Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lizzy's Holy Toilet-Papering Incident

I took Lizzy to church today, something I do from time to time in an existential quest for purpose and meaning. I have been on the lookout for this mysterious “meaning” for a while now and at this point I’m open to almost anything – well, not completely open, but there’s a crack in the door and I’ve been tip-toeing around.

When I texted John I was taking Lizzy to church, he texted back, “You can’t go to church. God knows you're not a believer and he’s mad at you”. This from a man who had the word “Lost” tattooed on his forearm.

“You have outdated information,” I texted back, feeling annoyed. If I am able to evolve with my changing beliefs and opinions, discarding the ones that no longer make sense to me and adapting to new ones that do, why can’t anyone else? What do they care? Even if it doesn’t make sense to them, what difference does it make? It’s the chatter in MY head that I’m trying to calm the hell down, not theirs.

“Besides, you’ve got it all wrong,” I replied. “God isn’t mad at me. I’m not that important". I do however get the distinct impression the universe is laughing at me.” I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I sense…something.

I didn’t bother elaborating further, however. We speak different languages and it is futile trying to bridge the gap with explanations he isn’t equipped to understand. His mind is closed to new information. I can appreciate why he keeps his mind closed, however. I’ve left my own so open that my brain temporarily fell out and it’s a scary, unanchored place to be. Still, once the jar’s been opened it can’t easily be resealed even after you’ve screwed the lid back on.  

When I screwed my own lid back on, I found my cynical belief in nothing no longer rang true and I was pulled to the nearest church – that great fishing net of men or in this case a solitary woman. I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with those houses of worship, mind you, so it wasn’t that far-fetched that I would find my way back to one, even temporarily with a spotty attendance record. It didn’t take a clairvoyant, genius, psychopath or "highly functioning sociopath" to have guessed that one. Any uncreative degenerate with a scrambled moral compass, poor attention span and questionable intelligence lurking in the cyber shadows, masturbating to a copy of Hacking for Dummies, like the slimy nocturnal animal he obviously must be could have predicted that one. I’m not impressed. Fuck you. Have fun wasting your time stalking my uninteresting life, asshole.

Lizzy isn’t impressed, either – at least not with me or with this church business. She does not suffer from doubt and doesn’t see why she has to sit through the excruciating boredom of a service just because I’m having issues. She is seven and her belief in not only God, but the tooth fairy, Santa, the Shelf Elf and Edgar the Easter Bunny is unwavering.

Last Easter during the height of my existential crisis I tried to come clean about Edgar. I told her that Edgar was an imaginary Easter bunny, one I had made up for the sake of amusement and to create a sense of magic, as well as a way to give her and her older sister "outside" advice they might accept more readily than had it come directly from me. 

This "advice" was delivered to them in the form of a hand-written, personalized letter from Edgar  in handwriting that looked suspiciously like my own. The letter always ended with the reminder to always, always remember the most important thing. If you ask my kids what that most important thing is they will, often begrudgingly, tell you with a groan "always listen to mommy". 

But as far as my coming clean with the mythology behind Edgar or any of the other mythical characters they've been led to believe are real, Lizzy would have none of it and all my family, believers and non-believers alike, were appalled I would speak such blasphemy.  Edgar was real and that was that.

Even so, Lizzy is not thrilled about going to church. It is wholly unnecessary as far as she's concerned. Faith isn't a problem for her so why should she have to waste her time when there are so many other things she could be doing?

There was little point in attempting to explain to her young, as yet uncorrupted mind, that there may come a day when she too finds herself lost in the dark seas of this world, not even realizing she's lost until the moment she's violently awoken, choking and gasping for air. 

She too may find that as she tries to make sense of what's going on in the midst of this alien whirlpool of chaos and confusion, she may need to reach back into the memory of her childhood experiences, to the Sunday school lessons, the basics, for a spiritual life-saver, a beacon, a sign  any sort of crumb to guide her out of the darkness and towards the light and ultimate relief of solid ground.

Unencumbered herself by the damage of a tormented past, Lizzy is adamant no such holy confusion will ever befall her. She studies me with the shrewd eye of a gifted detective whenever I try to convince her to go to church with me. Then after what feels like an eternity, she will finally determine I'm not just yanking her chain, but still unimpressed will say something like, "You're so weird". If vanity is a problem for you or you're ever worried about your ego getting too out of control, just spend some time with my children. They will gladly tell you the unflattering "truth" they see it. They sugarcoat nothing.

As for Lizzy, she might not sugarcoat her words (when those words are directed at me anyway), but she does have a sweet tooth, is a pastry enthusiast and an artist and there’s usually cake, crayons and admirers of her artwork at church. So for those reasons alone she’ll reluctantly tolerate a service now and then. Whatever gets you there.

On this particular Sunday I took Lizzy to a church we've never been to before. One of my ever persistent aunts, Mable, recognized my resistance to religion was weakening and took the opportunity to talk me into attending a service at her church.

