A mountain and/of my socio-religious opinions.
I adore wordpress’s ability to connect people, and deeply appreciate everyone who reads the things I post on here, so if you get offended by (perhaps unorthodox?) religious opinions, maybe skip this one and come back when it’s about traveling or food… I don’t mean to offend anyone, though I also don’t think that’s quite the grave affair we seem to think it is nowadays…but anyway, that’s yet another topic.
One of our last pending items in Bogota was to take the cable car up the remarkable hill/mountain that looms landmarkishly over the city, Monserrate. Unfortunately the cable car was closed for maintenance, so we took the less nerve-wracking funicular railway, which was still a matter of ascending roughly 1,729 feet (based on the interweb’s figures for Bogota & Monserrate’s relative elevations, the actual distance must be a bit less since the base of the railroad is already uphill a bit) and watching the view go from good to great.
At the top there are some expensive restaurants, tourist kitsch stalls, and a church dedicated to “the Fallen Lord” finished in 1657. He’s quite literally “fallen”, with the statue above the altar showing a collapses Jesus struggling to lift himself off the ground. The church is a place of pilgrimage, so I inherently respect it…but I just can’t quite understand the desire to worship pain and suffering.
I hear the words about sacrifice, but I just can’t internalize the idea of someone else’s suffering making my sins…what…okay? Is the entire Third World a modern day Jesus for us First Worlders who want to drive our SUV to the grocery store to buy meat farmed in inhumane conditions on the other side of the planet?
I see the Divine in redwood trees, the smiles of proud parents, solar eclipses, orgasms, coral reefs, a child’s laughter, giving a good gift, and a great meal with friends around the table. Hell, I even see it in a smoggy vista over a sprawling city. They can keep the agony, pain, and suffering, I’ll take the relaxation of giving or getting a good massage.
But anyway. The view was indeed beautiful, and ghastly, as the mind tries to assimilate the reality of that many people living like that. And Bogota is only the world’s 25th largest city, by population. That means there are 24 other cities larger than the smog-hazed eternity stretching to the horizon below.
I simultaneously felt two emotions rather profoundly. 1: A sense of helplessness for our planet’s environmental future. 2: An iron-clad resolution to enjoy and love the world (and all its saints and jackasses) as much as I can while it all crashes and burns.
Another beautiful post. Be proud of your beliefs. They are compassionate, gentle and loving. Why must there be more to it than that?
Wasn’t there another tradition of sacrifice along the lines of “making sacred,” as in the sacred feast the assembly would share? A sense of celebration and community, rather than suffering?
I sense your two conflicted feelings could be bridged in such an occasion — an acknowledgment of both the joy and anguish in our fuller awareness.
That does indeed sound much better. I much prefer a Christianity that’s closer to the loaves & fishes, than the bleeding and crucifixion. Maybe where the Last Supper focuses on the 12 who were onboard, and less on Judas and betrayal…
Not sure how many people actually go to church in order to “worship the pain and suffering.”
I TRY to look at it as a metaphor. Though I don’t exactly believe in Jesus as the one and holy God, I think he is a damn good example of someone who experienced the Divine all around him. Considering the lilies of the field and how they grow, pursuing real presence with people… (I won’t bore you with a list). But I agree with you; there is beauty all around us, even in the simple things like a child’s laughter. I think many people need help seeing the Divine, which may be why metaphoric stories are often used (& sometimes taken too seriously) and why people plunge into religion.
Anyway, I enjoyed reading your thoughts! Colombia is a gorgeous country. I swear I’ll go back someday.
Hi Sean, thanks for reading and commenting on my blog! I think you’re right that people don’t consciously go to church to worship the pain and suffering, but I think our minds are sponges that soak up whatever we surround ourselves with, and when the focal point of worship is a shattered human body, eyes rolling around in agony, and often a sense of guilt, I think it starts out on the wrong note. For me at least. (Or ostentatious displays of wealthy, huge amounts of which were gained on the broken backs of slave labor…but I digress…and that’s another post, based on the church here in Quito with 7 TONS of gold in it.)
I also agree that metaphoric stories can be a good method to pass along a message, but there too, I find Christianity chronically lacking. I went to church and Sunday school every week throughout my childhood and never understood any of the stories until reading Eckhart Tolle, where they only became clear after he related them to (the much clearer) Buddhist stories. I think too much time, cultural changes, outright manipulation, and translation have passed, obscuring the messages as they were intended.
Thanks again for commenting, I find these topics fascinating. Maybe I’ll have to have another blog like this after going to see all that ill-gotten gold…