University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik believes in…you.
In the beginning was the word. The word was but. Do you believe in God? No, but. Do you believe in the immortal soul? No, but. Do you believe in magic? No, but I believe in hormones, endorphins, serotonin, in the fireworks and transformations wrought by chemistry. I believe in every kind of serious embrace — parent and child, lovers, friends — and I believe in the power of connection between people to change the rules.
I believe in using the mind to figure things out, but I believe in the power of the senses to blow the mind. I believe in and indeed worship the blowing of the mind, through orgasm, childbirth, the let-down reflex, chanting, dancing, poetry, drugs, and also beauty, art and craft, all intricate things made by hand, sports, music, and particularly rock and roll.
I believe in the power of cruelty, senseless ruin and heartbreak to inspire human beings to right action. To bind us closer together. To make us we. We need not see God in the weather to believe in light, the power of the sun to heal, the power of the moon to make us dream. Some of us believe in dogs while others believe in cats, and we have denominations for the lesser pets as well. Trees. Flowers. Water. Pineapple. No buts about it.
We believe in 10,000 hours of practice; we believe that everything can change in a minute. We believe in the covenant of remembering, for memory is identity, it is history and progress, it is the genius of love, it is as mischievous and fickle as any god of centuries gone by. All here, all now, our magic, our soul, amen.
When I sent this to my ex-husband (we still read each other’s stuff from time to time), he wrote back, “Wow, where did that come from?” So in case you are wondering that too, here’s a little explanation.
Recently my daughter Jane and I went to a truly inspiring event in New York called the Secret City — a worship service dedicated to art. Since October 2007, this Obie-winning group has put on a monthly Sunday morning gathering — “part salon, part cabaret, part tent revival, featuring visual art, live music, poetry, literature, dance, spoken word, choir, meditation and fellowship,” as they put it.
The Secret City service contained no mention of any deity or spiritual belief, but it was made up of elements that derive from the meetings of various religions. There was a Mingle, where everyone got up and greeted each other. An Offering, where trays were brought around with a spoonful of something for each of us to put in our mouths. (It was a delicious blend of tahini and honey on that first visit.) A call and response verse, an interactive game, a song, a cultural calendar of that Sunday’s date in history. A visual artist had work on the wall, tap dancers and a beat boxer performed, a choir sang “Across the Universe” and the house band played Springsteen. The master of ceremonies, actor/writer Chris Wells, gave the sermon, which was a funny and sad story about his days as a housecleaner. Afterwards there was a good old-fashioned social, with coffee and baked goods.
I fell in love with the Secret City, and immediately began trying to figure out how to bring it here to Baltimore, and actually I’ve made some progress. If all goes well, it could happen next fall, so stay tuned on that. Meanwhile, its spirit of dogma-free worship lingered in my mind as another cool arts event appeared on the horizon.
In a couple of weeks I’m going to be at the Woodstock Writers Festival. The first night of the festival there’s a “story slam” sponsored by Woodstock’s T.M.I. Project, which is sort of similar to Baltimore’s Stoop Storytelling. This year’s slam has the rule that you must use the sentence “Do you believe in magic?” in a less-than-three-minute story, and also has a list of prohibited words: throbbing, quiver, gasp, heat, penetrating, pounding, glower, whither, or flush.
Fortunately I didn’t really need them. I’ll read my odd little entry at the slam on April 18th at Oriole 9 in Woodstock, so drop in if you’re up that way.
Finally, I wrote the piece above (a prose poem I think), in my friend Carolyn Mahoney’s apartment in Fort Pierce, Florida, in a couple of early mornings over Easter weekend. Another lucky juju spot? It seems I like to write in the homes of people I love, particularly when they are asleep.
Marion Winik writes “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a column about life, love, and the pursuit of self-awareness. Check out her heartbreakingly honest and funny essays twice a month on Baltimore Fishbowl.