Saturday, October 6, 2007

Free Until they Cut Me Down

It's been a while since I've written much here - and I realize that. Life has been slow, but steady. That is to say, spectacular amazing events have not been regularly occurring, but as usual, my life hasn't suffered from too much boredom here. I managed to see a Mountain Goats concert that was pretty awesome.

JD was a little bit off his musical game that night, I thought, but he had a really good stage presence and loads of energy that sort of spread to the audience. He announced several times that he was playing a song in public for the first time (one he said was unpracticed and off-list, but it sounded great), and I just plain lost count of how many times I announced he was going off list. He more or less winged the show, which was kind of fun and, like I said, lowered the quality of the music a little bit. But really, the mountain goats have played with so many different people and instruments over the years that for him to go on stage with just one other guy, he really has only a small fraction of his repertoire that he can play "just like on the album". On the other hand, that was also kind of cool, because it meant I got to hear old songs played really different ways -- for instance he played Diludid on his guitar, whereas on the album Sunset Tree the melody is driven by several furious violins. I prefer the album version, but it was really cool to see JD play it on the guitar.

So anyway, that way fun. I met up with Leerie (a friend from high school who I hadn't seen in years - but a very cool person nonetheless) and Glenn (also very cool, but I'd seen him more recently than Leerie). And I ought to mention that the opening band, the Bowerbirds, were also really good. They had an accordion. Of course I liked them.

I was all set for that Iron and Wine show the next week, I really was. Unfortunately, I was in New York for that Iron & Wine show, attending the funeral of a distant relative Joey, who chose to take his own life.

Now, to say that I didn't know Joey well would have been a great understatement. I can't recall how many times I met him, but twice is my high estimate. If I had passed him on the street, I probably wouldn't have noticed it - embarrassing to say, but probably the truth. But I do recall the first time I met him - he seemed like a nice guy and an impressive person. I'm sorry he felt such a terrible need to get out. "Tragedy" is a word without enough power behind it sometimes. But I hope he can take consolation in the fact that at his Catholic funeral, the priest announced that Joey had gone to heaven - and if he was a good enough man to make the Catholic church reverse their stance on suicide, he must have been a very good person indeed.

In all seriousness, I think religion ruined that service for me. Not because I didn't like the priest - actually I loved his service. I suspect I'd like the man. But when a Catholic priest declared that Joey was in heaven, I couldn't help it, I began to imagine Catholic Heaven. Was Joey the first suicider to get in? If so, he must have felt very honored when he arrived. Are people being retroactively let in? And if so, are they bitter from their time spent in Catholic Hell? This is the sort of dumb shit I thought about at Joey's funeral. If you think that sounds like I'm being a dick and making fun of another man's beliefs, then you have me only half right -- because I seriously don't understand what that priest believed, let alone what he was preaching.

Then came the time for Communion, and a friend asked me if I wanted to go up and take communion. And you know what? I did. I felt like it would be a show of unity in a time of sorrow and loss -- remember that even if I didn't know Joey well, I was surrounded by family. But as soon as they pulled out the stuff for Communion and started the opening ritual I was suddenly fiercely offended to be at a Catholic funeral. Why? Because the Catholic church doesn't want non-Catholics taking Catholic communion. Simple as that. Therefor, to hold Catholic communion at a public funeral felt horribly exclusionary to me - this sense of exclusion applied to an act traditionally expressing unity. Maybe it was unjustified, but I felt insulted.

Now, I'm willing to bet less than a quarter of the people who did take communion were Catholic, and I'm equally willing to bet that the Priest might have felt that non-Catholics should be allowed to take communion, if only during circumstances like these. But none of that mattered at the time, because I knew that the infallible church, directly driven by the indirect voice of god, WOULD object. More, it would have been an insult to the Catholic faith to ignore what I knew was their objection. But unfortunately, all this pent up anger and frustration (doubtless more driven by the tragedy of Joey's death, and the surrounding sorrow than by the church) led me to an outburst when I was asked if I would go take communion with this friend, and I said just two notches too loudly and five notches too sharply "The Catholic Church Kindly Requests That if You Don't Believe That Stuff Over There Actually Turns into Flesh and Blood inside Your Stomach, you Should Stay Seated for Communion".

And that was at a funeral, 2 rows from the front. No one said a word to me, then or afterwards. But I really felt I'd embarrassed myself as soon as it slipped out. That was definitely not the right time, Allan.

No comments: