“What is it that draws you to churches”, said a voice from behind me.
I turned slightly and saw in the corner of my eye a scrawny figure. It was Virgil. He was stood there, eye brow cocked in mild curiosity and his hands in his jeans.
I stared at the procession and smiled, “I don’t know if I’m honest. During the day it’s so quiet you can hear a gnat fart – it’s so peaceful. During mass, however, it’s a bizarre experience; with this lot they’re so depressing to watch and listen to. It’s the problem with catholics: they’re mourners, every Sunday is another funeral. Gospel! Now there’s a way to celebrate faith, not singing in a laborious manner but in fact cheering and smiling and being bloody happy. A celebration is what it should be”
Virgil frowned. I could hear his enormous greying eyebrows scrape against each other, “You’re searching for a way out aren’t you? Let me tell you something”, he moved to my side and stared down with me. “These people have a concept for what is a heaven and what is a hell. For them heaven is a a glorious gate with an equally glorious light, and hell is a fire pit of eternal torture. Hell, for you, is to spend the rest of your life chained to a desk job saying, “Yes Sir!” and “No Sir!”’.
“And my heaven?”, I asked resolutely.
“I don’t think anyone can tell you what that is. Although, I have my suspicions”
He gave a sad smile, “For another time I think”.
“I chose a way out, Virgil. It is what got me here in the first place so why couldn’t I do it again? Find a way out and go find my own Nirvana? The worst part of the human condition is the certain uncertainty that we know anything. Look down there. Do you see that man with the bald head and the hideous green jacket? Scientist. He’s a bloody scientist. Go back a good, say, few hundred years or so and that man would have been marked as a heretic. And there! At the head of the procession, leading this merry band of mourners – a female vicar. Why it matters what gender a spiritual leader is is beyond me, never mind what one of there representatives is! Why it took so long for that to happen in this church is beyond me.”
“You’re digressing and beginning to rant, Old Boy. I trust you have a point?”
“I’m getting there! Somewhat haphazardly, admittedly, but bare with me”, I took a breath and tried to slow myself and organise my thoughts. “What do those with faith see when they look up at the stars? I can’t speak for all – god knows I ain’t going to try – but from my friends who have faith they either see a wonderful creation or the path to heaven. Is it the same for a cell in a Petri dish? If the cells were – or are – capable of looking up at the at microscope, looking at it’s complexities and deeming it to be where their little souls go? No. And until such a day comes where we can communicate with single cells on a verbal level that is where my foot will stay on the subject. A scientist, for let’s not forget them in this, sees galaxies and tumbling and gorgeous nebulas and impossible, possible balls of gas. Is that not also beautiful? I think, with however short a time I have had on this planet, that however much faith both bores and confuses me but instils a sense of peace, and science causes some wonder and makes me feel smaller still, like our friend the single cell, I only ever saw the truth and beauty of the world and the universe through the arts and the books of my favourite writers – through someone else’s eyes. Through a kind of symbiosis. Is that what they see? I’m not so sure and I don’t care to assume”, I took another breath and wiped my forehead before looking into Virgils old blue eyes, “Quiet. That’s what I like about churches. Regardless of anything they make my mind quiet, and I enjoy them for it”.
“You have a manic mind, my friend. You’re too busy trying to see everything, that you fail to see what is in front of you”.
I looked at the people below all dressed in black, I looked at the stained windows all multi-faceted with colours and faded with age, and I looked behind me before meeting Virgils gaze once more. There was a kind of paternity in his eyes, sad but leading to a point and he finally turned and said, “This is your funeral”.