Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Friday, April 16, 2010

Back to the River


This will be a return to my hometown, that is fortunately under wonderful circumstances. I will be getting reacquainted with my nephew and meeting his wife and baby boy. These are positive things. Good things that nurture positive feelings. It's a wonderful thing to get to know someone who is related to you, yet has been estranged, due to time and miles. This reunion will be right as rain and long overdue. Johnstown, you have seen me quite a bit these last few years. It still looks, smells and feels of home. This is Good.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dying My Catholic Roots

The other day I mentioned to an acquaintance that I was considering going to Easter mass. This brought upon a look of complete befuddlement, as if to say that no one goes to "mass" anymore. Now, I'm sure that many people have stopped discovering God and found TMZ instead, but what's a little Easter mass? I for one, still question whether or not there is a God, even though I do truly believe in a "higher power." That belief of course, is completely personal and private – at least until my next one man show. I can say however, that my belief in organized religion flew out the window years ago, therefore rendering my acquaintance’s reaction to “mass,” as justifiable. I simply was toying with the idea of returning to my Catholic roots.

Like many Catholics, I had religion force-fed to me since I was a child - I might as well have come out of the womb belting "Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above," but that of course, would have confused my Mother. To this day I continue to confuse many people with this religion thing. Believe me, all it takes is one bitter divorce, exploding with family carnage to make you want to rail against God and the Catholic Church forever. Try putting your hand in that family picnic basket. I quickly fled from the already burning nest, to the new discomforts of a collegiate maze. I was one angry young man and the penny loafers soon gave way to boots and ripped tees, for I had discovered a new life filled with other young men. God, religion and hypocrisy had no place within this new world. I was quickly filling my life with new knowledge; draping my body in black and fueling my soul with dirty things. . .

. . .so that was fun.

Two decades of personal destruction later, the thought of returning to the church was more out of comfort. After all, when isn’t the human spirit prone to those things familiar? This was coming from a new me – a different me who almost bought the Makers Mark farm. I had even surprised many who know me, when I decided to go to mass, this past Christmas. In actuality, it was I who was surprised at Christmas mass to discover women reading from the bible. Shock and awe, indeed. Between the women reading scripture and young children handing out communion, I was finding myself looking for the tag on the missalette for an explanation. Had I stumbled upon a meeting of Heaven’s Gate by mistake? Who the heck was I kidding, these people weren’t aliens, they were liberal “new Catholic.”

This “new Catholic” thing was curious and not at all familiar – or so I thought. When it came time for the priest to give his Christmas sermon, he approached the congregation with thoughts of his favorite Christmas songs. He started into an irreproachable and off-key rendition of “Home for the Holidays," al la Perry Como, then turned quickly for an aside to the crowd as he cracked, “eat your heart out, David Archuleta.” Yes, this “new Catholic” priest, trying to look “hip” and “in touch” just had to mention America's favorite under-age, hot man-boy-idol as his reference point. I mean, couldn't he have mentioned Lady Gaga instead? At least in my mind, it would have really brought out some real "kick" in the old guy. Instead what are we left with? An image of David Archuleta, wrapped in swaddling cloths. That of course, is fine by me.

So I didn't go to Easter mass this year and I haven't returned to the Catholic Church, but chose instead to write about and share my experiences regarding my higher power. That higher power is one of the many points of my latest work, entitled “Godless.” My latest task is to stifle my inner editor by talking about some of these simple adjunct profundities, without giving birth to a piece that is solely about God and religion. Who the hell would want to sit through that? Within that processes however, I’ve found it unavoidable and must acknowledge, that people, in the absence of religion, are far more entertaining and human. That puts many of us all smack-dab in the middle of this life muck together. Perhaps people would enjoy experiencing that instead.