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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Notes After Cecilia Chorus at Carnegie Hall



Let me preface this post with the chronologically ordered and fitting factoids that well before I was 12 years old I was debating my religious Mexican aunts (parents had already given up on me) on why I didn't believe Jesus was God, and that at 12 I made my eighth grade teacher Sister Mary Catherine so angry she threw a rock at the ground, and that at 17 I made another teacher- not a nun this time- cry after refuting her stances on religion and abortion (I think she couldn't have kids- she was quite open about it- and I told her I was terribly sorry, but that emotional bias is a selfish and insufficient reason to affect the emotional and physical health of every other woman in the country) (years later, I made it up to her by giving her and her kid (she adopted) free admission to this indoor playground for kids I worked at for far too long; see, I am not a cold-hearted asshole).  Then I went to college and got really into the social sciences, and that sort of sealed the deal.  Fully crystallized religionphobe.  No clue where this passion against Christ came from considering I went to Catholic school my entire life, although immediately after typing that last string of words I realized that perhaps that was the exact cause.

So it wasn't too random that at tonight's choral performance the first thing I thought when I heard the opening Ralph Vaughan Williams piece (which includes lines from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass) I thought to myself- This is divinity! Who needs the religion part when you have this! Why isn't this enough?  The thought was most likely generated because I was sitting behind a nun and because I'd been reading about the choir's history before the show.  It was founded in 1906 by Metropolitan Opera coach Victor Harris under the name The Tuesday Morning Singing Club and soon became the St. Cecilia Chorus before deciding to drop the saint bit.

I greatly appreciate devotion, and admit I find beauty in faith and in aspects of religion (although to be honest, upon reflection, mostly what the mythologies say about us, the art and the music)- but to me, that beauty is on the same level as a film or a rainforest or a good conversation (because I would probably rank a great conversation higher :)).  I should also mention that while I'm pretty much a skeptic, I am a firm believer in the laws of synchronicity, and in a beautiful turn of events the very next piece was one called Credo for a Secular City by Tom Cipullo!  It opens with Iago's line from Othello "Demand me nothing.  What you know, you know" and it goes on to produce other inspiring words I had to totally resist from tweeting during intermission such as, "I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am" (Antoine L√©onard Thomas riffing on Descartes) and a line from Llewelyn Powys' The Pathetic Fallacy: A Study of Christianity:  "A wise man can do no better than to turn from the churches and look up through the airy majesty of the wayside trees with exultation, with resignation, at the unconquerable unimplicated sun."

So why aren't the certainties of facts and mystery at large enough?  I can't even begin to try and answer that because this subject isn't my forte, but I'll say my hunches point to the same reason why people decide there's a safety in settling. And underlying that and my other hunches, the power of fear.  Why the need to define if the definition is absurd?  Curiosity is at the core of our humanness, and I don't take for granted that our spirits are partly driven by wonder (even if the wonder is sometimes inspired by religious notions). Ultimately, I find dogma stunts the full exploration of that wonder, and ya know what-

- I'm fine with this open ended mystery because that beautiful curiosity enables growth.  I'm reading William Burroughs' Junky for work right now, and in there he says, "When you stop growing you start dying."  I think those will be my two new (albeit vague) reasons as to why I'm so anti organized religion, its powerful and dangerous ability to narrow a mind and promote the need for "more than this"...  Because this is great!

P.S. I totally saved the Eucharist wafers in my pocket and ate them in class.


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I'm an LA transplant now living in Brooklyn. I develop film projects by day, write at night, and have a dangerous predilection for vintage Robinson Golluber scarves- this blog serves as a tiny window to everything else I do when I'm not satisfying those first three passions. I'm trying to blog more and tweet less @annabelleqv. What about you?

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