i went to new year’s mass

The world is so painfully human, today and everyday.

In Vienna, in Stephansdom with spidering lanes extending all around, rising spirals and imposing walls, a grand organ sounds. Young, old, tired, fresh, swathed in mink and in polyester, breathing incense, sitting, rising, crossing themselves in cold quiet peace.

The man in white talks of Aleppo, of Syria whole, Paris, Brussels, Berlin in soothing tones while cities and people all over the world burn.

Shuffling in unison, everyone follows the known patterns. Sit, stand, kneel, cross, repeat. Pay. Turn and kiss your lover. Turn and shake hands with your neighbor, given them a kind smile. Wish ‘Gott’s bright and dark and historically tinged love upon them in the new year. Take in the sweeping symmetry, the colored glass and excruciating detail of the cathedral completed by human fingers 857 years ago. Let the grand swell of the organ that sings with seemingly a hundred voices fill your chest with hope and joy.

In the back of the hall, a small-statured family of squirming and joyous heads tries to love and revere and quiet their brood all at once. The smallest pink curly one toddles out of her father’s grasp and locks eyes with an elder man. He sits in slicked leather stretching down his curved back. She grins, showing tic tac teeth and reaches for him. He reaches back. Old and new, young and tired, past and future join hands in anonymous love.

The world burns. We are small, but we send smoke and fumes into the ether. Our religions and beliefs are as human as our size, relative to the sun, to the the solar system, the galaxy, the universe. We are small. We writhe in them, look right with suspicion, look left with blind care, spill each others’ blood, jostle one another, step on toes and arms and heads and backs to rise up the stairs to the world’s top floor, overlooking a view so small, so far away from the black and white contrast of life that it is calm. Unmoving. Beautiful. The world burns. Dancers fall in Istanbul, killed by men in Santa hats.

I sit in my quiet, warm shelter, drinking hot tea, eyes glazing over pixelated pictures of pain on my conflict mineralized processor.

Again, somewhere, a little girl and an old man join hands. Their power of warmth sends a glow to all who watch. And we step, her, him, I, you, into the new year.

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