Is There Life Beyond Work, Possessions, and Entertainment?
This question bothered me from an early age, perhaps because I’ve been an always busy, prove-yourself-through-accomplishment sort of person. But there was a moment when I realized I wanted a deeper connection with life.
The memory sounds kind of goofy which is probably why I have not written about that morning. Part of being a prove-yourself-through-accomplishment sort of person is to appear cool at all times. Note: With this story I am not preaching, suggesting a religion, telling how you should approach life, not telling you how to vote, meditate, or levitate, or what to believe. Let those assumptions go. I’m sharing nothing more than a simple memory of a new experience. I was ten years old in this story, the daughter of a Danish Lutheran and an Appalachian Baptist. There were no white lights, miracles, no. By supper time I was holding my own battling with my sister and brother over cookies. I was ten.
The family was staying in a lovely old stone hotel on the plaza in Guadalajara. My mother and I were looking down on the plaza. Below us were hundreds of people who I assumed had gone bat crazy.
I’m in Guadalajara now, over-looking the city twenty stories up in a luxury hotel in the outskirts. El centro was long ago converted to more glorious venues. The same hotel might still be there, but an overnight on one of their beds would mean a hospital stay. Of the physical changes and disease that come with age, I miss most the freedom to wander freely in the world staying at hotels as they appear instead of making choices ahead of time based on physical comfort necessities.
Back to the story. Below us on the plaza was a snake of hundreds and hundreds of people I assumed were insane. The line went as far as I could see coming from beyond the city into the plaza. Many were on their knees. All ages. The closest I’d ever experienced to the scene was Disneyland, but the comparison didn’t fit otherwise. These people seemed to be talking quietly to themselves and carried necklaces of glass beads. Unlike at Disneyland, no one pushed and even toddlers did not demand attention. Slowly, slowly the stream disappeared into the dark door of the Cathedral.
What? When I asked my mother what was going on, she said, “Oh, there just Catholics. They think that you can go out and do any kind of sin—then on a saint day like today, they can go in and kiss a statue and everything will be forgiven.”
The only thing I knew for sure at that moment was that I wanted to get in that line. (Remember, keep your religion anxiety meter under control. I am not talking about how my life suddenly changed, not about religion–Catholic, Buddhist, or Apache. And don’t go all psychologist with how I have a guilty streak. Just don’t.) What I realized in that moment was that I wanted to know life in a way that went beyond games and the pressures of living up to my potential. I wanted to know how people are connected through all time. I wanted to know people from the inside. From what we had in common instead of how we are different. I wanted to be a part of a stream of beating hearts with nothing on our minds beyond a shared desire to live as best we could together.
I know, that’s an odd lot for a ten-year-old to take away, but I was an odd kid. Psychology was a good start. The study of the family through the generations made sense. What a gift to be still excited learning about people and families.