Friday, November 11, 2011

The Wee Monklets

One tuesday night at work (a very gras mardi, if you get me), I met a friendly man in stylish clothes: designer jeans, nice shoes, and one of those sport coats that looks beat up, but really costs hundreds. One thing out of place: around his neck was a necklace of phalluses. Giant plastic pink penises. Flesh-colored monoliths rising from sizable sets of balls. Wrapped around each of these turgid towers was a stylized, bare-breasted woman. We made pleasant conversation as I prepped his drinks. Finally, at the handoff, I couldn't resist:

"On your way to mardi gras?"

He smiled that little smile I usually save for people who ask for free coffee.

"It's a religious symbol, actually."

I sputtered apologies, but he simply nodded and strolled away, looking like the most stylish mothereffer to ever rock a sacred penis necklace in a neighborhood coffee shop. Point of this story is, religion is a fascinating thing. What looks strange to one person is the height of sanctity to another.
So while I could snark about these monks' sweet hats, or imply that those dhungkar conch shells(? google is unclear) are full of booze, I can only imagine how it'd feel to watch the rite in action.

Because I'm in Chicago.

Okay, no, seriously. Back when I was an occasional world traveler I got to check out a Buddhist ceremony at a Japanese temple at, oh, 4:30 in the morning. And despite the fact I'm nominally Catholic and mostly too fond of pornography and swearing to be actually religious, I could sense how sacred the experience was. The devotion of the monks. Their dedication as they chanted. The collected awe of a group of college students who'd, moments earlier, bitched about removing their shoes in chilly fall weather. Of all the postcards I've gotten so far, I think I'm most jealous of this one.

Especially because of the WEE MONKLETS! Experiencing a lengthy sacred ritual on a freaking mountain: awesome. Watching young monks have as much fun as they can while still sort of adhering to the tenets of that lengthy sacred ritual on a freaking mountain: AWESOMAZING.

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