It wasn't too long ago I went to see my nephew get baptized Catholic. I suppose, if you're into that sort of thing-like my sister, Whitie, and his family-this is big doings. For me, it required playing dress-up and sitting in the same neo-cathedral my sister and Whitie had gotten married in, a little over a year before, whispering observations to my sister outlaw over a dog and pony show that seemed to take too fucking long just so my nephew could get doused with holy water and sacred oil, thus, supposedly, protecting him from evil and granting entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. I dealt with this for my sister, brother outlaw, and nephew. It was either the ultimate sign of respect or a royal scam, depending on how you look at it. And, indeed, there is more than one way to look at any situation.
I learned my religious tolerance when my daughter was little, based on the fact my x is Catholic and was raising my girl in that tradition. Instead of trying to discredit the Church and, Christianity in general, at every opportunity, I took it on myself to make sure my daughter knew there was more than one way to look at the Divine. From me, she's learned about everything else, from Gnostic to Hindu to Rational Humanist to Satanism. To me, it was the only sane course of action.
Of course, it's not the faith or philosophy that bothers me quite as much as the dog and pony show. Perhaps it was remembering the Pagan cat who once remarked the sooner Catholics realize they are, in fact, Pagan, both schools of theology can swap rituals. I've been to one or two Pagan Sabbaths, and, well...there's just no nice way to put it, I've wanted to claw out my eyes, or someone else's, by the end of it. But, then again, I think faith/spirituality/belief is something felt head, heart, and gut, and anything else is a stage prop. A dog and pony show. That's just me, and I'm a different breed of cat.
The baptismal after-party-it's true, apparently Catholics have these things-was a rollicking good time. We had kabobs and beer. Talked and listened to music. There was a baseball game on-another thing I'm not into-and congratulating the guest of honor, who was really too young to comprehend what had just happened, or why his head still felt a little wet. He smiled anyway, but, at just a few months old, it could have either been muscle spasms or gas.
As my father and I rode back to his bungalow together, I marveled at how much the stretch of road we were on had changed. He told me when the residential enclaves and shopping areas went in and I spoke of remembering how once, the area was all field. I mentioned how I used to think my grandmother and parents were just plain old for making such observations, but how I was now in that boat, and how my daughter will harass me about getting old.
"Of course, suffering and attachment come from the hope that things will always stay the same," I said.
"That won't happen," my father said, and he quoted the gospel of Michener, from the Book of Caravans; "'Progress creates its own dynamic.'"
Which is, of course, true words. We shared a similar viewpoint, just from different vantages. To me, it was a manifestation of all things being interconnected.
"This was a really good day, Son," my father mused. "It'd be nice if they were all like this."
It had been a good day. Good food, conversation, music, baseball, beer, and family. The summer day was warm, but not stifling hot. It didn't rain, but the cooling afternoon clouds made for an interesting cast of light.
Of course, there were imperfections; the getting up early and having to play dress-up for a dog and pony show. Those who were not there. The fact the day had to end.
"I might be wrong," I said to my father. "But I think you'd get bored if that was the case."
"No, I don't think you're wrong," he said.
I've lost track of how many times, in how many social castes I observed, some scenester talking about that back-in-the-day. You know, when the shit was real. That really good day or night when everything was oh so perfect before whatever became what it was when said scenester was bemoaning the back-in-the-day.
Of course they gloss over the little imperfections. Like lack of venues or support. They're too busy rose-tinting the memories of that one fine day to even bother to look back objectively.
I've done it too. Sometimes, when recollecting, it's fairly easy for me to push aside the imperfections of the memory, thus I work to discipline myself away from the rose-tint. Maybe I was broke and starving that time. Perhaps I was wishing some spittail I thought was cute, but was too fucking shy to even look at, would notice me. It could be I wanted to be somewhere else.
If only, if only...
The if only's, those little imperfections, will drive you mad if you let them. If only there was more time, more money, more food, more drink, more sex, more drugs, more rock and/or roll, a little warmer or cooler. Dig it, you'd find something else to bitch, piss, and moan about, instead of just grooving with the zen excellence of the moment. Besides, perfection, or the concept of such we've all been guilty of masturbating to is boring. It's the flaws and idiosyncrasies, which truly make things interesting.
My father was right; my nephew's baptism was a wonderful day, despite its imperfections. I put up with those for the moments of flawed and idiosyncratic perfection, which were what made that one fine day truly interesting. Those moments, after all, are more precious than rubies, folding paper, or glass beads.