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Week of the Steeple

September 3rd, 2007 · Written by · No Comments

Once a week, Quinn walks up the hill to visit Arbelia. He brings her chocolate bars and inquiries. Quinn is 25 years old. Born in a big room in a small town, brought round the states, ‘sbeen soaking it up and wringing it out. Arbelia is 80 years old. A poet, shaman, songwriter, biker, gardener, mother and grandmother, she has been incarcerated for 25 years. Quinn has been learning to sail. Arbelia has been painting landscapes. They were introduced by a mutual friend and have been visiting for a year and a half or so. They have created a cushion of mutual respect. A true place to start to speak from. They’ve been calling it traveling. With work and play and wordplay long the way. So once a week, Quinn heads down to the prison for a brief and precious visitation and he and Arbelia hit the road together.

Quinn: Have you ever belonged to an organized religion, Arbelia?
Arbelia: Oh baby. Why do you ask?

Q: I’m curious.
A: About me? Or about belonging an organized religion?

Q: Both.
A: Interesting. Can we try to have a little fun with this, though? I’m in prison for Jesus, too. Let’s play. First talk to me about what you’re getting into.

Q: I’m into this here. You. Listening to you.
A: Ok. Let’s throw the ball around a bit first and then you’ll tell me the stories of the stories. I’ll ask you for a while, ok dear?

Q: Questions?
A: Back and fourth. Religious exercise! Exchanging inquiries! We’ll do a wonder quest 3000. Tell me about your religion, Quinn.

Q: I don’t have one!
A: Respond in the form of a question, dear!

Q: Yes. Question mark steeple?
A: Absolutely Ok! And then we’ll throw random numbers out, just for fun. 36!

Q: 13!
A: Here it is, Quinn. “Wonder Quest 3000!” “Fun!” Question. Which verse of which version of whose story are we playing here?

Q: Was this there then?
A: This here? 1297?

Here this is: 576. Fun run! Ok, a previously transcribed run-in question for you, Arbelia.
A: Arbelia’s listening.

Q: Can one connect genuinely and deeply into a larger network of human beings in a state of specified belonging to an organized religion and remain on the inside and outside at the same time? In other words, to have no religion and to have religion both?
A: Getting more serious. Is there a Penalty?

Q: Is there a Reversal?
A: Inquiry and Reversal! Easy now. Listen carefully, Quinn, tell me some of the story of your story of religious experience from the inside and outside at the same time. A challenge? But nice and easy. In prose. Non fiction, my boy and talk fast like you do, because we don’t have much time, do we?

Q: No. Ok, I’ll try. But those holy experiences are hard for me to describe without feeling like I’ve cheapened them. Like I lost a bit of the spirit trying to describe the indescribable. Words fail me. Words work though, too. It’s soulful and enlightening every time I get to talk with you.
A: Charmed. Please though, organize the organized story story, my boy.

Pro life, pro war, pro family, pro death penalty, pro empire. How does that work?

Q: Ok, literally or metaphorically? Well, quickly I was turned off by organized religion by the many who make it their job to go around telling other people that they’re going to hell. Unless… Going to the same church that supported the whole neoconservative GOP agenda. Pro life, pro war, pro family, pro death penalty, pro empire. How does that work? It contradicts itself. And then in the Bible there are mega contradictions. But the story I read of the story of Jesus was still amazing. Human being standing up for Love under the dark shadow of the empire. A radical community organizer, you know? The religious fanatics of his time feared him and eventually killed him, but he only became more powerful after his death. So the story of the story of the Jesus thing is really beautifully horribly complicated.
A: You said it, man.

Q: Lately though I’ve met some folks who have truly taught me a lot about love, compassion and forgiveness just by being who they are without any need to mention any entity. Like the J.C. or the G.O.D. Just walking the walk. Service.
A: Goodness. Service to whom?

Q: To those in need. And to God, I guess.
A: Yes? Serving God and people in need of what?

Q: Well, food, water and shelter. Basic needs. But just a more focused effort toward human kindness. Like a daily practice. All day.
A: In the name of…?

Q: Love! Right?
A: Unlimited? Unrestricted?

Q: Unbelievable? Ill conceivable? Arbelia, I’ll tell you, these friends of mine found a portal to a path of service through the story of Christ.
A: I believe.

Q: And it’s like a question. Doing something useful with this life? Instead of taking away from the world to try and be fulfilled, to give? Christ on the cross like a Buddhist Tonglen meditation practice. To breathe in the pain and suffering and breathe out loving kindness.
A: Now you’re talking.

Q: These friends of mine are out there working on peace and helping people out. A lot of people talk a lot about all the horrible shit that’s going down, but they don’t do much. There’s a lot to be said for the power of organized religion. Wars, for example. Oppression of all kinds. But the need to turn toward the heart and love is a human thing and billions of humans identify themselves through their religion.
A: Nicely done now seal the deal, Quinn.

Q: It has occurred to me that I might be able to get in there as an outsider and unify and belong but to not stop belonging to anything, everything and nothing. To experience religion or religions from the inside. Learn what it’s like. To enter through the open door of love and keep the door open to the outside? And perhaps by being inside and outside at the same time to help to widen the spectrum. I’m talking. A lot of people are doing a lot of talking. Here’s this. The movement toward ecological sustainability and social justice is married to the movement to heal the heart of humanity and so in that respect everybody’s doors could stay open? Or from the outside we could try harder to reach out and into church networks. And from the inside we could see that the church doors are invisible and that the maps we’ve made are all fake and the watches we’re wearing are fake and nothing is as it seems and the nature of everything is changing.
A: The Nature of Everything is Changing!

Q: Yes, and that our story needs to change, right, because the End of the World is not enough. We’re in the midst of the rest of the story here.
A: Yeah! Quinn, our time’s up, they’re telling me. Oh damn. I love you and I’m proud of you. Thank you. Here it is! A Question Mark Steeple! Here we is, all of the people!

Q: Arbelia, I miss you.
A: Pi, Quinn!

Read the Week of the Creek
Read the Week of the Shadow

Tags: Fiction · · ·

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