Been a long holiday. I took one. This New Year’s Eve I went to church. I’m not Christian mind you, least of all Roman Catholic, but that’s what was open for midnight mass. Church is funny. There’s an elevated plank at your feet that makes it hard to stand, and it’s also hard to kneel. You cycle between that and sitting, perhaps to keep you awake. I still liked it. Apart from the sin stuff, which I thought was a bit heavy. The story of Jesus really is quite revolutionary, and the New Year does mark his circumcision.
In my mind, Jesus was the fatherless child of a teenage mother. He hung out with disreputables and prostitutes, accumulated no wealth, no power, and yet he more than any Roman emperor is the person we mark time by. I think the Roman’s almost had the last laugh with the gaudy Roman Catholic church, but they ultimately didn’t. Underneath all the trees and presents and food and drink and festivities, there is the story of a very human being who many call God. I dig it.
That said, I don’t think Jesus died on the cross for my sins, so I’m not becoming a Christian anytime soon. He is just someone I respect.
Ever since the end of the war I’ve been struggling with Mahinda, who is someone I don’t really respect. I mean, I respect him like I respect Scarface, or knives. I’ve been struggling with the idea that bad means can be good, or at least successful. I’ve been trying to find a logic for the world where cutting corners and being violent doesn’t prevail, but it seems like it does. If you think it through logically, it seems only practical to do wrong. Doing the right thing seems increasingly pointless and weak.
But humans are weird. And we’re certainly not logical. Out of all the accumulated muck and tradition and reason, this idea of right and wrong just keeps popping up. Pure, unadulterated, this is the way it is right. That is, a right without recourse to might or even reason. And it has these embassies – these churches, mosques and kovils – where, as much as religion goes wrong – you can still go and sometimes hear something that’s completely unconnected to the cruel survival outside.
So I’m sitting in church. I’m not on a beach in Unawatuna, I’m not drinking, and I’m certainly not at Galle Face Hotel. There is this western counter culture where you’re supposed to get bloody drunk, but I’m sitting here watching people pretend to drink the blood of some long-dead prophet. And, though I don’t agree with everything, it’s nice to be there. It’s nice to hear the priest talking about caring for the sick and the elderly and the alone. It’s nice to see old people and kids, and the thing at the end where you look around and bless everyone. I somehow feel more at home here.
I have spent much of my adult life doing things I thought I should be enjoying and not enjoying them very much. Among many young people the counter-culture has effectively become the culture, which I think is besides the point. As I get older I’m getting the confidence to see that freedom to be yourself is the point, or perhaps I’m just getting older. I’ve honestly had more people pressure me to drink than try to get me to go to church. So I thought about it myself, and this New Year’s Eve I went to church.