On Saturday afternoon my wife Jina and I tiptoed between the snowflakes to our favorite cafe up the hill, where two friends of ours were battling colds. Jina said she never gets sick because she has “Jesus insurance,” a term I coined in an ironic moment that she decided to adopt as her motto. I was reminded of the phrase “Job’s comforter,” which means a friend who makes you feel worse when you’re already feeling bad. Another item that popped to mind was a bumper sticker I’d seen back in the “United” States: God, Please Protect Me from Your Followers.
I suggested a number of home remedies to our friends, including gargling with dissolved aspirin tablets to assuage a sore throat, drinking ginger tea, guzzling honey-lemon tea, eating kimchi chigae (stew), etc. I also promised that Jina and I would chant for them a la Nichiren Buddhism or Sokka Gakkai: “Nam yo ho renge kyo,” or else impersonate George Harrison: “Hare krishna, hare krishna, hare rama, hare hare.” Or if they wanted to get fancy, we could just save time and recite the Hindi word for “abracadabra”: “Beggi beggEE, enJINjilla!”
Jina and I extended our best wishes for a speedy recovery, then took the bus to a nearby marketplace to shop for teaching supplies. I abominate shopping, except at bookstores, partly because it always involves waiting for Jina to decide among her various possible selections, asking me for input, when I just want to get the hell out of there. I deem it a major waste of time and would rather do just about anything else–get loaded, get laid, read a book, juggle apples–than go shopping.
Not that it isn’t a necessary evil we all have to endure regularly, just like household chores such as laundry, washing dishes, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathroom.
Of course, Jina loves shopping, or seems to anyway, unless she’s just such a perfectionist that it takes her a million minutes to decide on anything. She’s better these days, as she makes greater use of the supermarket’s home delivery service so we don’t have to shlep back and forth to the joint once a week anymore.
But I digress: I hadn’t planned on writing about our shopping expedition in the first place, which was largely uneventful, but instead record the stuff I jotted down while stewing in church yesterday. On our way there, we ran into a friend of ours who lets us use one of the classrooms in her academy. I asked her: “Why aren’t you walking towards the house of the Lord?” Pointing in the direction she was headed, I added: “That way evil lies!”
That made her laugh, as I knew it would (which meant Jina had to too, just to be polite, and to conform, of course); she has a good sense of humor. (Have you ever noticed how “a person with a good sense of humor” means someone who gets and laughs at your jokes?) Even though she’s also a deacon. Surprisingly, Jina didn’t reprimand me about the comment afterwards (maybe she’ll incorporate it into her repertoire), although she did disapprove of my shenanigans at the coffee shop; I’m not sure she heard me mention to our suffering friends that Jina could do her part by rabidly speaking in tongues.
We entered the big box of bullshit and sat down in the back row, as we invariably do. Many members of the congregation have wholesome yet somehow unearthly complexions, like Asian versions of an embalmed Pat Boone lying in his coffin. Maybe they’ve had plastic surgery. Perhaps Jesus himself has lifted their faces. After all, he’s the ultimate face-lifter, even though my face is never longer than when I’m stuck in church.
You know what would have sucked? If Jesus had had a cold while getting crucified. Imagine bumping your head against the cross in the recoil from a sneeze.
“Would somebody please bring me a Kleenex?”
That would have required an elaborate maneuver. The donor would have had to fasten the tissue to a pole–don’t ask how. Maybe he could have poked a hole through it, then proffered it to the savior. Without the use of his hands or the compassionate manual assistance of one of his disciples, Jesus would have had to snort into the flimsy, flaccid, flapping piece of paper while the donor jiggled the pole to wipe the trapezoid of flesh between the savior’s nose and his mouth. Depending on how bad the cold was, he might have to repeat the procedure until the exhausting nature of his labors made it feel as if he himself were being crucified.
“Hey, compassion has its limits, buddy!”
One thing I’ve noticed about church is how none of the members of the congregation seem to possess any vices. I can’t imagine how painful, pointless, and boring a life utterly devoid of sin would be. On the opposite side of the spiritual spectrum you’ve got Korean Buddhist monks, who are celibate. I’m not sure they’re even allowed to jerk off. Is that even healthy?
It’s funny how so many people who go out of their way to spend their lives on the avoidance and suppression of “sin” take on such a grotesque, unnatural appearance. It’s like the figures in the stained glass windows of the church, who have right angles indicating where their straight noses are (along with one eye each–imagine a clock face poised at nine or three on the dot, then turned upside down), but otherwise no features to speak of, including eyes or mouths (couldn’t tell you about the ears, considering they all have long hair and beards–bunch of hippy freaks! Just kidding), which would explain why they’re having such a hard time deciphering what the savior is saying, since he’s forced to mumble by the deficit of an oral orifice; the problem is doubled if none of them has ears.
But what’s so bad about “sin”? (I’m not talking about rape and murder here, folks, so much as the everyday peccadillos most of us need to indulge in order to get through the night and the day.) It’s the main thing that makes us human! It’s our singular distinguishing feature. Without it, we lose our precious creatureliness. No longer familiarly simian, we instead begin to resemble mannequins. Our bodies grow stiff, like theirs. Like them, we may be well-dressed, clean-cut, clean-shaven, free of blemishes or stray hairs, but we lose our charm, charisma, even humanity.
By denying the darkness, we extinguish the light.
On our way back home we stopped by the cafe again, where our friends had reassembled. They looked and sounded fine. It turned out they’d gotten over their colds–without even having to resort to my home remedies. I hadn’t bothered to chant for them; that was just a joke.
I guess Jina must have prayed her ass off.
Praise the Lord! Woo-hoo!