Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fat Tuesday reflections: When will we fall down?

I can't remember the last time I did not go to Ash Wednesday Mass. Can't remember. Must have been the 80s. Really.

The photo is from last year, when I already didn't believe in what I was doing. Why was I there? Habit. The sublime order of the liturgical year, which is encoded in my DNA somewhere. My body even seems attuned to it. I have often complained (like in comments on this endless thread from 2009) that I find it impossible to leave the Church.

And of course it isn't impossible, but on some other level, of course it is. This is what I have trouble explaining to people.

Someone suggested that I replace the Christian rituals with Buddhist rituals. Alas, one of the things I am trying to expunge is clinging to ritual itself, which is exactly what I am trying to avoid. I have clung to rituals of some kind my whole life; rituals help me make sense of the passage of time, they help mark these passages in an introspective, moral fashion, examining my conscience. What, I would ask, have I done since last year? And the passage of time, these careful yearly markings, would cloak me in feelings of safety.

As one leaves the Church, this feeling evaporates. It is like you are exposed and naked; I get the unwelcome mental image of a naked woman (me) descending the steps of a huge and beautiful cathedral, completely defenseless and at the mercy of the elements. That is how it feels NOT to go to Ash Wednesday Mass, NOT to go to today's Fat Tuesday pancake suppers.

But I have a movie-series to tend to, I have other places I must be tomorrow. It is a lot like an old Twilight Zone episode--I know if I can go the entire 24 hours, I will have it in the bag. But this day, Ash Wednesday, is somehow even more compelling (to me) than Christmas or Easter, since it is about doing penance. Who will forgive me? And why am I so focused on forgiveness to the exclusion of other aspects of Christianity? These are questions it will take me years to answer... and I know the answers are not where I thought they were.

It is my task to answer them.

But first, must resist the hypnotic draw of the ashes.

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.


And speaking of falling down, that made me think of Toad the Wet Sprocket, a band name that I immediately spotted as having been named after a Monty Python routine. At the time the song came out (1993), I was riveted by it. Years later, as it became something of an alt-rock staple, I decided it was about my daughter. Now, I realize that it was actually about me, stranded within Christianity (in what I now call my pseudo-Opus Dei period), trying so hard to conform and fit in with secular Carmelites and people like that. Who was I kidding?

And so, it is a perfect song for today, as well as today's blog title.

Toad the Wet Sprocket - Fall Down


JoJo said...

One of the reasons I have not pursued Wicca, as much as it interests and draws me, is that I'm just not a ritualistic person. It was easy to drift away from the church b/c I found the rituals kind of boring. With Wicca, and the Native American Spirituality I studied in depth, there's a lot of alters, lighting candles, facing the 4 directions, speaking affirmations, etc etc etc That's just not me. I feel kind of awkward, self conscious and silly doing that stuff. I haven't been to an Ash Wednesday Mass since the 80's either. Although I used to try to talk my bosses into giving me the afternoon off on Good Friday, so that I could go 'pray for 3 hours in my church'. Of course that 'church' was Mt. Tamalpais....lol Mal used to look at me over the top of his glasses and say, "I'm not giving you the afternoon off to go hiking. If you were REALLY going to church, I would." lol Not that he was religious (he was raised Jewish), he was an atheist, but he respected people's right to worship as they chose.

I sure wish I'd ordered a King Cake from Haydel's Bakery though. YUM!

DaisyDeadhead said...

Jojo, I meant, I have been to every Ash Wednesday Mass SINCE the 80s... this will be the first I have sat out since.... so far back, I can't recall.

Its very tempting, even now, just to go and sit in the back.


Been listening to Bob Marley and must remember:

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds

Trivia: Looking it up, I find Marcus Garvey actually said that first, then Bob put it in his song.

Consigliere said...

It seems that it's not uncommon for people to replace one behavior with another similar behavior. If one leaves the Roman Catholic Church, for example, a hierarchical system which replaces the church might be just what the doctor ordered. There are commonalities between the top-down structure of the Roman Catholic (or almost any) Church and the top-down structure of some Marxist organizations, for example. Someone who came from a Unitarian Universalist background might be less willing to be told what to think by some theoretician living abroad. The armed forces, another example, is likely a better recruiting ground than carnival workers. One accepts and embraces authority figures and all they represent while the other group prefers less control and is unlikely to easily accept outside efforts to dictate their actions.

YogaforCynics said...

It often strikes me that the people in the yoga/Buddhist crowd who are most critical of western religion tend also to be those who like to insist that the ancient sutras can't be criticized because they're sacred, are most strict about the purity of traditions, most judgmental toward those who violate what they consider to be sacred rules, etc....in other words, the people who've basically found a more exotic and colorful version of everything they've disavowed.

Ann O'Dyne said...

oh Daisy - a hug from me
... and what are you giving up for Lent?

D. said...

Heh. Such is the hold of habit, particularly with ritual, that it was several years after I'd stopped going to church that I noticed that on Good Friday I still tended not to eat meat (even when I wasn't aware that it was Good Friday, which is why it was startling).

Did you get ashes?

DaisyDeadhead said...

D.--no, I held out. I am proud of myself for that, but I still give up something for Lent. (not willing to get into details about THAT)

Old habits most especially die hard. :)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps what troubles you is the friendship you're walking away from.

And the pull you feel may be from that person calling you back, gently.

Of course, you already know you can walk away, even if it feels like walking away naked and defenseless form a beautiful cathedral.