Friday, October 20, 2006

The Sunday Scribblings' prompt is "good", and I want to get listed near the top, hopefully boosting readership a bit, now would be a good time to talk about it. What it is that I think "good" is.

When I was young, I thought "good" was easy. I would apologize to God every time I experimented with a swear word, and lay in bed at night, saying "excuse me" repeatedly, hoping to neutralize any tiny burp I may have missed in the years before I learned how to speak. I had, at a suspiciously early age, bisexual feelings and kinky, mastubatory fantasies, and I guarded these things as my most frightening secrets, wraught with a kind of shame that only a little catholic girl can know. My Sunday School teacher told me that "good" was confessing to a man in a booth: I remember the way she explained it, the visual I had in mind that your soul was like a an outline of you drawn on paper, and each sin was a black dot somewhere on your pastel person, slowly but surely clogging out your big-eyed "Precious Moments"-esque purity. I remember being in that terrifying booth, looking at the obfuscated face of the man behind the screen, trying, for the first time, to verbalize the awkward words for my shameful deeds, thinking that he must never have heard anything so terrible in his life. I remember crying, being unable to finish-- I was maybe seven, and they were asking me to talk to a complete stranger about secretly masturbating? All for my own good, they told us. Confession, my teacher told us, would wipe away all those dots, all at once, if you admitted to them, so you had to make sure you went often enough so that you didn't turn completely black.

Call me Whoopi Goldberg, baby, 'cause I ain't never been back.

Eventually, my big, tear-shaped eyes, which welled and weeped every time I thought to that horrifying moment alone in that box and my soul-bound obligation to return, changed shape. They grew smaller and slanted, like I was scrunitizing everything that I could see, and the more corruption I discovered, the more I found it's footsteps traced back to that box, but it wasn't until I was about twelve when I found relief from my guilt in the form of an Alanis Morrisette song. "Forgiven" talked about growing up Catholic, the skepticism and jadedness it can breed. "I confessed my darkest deeds to an envious man// My brothers they never went blind for what they did// But I may as well have." I never understood that second line until now; had I understood the reference, it would have brought me even more comfort than it did. Still, I saw her words as my permission to be defiant-- she spoke of people clinging to religion out of blind belief, and it opened my eyes. It was sometime in the hours I would lay awake in bed, no longer saying "excuse me" but listening to "Jagged Little Pill" over and over again that I found the courage to cultivate my doubt into declared atheism.

My parents tried to scare me back into spirituality with the whole "Christmas" angle. It took me about a month to come up with my retort-- that I was happy to participate as a celebration of humankind. They saw this as a cop-out, but, in the end, didn't have the follow-through to disclude me in the ritual, or else they knew I'd have sent them the bill for my resulting therapy.

And now, now I still don't believe in God. I keep my mind open to the possibility of spiritual realities, but I think there's about as much chance of the universe being ruled by a single, monotheistic man as there is of it being ruled by one of the burps I didn't cancel out. Intellectually, I feel I've made progress, but the question remains: is my moral compass pointing me any closer to the all-powerful "good"? The shame has passed; I blog about vibrators and hope any priests who happen to read enjoy it. I've married, but remain open, with my husband's blessings, to the possibility of the bisexual experiences that I once hoped to grow out of wanting. But I also stick any change I find on the floor of McDonald's in my pocket, rather than the padlocked RMH collection banks in front of the registers, which is, essentially, stealing nickels from terminally ill children. I don't find anyone that I don't love worthy of the simple respect of honesty, and will lie furiously to avoid blame or perceived judgement. And, as if by habit, I say hurtful things to the people I do love, without really meaning too. Nowadays, when I do pass on something that could be to my benefit based on a moral objection, I find I am genuinely shocked by the turn of events.

So, what is good? And is this sick, dirty feeling that overcomes me when I'm finished with my Magic Wand or the tense embarrassment I feel when friends speak loudly in public about same-sex encounters just the leftovers from an upbringing of fear and repression? Or is it my moral compass trying to point my way home?

Just in case: Excuse me.

On with it.

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