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Amber Paulen

The Opposite Direction

I was going to write this post about this weekend’s beatification and the Catholics who are predicted to flood Rome’s streets. But I have nothing much to say about it, besides it being more than a little incredible that people continue to believe in that kind of thing. I’m not against religion, per se, but against ignorance, and such honorific hootenannies inspire more stupidity than intelligence.

I don’t mean to pick on the Catholics; it’s the religion I’m surrounded by—literally, San Clemente to my right and the apse of Quattro Santi Coronati to my fore, two ancient churches, together 3000 years old. And last week in Seville, it was more Catholic festivities: Semana Santa and the penitent parades. It is eery and of small coincidence that the Nazarenos’ costume resembles the KKK and the condemned penitents of the Inquisition.

Those costumes are creepy. Especially if you find yourself in the center of their parade, at night near the Cathedral, heading in the opposite direction. The emptiness of the cut-out eyes and rows of candles burning on either side did not deter our leader—a native of Seville—from taking us down what he knew to be a forbidden path, inebriated as we were, laughing at first and then realizing: We shouldn’t be here… Or didn’t prevent our leader from stepping up to one of the Nazarenos’ tall and thick candles to light his joint, (I would have liked to see his surprise!) and then continuing, smoking, almost running through the candles and rows of hooded and slowly walking men. I was behind the leader, but those behind me were being made violently aware that the penitents were not friendly. Brandishing their candles like weapons—a procession must not be the time when they turn the other cheek—one of our party suffered a red wax wound. We dove out of there.

It goes without saying that those who strive to maintain the status quo are the most immoral of all. To them the great sin is to question the prevailing order. Yet every great thinker, every great artist, every great religious teacher did just that. —The Immorality of Morality, Henry Miller


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