Happy 1 November: To those who worship in a cathedral of rain dripping from the trees, woodpeckers etching a gospel into the bark, mockingbirds calling the sun out of the shadows, bats folding their wings tipped with sunset, owls threading the night air and stitching a cape that whirls them away through the starry sky, to the constellations who have watched over every creature ever born.
Yesterday was Astra Carey’s birthday and today is the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. I was thinking about both of these things as I spent Halloween for the first time ever as an “adult” at a nice dinner party — a popular activity this week. At the first I heard the latch snick shut too late, but tonight was surrounded by my fierce Teutonic guardians. Of course when I got home I watched Lars von Trier (earlier this week Melancholia and then tonight AntiChrist to keep in perspective how things actually are “broadcast from the outside in” [I am pretty sure that’s what that Maps lyric really says or at any rate I like it better].)
In the exactly three months since I “resigned in protest” from the church I have not missed it at all. I had already spent all the years I can remember from a child just meditating and thinking about being this or that animal the entire duration of every service anyway, though I believed in the teachings about forgiveness, patience, love, charity and so on and appreciate communal rituals and think they are important. Of course I am completely skeptical of yuppies who claim to be “spiritual but not religious” as this is just a cop-out not to have to be bothered to go to a service. Of course now I am one of those people while I am figuring out how to implement “organized pantheism.”
Toward the end of her life a relative was so upset and disgusted by the priest/child abuse situation – the horror itself of course but also the cover-ups – she was seriously investigating other religions, everything from the Anglican church to the Baha’i faith. She was a rational and methodical person but I understand now that this is a rational behavior – if – not in the historical abstract like the Borgias – actual people alive now who you know who are Catholic are deceitful, sadistic, unforgiving, abusive of the trust of those they hold power over and you are Catholic this generates a ?. So they have to go, or you do. Finally having such a personal revelation I was suddenly quick to voluntarily excuse myself.
But I am a little nostalgic today. I used to love not just Halloween but All Souls Day and All Saints Day. These days of obligation were taken very seriously in Belgium, almost as seriously as May Day: the trains, metros, stores, banks, postal service, schools – everything – would shut down and people spent the day walking from churches to the small graveyards beside the churches to the larger cemeteries. This was a solemn public ritual but I could tell other people felt similarly hopeful that perhaps the interceding saints, on this one day, would let the departed know how much we loved them still in life. I’m pretty sure my animal and human family members and my (sadly, many) friends who have died the past few years knew because, well, they did. But you never get to say everything, and you never know what is going to happen. Maybe the comforting thing about participatory rituals is that they make a reality.