"I Don't Know" — Beastie Boys (RIP MCA), Hello Nasty
What's pleasing to the eye
In the delusion of my sight
Is not what I find when I reach into the light
I have lost my mind
I'm walking through time
Deluded as the next guy
Pretending and hoping to find
That distant peace of mind
I don't know
Who does know
There is no
Where to go
It's not so simple as I try to wish
But then again what is?
There is no other worthy quest
So on I go
I don't know
Who does know
There is no
Where to go
I don't know
I don't know
Okay, so there's a song, which a I swear has been stuck in my head for a year and a half, about the time that Adam Yauch flew off this mortal coil. Anyway, it describes perfectly my state of mind, anytime I happen to have a moment to stop and think of why I am here.
Why am I here?
Doesn't everyone wonder about that? This year in particular, it seems to be a theme, although it seems as though after over 40 years of wondering and wandering, I should have figured out the answer by now. I DO know it is easy for me to make friends, and that people feel comfortable with whoever I might be. I DO know, I am here to listen, that I have the ability to hear things that would curl your hair without so much as a blink. Who am I to judge, no really, who AM I?
It occurred at some point today that a month and a half ago, I was full of half of a liter of vodka, barely standing (thanks to Miss Nina Flowers Herself, who held me up as I had my picture taken) surrounded by queens, drag and otherwise. This week, I seem to be surrounded by queens of a different nature. The Three Queens, that is. The Three Queens are the mayor, the judge and the acting head of the local economic development group...these ladies help run the show in this desert town.
Soon after arriving, I was asked to join a volunteer group that The Queens are founding members of, we do things for free that others get paid handsomely to do. Namely pick up trash, weed-whack sidewalks, dig and plant flowers where there are none, while promoting a tidy Texas (what did you think I was talking about, dear reader?). Our group is one of all ages and ethnicities, but one thing they all seem to have in common is The Church. Which normally doesn't come too much into play in a normal day of volunteering. We spent a couple of hours tooting the horn about picking up trash at a local Elementary school while handing out bumperstickers and trashbags emblazoned with the slogan "Don't mess with Texas" (whoever came up with that slogan deserves a big kiss, it makes everyone laugh, then think about civic pride). After the line of people dwindled, the last bags, leaflets and stickers dispensed, the remainder of us joined at a local Mexican restaurant.
The four of us grabbed a soon-to-be notsoquiet corner table and spent the time waiting for our chiles and beans finding out more about each other and finding out what everyone already surely knew but were sharing yet again as others listened politely. Typical small town ribbing and banter, then the food arrived, and as I put my napkin on my lap, I caught a flurry of movement, many hands joining in a C above the table, reaching in my direction seeking to complete an O. Oh. Oh-oh.
To most people, this wouldn't be a huge deal, would in fact be a "must be Tuesday" occurrence, but to me, this presented a dilemma. I completed the circle, and as Grace began I silently debated and berated myself. Upon completion, I also joined the group in an audible "Amen". "What the hell, I've already prayed with them", I thought. Not knowing these people very well, I want to prove to them that I am a good heathen. This might not have been the best time to point out that all of this praying and worshiping a Christian God made me feel hellishly uncomfortable.
It's not that I don't believe in a higher power (or force), independent of myself, that helps "run the show" (much like the Three Queens...but on a cosmic level). It's just that I don't happen to believe in The Bible. A friend of mine once said she was convinced it was written by a bunch of stoners caught in a tent in a sandstorm, and though I fall short of that blasphemous rumor (your God has a sense of humor, doesn't he?), I can't help but believe that well-meaning as these chosen men were, she might not be far off. There is a nobility in those that believe, and I respect those that study and follow the words printed inside, just as I hope they respect me for my unlearned fumbling at goodness. Well, not so unlearned...
At one point, I decided to read that whole book, cover to cover. At one point, I "believed" in the whole show, was brought up in a household that went to church and sang the songs and was surrounded by friends that did the same, but somewhere along the line, The Message became just a message.
Perhaps I was disenfranchised by bad experiences, confused by incongruities, misled by a flood of new experiences and input from other religions but as my mind bent around the realization that I was not a Christian after all, I became aware also that something was running the show, and that we all directly influenced and were influenced by its machinations. That this force's fuel was love and irreverent laughter and giving a crap about yourself and others. Or not. Or no one thing and no seeming order at all, but to be thankful for it, and it will serve you as you serve it (or yourself). I don't know, and neither do you, really. So far, I am unaware of any book that expresses just this opinion (although Zen Buddhism comes pretty darn close), therefore I am without religion.
Well-meaning people have tried to "bring me back into the fold", an analogy that makes me even more uncomfortable than battling heat rash in wet woolly socks. Reminds me of how confused I was, when I asked my Sunday-school teacher what getting cottonballs stuck to my fingers as I tried to neatly glue them onto the rendering of a flock of lambs on blue construction paper had to do with Jesus, and of how she refrained from rolling her eyes and patiently related her yarn, yet again. But enough already with the sheep-related comparisons. Apologies.
I have many friends that are very religious, this to me is equal in my eyes to any other lifestyle choice. Should their choice be the pursuit of tattooing and other body modifications, studying for a degree in Philosophy, training to be a competitive runner (or all three at once), they are my friend, and their name is not predicated by this preference, as in "Biker Rick" or "Buddhist Sean"... because this is not all that they are. To me, anyway.
I hope that everyone comes to realize that someday, but until then, I find myself joining in, in the smallest of ways, so that these ladies get to know me. The grass bends so that it does not break. I hope to ease them into it, so as not to shock, annoy or displease, because that is not my intention. I will politely decline their invitations to church until they cease. But I will not decline any other invitations, I may even choose to volunteer with their church. There is much good in organized charity, I want to be a part of that good.
It's funny, in my twenties, people I knew debated over the wording of a quote from Socrates, that I have since found out never existed. Despite frequent use and suggestion, this quote and anything similar he might have said, is ultimately hearsay, brought to us by Plato. Remind you of any other collection of words bound in leather, translated and often related down the years? It seems that the more I learn, the more I find I have much to learn. It's time we all admitted that.
(But what do I know?)