The zine I publish (in paper) called “Already Too Much; Never Enough” is usually about being a fat dyke. That used to be scary, to call myself that, to name it and own it and write about it. Lately, it’s not scary. What is scary is this thing I’m doing called seminary. Since facing your fears in a public way is the only avenue I have to recovery, I’ve been working on a third issue dealing with spirituality. The tricky thing? It’s also about alcoholism and addiction. This is a piece from the forthcoming “Already Too Much; Never Enough #3” If you dig paper zines, please contact me and I’ll send you my narcissistic self aggrandizement.
PS- Sorry to 1) not have posted in so long; 2) post shit I’m writing for other things.
When I think about religion, I think about my father.
Not, “my father in heaven” not my everlasting father, not God the Father (see: son and the holy spirit.)
I think about my Dad.
When I think about religion, sometimes, this thing happens to me where my body feels like it’s expanding from the inside out. Like a huge bubble is being blown up inside my chest and my head, shoving everything else out. It’s the feeling that makes my face start to water; not heaving sobs like crying, but like the saline is being pushed out of any available crack in my walls. It’s both totally uncomfortable and also kind of neat. I don’t think it’s the holy spirit or the presence of God. I think it’s a sort of incapacitating mystery, a huge desire to know and understand the answers to questions I have that I don’t want to have and sometimes didn’t even know I had.
When I think about my Dad, I feel the same kind of internal pressure. Like everything inside of me is welling up and expanding and pushing on the walls of myself. I don’t know why I have this feeling in connection to my father, I just know that I do. Maybe it’s the same need for answers, the same huge mystery. And then again, maybe it is just a hugeness of emotion for him and about him that I have never had reason to express, never had a forum to let loose.
So I want to tell you about my father, because somehow there is some link between him and religion, spirituality, how I understand God.
It was a minister who first said to me, “you are the spitting image of your father.” It rocked me when she said it. So long I’d been told I was a perfect replica of my mother, an idea which both comforted and suffocated me. The idea that I might in some way resemble my father, even if only physically, startled and scared me. And it felt amazing. And it felt like a doomed prophesy.
My memories of my father are few and far between. They are surprisingly more poignant than the memories of my mother. They are like stories I heard second hand and can’t get out of my head. They are rimmed in tragedy and endowed with incredible mystery. Always he was a strange being who I didn’t understand and who didn’t understand me. We were foreigners, and therefore our interactions were weighted and fascinating. I loved him desparately but didn’t know how to say so; we did not speak the same language.
And while there were moments when the only way I felt I could survive was to have him gone, fucking gone, from my life, there were also moments when his absence would have meant my annihilation. Our connection was and is tenuous, and crucial.
Everyone I’ve ever loved has been my father; I have learned though those love affairs how to talk to echoes of him inside of them. In many ways I have been successful; in others I have failed entirely. I imagine he will keep showing up in everyone I ever love. I am drawn to the brokenness which he exemplifies. I would like to learn how to stop trying to mend this brokenness and instead see the ways in which in truly makes us whole. I would like to learn to tell them and him how deeply I care; I would like to learn how to listen to them say the same.
I don’t know what it means that I remember my father like this; I don’t know what these memories say about how I see and know God. Its all tangled up though, I’m sure. Caught in the cross fire of damaged love and heartache.
And maybe the connection is just that- damaged love and heartache and the sometimes redemption we find in the midst of it. There is no rational reason left to trust that my father loves me. Not because he is a bad person, or because he never tried to tell me, or because he fucked up so irreparably. And not because I stopped trying to understand him, or because I stopped loving him so fiercely. Its not rational because I have no tangible proof, because sometimes when I talk about him I am talking about a stranger with whom I have shared uncountable strange intimacies. Like God, I can’t put my finger on who or what he is, why I feel so entirely bound up in and with him. I feel something palpably, but I have no evidence for it. He is the great mystery with whom I am deeply connected.
Agape is a greek word usually taken to mean the love of God for God’s people. The supreme and ultimate love. What is forgotten, mistranslated, ignored, is that agape is an irrational love, a dangerous love, a love that borders on uncomfortable. A love that has been damaged – that is prepared for damage, that anticipates it. A love that is defiant and crushing and lonely and terrifying. It is a love that suffocates and shoves everything – everything – out of the way, and somehow in the process of doing so, it creates space for the most special and sacred of things. How could something as massive and incomprehensible as God love in any other way? How could we, so broken and busted, feel the love of something so massive as God in any other way?
The love I have for my father is agapic, it’s epic. My love for him is untranslatable and foreign, but in many ways it exists more clearly for me than any other love I have ever felt. In the mess of loving and living with him, I have found the remarkable and the unexpected. When everything else gets pushed aside, I can finally feel the deepest parts of myself, the parts that have been aching to be felt.
And probably, he’ll never know this. Probably I’ll never really know it either. I keep thinking that with enough process conversations, meetings, chances to unpack it all – I’ll finally get it. Just as I think that with enough classes on theology, enough church services, enough conversations – I’ll finally figure God out.
And that’s the trick of it, what keeps it going, keeps it moving, keeps it pushing me forward. I keep thinking that that thing, that thing that happens, will shove it all out until it’s empty.
It’s never empty.