Some Sheep

183118Today at noon mass, our flock was 70% hidden crazies and 30% out of the closet crazies.  It was great.  One thing I’ve always loved about the cathedral in Kansas City is that, being downtown, it attracts walk-ins.  One thing I like about church is it’s almost impossible to get kicked out (witness, sadly, lunatic shooters being welcomed).  Without that everyone’s welcome, though, we have nothing.  Everyone.  Welcome.  Seriously.

One sheep piped up before the service, and during the sermon, when us subtler crazies were trying to enjoy being very quiet and listening to our priest talk very seriously about serious things.  After church, another lamb insisted on writing down a recipe for me, and telling me how good it would be for me, apropos of absolutely nothing, and reading back the recipe with careful directions and injunctions about how my health would be so improved.

Most of us are so conniving in our ways of getting attention, a kind word, a listen.  On occasion it’s a pleasure to interact with people who are completely out in the open.  I would like to talk to you about something.  Okay.

I know this must be much harder on the clergy, who can attract and maintain a group of people who are practically speaking, unreliable, people who are without resources.  In fact, you are not sure their disconnection won’t turn violent or destructive.  We never know about any of us.

Anyway that is the church to me, for sure, straight up, crazy, emotionally disturbed people that we all are, welcomed and put up with, we try to figure out what people have to offer our community and use it.

One of our lambs is amazing at prayer.  He has no self-consciousness about it.  And he requests hugs, which means that I don’t have to wonder, he asks, and I get one.  I’m too uptight to ask.

It seems a distinct pleasure to have a moment with crazy people since in New York, there are so many of them, and you encounter them often in places where you are both trapped, i.e., the subway.  I am reluctant to engage them in conversation.  It breaks the social code of the train which is that we won’t add to the crazy if we don’t have to.  I have prayed for them.

My crazy: I have not done enough to get a new job.  I won’t get a job.  I will get one, it will be awful.  I have to go back to New York.  No one loves me there.  I am never happy there.  What will I do in that week before school starts?  I’ll have to stay busy.  No, it’s not good to stay busy, just take it as it comes.  I am never happy here, either, anyway.  Why is life so hard.  At least I had a fun time last night.  That was really fun.  I should just have more fun.  I need to pay my rent.  And that was only while the priest was blessing the communion stuff.

So I knelt an extra moment after I got my bread and wine.

Priest talked about prayer today, that your actions come from prayer.  That being a praying person makes good things happen.  I would prefer to try to make good things happen on my own, and then complain to God that they are not happening in the way I want.

It’s an interesting thought, though.

I guess when I am at the monastery, as I will be next week, there is a lot of prayer, not like long dialogues, but so much quiet I can hear my thoughts and there is space between them.  It’s not always comfortable.  One of the great gifts of the place is that it is immediately clear, from how fast I walk from my car to get the keys to my room, that I am the craziest person on the property.  The most mixed up, the most unconscious, the most making a scene to hide the fact that I don’t even know how I feel or what I think.

Everything that hurts pops up at some point.  At some point, I’ll have a good cry.  But I always leave there having my head on straight, my heart turned forward.

Image: Standing Sheep, possibly by Nicola Vassalo, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sirens

DT2002The ceiling of our church is the underside of a piano, those rolls and baubles, carved rods, that make fancy furniture from rude trees.  The service had been: nine slain.  People had cried, well, Episcopalian cried– sniffling and wiping eyes.

When I stood in the water the evening after the day at the beach, I knew how warm and loose and filling of holes a good shower was  We had read how Jesus calms the water, though only after they said, “Lord, do you not care that we are all about to perish?”

I knew it was like that, that Jesus did not care I was about to die of loneliness, or of wanting a husband whose shirt I would even iron, poorly, and would tell me I could and should be a mother, and that I was beautiful, in a different way than other people said it.  I knew Jesus didn’t care if you asked to make the kids shut up so you could talk, please, just for a minute, so we can go on, so people will say, You’re a good teacher, you demand respect, Jesus slept through you even when you cried sitting on the floor or sitting on the steps.  Jesus slept through all of it, like my baby brother slept through his first Easter when he was a week old.

I believe in church, more than I believe in anything.  I know God, Christ, The Divine.  I know Art, including The Text.  But I believe in church.  So although I had slept fitfully all night, woken again and again, hot and cold, remembering dreams and what my life was, what to gird for, and dreams again, I happened to be awake at 9:50 AM, I had been to my usual service the night before, and I didn’t feel great, but I thought, people at my church wanted to speak, were hurt, church was at 11, and it was a good day for white people to go to church, you know, unarmed.

Our priest told us she loved us.  That made me tear up, too.  What does it mean for someone who doesn’t know whow awful you can be to say, I love you?  Or if she does?  I will take either.

A poet read a poem, and another woman read a prayer she had specially chosen, she managed to read it with great effort.

I was too full, too nearsighted, to accept Charleston’s story, but I felt betrayal for them, abandonment.  Jesus did not show up and spare anyone.  Their reverence, politeness, kindness, does not stop bullets.

