Saturday, November 10, 2018

Loosing My Religion (Part Two)

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) — the Stickies — to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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Who The Hell Is This Guy?

Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse  
Iggy -- My designated Sticky
Dana -- My designated gentlereader

"My religions is very simple. My religion is kindness." -Dalai Lama

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies,

OK, where was I... Oh, yeah, transitioning from an old-school, blue-collar, relatively grubby inner-city neighborhood (currently suffering from gentrification) to the Burbs. Eighth and final year of a Catholic education. Rich (relatively speaking) peers, cutting grass.

FYI, old-school is a relative term. Old-school to me is ancient history to you. I'm referencing the end of the Black & White Ages when everything was morphing into the current era.

I'm rather lucky, I think, and so are you by extension, to have incarnated at that point. I clearly remember a  different America. An America (yes, of course I know it was flawed, get over yourself utopians) that had reached its highest crest so far before descending into our current trough. I wonder if I'll live long enough to experience another crest?


For a variety of reasons -- the primary one being many of my new, more prosperous friends had older sibs in college where the late sixties was shifting into high gear -- I was suddenly a step or two closer to what I had read about in The Saturday Evening Post but hadn't really affected my life all that much yet.

[Well... while still living on the Sou' Side a Pittsburgh (with an h) I did sport a pair of sunglasses that looked like the granny glasses John Lennon sometimes wore. I bought 'em at Nevin's Five & Ten for 89 cents; broke 'em in short order.]

However, mine/ours was a relatively small and sheltered revolution. The only thing I had to rebel against was church and school, which in my mind/life at the time was the same thing.

I was against the "establishment" (whatever that was) and viewed anyone over thirty with suspicion, as any right-thinking callowyute should. But I lead a relatively conventional life. I knew of no one that did drugs until my junior year in high school, even alcohol. Making a baby before getting married was still a disgrace and often resulted in being forced to get married.

I wasn't an atheist, I wasn't even an agnostic. I believed in some sort of ill-defined God. My revolution was about not wanting to wear a tie every day, which was actually about not liking to go to school.

My revolution was about having had it up to here with seemingly endless Rules & Regs, saints, sins, and ceremonies. Interestingly, many of those saints and some of those sins have since been repealed.

I didn't figure out till much later that want I wanted was a personal relationship with God. What the Catholic church offered was a command and control sort of religion with all sorts of intermediaries between God and me.

Our/my vaguely defined sense of us v. them got us Masses in English. This victory proved that it was only a matter of time till we'd fix everything. I speak here of not only the church but also the "establishment" (whatever that was).

Ironically, the only time I remember feeling close to God when I was a kid was when, at a traditional mass or ceremony, my consciousness would float away on a cloud fueled by a pipe organ, Latin chanting, candles, and the light of elaborate, stained glass windows.

I didn't have to worry about this on Sunday's, but if this happened while attending Mass or one of the interminable special ceremonies with my class, it often resulted in a smack on the back of the head, much to the amusement of my peers, by a vigilant nun who assumed I was up to no good.

"Folk Masses" in well-lit rooms and executed in English with acoustic guitars were cool in concept but rather dreary in reality.

And then, two things happened that turned out to be major league milestones. Of course, I had no idea that they were till some years later. Wouldn't it be cool if we were aware of all the crap that turned out to be hugely important crap at the time it was happening, and not in retrospect?

Think about it, we...

[Cough, cough.]

Thanks, Dana, point taken. Thing number one was the fact that my parents could not afford to send me to the Catholic high school that all my new sophisticated friends were going to (well, the guys, it wasn't coed).

Thing number two was the resulting culture shock from attending a public school for the first time in my life. I thought it would be cool to get away from the Catholic education system (no ties...) and sow some wild oats.

I was mostly wrong. Poppa loves you.

To be continued...

Have an OK day. 
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©2018 Mark Mehlmauer

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