Wednesday I drove up a canon to find my inaugural church/dive bar. I picked the cutest church I could find — white, capacity of 30-40 parishioners — perfect. Right down the street, a dive bar. Lovely.

Sunday I woke up hours before the 10 a.m. church service however, I didn’t quite make it to a pew. It wasn’t the night before Tullamore, it was my living quarters and the weather. Bright white room illuminated by fresh snowfall. Basically I woke up feeling like an angel and since God wanted me to revel in my angel self, I decided to relax and think good thoughts about humanity.

That lasted for about two minutes and then I did the last thing any humanitarian angel should ever do. I read the Ft. Collins Coloradoan and the Wall Street Journal. First the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D-Arizona) and then this stupid story about two old women sharing mom’s mink by cutting it up and turning it into two teddy bears. Weird? Definitely. News? Uh, no.

Trying to go back to God, I held my own service in bed, reflecting on one of my last religious experiences. Five years ago. Summer in Michigan. Hot, humid. Body thirsty. Sobering agent dissolving in stomach. No sleep for 24 hours.

I didn’t want to go to a church service in a graveyard, but I couldn’t weasel or beg my way out of it so I womaned up and pouted during the 45 minute drive. I was wholly unprepared for the event mentally and physically. Strapless sundress. Heels sinking in mud.

We were late. The place was packed. I tiptoed between headstones to avoid losing a shoe in the mud. People stared. In-laws offered us their chairs, I looked for a headstone large enough to support my rear. Couldn’t find one, opted to stand, knees bent, weight shifting to avoid cramping and fainting, which happens a lot. (Low blood pressure resulting from running, according to the dr.)

I tried to concentrate on the pastor’s message, which I managed until my hearing dimmed. I kicked off my shoes (I’m smarter than scary movie chicks), grabbed my husband’s hand and said, “we have to go.”

He said just a minute. I said no, right this second, death grip on his hand. He asked why, I couldn’t talk. I get lockjaw before and after I pass out.

Four steps into the crowd, hearing gone. Step five, vision collapsing from the periphery. Step six, down on my knees. Gone. Wake up surrounded by people, pouring sweat, dress soaked, fat man in a short sleeved yellow shirt and bad tie running at me with water and a cookie. Someone put me in a chair, told me I was pale, did I need something? Could they help? Husband —  back off, I’ve got it.

It was about 10 minutes before I could talk, drink or eat but all I wanted to do was get the hell out of the cemetery because, even though we were at the back of the crowd, we were the center of attention. But I didn’t have the use of my legs so I couldn’t escape. Thanks God.

I don’t have a video of my personal blackout, but this is exactly what happens. Generally I fall backward, but I knew I was going to faint in a dress so I fell to my knees. Modesty first.

Best Man Faints and Falls Backward

This is one of my few church memories and it occurred in the best possible environment for me — the outdoors. So, hopefully you can see my hesitation going into this whole church hopping experiment.

Now I’m all worked up. I’m off to snowboard and find a dive bar. Until Wednesday…

15 Minutes of Fame

July 28, 2010

I’m noticing that as my peer group ages, particularly if diminishing time includes reproduction, it trends toward organized religion. People state various reasons for the return — renewed faith, trauma, fear of death — but I believe the overarching reason is tucked in the subconscious and can only be defined as an overwhelming desire for fame, an eternal recognition by the masses that yes, they are SOMEONE SPECIAL.

People don’t like to use the word famous as it relates to their desired legacy. They prefer to be “remembered” yet for most, finite remembrance by a universally insignificant amount of people (nuclear family for most, extended for a few), is almost tragic.

We don’t know what the afterlife — if there is such a thing — will bring, but fame is a possibility. Let’s say you’re 60 and decide you’ve got about 20 years left to “make a mark.” Let’s say that so far your only “mark” is a one-sentence quote in an archived local paper. Wouldn’t the very idea of having an unlimited amount of time to become “known” among many be very compelling? What if even after all that time, your legacy was whittled down to a paragraph? Would you still do it?

The First Book of Kings discusses the life and conquests of Israel’s most influential kings including Solomon, who is known for being “richer and wiser than any other king” one “the whole world wanted to come and listen to.” I suppose he was sort of like Oprah. Even though he was considered a “great,” when he dies only a small paragraph is devoted to his life. The same goes for the other kings mentioned in this section including those rarely recognized, such as Zimri.

This pattern continues today. The 2010 TIME 100 list of  the people who have most affected our world includes some household names — Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Ben Stiller (he is listed as a “hero”), Oprah, Lady Gaga, Conan O’Brien and Prince — but how long will their fame last? Certainly longer than Louise Brooks and Gustav Mahler, but not by much. If they’re lucky, their lives will collapse to a paragraph in a mass-produced high school history book. But everyone wants a paragraph and many will look to a fantastical afterlife to get it.

Many times people say they don’t want to be famous. They’d rather “influence” others. I believe many do, but influence is often a smokescreen for fame. Influence in its true sense, which I see as an altruistic means to help others, isn’t flashy, not even when it touches fame.

How many of these people could you talk about (intelligently) for more than five minutes?

Zaha Hadid, Elizabeth Warren, Douglas Schwartzentruber and Larry Kwak, Michael Pollan, Atul Gawande, Jaron Lanier, Victor Pinchuk, Lee Kuan Yew, Deborah Gist, Kathleen Merrigan, Steve Jobs, Tim White, Lisa Jackson, Elon Musk, Edna Foa, Jaime Lerner, Paul Volcker, Amy Smith, Matt Berg, Amartya Sen, Michael Sherraden, Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy, Tim Westergren, David Boies and Theodore Olson and Sonia Sotomayor.

These people happen to be the 25 “thinkers” on the 2010 TIME 100 list, which gives them more exposure than most other 21st Century “thinkers.” But they’re still not household names because influence isn’t sexy, fame is.

Perhaps if we let go of fame and focused on influence purely as a means to improve the lives of others, the number of people returning to church as a means to get one last shot at fame, would vastly diminish. If you’re goal really is to influence, there’s no need to cling to eternity. If you’re goal is fame, and you’re not Lady Gaga, hold on tight and don’t miss Sunday mass.

FYI. This video explains how they made the TIME 100 list.

Note: I will be publishing again this Friday, July 30. To keep on track I need to get through the Second Book of Kings this week. Next week I’ll be back on the Monday/Wednesday track.

Stopping Point: Second Book of Kings


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