Moving to New York did not fix everything about me.  I mean, I knew it would not fix everything, only one small what if about moving to New York.  And it broke things.  That happens.

The awning across the street says, “Crown Hights Beauty.”

When you try so hard.  We who are church people, we have problems, maybe more than people who don’t go to church, but I would say our virtue, if we have one, is that we try so hard.

Those people in that church, they were really trying, man, they were showing up.

I showed up at church.  Singing helped.  We sang “Let Us Break Bread,” and “There Is A Balm in Gilead” (which, oddly, I didn’t know), and “Go Down Moses,” which felt funny with an organ and a classical signature.  And “Go Tell It On The Mountain.”

I knelt and thought about if I would get a bagel, how hungry I was, or maybe I would make breakfast at home.  Maybe French toast.  I would be tired forever.  I should have gone back to sleep.

Jesus was just a person, he slept like people do, he had to.  Christ, though, is always awake, and you should call him when you’re upset, how else will He know?  All those numbers in your phone, a good number of those are Christ, as are most people standing next to you waiting for the light to change and the people sitting at the bar.

I was walking up from the subway, on the way home, when I felt really tired, though, it all fell down on me, and I delayed-reaction wanted to cry.   I remembered the Orthodox people I had seen the last time I got off at my stop, three young women walking together, two young men walking together.  The women in their long sleeves and tights, even in the heat, and the men in their beards and hats, though they were young.  Sabbath was over.  The Saturday sun had gone down.  There is a siren on Fridays, the first time I heard it, I was like, tornado?  Where?  There is no siren for the end of Sabbath, you just see the sun is down.

Parade

photo-5The Mermaid Parade was nice, the ride there was nicer.  A female “sailor” with a “mustache” was standing next to a cooler, and what would probably become a tail.  We got on the D train, and a guy asked us if anyone was going to Coney Island.  Yes, I said.  What is it like, he said, we’re visiting.  I don’t know, I said.  I think she’s going though, referring to the “sailor,” who happily talked up the parade, she was meeting her girlfriend, who would be mermaided, and the trains were all messed up, she was late, she hoped not too late, they were supposed to sign up to march at 1.

The subway on the weekends is like me on the weekends, except unpredictable.  It hardly does much, it is not clear what it is doing, though it still has a routine.

There was also, in our car, a self-appointed subway director of traffic, who told everyone that the N was running on the R track, and if they wanted the R, they should just get on this train.

For a while, he and the “sailor” chatted about how bad the trains were.

I realized the woman going for the same seat as me was really first, and I let her, she said, She needs to sit down, and someone somewhat frail-looking sat down there instead.  Of course, I said.

A woman sitting facing me looked at me and smiled broadly, we all knew many of us were on our way to the Mermaid Parade.

I watched the train as it rounded turns and could see itself, and the top of that Chinese-looking building, and the ancient painted signs that Brooklyn is still that Brooklyn, in places, especially in the south of it.  The trash along the train tracks, and the graffiti, and the half-done repairs, the 100-years-agoness and never-nowness of New York, I loved, and the shared suffering, the weekend trains that do what they feel.

I was reading Brain on Fire, the memoir about the woman who had a psychotic break because of an autoimmune problem, and the mention of EKGs reminded me that though I skipped many traumatic experiences in childhood, I happened to spend two nights keeping two different kids awake all night long, in anticipation of an EKG.  You were supposed to keep the kid up all night so that during a daytime appointment, kid would sleep and get brain waves measured.  I had made play-doh late at night, watched movie after movie and then MTV, eating candy in a ranch that overlooked the golf course.  I had known two kids with brain issues.

I tolerated the cattle march that is the spectators of the parade, finally found a spot to see, though I could really only photograph the backs of paraders.  Neptune, mermaids, jellyfish, octopi, babies, old people, modesty, pasties, bubbles.  It was longer and slower than I thought.

I went down to the beach and lay down on a sheet, on my stomach.  It was chilly.  I wore a hoodie and I put the hood up.  Sometimes the beach feels too big to me. It reminds me of the zooming agoraphobia I’ve had with panic attacks.  It doesn’t hurt, it just reminds me.

Walking back to the train, I realized I had forgotten my mother’s most important rule and not brought food with me.  I felt thin.  Nothing looked or sounded good.  I waited until my transfer, bought peanuts and Gatorade, and when I ate, I felt how hungry I was.

I went to church.  I felt a little silly wearing a mermaid t-shirt.  I like to look kind of reverent.  That’s just for me.

Our priest talked about the shooting in the church.  She was burning with the horror of it.  I hadn’t even felt it.

This happened before, me not feeling a big tragedy, when Sandy Hook happened, there had been a gun incident at my school, and the far-away gun thing just didn’t register, I was already so full of agony at what was closer.  Right now, I’m full of ending the school year, limping one more week, and job interviews, which take a lot out of you.

