This evening I came across a tweet from somebody who goes by the handle Armchair Philosopher, which reads, "I'm agnostic, but I started going back to church. What am I thinking?!" His sentiment immediately called to mind one of my all-time favourite This American Life segments – a Dan Savage essay that wrecks me every time I listen to it.
A lapsed Catholic, Savage discusses his atheism and the way in which his mother's passing tempted him to return to the church St. Ignatius in which he grew up. The comfort of the church-going ritual, the way the memory of that institution bonded him to his mother. He bristles at how the Catholic church regards sexuality in general, and his homosexuality in particular. He wonders aloud how you enter into the grieving process when Christian doctrine so eagerly assures you that your mother's not really dead, just relocated.
The audio version of Savage's reading has always been a treat, so intimate in my earbuds. As if spoken into a hand cupping my ear only. But tonight, after that random tweet sent me searching, I found a video clip of it from a staged broadcast of This American Life that was beamed out to cinemas. Seeing the author's composure crack as he reads the page in front of him. Even more powerful. Rituals bring comfort. Going back to enjoy this essay again, that's a ritual too I suppose.
Savage in front of that crowd. He could be a preacher, or a poet. And a poet.
The preacher tells us we're going to die, the poet reminds us we're not dead yet. You'll find both sentiments here.