True to my word, I present you with this weekend’s guest blogger. Nestor, a two time contributor to the Green Straw, delves into the intricacies of peach-picking and Jesus-loving in one entry centered on his home ‘hood: Harlem.
I was awoken this morning by a call. A call for peaches. The Harlem Farmers’ Market was in town, as it is every Saturday, and my family wanted peaches badly enough to call me at 10:30, an ungodly hour, so that I might go fetch them. They want peaches? Fine. Let them eat Clingstone!
Although I only had a few dollars, I figured it would be sufficient. After all, thems just peaches from Virginia, and that’s only the next state over, right? Kinda near Philly?
Not really. West Virginia might as well be in the EU for the price I had to pay for those goddamned fruit. Though the farmerguy who sold them was nice enough, a lanky tattooed white guy who sounded like a meth freak when he talked. I guess that’s what they do during the off season down there.
Near the market there was a little revival going on, typical Saturday in Harlem kinda thing with singing and praising and free food and what not. On my way over I had accepted several “pieces of literature to read in my leisure time” from the old ladies who line the many churches in my community. These usually read “Love: Jesus has it,” and “Alone? Good Christians aren’t.” I take them without protests when offered because I want to seem like a nice polite white boy, and its hard to say no to an old lady. But by the time I was nearly home my pockets were stuffed. On my block there is a big, powerful church (the one Denzel gets arrested outside of in ‘American Gangster‘) that is literally a fixture of the neighborhood; take it away and the surrounding buildings would crumble.
In front of this fortress of the lord were more old ladies. One approached me with an outstretched hand and asked, “have you talked to Jesus today?” and for the first time in my life I said, “no thanks, I’m a Quaker.”
That’s not really true though. I went to a Quaker school for some 13 years and do adhere to some of their ideals (embracing silence and being reasonable) but I am not religious in any real sense. So what am I, spiritually or religiously? Having spontaneously declared my religion I didn’t know I had to a stranger, I was confronted by some deep questions– given I hadn’t had any coffee yet. What are my beliefs? Where do I stand on the status of the soul and god and stuff? Philosophically I know my answers, but spiritually I am bereft of belief. I go through the Christmas and Easter motions with the rest of my family but don’t actually observe anything. Can I have a crisis in faith when I don’t have a faith?
Apparently not; the distress left my mind with lunch. However, us young heathens do have a secular equivalent, the mid-life (or quarter-life, if you’re optimistic) crisis. The absence of an overriding reason to life forces a search to create one, and when that’s found in something temporary like work or money, well, its disappointing when found to be just that.
I guess I’m a little jealous of the strongly religious. It must be nice to not have to make certain big decisions or ask some hard questions for oneself, to have the way and answers provided externally. But crises in faith seem so horrible (from what I’ve read and heard) that, to be honest, our secular version seems quaint and preferable. To have one’s world-view shaken, and not just about personal values and individual goals, but about the entire universe, is frightening to say the least. So I guess I’m not that jealous of the religious, when that danger is present. The weight of centuries and of the absolute rests upon them, and the strength to deal with it when it comes crashing down is quite admirable. While I will not be taking their literature any more, those old ladies will always earn my respect, almost to a point of fear.
To close, Nestor would once again like me to take the opportunity to promote his twitter, which I define as a “20-something’s commentary on contemporary New York living.”