Some things are best left private. I don’t know what possessed me to request a car maintenance visit first thing in the morning on a Saturday. I mean, the dealership is a 45-minute drive, and there are few places less inspiring than an automotive waiting room. The coffee is weak and tepid. Usually the television’s blaring some nonsense, and even before eight on a Saturday morning there are plenty of other people around. But there’s free wifi. Well, not exactly free when I get a glimpse at the bill. So I think perhaps I can write a blog post while I’m waiting. How do you write about religion with people watching? It’s the bashful bladder of the soul. Back in my Nashotah House days, when I was required to preach, I couldn’t write a sermon with wife or daughter in the room. I couldn’t practice it in front of family. For some things, you just need to be alone.
So, as I’m trying to write this innocuous little homily, someone pulls up next to me on the single table in the waiting room. It’s like standing at a row of exposed urinals. Trying not to be obvious, I turn my screen a little more in my direction, and less in his. Still, there are people sitting behind me and who says that the sense of being stared at is a myth? Although communal worship is often a public event, at least in a crowd of like-minded believers, the experience of the divine, however defined, is deeply personal. It seems that there’s only one soul per customer. We don’t know what a soul is, but it shouldn’t feel lonely, because we don’t know what consciousness is either. Still, trying to perform here is trickier than I’d imagined. I might just have to finish this at home.
It used to be a truism that two topics are not for public discussion: religion and politics. Such fightin’ words only lead to tears and wars. The magazine rack next to me is insipid with Sports Illustrated, Bowhunting, and AutoSuccess for the guys, Real Weddings, Good Housekeeping, and Martha Stewart Weddings for the ladies. The only book I brought has an overtly religious title. What was I thinking? Next time maybe I’ll bring Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I climb into the newly serviced car to drive home. Are those docile bubble lights on the car behind me? I’m still being watched. All the way I never even touch 55, because driving is one of those situations where non posse non peccare truly does apply. When the cruiser finally turns off, I read New Jersey State Park Police on the side of the car. Some thoughts, like religion, are best left private.