I was running way late because I had spent too much time with Katharine Hepburn. Her autobiography. (Which, as you would expect, isn’t at all afraid of zinger fragments and movie-script-style stabs at exposing a slice of her story. Spencer Tracy and Howard Hughes included, no extra charge.) And I really, really didn’t want to go to church anyway.
After Katharine, there was only time to go straight to the service, without my usual leisurely coffee/newspaper time, and I did not want to go at all anyway.
I wanted to go even less when I saw that my neighbors were outside, chatting in the lovely 70 degree weather, and one of them had blocked me into our shared driveway with a red sedan.
Parking behind me makes me crazy. If I saw you torturing a puppy in the driveway, at least I could say, you are a sick, troubled person who needs therapy. Double parking behind me doesn’t make you sick. It just makes you selfish and oblivious.
I walked out to my car. You were standing right there. I’m kind of in a hurry. I can’t go anywhere. Why is your right to park off the street trumping my right to come and go from my own home?
I walk up to the neighbor klatch. Hello, I say. Hello, they say. How are you? I think I’m stuck. Gesture toward driveway. I really don’t care who these people are or what they are doing or talking about. They aren’t even people to me. I just want to come and go from my house in a perfect cloud of simple, controlled introversion.
Somebody goes and moves the car. It’s still a trick to back out, through the maze of other oddly parked cars. I’m much too furious to go to church now. I had to bribe myself with a Sunday newspaper and some dark green tic-tacs before I could talk myself into it.
During our Quaker-ish “meditation” after the gospel, I stare, rattle along my thoughts idly, try to quiet them down, and enjoy the aesthetic pleasures of the cathedral– the gold and blue St. Matthew banner, the old-fashioned Jesus face in the glowing stained glass, his finely rendered feet in sandals. He looks just like you imagine Jesus to look. In a nice way.
I thought about how much I lust for freedom. Blocking my car gives me the same panic that I imagine gun owners feel when they get nudged on that second amendment. I want to go where I want to go, and I have been known to exert irrational amounts of energy to maintain my momentous freedom . I’ll walk myself to exhaustion instead of bothering to figure out the bus.
None of that fell in with what our priest had suggested we think about. The lessons were about the law. The gospel included the part about how what goes in does not defile– it’s what comes out.
I think that passage is evidence of a huge leap forward in philosophical and spiritual thinking, not to mention a great defense against pious Puritanism. It’s not what I read or see or sleep with that’s the problem, you see– it’s what I say and the complete, impersonal coldness and hatred I spew at people who park behind me. That does, indeed, feel like a problem.
The priest had suggested, though, that we think not about the bad stuff that comes out (most people are eager and desperate to do that), but about the good seed that must be in there to grow kindness and calm and patience.
We must have something good in there, that can and does follow the law. What about that good seed? What is it? I thought about that, too, since we had plenty of time, and I have a very chattery mind.
My good seed encourages me not to take myself so seriously. Notice you get irritated, and laugh about it kindly. Oh, well. So bad stuff comes out. Hating yourself for it, or setting yourself on some morality or fitness program, tends to encourage it.
I imagine it’s the same laughter Mel Brooks uses on Hitler. It’s the only decent revenge you can ultimately take on disaster, major or minor: gentle mocking, a shrug, and a laugh that encourages the good seed to root deeper.