Sunday, February 6, 2011

Not Being an Asshole Helps Build Community

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

The World of CJ is not without its share of sudden changes.  In fact, it is the Capitol of Sudden Changes.

The Priestess is no more.

My fiancée Jillian was until recently a Wiccan Priestess.  Without going into detail (and there are a LOT of details), she has returned to her Catholic roots.  As such, she will no longer be known as The Priestess... hereafter we'll be using her real name.

Truth told, I'd been seeing the signs of her Return for a few weeks now, so I wasn't at all surprised when she informed me of her decision.  I told her she'd have my unending support regardless of the path she chose.

I was a great deal happier than I let on.  I've been meaning to go back to church (in my case, the Anglican Church) for nigh on ten years now, and this gave me the "excuse" I needed.  The fact that she chose St. Anthony of Padua was of particular interest to me, as it is directly across the street from my family's former place of worship (and where I was baptised), St. Anne's Anglican Church!

We decided to attend this Sunday's Mass.  Yes, for the first time in twenty-seven years, CJ attended church for something other than a wedding or funeral.  By choice.

It was a great experience, the people were very welcoming, and despite not really knowing what was going on, I never felt lost.  Jillian explained a lot of the tradition beforehand (and during), which helped me to understand.

Not being Catholic, I wasn't able to take Communion, however I was able to receive the Pastor's blessing.

--

I wish the Pastor's Homily (sermon) was available as a podcast (or that I'd brought a voice recorder with me), because he'd said a number of things that really resonated with cynical ol' me.

The first bit of wisdom I took was, in the Pastor's words, to "keep a mellow heart",  to be happy, and not judge the people who anger or annoy the shit out of you... because chances are, you probably annoy the living shit out of someone too!

Jillian and I both laughed about that around the breakfast table afterwards.  We're both rather fond/guilty of heaping scorn/bile upon those who have offended our sensibilities... but never once gave pause to reflect that we may be/are doing the same thing to others.  Sigh.  Guess we'll have to work on that...

The second thing I took from the Homily was a metaphor of a lone tree.  The pastor likened those who choose to keep faith privately (ie praying and worshipping at home "in their own way" and never attending Mass) to a lone tree at the top of a mountain... It may stand for a while, but a strong wind can and will blow it down.  He went on to say that one needs to attend Mass and worship en masse, as by doing so, you familiarize yourself with those around you, building community.  By building community, you are no longer the lone tree at the top of the mountain... you're part of a great forest, and, with the support of those around you, are unlikely to blow down.

This particularily struck me.  Having an interest in urbanism and working communities, I have long railed at the breakdown of interpersonal relationships with one's neighbours.  I mean, who ARE the people in your neighbourhood?  Who is that guy across the street?  Do you know his name, or is he simply "that gangly-looking cocksucker in the green house"?  How about the shrewish woman down the street who's always squawking at her kids?  How about your neighbour, Fred?  Apart from saying hello every so often, how much do you really know about Fred and what he keeps in that basement?  Real community is knowing (and being known to) the people around you.  Love thy neighbour indeed.

Jillian and I sat around the breakfast table, discussing the service.  She'd asked me what I'd taken from it, and I summed it up thus:
"Not being an asshole helps build community"

She laughed and said "They should have that instead of 'Welcome to the North End/People Before Profit' at the foot of the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge!"  I couldn't help agreeing with her.

I've lived in this neighbourhood for nine years this May.  I know a handful of the people in my neighbourhood (and yes, what "Fred" keeps in his basement... his baseball trophies) but would love to know them all.

Jill has been living with me for a couple of months now, and I can't wait to introduce her to the few people I've gotten to know.  We are planning to raise a family here, shop here, play here, and attend Church here.  I think we're well on our way to help building this community.

Now, if I could only stop being an asshole! ;)

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