Saturday, December 25, 2004

Xmas notes

(with 'X' in 'Xmas' standing for the first letter of 'Christ' -- this blog is verily a source of information.)

Speaking of information, and its abundance: I last week had a discussion with my friend B, who also lives in Canada, about the curse of knowing about things and not things themselves. For instance, we know about Homer, James Joyce, Derek Walcott (and what links these three people), but how many of us have read something by them. Beethoven's deafness is commonplace, but how many have actually listened to the stuff he composed during it. And so on.

I have had this in the back of my mind (a very crowded and shadowy place, scary and largely pornographic in character), when I was watching the Little Women adaptation on TV last night, over Xmas Eve dinner. I have never read the book, I don't even know the author's name, not only because it was 'girl stuff', but also because I also belong to the generation who know 'about it' and not 'it'. Now, what really impressed me is that scene where slavery and voting rights are debated, in the context of the 'usefulness' and 'natural kindness' of women, themes that even today (as Jod noticed) are scarily topical because, yes sirs, women are the largest minority on this planet, when they are not assets made of soft non-edible tissue. It then dawned on me that our culture is one where dialogue and conversation are more or less extinct, replaced by successive monologues or debates ("passionate" ones, if possible). It was a somber thought.

And now, for some anti-Outpost snobbery (if you think that is what this is about): I decided to go to church for Xmas, as something out of the ordinary. There are three churches near where we live, a new one and a more historic one, with the Cathedral being only slightly further away. On the 23rd I checked the December schedule on the door of the historic place. "Matin (Lox.: the sing-song service before Mass) starts at 6:45." "Cool", I said, "I can sleep", although I was surprised that the Xmas service would not start much earlier, as is common practice.

I got up at 8:15 this morning and I calculated that the Mass would finish around 9:45, but I had better head for the new church, nearer our place. I reached there at 8:55 and it was locked. "OK, they did the early thing and left", I thought and made my way to the historic church, where I knew the do started at 6:45. Why lock up a church on Xmas Day? No idea, that's what they do in the Outpost. I was once told that it is because you can always ring the verger and ask him or her to come over and open the church for you. So, I reach the historic place at 9:10. Empty. I was puzzled. The verger emerged, tidying up something. We exchanged 'Merry Christmas' wishes and I looked at the December schedule once more. Someone had added '5:00' in ballpoint pen next to "Christmas Day". Aha. They probably announced the right time on Xmas Eve to their congregation, put the time down on the spot and that was it: why make such things public? That's what bells are for, after all.

I realised then that, unlike (other) European churches, the Outpost Apostolic Church is not really into attracting people, nothing like (elsewhere) in Europe, where churches offer hot drinks, freebie pens, cheap rides home, beta courses, notepads, laminated icons, tough debates, leaflets, pamphlets, brochures, eloquent sermons, cakes, pastries, and cheap excursions in order to attract more people. The Outpost Apostolic Church is happy to make money (they own lots of land, a bit of the place where I work, a bit of a TV network, a radio station and several companies -- including, until recently, the largest Outpost brewery; rivaled only by the Communist Party), reactionary political propaganda and publicity stunts. In fact the only bishop I know to have tried to attract (young) people to the Church, for better or worse, was slandered as gay, in a place where 'homosexual practices' where legalised in 1997.

The Cathedral? By the time I went there, around 9:20, they had even locked the courtyard gate.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


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