"No belief! No belief!"
The terrible words, in her exhausted croak, stirred him to the beginning of a fury. What had he done, what had he endured, to be able to come at last to belief! And a chambermaid, a cleaner of toilets, could cry so freely against it!
He knew her meaning: she was abashed, shame punched out her tears, she was sunk in absurdity and riddle. But still it shook him--he turned against her--because every day of his life he had to make the same pilgrimage to belief all over again, starting out each dawn with the hard crow's call of no belief.
Apparently you can get an indulgence if you go to confession, receive holy communion, say a prayer for the pope and achieve “complete detachment from any inclination to sin.” The prayer for the pope seems pretty self-serving. But what I'm most stuck on is the complete detachment part. Is that really possible? I can't imagine. And how meaningful is it to confess something you no longer have any inclination to do? That seems pointless.
Oddly, this article did make me want to go to confession--something I haven't done since my very first confession back in about the third grade. It's not the desire for absolution; I've always said that if there is really a god who sentences people to eternity in hell for their mistakes, I want to go to hell to be part of the revolution. But I do like the idea of a ritual that creates a space for me to reflect on how I would like to live my life differently. The thing is, I suspect the stuff I feel most guilty about doesn't necessarily match up to the stuff the Catholic Church views as sin. Like smoking. Is that a sin?
And would I have to confess every sin I've committed since the last time I went to confession, more than twenty years ago? Even the stuff I've come to terms with on my own? Or what about premarital sex with my now-husband--does that really matter now that we're married (putting aside the fact that I don't feel any guilt about it whatsoever)? If I do go to confession, I'd better tell the priest ahead of time that he'll need to clear his schedule for a couple days.
This might make sense, but it feels very wrong. It makes me feel that all those months I was being treated as a glorified incubator, a vessel that once empty loses its significance. I suddenly "get" in a meaningful way a large swath of feminist thought that was previously merely theoretical. The upshot is that pregnancy and birth have made me shift a little more toward the pro-choice side of the abortion question. That seems pretty ironic.
(I was essentially on the fence before--I find some arguments on both sides to be very compelling, and mostly I just find it outrageous that people can be so strident about something so full of deep emotional conflicts. Which actually put me more on the pro-choice side, but just barely.)
I don't know why I decided to post about this after midnight when I have to go to work in the morning, but there it is. Now I have to go to bed.
I marked this today in the title story of Cynthia Ozick's Dictation:
[Joseph Conrad's amanuensis, explaining to Henry James' amanuensis how she and Conrad work together, admits to secretly correcting Conrad when he misspeaks an English idiom.]
"All that is similar to my own experience with Mr. James. Mr. James, however, is beyond correction."
"Mr. James was not born in Poland."
"But he was born in America, which makes his intimacy with the English language all the more remarkable."
I have to go lie down. And maybe reread The Second Sex.