Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Latent Blogger

This was a weekend of firsts.

Traveling alone is not something that comes as naturally to me as it dose to others. There are aspects of it which I prefer, I can be say, be as cheap as I want, I don’t need to confirm an idea with somebody else and I can linger in bookstores as long as I want. Honestly the enjoyment stops there.

While I believe that there is character-building merit in traveling alone, it simply is not as enjoyable as traveling with somebody. There is nobody with whom to share those special moments when you see something amazing, or silly or sad. Nobody to point out simple joys to, nobody to convince you that ‘yes’ you really do want to buy the cheese, and nobody who is seeing the new culture through the same lens as you.

Despite these drawbacks I’ve been making the best of the experience. I’ve been taking on new challenges and overcoming fears. This Saturday for example, I was in a bit of quandary. There was a show I wanted to see downtown, for a band I had only just discovered, while my dear friends wanted to go out of the city and into the woods to dance all night at a bush doof (underground outdoor music/dance party).

Now I have never been to a doof, not a proper Aussie one at least, but neither had I ever been to a show alone. I was torn. Somewhere deep inside me there was a little voice that urged me to do the scary thing. While a doof is new in many ways it is not new in its fundamentals and considering that soon I will have a friend visiting and then soon after that Fiz will be returning I saw that this was perhaps my unique opportunity to experience standing awkwardly alone in a crowd. I chose the show.

Down to the CBD I went, riding the tram, so different late at night than early in the morning. Crowds of gaggling girls and slightly drunken dudes all headed down for a big adventure, and me.

The show, as it happened, was sold out. So much for my experience. But on my way back up to the street from the club below I caught out of the corner of my eye, the sight of a friend I had not expected to see again. One of the women from the Permaculture course was there with her date. They didn’t get tickets either. We exchanged remarks and hugs and then the three of us spent the evening walking around the city and talking. I discovered that there is an upcoming writer’s festival (they are both writers) the Melbourne’s Emerging Writer’s Festival, starting this week. So sometimes that little voice knows something you don’t.

The next morning, feeling groggy after my late night, I did something I haven’t done in years. I went to church. Now, I’m not much in the way for Christianity, I had a long period where we were at odds, but as I’ve gotten older my dislike has mellowed and eventually turned friendly. There is something comforting in the rituals, and strangely something exotic.

After traveling the world and praying in temples and pagodas and mosques to deities of every shape size and color I found that the rituals of the Anglican Church were new and different. I was raised a Catholic, or well, it was attempted, I resisted the whole time but some of it seeped in, I love frankincense and chanting and have a strong affinity for the Virgin Mary. The Anglican service (not mass!) seemed strangely devoid of all the little Catholic things I liked, but the singing was nice and the priest gave a good sermon. Melbourne’s St.Paul’s Cathedral is lovely, a beautiful piece of Victorian Victorian Architecture.

I could not help but notice as I sat in my pew waiting to take part in the Ancient Egyptian God Eating ritual that the congregation was dying. I don’t mean in front of my eyes, but just about. A full 90% were grey, and the list of the ill and the recently passed was long. There was one child there, making himself known only occasionally. It felt as though the whole giant space, designed to hold so many was now filled with a few old men trying to stay warm.

As I walked outside into the sunlight I heard chanting. Across the street at Federation Square the Asian community was celebrating Buddha’s birthday. (As the Pentecost is upon us I find it interesting that Buddha’ Birthday is so close on the calendar.) Buddhist chants were piped onto the square and people were milling about joyfully scattered, holding incense and orchids. And there were children. Heaps of children, not just from Melbourne’s growing Asian population, Anglo children, mixed race children of every colour. Children brought there by parents who had decided at some point that they no longer wanted to sit in a pew and pray to the Lord but instead were clumsily teaching foreign rituals to a new generation of seekers.

Why? Christianity in comparison to Buddhism is in fact quite young, so it should be thriving, but instead people have turned the cathedrals and churches of the world into museums, mausoleums to a dying faith. While I know that Christianity is growing rapidly in those parts of the world that are staved for learning or starved in general, willing to accept help from anywhere, I can’t help but think that they join so they can break literal bread and thereby gain salvation, in a physical rather than a theological way.

Perhaps it is the slow decay of a way of life that asked too much of its people or that makes too little sense to many these days. Pedophilia was certainly the last straw in many places. Nothing like a bit of molestation to keep the next generation coming back for more, no wonder it’s destroyed the parishes from the inside out.

It is an interesting thing to watch, this juxtaposition of faith across the street from one another, another reason to love the urban environment, even as I find myself starting to seriously miss the smell of trees.

I am a country girl after all and I worship dirt, and wind and sun and rain. My cathedral is as always the forest and I find that no tower of stone nor any beautifully build pagoda can compare to the simple experience of a mountain or a river or a plain.

 But it gives me hope for the future, as multiple muti-cultural spaces continue to grow and flourish and we manage to live within them, surely we can learn to work out our differences elsewhere. So I bowed my head at the alter of Christ and Buddha and prayed to the One for peace and justice for all.

1 comment:

  1. Having just come back from St. Marks in Italy. I can attest to the fact that many of these beautiful cathedrals all around Europe are being used as museums supported by the state governments. And sadly there are fewer children. The buildings are containers of the spoils of war from centuries past