I’ve decided that in order to get my thoughts marshalled and my head back in the right place to start new work, I shall blog those rambling thoughts each day if I can for a while, even as some sort of list, and see what happens. I shall take a few photos of my sketch book too… you never know. Some words are carried between projects, these are my broad themes…
love and kindness
(and all the other stuff – hate anger resentment jealousy spite cruelty)
…these crop up all the time in the stitched pieces, the digital, and of course the songs and sounds
But in amongst those are other things that I visit, things that are material such as garments and chairs, but also those things that have been perhaps glancing blows, that are a small or large part of who I am, but are only occasionally overt in the work… such as…
I think I am possibly the most religious atheist I know.
My faith has gradually and mysteriously disappeared over time, and now I don’t know why it was ever there… weird…
I was brought up as a catholic, was educated in a catholic school, got married as a catholic, had both children baptised and sent to catholic schools, I worked in a catholic school for over ten years.
I can’t actually say when it happened. It wasn’t an overnight thing, it wasn’t a bolt of lightning, more a sort of bucket with a hole in… and then one day I realised that Sunday Mass would be great if it wasn’t for all the God stuff in the middle. My socialising was being interrupted by this very serious religious worship.
And that was it. I don’t know where it all dripped out, but it did. I suspect the death of my parents, particularly my mother, had something to do with it. I suspect the way that art made me think more deeply had much to do with it to. I have certainly over the last ten to fifteen years become more questioning.
I still have great respect for those who live a life of deep faith. It can be an amazing thing. (Maybe mine was never strong enough in the first place?) I have two sons who both live lives very close to their faith, and I do not regret that, but it isn’t for me any more.
I also have friends for whom the faith is in their bones, in the way they live their lives and make their choices. It is truly impressive. In contrast, I also see plenty of “Bolt-On” catholics, who seem to think that just the title makes them a better person. Those who go to church, wear the hat, turn up at the right events, but from Monday to Saturday are cruel and spiteful people intent on raising their own status rather than helping others. I also see people who are not religious, doing the most amazing things to support their fellow humans because it is the right and moral thing to do, and God has nothing to do with it. That is impressive too. I am impressed by some people disappointed by others. To me now, religion can be a problematic motivator. When behaving well is extrinsically rewarded rather than intrinsically part of who you are, then it is more easily manipulated.
Weirdly, I didn’t intend to write about this so much, but I did want to mention how some things in my work are affected by my upbringing… that how some things have a glancing blow effect, but others seep in and stay there, whether you choose to deny them or not.
Some of the work in my sketch book includes chunks of a book called The Catholic Schools Hymnal. I had this in primary school, and I think my brother had it too, as he has at some point in his youth, written his name in the back. It is full of latin, prayers and hymns and the corners are turned over on some pages. Some are torn anyway, so I’ve used them… but only recently have I felt able to. It’s only a book, a very tatty one, that is no longer usable or relevant other than as material for me to examine…
What I have found is that the memories, the way I have been emotionally and physically touched is bound up in all of this religion. I can’t shake off the influence of it, even if I now decide to shake off the centre of it.
Another point of interest is we know how to spot each other… there is something in our demeanour and our language that gives it away to others in the club. I can spot a catholic a mile away, practicing or lapsed… and look, there’s the word that actually says it – LAPSED!! We are not considered atheists, or agnostics, we are not to say we have no faith, because it is in us whether we want it or not, and we will return in the end, however much we deny… so I’ve been told…
How this affects the work then is right there… the lapsed, the almost forgotten, the denied, the dead, the cast-off…. they’re not… they’re still there. Each scrap of fabric and each stitch is reminiscent of every person met… They’re all still there. And in the very denial of God, he’s there too… 919 words all about his absence.