Sunday, November 09, 2003

Holy Sabbath, Batman !

Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy.

DK was puzzled when I reacted with disapproval at a recent legislative proposal that it be legal to sell liquor on Sundays. The proscription aginst selling booze on Sunday is a remnant of our fine state's Puritanical "Blue Laws," Laws in the fine tradition of "banned in Boston," and, I suppose, as a supporter of strict church/state separation, stating my chagrin was inconsistent and out of character. I can imagine that these "Blue Laws" have and may still contain various stipulations against private sexual behavior that would arouse my ire and get me locked up were they enforced.

Nonetheless, the same impetus that draws me to the divine office -- an admiration for the liturgical sanctification of time -- gives me an atavistic fondness for the idea of a Sabbath.

I once saw a patient, a young muslim man, who'd gotten pre-patellar bursitis from facing mecca and praying five times a day. I was deeply impressed.

I remember churchgoing from childhood. I distinctly remember and can summon a sinking, sickish, vaguely anxious and itchy feeling it instilled in me in the pit of my chest, some compound of dressing up, candlesmoke, cigarette smoke and perfume in a closed-up car, sitting between the parents on a hard pew in a room full of dressed-up adults, and not connecting with any of the rituals at all. It was all so well-lit and public: tall plain glass windows, everything painted a brilliant, scathing white.

For two or three years I have been debating churchgoing again. Haven't set foot NEAR a church, though. The Catholics won't have me (divorced, remarried, adulteress, a "scandal") and, frankly, they've just too much awful stuff encrusting their profound mystical roots for me to even consider it ; I simply don't see myself returning to the hale, sociable fellowship of the United Church Of Christ; I've been curious about the Episcopal Church (any Protestant denomination with monastic communities and an open Communion is OK in my book) but the brouhaha over Bishop Robinson has troubled me, seeming to indicate a deep strain of scriptural fundamentalism and literalism that's repugnant.

Plus it seems to me that even public worship should be semi-private. And that places of mystery should have at least a FEW shadows. There wasn't a single solitary shadow in the West Parish Congregational Church in Andover Massachusetts, not a one. That was one bright church. They should have distributed Raybans along with the church bulletin. Although I think poet Norman Dubie's father was the pastor there when I attended, a fact which has always charmed me, and may, like many charming facts, not even be true.

Not to mention that I do not accept Jesus Christ as my Personal Savior, or "believe in God" in the traditional, dualistic sense.

My meditation practice lapsed -- let me rephrase that -- I stopped meditating regularly maybe six months ago. I sat with a local Zen group a few times -- I think of them as the (chronological) Zen Babies as I was old enough to be most of their mothers -- but did not follow through. I have not ruled out returning. I, of course, was the real Zen Baby.

There is a part of me that yearns for a teacher, a sangha.

It seeems that not only is the "leap of faith" beyond me, even the step across the threshold of a church is daunting.

There's a psalm that has a verse that's variably translated, but in one version it says something like "it's better to be on the threshold of the house of God than to dwell in the tent of the wicked."

I'm on that threshold, I think.

When, of course, I'm not in that tent.

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