Like the one in South Carolina, our church has a historical connection to the abolition of slavery.  Most of our congregation is black.  I hadn’t even thought about this, honestly.  I liked Jon Stewart’s bit about this, I feel similarly, this just happens, and it doesn’t matter.  In America, freedom for individuals matters more than the health of groups.

I didn’t feel it, I don’t, yet, but our priest had special prayers, readings, there is a special service tomorrow, a vigil the bishop has asked us to go to.

One of the kids I knew, she had seizures.  We didn’t talk a lot about it.  Doctors knew best.  They would work it out.

Evil doesn’t usually surprise me.  I don’t know if that’s good.

I think the water makes me write poetry, or maybe being alone more, as I am here.  Here I’ve written more poetry than I have since I was in high school.  I thought I was done with poetry.  Water, being alone, being on the edge of the continent, one of those things.

Ascension

IMG_0049I was a solipsist, to the chagrin of an important boyfriend.  I told him I wasn’t sure other people existed, he told me he was afraid I was a sociopath.  How do you know, though?  Barbara Ehrenreich, in Living With A Mad God, writes about being a solipsist until she was in her early twenties.  Then she was overcome with a wave of understanding we were all in a web together, you can’t sneeze without spraying someone, somewhere, somehow.

I was like this, too.  I didn’t give a shit about other people and their problems until my early twenties.  Or maybe it was that I had no idea how to do anything about them, or that my own sort of existential coming-to-terms with what this world is really like for us was so rough.  Teenagers (even I forget, with them every day) are having to accept what this world, and they’re angry, and it isn’t easy, and it doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor or sick or well.  It’s still a bitter pill.  When I had accepted it, I became all do-gooder, what can I do, like Ehrenreich, I thought, what is the hardest thing I could possibly do well enough and enjoy that it would make the world better when I die?

It is ascension Sunday.  It may help me finish the novel I am writing.  I know the book is about up and down, Jacob, traffic signals (is that how people write novels, you’re asking, and yes), the part perhaps I was missing was ascension.  Suggesting that there is not just our main move we talk about, resurrection, which is dead to live, but another move, from life to something else.  We don’t know or understand the other thing.  As much as we work on the kingdom of God being here, the Buddhists remind us of this very effectively, there is a far away.  Isn’t there?

I am in love with Rebecca Solnit, not solely because she wrote a piece called “Men Explain Things To Me.”  Almost everything gets better as you get older, except that men explain things to you more, and your body wears out.  Men explain things, indeed.  Do I need to stop him?  No, I am content with my own off-topic thoughts, or feeling sorry for his solipsism.

Because one book she wrote I loved is called The Faraway Nearby.  What is far away is near by (Enneagram four).  Longing for something is better than having it.

Our priest today said sometimes you feel God is far away, I do not feel this, sometimes I feel everything is far away.  Depressed is more like dead than life, maybe it is life minus, ascension, life plus.

“Ex Machina” is about sin.  I know sin is not whiskey or good sex (or bad sex, for that matter), or not paying bills on time (thank goodness) or sleeping late.  The only thing I think sin is: treating people like things.  And things like things.  Treating anything like a thing, that is, without regard and respect.  Most importantly, yourself, since that is when it really all goes to hell, pun intended.

I think every man I have ever wanted thought I was a robot, I was thinking, heartily annoyed, are you real?  Are women real?  Are they things to look at and touch, to tell you you are all right, or are they around when they are around?

It’s really a straight person’s movie.  The opposite sex and how much you want and distrust them.

Of course this is how I have thought of every man I have ever wanted: was he real?  And how would I know?

People are not real unless they share enough of themselves for you to see that they are, otherwise you must take it all on faith, that they are real, it is a saintly thing to ask.  Necessary, and saintly.

Things are bad enough even when we all treat each other respectfully.  There are other problems.

We’re all not getting our nails done here in New York City because all the ladies who did our nails were being treated like slaves.  We knew this, but we didn’t want to, and now we know or must say, “I don’t read the Times.”

They are all wondering if people will come in.  If the governor, and the mayor, all over their places as much as they can be, will mean something.  We are walking by all the nail places waiting for the prices to go up.  We are buying the drugstores out of remover to use at home.

The whole other set is saying, “Don’t indulge your silly white guilt in not getting your nails done,” but far be it from me to tell people not to feel guilty about participating in things that are wrong.  Sure, I feel guilty.  It took me a lot and a long time to let anyone help me with anything.  I was always on the edge, and frankly, at this moment of my life, it is very good for me to pay someone to physically care for me, I can use it, and my fine motor skills are poor, and when I do my own nails, they don’t look great.

At the end of “Ex Machina” (which is, incidentally, also beautiful to look at), the robot is a murderer and stands on a street corner watching people go by.  Studying.  Their shadows, their real forms.  Out of the cave and all that.  And she’s beautiful, and not only did the hero not get to fuck her, he is trapped, may starve to death, while she is out and free to make something of herself.