any deity out there will look on and understand my story, understand that I am doing the best I can in the place I am at – I don’t know exactly what to call that, but the story of getting there is long intricate and person and complicated, and that’s not exactly what I’m trying to talk about here.

What am I trying to talk about? Well, now that you’ve got an incredibly long backstory, what I’m trying to say is that I hear today is a day called Easter. A holy day. A day of celebrating that we humans, with our quirks and differences and imperfections and doubts and diversity, are free and loved. A day of celebrating the joy that can be in life.

So. Whoever you are, however you are, I wish you joy today. Joy in being completely you, without boundaries or prejudices. Joy in loving as fully as you can, without any disapproval from lookers-on. Joy in being who you are, how you know you were created. Male, female, transgender, gender queer, intersex, agender – whatever the word you understand for yourself. Straight, gay, lesbian, hetero or homo, pansexual or asexual, questioning or certain or experimenting or just trying to be okay – because I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re all doing, the entire human race, just trying to be okay – whatever your titles or creeds or other arbitrary delineations we draw between us who are all made of skin and bone and muscle, hearts and lungs and brains and hands: I wish you joy. In being you. In being free. In being loved.

No conditions. No reservations.

Only joy.

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The Omniscience Chronicles: Dari and Micah

21 Feb

She shuffled uncomfortably. “Sometimes people have a hard time with me.”

Micah looked at her curiously. “Why?”

“I’m blazingly honest.” She hopped down from the side of his bed. “If you ask me a question, I’m not going to skirt around with niceties. You’re going to get the real answer, whether you wanted it or not.”

“Isn’t that what everybody does?”

Dari burst out laughing. “You actually think that? Micah, wake up. People don’t really want to know what you have to say these days. They want some nice gloss of a response that imparts absolutely no information whatsoever so they can feel good about acknowledging you and then move on with their life with as little disruption as possible.”

“Oh.”

“I’m sorry,” Dari’s voice softened. She put a hand on Micah’s shoulder. “It’s that blazingly honest thing again. I don’t know how to how to account for people’s sensitivities. I kind of just bowl you right over.”

Micah shook his head. “My fault for being so naïve,” he said gruffly.

Dari looked away. Her eyes dropped to the ground. “Naïveté isn’t so regrettable,” she said quietly. “Better than knowing everything and just walking around jaded all the time.”

Micah helped her snap her bra back on. “Life’s ruined for you, isn’t it?”

She pulled up her skirt and tugged at the snagged zipper. “Pretty much. Humans aren’t supposed to know all things, Micah. Takes the wonder out of everything. Well, just about everything…” She slipped her t-shirt over her head and tugged it down around her waist.

Micah paused where he was buttoning his jeans back together. “That’s why you do this, isn’t it? It’s the only thing you have left. Raw experience.”

Dari nodded silently. “Even then, knowing exactly how my biology is going to respond to each manipulation… there’s no element of surprise. Expectation reduced down to an algorithm… takes the intimacy out of it. And my body knows it, too. My senses are starting to dull. My dopamine receptors are slowly being pruned away, never being able to register more reward than anticipated, because my anticipations are always correct. I’m slowly being stripped of my ability to register pleasure.” Dari laughed darkly. “And where will that leave me? A cynical old maid who knows too much for her own good.”

Micah looked at her bashfully. “I’d still like you.”

Dari laughed again. “No you wouldn’t. You only think you would. Eventually you’d learn to spurn me. You’re a poet, Micah. The flowery kind. You walk around finding lovely images to compose into attempts at truth. And while you get halfway there, you stop short and end up still firmly within the bounds of falsity. You delude yourself into believing in your own constructions, making you one of the billions living on this planet who never really understand anything. And you know that I’d never stop pointing that out to you, either, because you, with your own strange compulsions, can never stop asking me what I think. No, Micah. You’d come to hate me.”

“Gee, thanks for the compliment. Glad you have such faith in people.”

“Faith,” Dari spat out the word as if it left a bad taste in her mouth. “What use have I for faith?”

Micah stared at her closely. Then, slowly, realization dawned on his face. “They didn’t give you a choice, did they?”

Dari plopped back down onto the bed. “No, they didn’t. I was a class-5 citizen, Micah. Experimental stock, only one step above shark bait. And I’m a girl. Our crop was short on females, which made me a valuable commodity. Not to be wasted on just any scientific venture. No, I was allowed no say in what experiment I went to. I was slotted for a top-priority religio-scientific assay from birth.”

“The Omniscience question.”

Dari nodded. “Scientists have long since accepted that humans are made in the image of God. Ultimate goodness, generosity of Optimized Altruism, the ability to tolerate paradoxes – all that shit has already been proven as Enhanceable Qualities of the Almighty.” Micah looked at her quizzically. Dari rolled her eyes. “Characteristics of God present in humans as a result of the whole “made in His image” deal that we can draw out and maximize as a part of our general personalities, idiot. Honestly, don’t you keep up with current events?” Without waiting for answer – given that she already knew it- Dari went on, “Anyways, in recent centuries, the Priesthood of Logical Ends has been getting rather ambitious. The PLE figured that if we could master some of the Almighty’s qualities, then shouldn’t we be able to master all of them, even the ones formerly thought to be reserved only for the Big Guy himself?”

