because none of us is fucking up like we think we are, is what i'm trying to say

Monday, 6 May 2013

In Which I Go to Church. Atheist Church.

At 11 o’clock yesterday morning I stood in a dusty but sunny hall with 300 strangers and my brother, screaming the words to Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun with a live band. A man who looked not dissimilar to Jesus, but with a fiercer beard, pranced about in a vintage, jewelled red jumper, encouraging us to clap and foot tap to the beat whilst commanding in the lyric lulls to sing ‘louder! LOUDER, PEOPLE!’

It’s funny how sometimes the universe allows you to find the most perfect Sunday solution to Life As We Know It, right when you’ve been trying to figure out what all this being human malarkey is all about.

WHAT THIS HUMAN MALARKEY IS ALL ABOUT. God, I really did just type that. But sod it; I’m not sorry. You’re either into this kind of shit, or you’re not. Unsurprisingly I totally am, because I live for angels, and Whitney Houston, and being nice and cake and fun and purposefulness and shut up, okay? Shut up.

I don’t mean it in an eat-brown-rice-and-wear-socks-with-your-sandals kind of a way, I just mean I’m pretty sure it’s important that we don’t wait for our real lives to begin at some unspecified point in the future when everything is how we once imagined it would be, and that we live deliberately and with gusto every single day starting rightnowthissecond.

Cue crashing crescendos of dramatic Suite No.1 in G Major for cello or similar, as we all eat vegan ice-cream and smell like dreadlocks. I’m disgusting.   

Ever since I saw this video I’ve become increasingly obsessed with finding tradition and customs that celebrate human-ness. I think it’s important to practice the things we’ve learnt as people- it’s weird to me that the trendy, liberal assumption is that repeated practice of mindfulness is considered hippy-dippy.

I reckon if we’re to evolve- emotionally, spiritually, intellectually- we’ve to reflect on our experiences or else what’s the point? Without enforced meditation we’re condemned to make the same bullshit mistakes over and over again. If we don’t spend quiet time thinking about how that paisley-print chiffon skirt was a no-no, we’ll only go shopping and spend money on another flammable regret next time.

So I’ve been looking for a congregation, I guess, somewhere to think about being a good person, but without the religion bit where they tell you what to believe, and that if you do it wrong you can’t pass go to collect £200, and where they make you all drink wine from the same cup. Basically hygienic humanism where everyone wins.

When I read online about a “godless congregation” that holds monthly services right near my house, I was intrigued- the article said there were a lot of fit men there and guys, Mama’s fixin’ for a hot dog. Know what I’m saying?

When I clicked through to the website and saw that their tag line is live better, help often and wonder more, I thought, go on then. You’ve got me interested…

By the time I read part foot stomping show, part atheist church, and that the opening “hymn” at the last meeting had been Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, I was sold. I’m the girl who holds up a power ballads club night as the pinnacle of religious experience, remember. It was as if this “church” had been made for me. And, as ever, I reasoned that if I felt that way then there must be others out there, too.

The universe, insightful as she is, gave me just what I needed. She knew.

She knew I needed to listen to an eleven year old read Spike Milligan’s Bazonka into a microphone, something which culminated in a round of applause so enthusiastic I can only ever dream of drumming up anything so genuine from an audience.

She knew I needed two inspirational sermons on the importance of play in everyday life; to learn the rules to Cat On Yer Head; and partake in a round of ‘Danish Clapping’- basically the most fun two hands can have in a family friendly environment.

She knew I needed two minutes of thoughtful, focused silence; to chat with the man next to me about Alain de Botton; and she knew I needed to belt out both Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way and Alright by Supergrass out-of-tune and without care, surrounded by a group of equally tuneless beings who just liked getting all het up that way as well.

It was, of course, brilliant. Like walking around a truly great exhibition or watching a spine-tingling performer, I felt part of something bigger than myself, as if I belonged to a collective asking the same questions as me. I felt less alone. And like I understood a bit more about what really, it might be all about: people. People together.
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