“I don’t need a reason
For what I became
I’ve got these excuses
THey’re tired and lame
I don’t need a pardon
There’s no one left to blame
I’m leaving the table
I’m out of the game"
~ Leonard Cohen ~
I asked them if they were afraid of the fiery kiln.
They all smiled and laughed a bit. “The
short amount of time inside the
kiln is vanishingly small
compared to the
rescuing sentient beings
trapped in one or another nightmare
hell realm.” Then they grew serious and regarded
me for some moments. One spoke, the very smallest one, and
said “Aren’t *you* afraid O sculptor, of the raging
inferno that is your very life?”
The second cohort of Jizos took a moment to pose for a group shot before being dipped into a creamy celadon glaze. As you can imagine there was no jockeying for position. Everyone fell into place and behaved like bodhisattvas. It turned out not to be a perfect shot though. Some ardent chanters continued to chant even though everyone else was saying “Cheese."
“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved. It is time we acknowledged how disgraceful it is for the survivors of a catastrophe to believe themselves spared by a loving God., while this same God drowned infants in their cribs. Once you stop swaddling the reality of the world’s suffering in religious fantasies, you will feel in your bones just how precious life is — and, indeed, how unfortunate it is that millions of humans beings suffer the most harrowing abridgments of their happiness for no good reason at all.
One wonders just how vast and gratuitous a catastrophe would have to be to shake the world’s faith. The Holocaust did not do it. Neither did the genocide in Rwanda, even with machete-wielding prints among the perpetrators. Five hundred million people died of smallpox in the 20th century, many of them infants. God’s ways are, indeed, inscrutable. It seems that any fact, no matter how infelicitous, can be rendered compatible with religious faith."
~ Sam Harris - Letter to a Christian Nation ~
Whenever I think about the time spent at St Paul’s Cathedral, I consider what my Priest asked me when I first showed up there and told her of the crooked meanderings I’d been on my whole life “Well - why are you here?”
As a non-believer - I’ve never had a great answer to that.
This morning, the RTTC Science And Engineering Editor sent me this video. The first part of the video is Bruce talking about being the worst altar boy in the world. The second part at around 5:02 is where Bruce talks about the “trick” (for lack of a better word) of his performances.
Click on play. It’ll start at the right point..
I found his description of the “trick” of a concert - manifesting something that wasn’t there before you showed up and goes away after you leave - to be quite the same as the 1:00 Monday Eucharist at the Cathedral - done in a below-ground room with a collection of polite society's marginal, homeless, wanderers, substance abusers, even busted-up, unemployed, skeptical hi tech geezers. And even though the Eucharist isn’t strictly a performance - and the people who show up aren’t the audience - something was co-created in that space that was at times, transcendent - amidst the heat, and the stench, and the pain, and the near-chaos, and the out-of-tune voices, and the heart-breaking sermons by community members, and the prayers in different languages - there was transcendence. In that setting - at that time - I could >almost< believe - or more accurately - belief was not the issue at all - was not the point - because I became something different along with everyone else there..
Frankly - they ruined me forever for “official” religious services of all stripes, Christian / Buddhist - whatever - all of which seem now to be (at best) dried husks by comparison. Among many other gifts freely given, those moments of transcendence are what I carry with me in this next leg of wandering..