Bombs, eels and swim team

It was a long time coming, but at last I realize that spiritually, I need something to push against. Resistance and difference fuel deeper connection. I don’t mean bigotry or the “prosperity gospel” or apathy towards the needy or oppressed; those conversations need to happen, but what I mean is words and stories.

I’ve gone to faith-y places where I agree with every word said and sung – they’re praising nature and thanking the universe, smudging the elements on new babies’ foreheads – but my heart doesn’t move. The people are good but I feel no motion. Instead, I am pulled to denominations, to specificity, to all the lush details so easy to debunk, deflate, mock. You draw lines, you claim anything, you’re a tempting target. The Dalai Lama lectures on some particular number of jewels, and his laugh penetrates my cells. The Hare Krishnas fill the air with perfume and din and color, which I do not understand, into which I am absorbed. I don’t buy any of it, but my friends see me come out into the dirty New Orleans air and say I am glowing.

And the place I have made my faith home says Lord. Yuck. Sings Jesus, sings Christ, sings heaven. I’m forever substituting “life” and “God” and “spirit” and “light,” or even “death” and “darkness,” which are holy too, instead of those loaded words I would not honestly use, or want to. What is this team I’ve joined?

They read from a book out of which maybe half, or a third, of the readings are what I call “bombs.” Like heavy stones dropped into a lake. The extreme example, of course, is Leviticus. Verse from Leviticus? Bomb. Kersploosh. Whoops– some folks were trying real hard to get it right, but it sank to the bottom. Look at it down there beneath the deep, clear water. Just remember that it’s there, watch out for more incoming, don’t throw any in yourself, and keep swimming. Others are eels, slippery fish. Parables? What the hell did that mean? Ah well, maybe it’ll find a river and lead upstream someday. Keep swimming.

But bombs and eels and questionable proper nouns aside, these are the right people for me. Energy flows. I feel a part. We’re in the same drink, treading and paddling and rescuing one another. We speak different languages, and apparently, for in spite of this we still connect, the difference makes that connection more true.

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