Connecting Through Grace

 

I used to go to church. It was this little theater in Hollywood. Eclectic, creative, progressive people. Pastor Barry was a sweet, gentleman from England who looked like Johnny Rotten’s mild-mannered brother. He found Jesus on the ACDC Highway to Hell tour. The man was wonderful and different from my fundamentalist upbringing. He once did a full church service with the John the Baptist scene from “Last Temptation of Christ” playing behind him. If you don’t recall the scene or never saw the movie, let’s just say it is distracting. It’s like Woodstock with more of the brown acid getting in. And there it is on an 8’ tall screen while Barry, with his soft British accent, discusses who knows what. It was overload. I don’t remember.

On that note, I have a vague but powerful recollection of him trying to talk about grace with us. To him, this was the most profound, most amazing concept of the religion. We are unconditionally loved. But he had a new take on it that day…which was his thing. He went on a thinking bender every week and would run in on Sunday and basically ramble for 15 minutes and at the end go, “eh, I don’t know. What do you guys think? Let’s play a song.”

So this day, he’s talking about grace and we weren’t feeling what he was dropping. We were a congregation of tilted heads. And the frustration of catching our blank stares led him down this rabbit hole of analogies. I was obsessing, at the time, on a spat I had had that morning with the boyfriend who was sitting beside me in the theater seat, nodding like a mute mutt. He didn’t get it either. And Barry is frustrated. He’s changing his mind in the middle. And then changing it back.

I hear Barry apologize for waffling which reminds me he’s British and says weird words and that I’m hungry. Stupid boyfriend is nodding now to the new thought. What? He just changed his mind? You can’t keep nodding! And we had skipped breakfast because of this fight. I was hungry and no coffee fix. How does anyone have any enlightenment without a cup of coffee? Why am I here???

So I’m having happy church thoughts.

I tuned back in just in time to realize Barry is now deeply immersed in discussing glue. There’s crazy glue and that’s great. But when you’re putting porous material together like Popsicle sticks, craft glue is imperative. You want something runny to get into the empty spaces of your quite porous popsicle sticks. You gotta know your glue. You gotta know what you’re gluing.

I want coffee. I don’t care about glue. What are we all doing here? It’s Sunday morning and I’m hungry and my head hurts and this waffling Brit is talking about macaroni and paper plates.

And of course, after we all are thinking so hard on this he says, “eh, I don’t know. What do you guys think? Let’s play a song.”

I have often in my life thought about this not at all remembered sermon. I had written a play a year or so after this sermon, and the director was trying to help the actress understand some of her lines. So he asked me to do improvisational work with her. In it, the actress -in character- asked me -improvising as her mentor- to tell her how to forgive. And I said “Grace.” And she said she didn’t know what that was. I didn’t either, but I was improvisationally playing a smart person so I just said words until…

“It’s the space between two people. It’s emotional glue oozing into all our empty spaces to help us connect with other people and their empty spaces.”

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Afterward, the director said that was really profound. I was, like, “Yeah, I don’t know. I’m just channeling a sermon I didn’t understand.”

Even as an atheist, I think about that analogy very often. I can see that humans are glued together by something. We keep trying to coexist. We are social creatures. We create communities. It’s how we survive. Beyond that. It’s how we thrive.

Ever see “Mindwalk?” The physicist is talking to the politician whom she and the poet totally don’t like. And she’s pretty much saying how we are atomically connected. She says, “On the subatomic level…ultimately, whether we like it or not, we are all part of one inseparable web of relationships.” Whether we like it or not. Sometimes it’s such a beautiful thought. But sometimes –sometimes- we don’t like that at all. I don’t want to be glued to a lot of people. I can think of a few twitter handles off the top of my head I would like to think are not glued to me.

This last week, I have been saddened by our lack of conscious connection with each other. For all the science and social thought showing how connected we are, it feels like we are so separate. And some of us are afraid and extracting ourselves because of this. We’re afraid to have kids because we don’t want to add to the pool. The pool is scary. The tragedies we are seeing here in our country and across this globe are mere triggers for the exceptionally terrifying implication that we no longer rally together in times of need.

*****

As I was writing this and about to just say, “Eh, I don’t know. What do you think? Let’s play a song,” I saw a post on my Facebook wall. It was for a child, Baylor, who needs a bone marrow transplant. Someone put it on my wall specifically because he is half Japanese and I’m half Japanese. That’s why it was on my wall. There’s a chance I’m a match. I emailed the link on the post and then I went to the Baylor’s Facebook wall. Hundreds, maybe thousands, were posting on that wall. People who could be a match doing everything they could to make sure their swab got to the organization doing the drives. People willing to fly to the child. People rallying together in times of need.

That is it. It’s glue. Get to know my glue. Get to know what I’m gluing. So I can let it fill my empty spaces and help me connect to someone else’s empty spaces.

*****

 

“Eh, I don’t know. What do you guys think? Let’s play a song.”

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