...in the bottom drawer
I knew I'd lose it so I put it in a safe place, and now I can't remember where it is.

currently stashed in: Cheshire Street, London
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June 26, 2005 || 10:39 pm
A weekend in Mississippi

Oh, what a lovely weekend chez the Mockettes. As you would expect, everything at their family home is beautiful. Amazing Sambo-designed house, lots of collaborative Butch-Jay-Carol artworks and installations in place from Sarah-Ann's wedding, perfectly mown lawn, etc.

It was a really fun party too - lots of family and old friends. It's always so interesting and revealing to see where someone grew up and who their hometown friends are. I kept trying to imagine Sambo amongst all these (much more conventional) people and realised what a fantastic job they had done of on the one hand being completely individual, creative and crazy while on the other hand not becoming the neighbourhood freaks but being solid, normal members of Canton, Miss. society. They really had half the town there - the kids' high school friends and former sweethearts, the parents' friends, their old babysitter, and so on.

It made me slightly wistful that I really don't have any such local community in England. Where I grew up, I have virtually no friends, and in London, I have plenty of friends but scattered all over the city. There's something so lovely about the local small-town community, where you haven't (like me) chosen your friends on the basis of a shared interest but you just know people because they live there and go to school with you. That's one of the things I will really miss about Alabama - knowing and hanging out with everyone in the town with no real selection process or snobbishness going on. It's amazing how here, within a few months I can know everyone, yet in the nearest village to where I grew up, I don't know a single soul after sixteen years of childhood there. Well, I guess I used to know a couple of people, but they've died now.

So, we all ate, chatted, cooed over people's new babies, caught up on the news, drank a lot of beer, went to a local bar, came back and sat in the garden until 4am. [Canton actually has a bar on its main square. And a Subway crammed into one of the old storefronts. Real life in the downtown - unheard of!] Then this morning it was up rather uncomfortably early and off to church! The Mockbees are, of course, Episcopalian, which is pretty much like Anglican in England. It was fun to go to church and hear those familiar hymn tunes and the wonderful Biblical words.

Although I'm not at all Christian, the Bible is so very moving and thought-provoking. The language (I'm a stickler for the King James, anything newer is heresy) and the complex web of meaning and reference is endlessly fascinating and mysterious. I always travel on long trips with the Bible - I even took it to Iran - and even though I don't read it much, somehow having it around is comforting - just knowing that you've got a source of moral and cultural sustenance there whenever you might need it. A bit like having a really good bottle of wine stashed away for a rainy day when you really need it.

The sermon today started off as a commentary on one of the Lessons, that really difficult bit of Matthew where Jesus says 'I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household.' The priest gave a curiously historiographical interpretation of that passage, hinging on the difference in the Hebrew use of language and our modern one, as a way to reassure the congregation that Jesus did not really mean that he wanted strife in the world. Then he moved on somewhat loosely, via the last part of that passage ('He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.') to the ideas behind having to die, in a metaphorical way, to find enlightenment. This became politicised when he started to talk about desegregation, and the conviction last week of Edgar Ray Killen, as an example of society undergoing a 'little death' in order to emerge more cognizant and pure. I'm not sure he knew what the phrase 'little death' often refers to in classical literature...and my mind wandered somewhat to the visions of Saint Theresa and her, um, ecstasy...

But seriously, I had forgotten how enjoyable it can be to go to church, even as (maybe especially as?) an atheist. I might start going more often when I'm back in London - hiding out in Westminster Abbey listening to the organ, or the Brompton Oratory. Its quite a good way to get over a hangover, too.

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