Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sheepish (or not) on Sunday Mornings

I haven’t been to church in a while; more specifically, I haven’t been to church since January, when I was home and church was a social engagement as well as a spiritual experience.

The church I attend in Boston, as haphazard as my attendance may be, is progressive and the messages are intellectually focused. My pastor wears suits and quotes C.S. Lewis, Christopher Hitchens, Ghandi. We sing hymns. The congregants are young, many of them are married and they seem to exclusively wear J. Crew and their blinding wedding bands. They’re studying at Boston’s finest institutions to be brain surgeons, business leaders and lawyers; they’re a smart group and I enjoy going to church with them- to an extent. My only complaint, and it’s so, so silly, is that I don’t know anyone there. I’ve done the introduction many times- I’ve exchanged handshakes and extended sentiments of peace to those sitting around me. I’ve gone to a few events and had a couple successful conversations but I’ve failed at forming any kind of lasting friendships with my fellow churchgoers and I’ve been avoiding going back because of it. It’s a strange catch-22: I don’t want to go because I’m alone, but I’ll never meet anyone unless I go.

It’s absurd, really. I’m absurd. I should just go. Especially because I like going once I actually get there. It’s really such a relief to be in a room full of Christians in a city the denounces religion.

One way in which I justify staying in on Sunday mornings is by insisting it is helping me write my senior thesis. I’m putting together a collection of short stories about falling away from religion, but not God, and I’m abstaining from attending church as research. This isn't exactly true, however, and I know God can see through my feeble excuses, but in a way I am finding it helpful for my own peace of mind. But already the itch to get back in a room full of Christians is driving me mad. I don’t necessarily feel guilty, but I feel as if I’m denying myself a great pleasure, a way to develop my intellect and glorify my savior. I want to go to church, and if I had a friend who wasn’t a Catholic, atheist or Jew, if I had someone who wanted to go to church with me, I would be there every Sunday with that person by my side. But I don’t, so I’ll simply have to work up the nerve to go alone, again. And again and again and again.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Missing Home on a Sunday Night

I left Minnesota because I don’t like small talk and the way vowels seem to drag as if everyone has all the time in the world to listen to what I have to say. I wanted to leave because I was never fatally attached to my friends and knew from a young age that as long as I had my family, somewhere, I would be able to survive. I wanted to leave because I was tired of being distracted by my parents who made my life too comfortable. I left because nobody else was doing it.

I came to Boston because I like to win, and the East coast is the place to go to get ahead- and I’m not referring to time zones. It’s no coincidence that the Red Sox, The Celtics and the Patriots all had wonderful seasons after I moved to Boston; it’s a city of winners. I love the autumn leaves on Commonwealth Ave, wine and afternoon reading on the esplanade along the Charles River and the sound of waves lapping against the wharf as the gulping birdsong of seagulls sounds in the background with the consistency of a blaring alarm clock. Boston is great. Good-looking college students wander the streets in a daze from too much partying or studying- it’s hard to tell which. Trim professionals in well-cut suits hurry with expensive phones pressed to their ears as they urgently move to attend meetings or buy another cup of coffee. For the most part the residents of Boston have brains- they write for important journals, buy local, read the New Yorker, The New York Times, The New Republic, The Daily Beast. They’re politically correct, they think the only states that matter border the ocean, they drink expensive cocktails. Boston is a great place to live. For a while, anyway.

In the three years I’ve spent in Boston, I’ve realized that I may not, in fact, be fatally attached to my friends and family, but they’re more important to me than I ever thought possible. My connection to Minnesota is strong and deep. I don’t want to be on the ocean if the sea levels are rising, I don’t want to live in a city that has viable reason to fear a terrorist attack. I want to live in a city where my rent isn’t ridiculously high, where my mom can come over on Sundays to help me decorate and teach me how to make white bean chili and braided bread. I want to walk around the lakes and play cribbage in small cafes with The Currant as my own (our own) personal soundtrack to life.

Minnesota, I’m coming back. It may take a while, but I’ll return to you.