Tuesday, 7 February 2012

To Church on Mondays

I’ve decided there’s only one thing about my new job that isn’t completely unsuited to me:  the fact that it’s temporary.

A funny thing happens when I’m engaged for a period of time in any kind of energy-depleting activity with a (thankfully) pre-determined end.  The mind begins calculating duration with a particular degree of willful shape-shifting I wouldn’t require under other circumstances.  Maybe you have experienced something similar to this nature of cognitive trickery.  

For example, I just finished the fourth week of twelve at this job.  It seems a miracle I’ve completed one third of the work!  Even better, in only two weeks – just half the amount of time I have already marked – I will be at the “half finished” point!  If I can make it to half finished, I am positive I’ll have what it takes to survive the last half.  

And just two weeks following the halfway mark I will be two-thirds through, etc.  So you see how over-the-top this line of reasoning can become...

Now that I think about it, I’ve observed the mind adopt the same strategy for opposite purposes, too, especially when I’m doing something I really love and don’t want to end.  “How could it be half over, already?  I feel like it just started!”  A music festival is always a good excuse to entertain this form of resistance to the natural progression of time.  Or a rendezvous with a foreign lover, of which there were a few during my years as a Canadian woman traveller...

But I digress.  

Now employed in the Public Service, perceiving these weeks as bearable is also intimately linked with my 1-2pm lunch hour.  A cup of Earl Grey tea taken sometime between 9:45 and 10:30am is the first saving grace of the day, and then at 1:00 I get to escape the building for an entire hour.  My office is located on Fort Street east of Blanshard, a groovy neighbourhood of Victoria that benevolently extends a wealth of creative eating and window-shopping opportunities.  I find myself becoming a “tourist in my own town” within these elegantly cultured blocks, or Antique Row as the locals have affectionately dubbed them.

But most afternoons breaking away from the office at lunchtime, I opt for the relief that overtakes me when I walk one block south down Quadra Street and enter Christ Church Cathedral.  Sometimes I spend almost the whole of my precious hour there, just sitting quietly.  Consumed in the palpably alive silence of this place, I shut the door to the city – and to the inevitable feeling of dread that will begin creeping into my throat around 1:55 – behind me. 

*   *   * 


Stepping in, the dissolution of streetscape acoustics has taught me that masses of pure vaulted stone make for a remarkable sound barrier.  The polished floor shines and invites me to a pew.  On days when I’m wearing my fancy thift-purchased office shoes, I tippy-toe down the aisle to avoid the reverberating ‘clunk’ of my heels through this immense spaciousness.  Surely, tapping is more forgivable than clunking in the House of God.


I typically perceive a range of intermittent sounds as I sit.  Today included the sobbing of grief, and then a cell phone ringing (oh the irony!).  A patron will greet incoming tourists and explain in low tones that this version of Christ Church was built in 1929 – others existed at nearby locations prior.  It amazes me that such a lasting feat of elaborate architecture was constructed here within the past century.

Yesterday a school teacher gave a tour to young students of the attached Catholic school.  All in red shirts, the chattery children were shuttled en masse between the different alcoves of Christ Church, receiving their tutorials in the particular religious element being accentuated at each one.



One day there was an organ lesson going on above my head, perhaps in preparation for the regular Friday recitals held at the Cathedral.  Admittedly, I don’t imagine myself gaining an appreciation for organ music in this lifetime…  


During one of my first visits, in solitude a man played the piano.  I’m not sure exactly what his gig was.  He would play a few lovely bars of music, and then hammer down on a high octave key (F sharp?) for thirty seconds or more.  With great feeling and purpose.  Over and over, the same key, then a few more bars would come.  Then F# F# F# F# F# F#...  That f*%!king note defiantly proclaimed itself throughout every inch of the church's interior, as well as inside me.  It felt like a gavel kept slamming into my eardrum – I understood in those moments why they call it a sharp.  Could I perceive this annoyance as a reminder that what I call 'noise' and 'silence' have the same ultimate source, that the “right conditions” for meditation come in an infinite diversity of forms?  

In the end, I could no longer contain my laughter and had to leave the Cathedral.

*   *   *

But a week ago, something extraordinary happened.  Or didn’t happen.  When I entered the building that lunch hour, it was deserted.  For a period of time, I was all alone at Christ Church Cathedral...       [“To Church on Mondays” PART 2]

*   *   *

Since I began my current employment I’ve reflected a few times on that highly-quoted observation (who made it?): Most people live lives of quiet desperation.  The pervasive effects of hating one’s job cannot be understated.  I feel that Monday must be the most difficult day of the week, for millions.  In fact, do I remember at one point reading about Monday having statistically higher suicide rates?  (Or maybe it was Sunday?)  Working for the reward of your lunch hours and your retirement pension does not constitute meaningful work.  Being chained to a computer desk and governed by mountains of documents that sit on lifeless shelves is not a life. 
 
But soon, I’ll be halfway finished…   

At least I am grateful to have found a remedy for getting through my back-to-work blues.  You can bet you’ll find me at Church on Mondays.  


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