Micah nodded slowly, understanding. “Hence the Omniscience project.”

“The Omnipresence project actually came first,” Dari bubbled, “but most people don’t know about that one because it ended up being a big flop. Turns out we’re too tied to our matter, in this life at least, for us to be too many places at once. Quarks apparently don’t take too kindly to being cut in half, even if only momentarily. I hear the snap that happens when your matter realizes it’s been Twinned and promptly fuses itself back together is highly unpleasant. Test subjects kept dying of pain.” Dari chewed on her lip and looked thoughtful for a moment. “But if they could figure out how to reconcile a few more digits of the Existence Coefficient with the remainder of the Quotient of Perceived Momentum, they might have it… Anyhoo, doesn’t matter,” Dari said brightly. “The PLE never ends up figuring it out. They pray very hard about it for a couple of dedicated decades and then decide that it’s impossible.”

Micah stared at her for a moment, too stunned to say anything. He considered asking another question and then thought the better of it.

Dari giggled. “Anyways,” she said, snatching her sweater off the ground, “I should be going.”

Micah leaned over and kissed her deeply on the neck. “Dari,” he murmured, wrapping his arms around her so she couldn’t leave, “there is a God then?”

Dari leaned into his shoulder. “Of course, stupid.”

Micah thought very hard. He knew he could only keep her there for so long. “Why does he let bad things happen?”

Dari squirmed. “Because.”

“Because why?”

“No,” Dari shifted so she was facing him. “That’s all there is. Just – because.” Micah raised an eyebrow at her, waiting. “Look,” she said, annoyed, “just because I know everything doesn’t mean I understand it.” She wriggled her way out of his arms. “I really have to go now.”

She turned to leave but Micah caught her by the hand. She whipped around, but there was something in the way that Micah was looking at her that stayed her tongue. He met her eyes and held them in his steady gaze.

“Dari,” Micah’s voice broke as he said the word. “Dari, why you?”

Dari didn’t say anything. Instead, she only shook her head sadly, leaned in close and silently kissed Micah on the cheek. Micah let go of her hand. Dari walked quickly towards the door. She was just reaching for the door handle when Micah called out to her again.

“Dari,” he said her name gently, so gently, “what’s the answer?

Dari turned and stared at him. “Micah… there isn’t one.”

Conviction

18 Jan

I don’t give homeless people money. I just don’t. I’ve had enough personal experience with wavering in the face of choosing a necessity versus the easy way out to know better than to just hand out money.

However, while I won’t give out money, I will give out breakfast, or a granola bar, or a scarf, or whatever it happens to be that the homeless person is actually needing at that moment. It’s much more practical and much more effective than just handing out a dollar bill.

Now for a segue. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings I walk dogs for my friends the Stangels. Because I’m an insomniac and have a bit of a phobia of being late, I occasionally find myself arriving near the Stangels’ neighborhood with a half hour to an hour to spare. So, I’ve created this nice ritual of heading to the Starbucks up the street and hanging out there with a cup of coffee and a spot of writing.

This morning was one of those Starbucks mornings. I became so absorbed in the snippet of story I was writing that when I finally came to, I realized I only had a few minutes to get to the Stangels’ house. However, on my way out of Starbucks, I was accosted by a homeless woman whom I had once bought breakfast for. She asked if I had some change to spare for a cup of coffee. My brain whirred into a quick mental calculation, figuring that I didn’t have enough to both buy the woman breakfast and make it to the Stangels’ on time. Besides, I’m a poor college student. It’s not like I have  that much to spare.

So, guiltily, I said no. No, I didn’t sorry. Sorry.

Really? Really? As soon as I turned to head towards my car, the mental recriminations started. Did I really have nothing to spare? Was I really so destitute that I couldn’t help this woman out? Was I really that busy that I couldn’t spare a few minutes to help? Would the Stangels really care if I were five minutes late to dog-walking? A modern-day “good Samaritan study” I’d read about in which results showed that those who were time-pressed were less likely to stop to help someone flashed through my mind. Then the image of Jesus standing there (hey, I’m Christian) asking for a cup of coffee flashed through my mind next, with me answering “no.”

No, sorry, I’m too busy. No, sorry, I don’t feel like being that generous today…

Yup. That did it. I was thoroughly convicted. I’d reached my car, opened the car door, and set my own cup of coffee in the consul holder. But then, instead of loading myself into the car, I shut the door, turned back around, and fished in my purse for my wallet.

“Actually,” I said, approaching the woman, “actually I do have change to spare. Would you like breakfast?”

The woman, whose name I later found out was Rosalie, smiled.

Turkey sandwich and small cup of coffee it was.