How Dare You?
Recently I attended a wedding. It was held at a lovely church which dates back over one hundred and fifty years. As such it is on the National Register of Historic Places in the United States. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 was part of a national effort to “coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archaeological resources.” It is the US government’s official list of more than one million properties and is kept and compiled by the National Park Service as an agency within the Department of the Interior. There is financial incentive for owners to renovate historically such properties but this designation does not offer any guarantees or protection to the property.
It was not my first time in this church and I was reminded of visiting it at an earlier time with one of my children. That visit had occurred when the church was undergoing a massive renovation project on its interior, the first in its history. Like many older buildings, the church building we visited was a recent building, even at its age of over one hundred and fifty years. It had been constructed after the original church building on that site had burned down. Many historic buildings in the USA began life as wooden structures and so many have seen not only the ravages of time but also of fire.
During the earlier visit, we noticed the walls had been stripped of multiple layers of coats of paint. The basic walls exhibited a plaster type of covering with various cracks, some due to the plaster, some due to the humidity of the region, and some due to the settling of the building and the shifting of the soil beneath it over time. It was at that visit that a member of the church had remarked to my child: “I wished you could see it when it is finished. The walls are all ugly now.” My child looked at me and simply smiled but later remarked: “I liked the walls. I think it will be a shame when they cover them up. Right now those cracks represent the prayers and tears of the people, their fears and their lives.”
Fast forward to the present and last month when I attended a wedding at that same historic church. The renovation is not three years past its completion and the church did indeed look beautiful. As it happened, that same child was also an attendee at the wedding and he remarked that the church did look beautiful. He sounded a little sad, though, and said that now it just looked beautiful. “Before” he remarked, “it had character; now it has a perfection that makes me feel like I don’t belong. I could believe easier in an imperfect church.”
Beginning a new series is always very interesting. There are those readers and followers who take a bit of time to decide if they like the new theme and then there are those who miss the recipes and just want those. (A cookbook is forthcoming so take heart, food lovers!) Then there are those that insist this should be about one religion and are really not pleased with my discussing mythology, something they consider the religion of the heathen amongst us, stories retold by those who would rather believe in “ridiculous spirits” rather than in a religious deity. “How dare you?” was one such comment.
At this same wedding I attended, the officiating minister stood up to deliver his homily or sermon. Impressive in his clerical finery he began: “Mawwage… is what bwings is togwther today.” If you are a movie goer, you probably recognize this quote as being from the popular 1987 film “The Princess Bride”. Classified as a “frame story” or story within a story, the above quote is also from a wedding, a wedding in which the bride is tricked into marrying the groom or so she thinks. Deception and love are the basic foundations of the film which, in spite of how it sounds, is considered a cult comedy. Adapted from a novel of the same name written by William Goldstein in 1973, the movie is story as a grandfather reading a bedtime story to his grandson.
The mythologies we read and watch being portrayed in movies are also frame stories. They are stories within a story which in turn tell our story. In his sermon at the wedding I attended the minister told a story from his past. He mentioned a wedding he had attended, the wedding of a cousin. The cousin, nervous as most grooms are, mispronounced his pledge. Instead of saying “With this ring, I thee wed” the cousin said “With this Wing, I thee read.” Several months later, another cousin married and so this time, in order to avoid such a humorous mistake, the rector this time asked the groom to repeat “I pledge you my troth.” The same meaning and the same story being begun by two people madly in love was begin but with different words.
What all our mythologies and religions have in common is a basis of hope, that fantasy of finding reasons and in those reasons optimism for living another day. The mythologies may seem ridiculous at times and certainly larger than life but perhaps that is what was needed to capture the attention of their audiences. If all you have ever seen are stick figures on a wall, imagine how glorious a colorful dragon character must have seemed. If your village had been destroyed by fire from a lightning strike, how wonderful was the story and what hope that a god known as Odin (or Thor or any of his other multiple names) must have been.
Life is what brings us together. The characters in our myths are impressive but they, like the impressive clergyman character really were not the basis of the story; mankind was. This blog is a conversation, a conversation about peace and life and humanity. I write it with optimism for a better tomorrow, knowing that what we do today will color what we see tomorrow. Today is a reflection of our past and a foretelling of our future but we and we alone write the story. Life is strange at times and confusing but it is also glorious. Much like a Picasso, it is not perfect and there will be cracks and evidence of our living. But also like a Picasso, we sometimes need to ponder it before we see its beauty.
I really do enjoy your comments. Please keep them coming! As I have said before, please feel free to repost or retweet; just remember these are copyrighted and give me credit. To answer the title question: How dare I? I dare because I have hope and faith and joy in living and because I believe in happy endings. And in my belief system, the deity does, too.