The Perils of Pluralism
Where to Go on Sunday Morning?
I wake up on Sunday morning knowing fully well that it's my duty to worship Source and celebrate the Sabbath.
This is not just residual piety carried over from Catholicism. In fact, though as a child I attended Catholic schools, my parents never took me to Mass on Sunday.
Still, knowing who I am and what my challenges are as a being, it is very important for me to break my isolation on a Sunday morning and commune with other spiritually-minded folk. I'd rather go and read and write at the coffee shop before it fills with students, when I can still get a seat. But I need to practice delayed gratification and do something soul-enriching.
Now the only question is—where to attend?
At the Milarepa Center, I can practice Om Ah Hung and/or Vajra Tara practice, generating merit for the benefit of all beings.
Or I can go to the United Church of Christ, sing together with the large group of people, becoming one in the mystical body of the Church. The Wesleyan Church offers a similar experience. I like the Liberal places because they still keep the essence of the Liturgy, but (while there's plenty of singing) it's also conversational, linguistically. More “Modern,” they strive to put the message of the scripture into contemporary parlance that we can apply to our daily lives. But with few-to-no physical ritual practices, I don't *feel* like I'm entering a Sacred space (“sacra" to set apart, to dedicate in order to make holy) set aside for worship.
I can go to the Catholic church just down the lane (in fact, there are two within walking distance), which is a Christianity closer to Buddhism in its ritual practice. Or I could go to the Orthodox Church which is more Buddhist-like yet. (An almost entirely sung liturgy, rich with physical kisses of hands, cups, and icons, prostrations, and delicious incense to smoke out the demons). I like these services (especially the Orthodox) because they engage and transform the body. The mind is embodied, after all. Or, at least, it begins with the body.
Of course, I haven't even talked about the possibility of finding a yoga group. Do Wiccans or neo-Pagans do anything on Sunday morning? Then there are secular rituals like brunch, which also include sharing and gathering. Or we could always go back and read Wallace Stevens at that coffee shop.
I'll go to the Milarepa Center, most likely because I haven't got a stitch to wear. There seems less shame in being underdressed when practicing a religion not one's own. Then again, I could underdress and go to one of the Christian churches as a challenge to myself to develop emotional resilience in social environments. (My therapist says it's important for me to go into social settings and be myself as much as I can, allowing myself to feel the discomfort. He says, in particular, I should do it in safe spaces like support groups or churches, which are kind of like psycho-emotional training wheels).
But my own unique psychological absurdities aside, there lies the particular challenge of a pluralism like my own: to whom do I belong? It's fine to be eclectic at the propositional level. The very reason so many people have left religion is that they can't “believe" the “claims.”
I don't have that problem. I translate each into the other and then back into Science, into the Motherly (“matter,” “Mater," “Mother," source) and back again, ad infinitum (or at least until entropy kicks in).
And it would be so nice to have coffee with the Congregationalists after our communal worship. I think I might go there — apparel be damned. What better way to learn to be a part of the family. That said, I will try to look halfway decent. In the meanwhile, I've made coffee here, and written this for you. If I wind up being too late to go to Mass after all, at least you and I will have shared this sacred moment.