Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Friday, March 23, 2007

An odd moment

Over at Quiet Paths, there is a post about testimony, about listening, and especially about delivery which has begun a conversation. This post began as part of that conversation, but I found there was more to say.

As I walked into a federal building yesterday, I greeted the guard, who has come to recognize me, with a smile and a wave. We exchanged hellos and good days, but then the odd moment happened. I mentioned that it is a beautiful day, and suddenly, he said "And who created it? You should praise God for it."

Now, I do, and in fact had stopped for a moment to admire the Canada goose surveying the world from a high ledge on the building before entering. In that moment, I felt the deep quiet I associate with the Love of God, a feeling of deep communion, and my heart rejoiced in the spring and the goose and the clouds and even the first drop of rain on my nose. It rejoiced in my health to walk to the building and in every bit of the moment.

But the reminder bothered me, as though my silent communion were not good enough (good enough? for a guard at a federal facility who has no business at all evaluating my relationship to God?*) and I wondered how I would have felt in that moment had I been nontheist. I wondered how I would deal with it were I to frequently face that situation. Luckily, I do not.

* And how could it be "not good enough" when I more frequently encounter that communion in silence? When my most meaningful worship has frequently been either alone or with a very few fellow listeners to the silence? Not good enough for what? It was certainly a moment of rest and healing, after a stressful afternoon. (Occasionally, my work requires that I listen to recordings of emergency calls, and yesterday, I had a particularly difficult one to listen carefully to.)


Blogger Kate said...

That must have been just ... strange. 'You should thank God for it' -- and how does he know you weren't?

I suspect he was simply trying to share the moment with you -- I hope so, anyway. And it could have been better phrased, if so.

It would have bothered me a lot back when I was more agnostic. I think it'd still bother me some now, depending on how he said it...

3/24/2007 1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is amazing to me how blunt an object is such an inference. I hear that type of statement on occasion too. I think it is a standard response which some people give to 'everyone else' regardless of whether or not they speak that language or not. It’s another blind spot, isn’t it? It takes energy and sensitivity to consider what the other person’s perspective “might’ be and honestly I don’t think a lot of folks care what other people feel and think. I love the fact that you were communing with the Canadian goose above when that all happened!

3/26/2007 4:22 PM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

I think part of what bothered me is simply that he is, at some level, an agent of the federal government, with the ability to deny me access to a building that I need entry to, and it felt a little like a religious test to get into a public building.

And it was also a bit of an intrusion. I had been having a lovely, silent moment of appreciation, and was ready for some quiet friendliness, but was not prepared for loudness. It was like sitting quietly with the goose and suddenly having a televangelist pop into my face and start yelling about God.

3/26/2007 6:17 PM  
Blogger Little Black Car said...

This nontheist would have sighed inwardly in exasperation and then reminded herself that we're seeing and feeling the same thing, even if we bestow the credit somewhat differently.

I'm trying. Yes, I would have considered it an intrusion, but a minor one, and not worth spoiling it by throwing it back.

3/27/2007 9:38 AM  

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