By Fielding Goodfellow
Self doubt, like death, arrives unannounced, and settles in without any relief. Hiding in the shadows, skulking around dark corners when I needed all of my time and energy just to keep my head above water, I drifted through the rip currents and undertows of a life that seemed determined to keep me swimming against the tide. It was a fucking nightmare, populated with heroes and villains whose only purpose seemed to be jerking off amid the costumed tomfoolery that was believed to be necessary for the salvation of our civilization. I for one, really didn’t give a damn. By then, I had lost all faith in heroes, and I was certain that I was already being held in the eternal shit bucket with the villains.
And that pretty much sums up faith, an insanely confusing concept in itself. I struggled with this throughout most of my university life, confused and confounded by the idea that in order to reap the benefits of a loving and just superior being, one must blindly believe and accept. The questions, ‘why does God let this happen?”, and all of its variations diminish one’s faith. It appears though, that a believer, one with faith, does not and should not question. After all, isn’t that what religion, and the road to eternal happiness is about? Bishop Marino, the Papal presence in Presque Isle for years, who spent most of his life fucked up on acid, chasing high school girls in plaid skirts and starched white shirts, spoke candidly about his belief that Blind Faith, despite having released one hell of an album in 1969, is not the path to redemption and absolution, and it certainly should never come as easy as the high school seniors at St. Margaret Catholic School For Girls in Mackinaw. I was fortunate enough to have met the Bishop when he guest lectured for a philosophy class I was enrolled in. Following the lecture, I spoke with him about what God really wants for us. His answer was as succinct as it was surprising. “For us to be happy.”, he told me.
And for those who were unable to find any sort of happiness, religious zealots and leaders, began selling memberships to their God fearing clubs, as they stood before the masses with a bible in one hand and the keys to a Bentley in the other. You could purchase an exclusive, all inclusive membership which guaranteed your eternal happiness simply by using your credit card, debit card or paypal. For a nominal charge, you could attend one of the many religious theme parks, take a picture with the gang in attendance at The Last Supper, and purchase an autographed copy at the gift shop. Or perhaps, enjoy a bag of Jesus Jaffa Cakes, or an order of St. Joan of Arc flaming kebabs. Despite the temptation, I sought out my happiness through other means.
In the early 1970s, during my foray into malaise and post secondary education, I found myself discussing morals and ethics with overweight, middle aged professors who frequented the massage parlor across from the university campus. With both the time and money, they were free to jump in and out of blow jobs on the way to meet and greet their families convinced that they would be offered absolution for their transgressions in exchange for feigned repentance, three Hail Marys and a contribution to the ‘help the heavenly boys choir purchase new robes’ fund.
Belief and faith are not conjoined twins. One can believe without the necessity of faith. Faith mutes the senses, leaving us blind, deaf, and basically full of shit, and sets us off on a mission to convince others to accept our beliefs as correct. Worlds have been devastated in the name of God, and frankly, I am not certain whose God wanted entire cultures reduced to rubble in order to erect a church in his glorious name. At the end of it all, nobody seems happy. The quest for conversion, redemption and absolution continue, while the priests hearing those solicited tales of sin, shame and guilt, often arrive late following the inspection of the altar boys as they tried on their new robes.
Mei-ling was a sophomore dance major who helped pay for her schooling by working part time at the massage parlor across the road from the university. We met in a Film Noir course, and shared a passion for John Huston films, hallucinogens, and sex with the lights on. We spent many hours in her dorm room watching The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre or Key Largo, and chasing the giant alligators off of her wonderfully naked body. Sex with Mei-ling was an incredible ride that often resulted in one existential crisis after another, as I tried to give some meaning to this world within worlds, hidden yet clearly visible and defined, but undetected amid all of the rhetoric and rubbish that bounced around my head like a Holier Than Thou pinball machine, resurrecting years and years of theological brainwashing. And yet, as Mei-ling dropped to her knees, I swear that I found meaning in the overwhelming pleasure that lead to my release. And during those moments, those wonderfully satisfying moments, I am certain that I found God, I was happy, and as close to heaven as I believed I would ever be.
Perhaps in all of those moments of hedonistic pleasure, in the throes of drug induced trips and ball busting sex, I had achieved what God had wanted for me. I was happy. I was truly happy. I was certain that I could be happy all of the time provided that I was high and getting laid. For about 18 months Mei-ling ensured that I was happy. I continued to correspond with Bishop Marino, who left the church after defrocking himself in the rectory, playing ‘hide the rabbit in the habit’ with Sister Beatrice and Sister Teresa to run Papal Radio, an international radio network broadcasting rock ‘n’ religion where he interviewed such legendary holy folksters as Peter, Paul & Mary, and notorious, hardcore Loggerhead drummer, Francis Glick, Jr., of the PolkaJacks. As for me, well, I was as determined as ever to be happy, and found myself involved in years of meaningless sex with a variety of equally meaningless women. And everytime, they would drop to their knees, I believed that I had found God, or at least happiness in the overwhelming pleasure.