I’ve been very busy as of late, having conceived of a new project: a half-day retreat, eventually to be amplified into an 8-week workshop, in which I will tell people how to think, act, and live!
Doesn’t that sound fun?
I am going to get a logo, a banner, a video, a business plan, a “download sheet” (whatever that is), and a flyer. Yes! Business cards, for ancient as I am, I still like a piece of paper with a little picture on it that you can stick in your wallet.
I mean to gather all the many strands of my experience, strength, hope and obsessions. Addiction, food, money, gardening, Film noir. BOOKS. PILGRIMAGE. VOCATION. NATURE. ART. The thin line between passion and pathology.
All underlain by my pre-Vatican II, over-emoting, curmudgeonly temperament, and I pray to the Lord above, a SENSE OF HUMOR.
Mainly I would like to get across that Catholicism, which to me is another way of saying life, is INTERESTING. It’s not sitting (or rather not only sitting) in some air-conditioned gated community discussing the relative merits of Benedict and Francis. It’s not ivory-tower poets scraping and fawning for a place in mover-and-shaker academia, nor “public intellectuals” who beautifully articulate the sanctity of the family but can’t deign to say hello when you meet them in person, nor, for us lesser souls, sitting in front of our laptops spying upon and hurling insults at each other with the supposed motive of “evangelizing.”
It’s van Gogh saying, “I love my studio in the same way that a sailor loves his ship.” It’s Maria Callas saying, “I prepare myself for rehearsals the way I would for marriage.” It’s daring to respond to the call of the deepest desires of our hearts.
Instead…have you ever been to a Catholic conference of any kind, for example? Everyone takes an uber from the airport to an air-conditioned corporate hotel, eats bad hotel food, drinks at the hotel bar while gossiping about the various factions in the Church, stays inside for three solid days, then takes an uber back to the airport.
What about a WALK? Have we no curiosity? Do our hearts not long to venture out into the streets and see how people live in this strange city we’re visiting? This is not worthy of our Savior. Have we so little imagination that we no longer yearn to see the sky, a river, a dicey neighborhood, a hidden garden, a mom-and-pop bakery, a fistfight?
I say this of course as a member of the Ardently Faithful for whom the Church is the only real home I have or ever will have. And of course failing to venture outside of a carefully-defined bubble of comfort and security is hardly peculiar to Catholics.
I do feel, however, that we of all people–pulsatingly aware of the mystery and the glory of the Incarnation, our endlessly fascinating brothers and sisters, and the world outside our doors–should be adventurers, pilgrims and wanderers.
Speaking of which, I discovered Chaim Soutine (1893-1943) on a little trip to Philadelphia a few years ago on which I “happened” upon the world-famous Barnes Foundation. Mr. Barnes, a mega-rich collector whose statues if there are any will probably soon be ripped down, went over to Europe and basically bought up practically every painting of Soutine’s who was Jewish and at the time crabby and starving in some low Parisian garret.
He, Soutine, painted many tormented-looking women like the one above, often clutching their hands together and looking like they forgot to take their Klonopin, then died near Montparnasse of a perforated ulcer while fleeing the Gestapo.
Anyway, I hope everyone is holding steady in these unprecedented times, and being upheld by art of various kinds that reveals the complexity, depth and paradoxes of the human condition.