Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Conversation with God, Part Two

(Not to be taken as autobiographical.)

Hi God, it's me again. You busy? Got time for a good old chinwag? Good.

I have to admit, I'm beginning to look forward to our little chats. It kind of gives me a kick that nobody knows I do this. I think my friends and family would be shocked. I know my mother would be pleased but somehow, I'd be more embarrassed to let her know than anybody else...she'd get the wrong idea. She's start with the St. Anthony's medals again.

I've never actually told her that I'm not a Christian. Come to think of it, I've never told anybody that I'm not a Christian. Nobody's ever asked. It's not something you talk about it polite society, or even in minimally polite society. It would be like talking about your underwear. Actually, it would be a lot easier to talk about your underwear. You could pass that off as a bit of outrageous humour, in the right company.

So, if I'm not a Christian, oh God whose existence I entertain, why do I kneel before a little crucifix to do this? Well, why not, after all? I mean, my grandmother gave it to me. It has a tang of holiness off it. I wonder how often she used to it to pray...I like to think about that. It would be a shame to put it on a shelf somewhere.

Come to think of it, I really liked my grandmother's brand of religion. She didn't do anything...tacky. She had one holy picture in her house, and it wasn't a very big one. She never spoke about God, as far as I can remember. She spoke about Mass and priests a good bit, but, you know...anecdotally. Like you'd speak about the people you saw on the bus. But she went every day.

I can remember going with her. She would talk about family or the news until the priest appeared, and then she'd start talking about them again as soon as we were out the door. Never any God talk. And the Mass itself, she'd go through like it was her morning limbering-up exercises, or doing the washing. No cheesiness. Zero cheesiness. It was only when she'd light a candle at the statue of Mary-- that awful statue of Mary-- that she'd show even the slightest flicker of emotion. That being, she'd close her eyes for two or three seconds, and whisper under her breath. I always assumed she was praying for her husband. And that was it. And then there was a little tub of ice-cream for me.

I was always so glad to get out of that church. And now...and now I find myself slowing down when I pass a church, looking in. I don't know what stops me from going in. Maybe I don't want to be a hypocrite. Maybe I'm afraid of what might happen. Maybe I'm afraid of what might not happen.

I mean, I like Christians. I don't have anything against Christianity. But, you know God...this is the thing. The idea of You seems like an open question to me. There's arguments for it. I mean, something had to get the whole cosmic ball rolling, didn't it? And the whole show seems uncannily...dramatic. And then there's us, the lord of the animals, matter aware of its own existence. There definitely seems to be something going on there. So, God...maybe.

But it's quite a jump from a Vague Power Behind the Universe to a man performing miracles and rising from the dead and turning into a piece of bread and wine. Please don't get me wrong, God. I'm not one of the mockers. Only overgrown teenagers sneer at organized religion...if you think Holy Mass is nothing but a ridiculous piece of play-acting, well-- you're basically a soulless cretin. I mean, I wouldn't go to a deserted graveyard and play loud rock music even though I know the corpses aren't going to be bothered by it one way or the other. It would be crass. It would be out of place. And I wouldn't take Communion even though I know it's just a piece of bread. Because it's not just a piece of bread, is it? Not just.

I even wonder if my grandmother was a Christian. Somehow I doubt it. I think she was a believer. God, I think the churches are full of people who believe in You and who aren't that pushed about all the other stuff. If they lived in Qatar, they'd go to mosque instead of church. If they were Jewish, they'd go to synagogue. But they're Irish Catholics and there are Catholic churches everywhere so they go to Mass, and they recite the Creeds without a moment's hesitation. Virgin birth? Sure. Resurrection from the Dead? Gimme some of that. Second coming? Fair enough. It's like signging the Terms and Conditions that you're supposed to read carefully but that nobody ever does.

Maybe that's the humble thing to do. Maybe I'm being narcissistic, worrying about my own integrity. Who cares? Do you care, God? Would you prefer that I just dutifully trudged along to Mass and left all the details to You? Would that be more child-like and trusting?

(Long silence.)

You know, God, sometimes I wish this conversation was more interactive, although....oh, I know how it goes. You're probably talking to me and I'm not listening. I remember yesterday, having my lunch in the little seating area of the Spar on College Green...I was looking at the news updates on the TV screen hanging over the door. And I was sitting there eating my chicken and coleslaw roll-- you know how I like my food, God-- and drinking my tea and looking out at the street outside, and....and....well, how am I supposed to put it? That I was suddenly overwhelmed by the presence of God? Well, that would be a flat-out lie. No, I was overwhelmed with the presence of life. It's as though I suddenly realized that all those news headlines on the TV screen were really happening, somewhere, in real actual places I could get on a plane and go to...and that the people walking outside were all real people, too, who were going to go to real offices and go home to real families, just like my family, maybe even weirder....and man, that roll tasted good, especially the coleslaw. I find a chicken and coleslaw roll a deeply spiritual experience. Well, people are always talking about sex being a deeply spiritual experience, why not lunch?

Anyway, I didn't exactly feel the famous Presence of God. But life seemed-- such a big deal to me at that moment. Such a delight, so much a delight that it was like a fire that I couldn't stand to close to or I'd get burned. I felt like if I had this feeling every moment, I wouldn't be able to bear it, it would be too intense. And-- well, and I felt that this was how things are supposed to be. It was like I was hearing a tune, and you don't have a tune without-- well, You know. I guess You've heard all this before.

Probably I should have had this feeling while looking at the stars at night, or listening to children playing skipping games, or standing beside a waterfall. I feel a bit ridiculous, having it while eating my lunch in Spar. But there you go. God has a sense of humour.

Although actually, scratch that last bit. I hate thinking of You having a sense of humour. It makes You too cute. I don't want You to be cute. The people who talk about God having a sense of humour are the same sort of people who put "If you tinkle when you sprinkle" signs in their bathrooms. They're the sort of people who hang up photographs of a cat trying to get his paw into a fishbowl. I mean, God bless them all, but.... I didn't mean a sense of humour, God. More...a sense of irony.

My knees are hurting. Maybe that's another signal from you. And I'd better put some order on the kitchen. Catch you later, Pops.


  1. 'The people who talk about God having a sense of humour are the same sort of people who put "If you tinkle when you sprinkle" signs in their bathrooms.'
    It may indeed be, as the man here implies, rather out of line to ascribe to God a sense of humour, but *you* certainly have one!
    Thanks for this series; there is something rather comforting about stream-of-consciousness done well, the reassurance that such tangents of thought are a universal human condition, perhaps, and that they all (fictional and non-fictional) might yet grope their way to something worthwhile. But even putting that aside, such a view of another's hopes and doubts and honesty of the sort that is rarely spoken aloud, unless it be to God, gives one a wake-up call to giving more attention to all the taken-for-granted, half-formed notions that are swimming around in one's head. I would even say that such writing is inspirational, but that sounds suspiciously like something that People Who Hang Signs Like The Above-Mentioned would say, so I won't. -Molly

  2. Thank you! I don't in the least mind you describing something I wrote as inspirational!!

    Seriously, though, I was quite enthusiastic about this series and I enjoyed writing the three instalments I did. But I do keep an eye on my blog statistics and I could tell they were not exactly a "hit". So I am glad somebody particularly liked them. My original idea was to write a (very undramatic) one-man play entirely composed of a nameless man at his prayers. These were intended as instalments or at least raw material for that. I may still go ahead with this plan and I am, indeed, encouraged by your kind comment to do so.