For years, I've been going to church on the principles of "the Eucharist" and "enjoying singing." That seems to be wearing down. I really enjoy singing, and the piece the choir is singing tomorrow is a really good one, but I'm finding it almost impossible to make myself go. Older son is sick and can't sing so I'll be going by myself.
It's strange for me to be feeling this way tonight because I had a good experience yesterday. I had an errand for family members at another church. The lady in the church office was very friendly and helpful, which surprised me. I've had too many experiences with church office people whose job is to gatekeep. Example:
Could I please talk to the director of religious education?
No. They're not in.
Could I please leave a message?
I stopped bothering to try to get in touch with priests long ago.
As I was about to leave yesterday, a total stranger, who goes to that church, stopped and talked to me for about five minutes! Bizarre (though it really did help with what I was doing).
Part of my reluctance to go is that dear husband has been gone so much that I don't want to be running around tomorrow. Part of it is that I haven't been to church for a month (travel and being sick) and it's highly likely that I won't be there for at least some of the next few weeks. I've gotten out of the habit.
I think the biggest part of it is that there is so much going on in our lives right now that I don't need one more thing to worry about or do. Church hasn't got anything to say to the loneliness or sadness involved either. I generally find that, when large things are going on in our lives, church seems irrelevant. Church seems to work best when life is uneventful and steady.
[Note: I don't mean that churches, or anyone at them, should solve the loneliness or sadness. It just doesn't have anything beyond cliches to say about them for me.]
It also doesn't help that we're in the middle of stewardship season - which involves a lot of guilt about the money you're not giving or the volunteering you're not doing. I can give myself enough guilt about what I'm not doing in all sorts of areas of my life. I don't need someone else to do it too.
Stewardship season used to make me feel further away from God. That's not the case right now because I've felt so far away from God for the last year and a half that there's not a lot further away I can go without becoming agnostic. Nothing in church has helped with that either.
I know. You're thinking that the point of church is what you're giving, not what you're getting. And that's quite true. However, there are lots of ways to give time and money.
If I go tomorrow, I'll have to get out my "church music" to rev myself up. I've listened to Pippin a lot lately, so it'll have to be Pink. I find that her attitude and energy help give me the wallsthe strength what I need to step inside a church when I'm feeling vulnerable [Note: The point of this song is the attitude and energy, not the subject or the words. Remember, first and foremost, I'm an instrumental musician. Words aren't always (or even often) the relevant point of music for me.] :
Of course, I had to go looking for the original version with Joel Grey. He won a Tony for the original Broadway version in 1967 and an Academy Award for the movie version in 1972.* In one of my favorite songs from Cabaret, Willkommen, he's deliciously creepy in the movie version - and he's the creepiest when he's acting the friendliest. Unfortunately, the movie version is not embeddable (Click here to see it. If you haven't seen the movie: Yes, that's Michael York.). Here's the stage version, also, excellent, from the Tony Awards (Harold Prince directed the original Broadway version; Bob Fosse directed the movie. I'm partial to the movie version, of course.):
...Kander's and Ebb's fascination with the collaborative process began with their work on Cabaret, where a long experimental period permitted actors such as Joel Grey to contribute ideas toward the creation of their characters...
* One of only eight actors to win both the Tony and the Oscar for the same role. From TonyAwards.com:
Eight performers have won the Tony and later the Oscar for the same role: José Ferrer in Cyrano de Bergerac (Tony: 1947/Oscar: 1950), Shirley Booth in Come Back, Little Sheba (1950/1953), Yul Brynner in The King and I (1952/1956), Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady (1957/1964), Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker (1960/1962), Paul Scofield in A Man for All Seasons (1962/1966), Jack Albertson in The Subject Was Roses (1965/1968) and Joel Grey in Cabaret (1967/1973). Lila Kedrova did it the other way around. She won an Oscar for Zorba the Greek, and 20 years later won a Tony for the same role in Zorba (1964 Oscar/1984 Tony).
I just bought Dancing in the Dark the other day. Although I haven't had a chance to start, it looks very interesting. From the back cover:
This vibrant portrait of 1930s culture masterfully explores the anxiety and hope, the despair and surprising optimism of distressed Americans during the Great Depression. Morris Dickstein has brought together a staggering range of material - from epic Dust Bowl migrations to zany screwball comedies, from elegant dance musicals and wildly popular swing bands to streamlined Deco designs. Exploding the myth that Depression culture was merely escapist, Dickstein concentrates on the dynamic energy of the arts and the resulting lift they gave to the nation's morale. Dancing in the Dark is a fresh and exhilarating analysis of one of America's most remarkable artistic periods.
One of my favorite courses in graduate school was a Liberal Studies course about the culture of the 1930's. It was taught by an English professor so it did focus on literature, but he brought in many examples of the other arts. He was a very interesting person to talk to (I ended up asking him to be on my final project committee). He had the class over to his house once, and I was fascinated by his record collection which took up an entire bedroom.
Younger son recently read the fourth book of the Harry Potter series so we're watching the first few movies over again from the beginning. Even though I've seen the first movie a number of times, I still do a double take when I see John Hurt play Mr. Ollivander (right) because his performance as Caligula, in I Claudius, thirty-four years ago, is still very fresh in my mind. When watching Harry Potter, I have to remind myself that Mr. Ollivander is a friendly character, not the insane, psychopathic emporer he portrays in I Claudius:
What I love about John Hurt's performance is how here Caligula really seems to think he's a rational, intelligent, (god) emperor who really believes he's doing Rome well. Others play him as too overtly crazy and purposefully over the top, but with Hurt you can just see his angry frustration in people not understanding his logical (in fact contradictory) orders or confusion at his "rewarding" campaign against Neptune.
I, Claudius is filled with excellent performances. Even so, John Hurt's performance, as horrifying as his character is, stands out.
We started learning "Steam Heat" in Theater Dance class today. I'm going to have to work on the section at 0:44 - doing the "knee clap" is difficult enough for me, but adding the head roll makes it even more challenging. We also do something more simple with the hats at 1:14 - otherwise we'd ruin the dance by having to chase the hats around the floor. "Steam Heat" is originally from the musical, The Pajama Game; this version is from the musical revue, Fosse.
[We had a wonderful vacation. I might even get around to blogging about it if we have a few rainy days. For the most part, I didn't want to come home, but Theater Dance gave me something to look forward to (besides seeing older son!).]