Friday, August 19, 2011

Recovering Catholic

I've had a loose concept of Catholic-based paintings/artwork for about a year now, it's been very slowly coming together. Aside from acrylic paint (<3), I'm using rosaries, pendants, prayer cards, flyers, etc.

It's difficult to describe, verbally, what this artwork expresses (thus the painting!). All the little icons and such are from a thrift store in Milwaukee. Going through the box of Catholic items there has been a very odd experience: everything is familiar, but my more recently acquired logic wonders wtf all this crap really DOES. Emotional comfort vs. rational reason.

The fact that there is some emotional comfort in these familiar things is pretty odd, considering all the terrible things I endured at St. Monica's Elementary. Discovering that St. Monica's is so extreme that it isn't acknowledged by the Chicago Diocese, though, has helped so much. I'm discovering actual Catholicism now, separating it from extremists. Many horrors occur in Catholicism and there is no way I'll convert back - I'm sifting the pleasant out from the abusive. Obedience to a cruel hierarchy is separate from artistic/musical/poetic appreciation. The comfort of some supernatural mother figure makes no logical sense but can be emotionally appealing.
That's one of the main reasons why Catholicism has been so successful for so many centuries: the emotional appeal tends to be much stronger among uneducated people.

Individual people and greed for control are responsible for what I've endured, just like with most evil committed in the world. I can appreciate parts of what they twisted, even if just as a familiar and complex myth. If I abandon that solely because I don't logically "believe" in it, how am I any different from the people who avoid fiction because they're afraid to feel anything? Like it or not, Catholicism is among my roots and I'm clearing away the weeds they planted.

Seems to me that there are three reasons for following a religion:
1) actual belief. "This deity actually exists, this special person actually did that, and I must do this." Logical thinking minus measurable evidence
2) cultural tradition. "We are this group and we do this. If this deity actually exists, it would be an additional benefit." Communal functioning.
3) emotional appreciation. "The symbols and stories are aesthetically appealing to me." No different from secular work.

I primarily have #3, but can appreciate #2 to a degree. My family has a mix of #2 and #3 and I would attend mass with them because I enjoy any time spent with them - if we're appreciating beauty together, even better!

Times like these I wish I had some sort of spiritual guide (an actual person, not an angel or something). The one great priest I knew has been warped by an administrative job and the Quakers to whom I reached out demanded community obedience in exchange for discussion. I'm done searching; though it may be lonely processing these icons by myself (nobody else from St. Monica's cares, or they're perpetuating), it's certainly safer.

And when my shitty 8th grade principal told me that I could never be non-Catholic since I was baptized, I thought she was just bullshitting me. No other religious culture could ever feel so familiar, make such irrational sense.

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