Monday, October 31, 2005


We came upon it entirely by accident, Bush. After visiting the church in a tiny village near to San Miguel (see below,) we took a turn on an impulse: I thought to have remembered from our visit in this area, a couple of years ago, an extraordinary private folk art museum somewhere along this side road, so we took it, and arrived, remarkably, at this ranch where a Mexican rodeo was in progress. What a thrill! Horses everywhere, with riders in traditional gaucho garb: the high, pointed boots and spurs, the weathered chaps, thick belts decorated with turquoise and silver, collar-less leather shirts with big, loopy bow ties and, of course, the heavy sombreros, wide at the side and turned up at the back. The women—and a posse of teenage girls—were rigged out in wide, flouncy, dresses, and rode side-saddle in a colorful parade down between the long straight adobe corridor that led to a walled, circular arena. And the sun beat down everywhere. The horses skittered and circled, dust flew, the bulls and calves charged into the ring, ropes flashed, and hoofs thundered hither and yon. A great spectacle, Bush. The main contest of the day seemed to be a calf-catching event, where riders chased down their charging targets, grabbed them by the tail, and flipped them over onto their backs in mid-career. Some fell, some stumbled, some got away. We cheered the ones that got away--American wusses that we are, Bush! If you’ll excuse the expression.

Anyway, it was a memorable afternoon. And about that church, this poem…

Verdad Incomprehensible

Leaving the crowded entry to the church—
where we had stood a while amongst the worshippers,
admiring the spectacular wall and ceiling decorations,
the extravagantly clothed and painted statues,
the bloody, flagellated Christ, even as the priest,
up front, before the altar, was intoning mass--
we came out into the brilliant sunlight
of the plaza. Our friend said, "I hate Catholicism;
not for the ritual, not for the iconography," she said.
"That’s beautiful. But for the dogma. It’s the dogma
that I hate." I knew what she meant. As they say,
I could relate. There’s something inarguably
arrogant and annoying about the assertion
of one belief as being "true" above all others.
As our friend went on, "It’s just a bunch of stories."

Well, yes. But let’s remember that not long before
we had been praising the values of these same
poor people, peasants, really, the dispossessed
who flock to worship in this church; who embrace
this same Catholicism. We envied their profound
connection with each other, with the earth,
the generosity of their spirit. All of which,
of course, may be inherited from the genes
of the ancients hereabouts—the "Indian"
pre-Columbians, a long, rich heritage evident
everywhere in the beautiful faces of the children.
(Though let’s remember, too, that these ancients
practiced human sacrifice to their Gods!) Anyway,
what I wanted to say to our friend, and never
quite got around to was this: that the gift
they receive from the Church (and, yes, even
its dogma: the body and blood of Christ)
is a perhaps not unimportant contributor
to that "soul-ful" quality that we, the more
economically fortunate, the more "rational,"
better educated, appear to have sacrificed
to our material progress. What religion offers them
is the vision of something grander, more magnificent
than their own hardscrabble lives, while honoring,
too, the pain of their blood, and sweat, and tears.
This same religion makes them who they are.

This, then: the glimpse, through a vaulted arch,
of two words separated from a longer, painted
inscription: VERDAD INCOMPREHSIBLE. Which,
in our English translation from the original Latin,
reads, I believe, "verdad", the truth,
and "incomprehensible," "beyond understanding."


Fred said...

The report of the rodeo was delightful.

We had an adventure Sunday too. Several Laguna Sangha folks went to the monastary in Fallbrook to the "end of the rains" festival.
Lot's of good Thai food and new robes for all the monks. It was a lovely, sunny day, full of joy and good fellowship.


PK said...

With your description, I too was able to be there. Thank you for a great time :). I know not of Latin, however, Spanish is what it looks like to me, and the last word means the same in English, just pronounced differently. Put the last word before the first word and that's what it means. And yes, la verdad, means the truth. I'd like to throw my own bit of "stuff" in. It's only my own opinion mind you. God doesn't have a religion. So we're all good to go as the saying goes:). No one is wrong, just love The Great Spirit, that's all He asks. Don't much think Spirit cares about a name, just what's in the heart. Our hearts all feal Spirit differently, and so the edifices that house the Spirits creatures are unique, and beautiful. Most are calming, as the love that put them together is within. Sleep well.

dennis said...

Peter: Just back from Kauai. Just back from nature. Since we will not stay at a resort hotel, ever, we were so happily out of touch, and so in touch with ourselves in nature. We prefer the best B&Bs. Unhappily, we did meet one couple from Orange County by accident, while at a restaurant adjacent to a resort. Sure enough, they had all that Orange County attitude.
Close encounters with fish, turtles, weather, waterfalls, and treacherous surf, keeps one mindful of his place in the scheme of the myriad of things.
A disapointing visit to tour the Hindu monastery, Kauai. An enlightening tour of Doris Duke's Islamic design home on Ohau. Also on Ohau, a surprise at the unusually good Academy of Arts Museum. And a sobering tour of Grove Farm, Kauai, with it's history of Asian labor and all the wrong turn ideals of the late 1800's in Hawaii. Like many of Hawaii's troubles, it began with Christians going there to missionize, then became exploitation and theft of land. How those Christians love to go out into the world and mess up other people's cultures wherever people are kind enough to let them do it!
Highlight of the stay? Feeding hundreds of large fish which formed a 'moving cylinder' around me like a container. An excellent moment in my religion, nature, ( as described by the Tao ).
Nice to hear of your travel too. dennis