However, despite my weakening resolve, Mable knew she'd still have to pique my curiosity with something novel, something eccentric, to get me to her church. Thus, knowing my fascination with anything absurd, she enticed me with a guest preacher who would be visiting from a prophetic ministry located in Vancouver. Her name was Alice. She was a petite Chinese lady with a colorful life, who had immigrated to Canada 17 years previously. Alice was purported to have visions, as well as the gift of healing. With my curiosity adequately piqued, then, I managed to bribe Lizzy into coming with me, using chocolate cake as a bribe, and the two of us met Mable at her church.

And as promised, Alice indeed did not disappoint my curiosity or love of the absurd. She referred to God as “Papa” and herself as his “dear one”. She claimed this “Papa” spoke to her in a dream and told her she was needed in our northern community. There was evil here and the population desperately needed a message of hope. She relayed a vision she'd had of white snow turning red from a river of blood – the blood, she said, of the sacrificial Lamb. She interpreted this to mean she was called to spread the good news that God knew about us up here in the demonic rain and cursed muskeg and was sending Alice to help us out.

Things were officially getting weird. I could feel Lizzy's eyes burning into the side of my head.

When we were initially introduced to Alice she had a sweet, deferential disposition with an earnest love of the Gospels, but she wasn't overly bizarre about it from the gate. So my natural skepticism, which usually hovers around my sense of the absurd making sure I never get too carried away with the hysterics, was not immediately on edge. Alice at first seemed harmless, genuine, almost child-like in her eagerness.

I was frankly a little disappointed. Nothing particularly odd ever happened at the churches I was most familiar with, such as the Lutheran, Baptist or Mennonite church, but this was a Pentecostal Church. I therefore knew there was a possibility of witnessing people speaking in tongues, breaking out in spontaneous "hallelujahs!" with arms raised to the heavens, maybe some "healings" with people being whacked in the head and dramatically falling to the ground, full immersion baptisms or perhaps if I was really lucky an exorcism.

It turns out, I needn't have worried, I wouldn't be disappointed for long. Things were about to change with Alice. As soon as she really got going, her initial polite deference gave way to an at first alarming, (she could have hurt herself) zealousness that rather than stoke the spirit within or tickle my funny bone, put my skeptic hackles on high alert. She raved on for quite some time about dragons, but it wasn’t clear if these dragons were a symbol of glory and power and a good thing, or an evil omen of death and destruction and a bad thing.

Her rambling, dramatic speech, which rose and fell in volume, in addition to her wild gesticulations made her something to behold and a little hard to follow. When she finally left the dragons behind, she went on to a personal tale about drinking milk and eating chocolate chip cookies while sitting on Papa’s lap. 

In any other environment, Alice most definitely would be considered certifiable.

Then there was something about how certain African tribes give babies a string of sometimes up to 10 names based on what’s going on around them, such as war, famine or drought. She suggested this was a terrible burden to have to start life off with – all that negative meaning loaded onto one little babe.

This then segued into her first actual biblical reference, as well as what would later be known as Lizzy’s Great Toilet-Papering incident of 2014. Alice directed us to the story of Lazarus and how it paralleled that of the name-burdened African babies. But first Alice would need an assistant – a prop – to illustrate her point.

Lizzy was to be that prop.

Lizzy was not happy with this turn of events AT ALL. She didn’t even want to be there in the first place, WHY was Alice picking on her?? But Alice insisted Lizzy, who is usually obedient to any authority other than mine, come to the front. So with incredible hesitation, Lizzy did as Alice asked and awkwardly stood up there with an uncomfortable smirk on her face in between casting looks of hateful scorn in my now amused direction.

Alice, oblivious to Lizzy’s discomfort, asked someone to bring her a roll of toilet paper. A look of horror flashed across Lizzy’s face at the words “toilet paper”. That horror increased when Alice started wrapping Lizzy in said toilet paper, from her neck all the way down to her ankles.

Then with Lizzy standing there mummified in toilet paper, Alice proceeded to rant at a fever pitch about Lazarus being raised from the dead, freed by Christ from his earthy tomb and unraveled of his burden of sin, much like she was unraveling the toilet paper from Lizzy at that moment.

Once she was done, Lizzy was free to join me in the pew where I sat in suppressed laughter. With gritted teeth, she hissed at me, “There better be cake!”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Straw Man Fear

The scarecrow stands with crucified superiority,
Under the pretense of some higher authority.
But terror is all a straw man ever yields,
Staked in the ground lording over the fields.

Soldiers of cornstalk and worshipers of wheat,
Sway and pray at the scarecrow’s feet.
From far above it’s a peculiar sight;
Scavengers hover at a distance in flight.

Most dare not look too close or get too near,
And the scarecrow relies on this manmade fear.
But if the crow was brave she would see,
Scarecrows are no more real than fantasy.

Then a murder of black would angrily descend,
Obedient widows no longer willing to pretend;
They’d cast their shrouds and scream their wrath,
And the scarecrow would be but straw in the savage aftermath.