I missed church today. Couldn’t find my plastic smile in time to go.
I went to a school once where we had to report each week how many services we attended and where.
Bedside Baptist occasionally made my report. Bread of Heaven or Hungry Souls when I went out to breakfast instead; Our Lady of the Gorge or Lakefront Lutheran when communing with nature felt more appropriate than hypocrisy.
Then I went to a different school, where I met a guy called Mario who started his own church. The Holy Church of Cool. When asked about the tenets of his religion, he said, “Be cool, don’t shit on your neighbor. Stuff like that.” Mario just distilled the essence of religion down to its 180 proof essence.
I watched Mario smoke a lot of pot. Probably his way of achieving that whole “be cool” thing. It’s really the hardest part for us uptight overachieving types. By extension, it’s hard to be kind when you’re not cool.
I also watched Mario conduct a beautiful, if not supremely weird, marriage ceremony for a couple known on campus as Gothic Girl and Piercings Guy. Having been turned down by an Anglican minister, who took the whole thing to be some sort of joke, they went to Mario and told him they wanted to do life together. He was completely on board.
“God digs monogamy and shit,” he said at the wedding. Too right, He does.
Mario cussed like a sailor, as my grandmother would say. But he had the law of kindness on his tongue. I never heard him run anybody down for anything. Never saw him shit on anybody. He was true to his religion. And he was happy.
I’ve been thinking about that Bible verse. My whole life, I’ve been admonished to be a ‘Proverbs 31’ woman, and reprimanded when I haven’t measured up. To hear them tell it, the lady in that passage got up early every morning, stayed up late every night, running her home and several businesses, buying land, sewing, cooking, making her husband look good while he sat at the city gate on his butt. It always unhinged me a little. Not cool.
But this verse popped into my head last week, and when I finally went to look it up, I couldn’t believe where it was. Proverbs 31, my least favorite chapter in the entire Bible. In all those years, I don’t remember anybody mentioning it, but it’s the essence of the entire chapter– heck, of the entire book. If we’re not kind, what good are we? If we shit on each other, what good is our religion? Kindness should be king. And kind words should be the rule, not the exception.
I’ll never be the woman in that chapter. I’ve tried. It’s not doable. But if I could do this one thing– speak kind words, always– I think I’d have come as close as possible to figuring out what Mario and the greatest philosophers of the world have known for a long time: “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness” (Dalai Lama).