Alone in a Pew

mongeham

If you are going to church, go alone and go when it is empty.

And preferably locked, so that you have to knock on some ancient’s door to borrow the huge old keys to the locks.  Make sure it’s old – quietly ringing with a thousand years’ of contemplation and quiet voices.  And it should have books – musty, sacred, old  books containing arcane prayers in a language you barely understand. And best if it is remote and utterly still and quiet except for a few rooks in the churchyard.

Then you sit and you listen. Perhaps you look at some ancient prayers, not as an act of obeisance to some deity you were taught about in childhood, but to plumb the very depth of the human condition. To put you in touch with who you are and who we all are. Our common concerns and joys, our hopes and our fears.

And yes, perhaps to access some sense of the “divine”, however you may interpret that word, that feeling. The intuition that something is out there, even if that something is a mere echo of the human spirit itself.  That is divine enough – consciousness is itself miraculous. The arising of feelings and mind from mere matter. Out of carbon and oxygen and hydrogen arose some spirit, some entity which could contemplate the universe and the very matter from which it arose. Special enough to produce a sense of the numinous.

“Stand in awe…… : commune with your own heart, and in your chamber, and be still.”

How apt, these ancient words and how beautiful. And how many such phrases can you find, combing through those musty old books. Reject what you will, take what you will. You drift, in and out of consciousness, in that quiet place. You pick a few words here and there and think about them. You  close your eyes, you drift into a mild trance.

Somehow all seems right at such times. The watery sun peers through the stained glass and casts its glow on brass and wood and hewed stone. Yes, all seems right with the world. All will be well and all manner of things will be well.

It isn’t a religious thing.  You are not looking for benediction or grace, for help or the defeat of your enemies.  You do not seek to be saved, you are not looking for reward or an after life.  You are looking for this life, here and now.  You are seeking your own essence, your own meaning and purpose.

And sometimes you think you have found it. Sometimes, during that half hour of quiet contemplation, on that dusty old pew in the middle of nowhere, you have grasped at some truth, you have found some measure of true peace, equanimity.  Presumably thousands have found likewise over hundreds of years in that place of peace and sanctity.

You aren’t looking for thanks, or wealth or health. You aren’t seeking advancement or gain or praise.

You seek yourself. You seek truth, meaning, solace.

And alone in a pew I usually find those things.

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