Hermits Rock

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After an hour, I had only managed to copy half of the church bulletins. My head throbbed from frustration with this photocopier whose symptoms, despite two years of weekly use, I have yet to be capable of diagnosing well. (If I were a capable diagnostician, I wouldn’t have the means to purchase the parts it needs when it needs them. “Provide a receipt for reimbursement,” goes one of my church’s unwritten mottos.) I had pulled the copier’s drum head two dozen times, ingraining black dust in the carpet of the resource room, smearing it on my clothes and my hands as if I had been fondling charcoal. The copies couldn’t be finished here, and I only had 30 minutes to drive across town to the only open copy store, fold the lot, and drive back. I was petulant. I wanted to kick doors.

My mood had not changed by the time I returned. I stood in the front door and stared into the sanctuary: its white walls, cork tile floors, brown carpet and curtains, chrome communion trays, absent all decoration—save two plastic figs which supply room its only color (I wager Jesus alone could make them wilt)—but that decoration deemed functional. Even Solomon’s temple was decorated with fruit. I hated the idea of gladhanding, of chatting up the weather, of avoiding talk about my employment—or unemployment, as the case may be. I disliked the thought of singing, “As the Deer,” which, in spite of the masterful psalm (#42) from which its initial conceit comes, cloys with pent-up lust and unqualified, sentimental longing. At least the psalm allows that God at times seems distant, either veiled or unwilling to comfort the speaker, who nevertheless vows to stand by God anyway; the song, meanwhile, leaves its singers in perpetual desire, as if that desire alone, without will or exclamation, were enough. More to the point, I disdained the notion of meeting God in this present mood, in this primitive space. Instead, I wanted to walk, alone, in the still bitter morning, to hear the cardinals explain how, despite the desolate way the world now looks, spring is near. I wanted likewise to crawl into bed, to sulk, to bury my glorious headache in a mattress. I wanted more to be in a place where God, at least, would be formal, even if I was far from it. Standing in the foyer, looking at the sanctuary such as it is, rather than entertain a brewing dilemma, and in spite of the fact I had already greeted several people that morning, I decided to leave, and did.