The Girl and the Moth, paper collage, 2020
Despite the lengthy title, I don’t think this post needs to be long. And I don’t think it requires much in the way of supporting evidence or intellectual argument. Because what I have to say is simple; so, it’s best presented that way...
I went to mass yesterday. And I had such a positive experience that I’m looking forward to going back next Sunday. (I was also overjoyed that the homily was about the importance of gratitude, of having a grateful heart even in times of suffering.) I spent some time afterwards reflecting on my attitudes about religion, the Catholic Church in particular, and how they affected my behavior over the past 20 or so years. That is, since I stopped attending mass and started experimenting with vague forms of spiritualism and various secular philosophies.
And do you know what I realized? I’ve been acting like a fool. Like an absolute fool. And what’s more: I’ve been working really, really hard at it. I almost had to laugh at myself. At the absurdity of the whole enterprise: I have spent the greater part of the last 20 years (or more) trying to avoid myself. That’s what it all boils down to, you know. All the searching. All the experimentation. All the shoulds. The clinging to attitudes that were not only stale and outworn, but that never served me well to begin with. It wasn’t until about a month ago, when I first desired to read the Bible—a quiet, though dogged, inner urging that would not be ignored—that I finally said to myself, Let it go.
Because it’s exhausting. It’s like you’re always fighting yourself. I can worship God in the woods. I’ll become a Buddhist. I’ll climb the highest mountains in the world, and maybe God will be there. Or, better yet, I’ll find Him in my poetry. In my artistic visions. In the recesses of my unconscious mind. ANYWHERE but church. And not just church, as in a building, or liturgy, or nondenominational service, but mass. Catholic mass. Because I am Catholic. And to try to be anything else is to continue avoiding myself. It’s that simple.
There is nothing else that ties me together. There never was and there never will be. Now, I don’t want to diminish anything I said in previous posts about experiencing God in nature or developing a worshipful attitude based on those perceptions. To the contrary, I think those profoundly joyful experiences are what led me to this point. I am grateful for them, and I hope they’ll continue to influence my core religious attitudes. But they alone are not enough. At least not for me.
You see, I spent years and years trying to convince myself that there are people in this world who do not need religion, and I am one of them. When, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Those people might exist. And they might live good, productive, values-centered lives. But I am not one of them. I have never been one of them.