Saturday, June 7, 2008
My spiritual enlightenment and subsequent lamp-shading
One day in March I was having a watershed moment. For the first time I felt like I was home here in Mambone. Started on a Friday when I went to the Catholic Youth group meeting (I subsequently stole the youth group’s newly started journalism club and transplanted it into the secular school, not very Christian of me). The meeting was held in the church and Irma Lourdes, the Brazilian nun who runs the group, started off the meeting by playing her Portuguese guitar (nylon strings) and leading the songs with a voice approximating the lead singer of the Cranberries. I love karaoke, I love to sing, and it was really nice to be in a sing-a-long for the first time since training when we sang American Pie by Don McLean. Then on Sunday when I went to church I felt like the people around me were neighbors and friends, many familiar faces, they were not Africans or them as they had been the Sundays before. The church suddenly stopped being their futile poverty-stricken pitiable effort at a grand church, it was in fact the nicest living room in town and quite successful at being a beautiful place to worship. It always had been, it was just my assumption coming in that the church must be in some way lacking in resources, or struggling or failing just because it is in Africa. Distinct and relaxing aqua-drab color scheme with just the right amount of daylight shining in through the slat windows, and an eye-pleasing altar in which the mortar follows its own natural lines like cracks in shattered glass, or like a castle. Under the altar and flowing down the stairs a Persian rug. I realized that day that if you could see God’s face right now, he’d probably look like the most annoying person I know, someone whose presence/appearance/mannerisms I find intolerable annoying. I live with two such people, my school director’s wife and the houseboy. That reminds me, I’m working on a screenplay for a sequel to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” it’s called “My Big Fat Annoying Wife” but I won’t sell the script unless they agree to cast my inspiration as the lead role since it is mostly based on her life. Anyway, like I was saying, the challenge of the Christian is to overcome hatred and anger and annoyance and find a way to love. When the houseboy sees me scrubbing articles of my clothing in the laundry basin with soapy water and then asks me, “You doin’ laundry?” I want to scream at him and call him captain obvious, but theoretically if I do then the one who loses is me. I think my thinking on this was guided by the guy who came to Davidson and talked about the recruitment people of the KKK. They find young kids and start by getting them to talk about how they hate gays, and from gays they change the topic to jews one day, and then after a few weeks hanging out they broach the subject of hating blacks and voila! The theory goes like this: by harboring hatred where I think it’s safe, like in hating fat stupid annoying retards who lack social skills, I’m allowing hatred into my life, negativity, bad things. Being a Christian means indulging this person and overcoming, finding a way to not only tolerate but find a way to enjoy their company. I spend so much time feeling overfull of love and I’m going around and looking for that “special someone” who could be loved for the rest of my life. Meanwhile all these people that aren’t that one person I’m judging them and thereby secretly hating them when I could be loving them. Each person I judge and hate ends up condemned and exiled from my life, chained to a wall in my spiritual dungeon, unable to bring me joy. At this point in the theory I realized how a monk or nun can live a life of celibacy. They don’t suffer the burden of burning love with no one to give it to—the romantic source of loneliness that drives so much of our culture, pop music, sitcoms etc., because they find a way to give their love to everyone…in theory. Interesting to contrast this with Buddhist celibacy, where the goal is to avoid getting tangled up in the bonds of the flesh and the world that is merely physical.Anyway, I’m not sure that I’m cut out for this love at all costs. For now I’m opting for a balance between love and hate in my life, because when I recently lost it and told the kid that he’s stupid, to his face and several times in a row until he understood and when I make it painfully clear (whereas before I’d only been crystal clear) that we aren’t friends and that I don’t want anything to do with him, he leaves me alone and then I have peace. The problem is that his presence is still around because I still live in that house, and once you decide to go ahead and hate someone it’s hard to ignore that person when they’re around. Like Pandora’s box just half-open, you watch out the corner of your eye waiting to see what annoyance they will do next in order to fuel the fire.