Sunday, July 04, 2010

Fugue State

I sit here sweating at the unsavory confluence of a patriotic holiday and a heat wave; the rattly fan, more noise than cool, is drowning out Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D-minor.

We had church on the lawn this morning, and it was lovely. Needless to say, I'd been skeptical, being of a mind that church isn't church unless it's in a ruined cathedral in which it is snowing. As a large black butterfly fluttered around a fat pink phlox and bees wove in and out of the Russian lavender, the priest gave her sermon, beginning, oddly enough, with an allusion to Buddha's flower sermon -- his wordless transmission to Mahakasyapa by holding up a single blossom.

She preached on today's Old Testament reading, the story of Naaman the leper. He was as much of a skeptic as me -- how can a simple bath in an ordinary river be curative ? Where were the prophetic bells and whistles ? The organ toccatas, the stained glass ? And where the hell was the prophet, by the way, with his secret incantations and fabulous vestments ?

It was pleasant, but I was gloomy nonetheless. The allusion to Buddha had tapped into my current existential emergency. I'd been muttering under my breath for days that the Dalai Lama was wrong: one's "own tradition" does not necessarily suffice, at least without mindbending and exhausting calisthenics of translation.

And here we were out on the lawn, sharing bread (baked, not wafers) and wine. What more did we need ? Behind us was another table, fruit, juice, cakes -- it was a moveable feast, table fellowship to the nth degree, moms and dads, babies on the grass, lawn chairs, laughter -- you can see where your gloomy, graybeard, eremetic host is going with this, right ?

I sat there on the lawn, and gazed at the garden. You would think that a weed photographer like myself would groove on outside church. I was, after all, in my element. But was I ? Pigeons flitted in and out of the space behind the stone Christ above the church door. Their wings snapped and thudded in the cool morning air.

I had a brief vision of an impending baptism-by-pigeon shit: this is my daughter, with whom I am ill-pleased. The outsider, the stranger, the black sheep at the back of the herd, not quite lost, but not really found.

Resurrection ? Soul ? Eschaton ? Atonement ? Mercy ? Revelation ? Prayer ? Fully God and fully human ? Mission ? Faith ? Works ?The holy contraption wobbles, like a stool with too many legs. Plus, wasn't the point of it -- so evident in today's double feast on the grass -- the happy, generous, easy communitas that is so absolutely foreign to me ?

There is no salvation outside of community; the answer to all Mystery is in relationship, viz. the Trinity.

An appartition in a black beret crouched behind me. He stunk of tweed and Gauloises as he whispered something into my ear.

Mauvais foi ! he hissed.

It's better than nothing, I hissed back, sotto voce.

But maybe not.

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