Today, I explored the temples of Salt Lake City, Utah.
I came to this city with my love to visit my friend of nearly two decades, a woman who has helped shaped me as a feminist and friend, taught me to love the outdoors and cult classic ’80s movies, held my hair as I vomited, and will soon be sporting matching tattoos with me.
We meandered through the temple campus and explored the visitor’s center, learning about some of the nuances of the Mormon religion and paying homage to the so-called “space Jesus” at the crest of the spiraled building. I wandered through the waxy-looking Biblical figures and swallowed my crescendoing skepticism as I eyeballed everyone in the joint, wondering “Why are you here? How deep is your faith? Are you free?”
Of course I could ask myself the same questions, religiously orphaned as I am. I am not sure why I exist, much less why I found myself in the Mormon museum this afternoon, don’t know that I have much faith to speak of, and constantly ask myself if I am truly “free”. The concepts of personal control and free will have long haunted my decisions and spurred emotional responses to my environment, sometimes causing me to lash out like a caged beast at people or circumstances which are staggeringly–at least by American standards–normal. For all my fretting, I’m not sure I’ve made much progress. My compromise is leaving my baristas a healthy tip, writing the odd angsty poem, and getting out to see live music every now and again.
The truth is, “faith” fascinates me. At its humblest form, faith is required for growth. Faith in oneself the most fundamental characteristic necessary in order to look forward, improve, and self-actualize. At its most grandiose, faith is arguably the reason we evolved from herbaceous, jaw-grinding apes into the symbol-ridden, top-of-the-foodchain species we are today. Faith is unbelievably powerful.
I felt like a child in a bar, heretical as that analogy may be. Completely in over my head, out of my element, timid. I kept my hands clasped behind my back and tried to blend in. I’m still relieved they didn’t ask for my ID. Pretty sure I would’ve gotten kicked out of the establishment. I am a tattooed, pierced, bisexual heathen. I definitely do not have a pair of magical underwear to ascend into heaven, and certainly do not have a Mormon, penis-bearing chaperone to guide this vagina to the pearly gates.
I wonder what a devout Mormon would think in the Natural History Museum, if they would feel like scientists are lurking around every corner waiting to happily dismember and digest their lifestyle. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about museums today, it’s that evidence can be seen in the eye of the beholder–it’s just a matter of what narrative we’re looking to hang our proverbial hats on, which story we wish to ride into the future and defend. Is my reality any more real than anyone else’s? I can be a pompous asshole, but I’m not that much of an asshole. Besides, “asshole” is just one of my many faces. I am woman, hear me roar. In all my multi-faceted glory.
I guess we’re all looking for a little comfort. Thinking there were prophets and wise men and virtuous folks who chose to surrender their egos to a larger cause is beautiful. It is comforting, in a way, thinking that we could all believe in a united dream, could live the same story in peace and go to heaven when we die. As of now, I believe in the gospel word of Beyonce, and plan on being composted when I croak. (Let this nitrogen fuel up some plants! Hell yeah!! Circle of life, bitches!)
I will say this: for the morsels of faith I’ve sowed out of this bitter soul, I am learning to believe in the goodness of others. I am exploring the linings of my heart, seeding it with faith in a man and continuing to invest good love in myself. It’s all too easy to hate yourself in this world. But where’s the faith in that?
I explored a Mormon temple today, and let it explore me back. Faith is a practice, and tomorrow I will continue to lay down the stones which shape my own version of spirituality. The journey is only beginning.