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Archibald J. Motley Jr., Tongues (HolyRollers), 1929
" … segueing back into the infinitely more joyful ordinary times. Amen."

The high holy days of the Christian calendar induce a sort of seasonal affective disorder in me. I understand that these, above all other days of the year, focus upon producing cheer over depressive rumination, but the expectation that I should find joy there works like a paradox to induce the opposite. Not precisely sadness, but more of a hollowness overtakes me. These seem like hollow days of obligation, because in obligating, they undermine celebration. Requiring joy obviates every possibility for experiencing it. I'll go through the motions, but with a sinking heart.

I might lose the vibe in preparation, for my heart does tend to soar in warm anticipation that the blessed day might just this once appear as advertised, but it comes as it always came, rushing off to some semi-annual church service or sequestered at home with nothing but boring family surrounding me.
Friends couldn't come out to play. The TV would broadcast alien services then some off-putting sport, and I'd find myself bored into a dread fear of never-ending nothingness. By the time the off-schedule supper appeared, my appetite would have fled. I force fed whatever special cheer was served before slinking off to my unwelcomed bed. Happy Easter!

These days, I find some satisfaction in helping to produce a fine supper, though I tend to starve myself through the day in anticipation, not wanting to spoil that fine dinner by indulging in even a decent breakfast or lunch beforehand. By the time everything's plated on the fine china and set before us, my blood sugar's fallen to near coma condition. I swallow my share of the over-rich repast then slink off to find the Pepcid®, fall asleep into fitful dreams, then wake in the wee hours, throat burning like I've been burping up brimstone all night. Oh Holy Night, indeed.

My reaction might be a response to my earliest exposure to religion, a practice I never quite comprehended. Ours was a conservative congregation. Parker House rolls, mayonnaise, and corn flake fried chicken seemed to be the sacraments, Hell Fire reserved for the charcoal grill anchoring summer Christian cookouts, which differed from the regular kind by the prayer offered by our immodestly-clad pastor before we tucked into the burgers. It seemed more social club than pious observance, with only belief distinguishing us from any other group, though I never quite understood the message and never quite grasped any deeper significance other then the obvious entertainment value of watching the pastor's wife's wattle wobble when she hit the high notes in the choir.

I suspect that the kids were enrolled to prevent us from falling sway to the obvious allure of the tough kids who hung around smoking outside pool rooms on South Main. I learned to smoke anyway, though pool seemed no more alluring than church. My brother and I eventually negotiated a bye wherein we'd be allowed to walk home by ourselves in lieu of taking up a bench in the balcony through the actual service. We'd attend youth group, an unruly gathering of smart-mouthed brats overseen by an overwhelmed adult, then head for home. We'd arrive just before the rest of the family, change into play clothes, and already be engaged in young teen-ager activities by the time they caught up. Those walks home were more inspiring than a month of Sunday services.

I've grown to more deeply celebrate my ordinary days than the so-called holy, HighHollowDays. I sense more of some inspiring presence when weeding the garden than when hunting Easter Eggs. I focus my devotion on small pedestrian contributions. I mow my lawn, sort my recyclables, and help my neighbors as I can. I try to feel superior to no man and keep my faith and my believings as private as I possibly can. As an adult, I never understood the purpose of joining any church. The advertised fellowship seemed too cliquish for my palate. When the HighHollowDays come around, I stock up on Pepcid®, hope for better, and more or less hold my breath until the ordeal passes. For every Easter Sunday, an Easter Monday follows, segueing back into the infinitely more joy-inducing ordinary times. Amen.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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