Laughter is the best medicine

Our hopes, our future,/will pass like the hopes and futures of others./And all our anxieties and terrors,/Nights of sleeplessness,/griefs,/will appear as they truly are –/Stumbling, delirious bees in the tea scent of jasmine.

Jasmine, by Jane Hirschfield

Needless to say, my "stumbling, delirious" journey of enlightenment through the wideness of God’s mercy came to a screeching, closed-door halt last Sunday, when I tried to attend the 10:30 mass at St. Augustin’s in the Fifth Ward, my old stomping ground, still chock-a-block full of depraved, youthful-idiocy memories. “All Services Cancelled Until Further Notice” the sign said. Oh, well – I knew my path to reconciliation and redemption wasn’t going to be linear, ungirdled by guilt, self-doubt, irony, regress, or smallness – not a bit of it – my own trepanning for spiritual gold was guaranteed to be invasive and bloody.

But now, miraculously, my sacrilegious self has been granted a force majeure-of-sorts reprieve – a cosmic blink first in the staring contest I was having with the holy and the righteous. We’ll begin the begin again, when all of the political virtue signaling, name-calling, finger-pointing and CYA smoke clears, and I’ll walk once again into the house(s) of God through the front door, so-to-speak. Until then my monographs will become once more what they always were: the rambling and obvious self-indulgent stew you’ve come to know (and love).

I did, however, get to attend services at two other churches these past few weeks before the pointless in my opinion shutterings that I’ll mention now just to tie up some loose ends. First, I went to high mass at Zabriskie Memorial Church of Saint John the Evangelist out on The Point, with a spectacular view of the harbor and the Newport-Pell Bridge, and did exactly what they suggested: “A note for visitors: Feel free simply to sit and soak up the experience of worship. You don’t need a booklet to enter into the presence of God, after all.” So booklet-less, I just sat and soaked up the sights and sounds and incense of the Missa de Angelis, the Gregorian (Chant) Mass that dates from the 9th Century – plainsong, in unison, a cappella. The text (in the missal) actually dictates phrasing and determines when the choir should take a breath. Wonderful.

Then I went to Channing Memorial Church on Pelham Street, facing Touro Park, not it turns out on judgement day, but on a sunrise yellow Sunday morning, Dickinsonian, excellent and fair. Unitarian Universalist contemporary classical composer, educator and public speaker John Dante Prevedini gave a lecture on “Modern Grace” that defined it as: “The Infectious Constructive Embrace of the Present Situation” which is probably as good as any I’ve ever heard, and the lecture was informative, historical and relevant. But I thought he misunderstood the intent and genius of Lex Talionis, and we chatted about it in the narnex after the service. He viewed it as somewhat barbaric and unchristian and reminded me that Jesus famously exhorted his followers to turn the other cheek.

I said that the Hammurabi’s Code of equal retribution was a huge leap forward in man’s march to civilization in my mind – instead of revenge and vigilante justice, the principle of an eye for an eye, though seemingly cruel and absolute, actual confirmed the integrity of each individual, which is the core principle of our modern legal system here in America at least. But not all societies believe in it in theory or in practice, even to this day, – and it’s a shameful disgrace that such barbarity still exists, without the rest of the world howling its disapporval. John said he would look back into it, and I told him I would too, for Christ’s sake.  

Speaking of the infectious (no pun intended) constructive embrace of the present situation, I was talking to my buddy JP the other day, and when he asked me my take on the Corona Virus, I told him the only pandemic I saw was on the internet. He laughed, and then dove into his own passionate diatribe about it. The next day he sent me the following email with his thoughts written down, after some research and reflection. I think they’re worth sharing, unedited, and in their entirety.

Sidebar note: As far as my own "social distance" situation is concerned: I've got no friends, and being "self-employed" I have nowhere to go, so I've been in a self-imposed quarantine for years – no need to worry about me catching anything, but thanks for asking!

JP's take:

"Fear is driving decision making.  A lack of understanding of 'small data' is causing many people to leverage their position to advocate for a response that is beyond the scope of what is necessary.  Sadly, the championed 'solution' is immediately more harmful than the threat.

I can’t help myself from thinking of a scene from the ‘Holy Grail:

LANCELOT:  We were in the nick of time, you were in great peril.

GALAHAD:  I don't think I was.

LANCELOT:  Yes you were, you were in terrible peril.

GALAHAD:  Look, let me go back in there and face the peril.

LANCELOT:  No, it's too perilous.

GALAHAD:  Look, I'm a knight, I'm supposed to get as much peril as I can.

LANCELOT:  No, we've got to find the Holy Grail.  Come on!

GALAHAD:  Well, let me have just a little bit of peril?

LANCELOT:  No, it's unhealthy."


Couldn't agree more, JP: the sky isn't falling and it seems to me more Henny Pennys will be killed by the real economic fallout than any virus or lies. 

I've gotten a lot of email and texts from fans saying that the silver lining for them is that they've been forced to spend "quality time" with a lot of family and relations – people they'd rather keep at arm's length or see in very limited doses. Or never see again.

So, what better way to show your true colors for those in-laws and outlaws we all have to deal with in our lives, than to knock them for a loop, figuratively speaking, in a game of wits? Can't think of one.

Seriously, I believe that the cure for cabin fever can be and should be worse than the disease. So go ahead and replace the stifling frustration and ennui everyone around you must be feeling with the simple joy of contempt/disdain – destroying a loved one's will to live, putting them in their (unhappy) place, crushing their egos and making yourself feel superior and smarter and much better thanks in the bargain. 

March 22, 2020 — Johnny Mustard