I am not a religious person. I’m like Lloyd Bridges’ character in the movie “Cousins”, when he said, “God makes me nervous when you get him inside.” Maybe it is better summed up by Sting when he sang, “men go crazy in congregations, they only get better one by one.” I was raised a Catholic but as I once told my daughter, “I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, I had enough practice as a kid.” I have always looked at religious preference like sexual preference – practice whatever gives you peace and joy but a) don’t tell me about it (or preach to me about it) and b) don’t try to convert me. I guess you could find me at the Christopher Hitchens end of the aisle.
I have to admit, despite all that, I have seen some value in religion. One bizarre weekend a life time ago I was the best man in a wedding and then attended a funeral. I remember careening my neck around at the wedding and seeing the crowd, joyfully focused on the altar, where the nervous couple was saying their vows. By an odd circumstance, and this is what I mean by bizarre weekend, someone I knew passed away and I found myself in a funeral merely 3 days after the wedding. Once again I felt myself looking around the crowded chapel at people sorrowfully watching the folks on the altar who were eulogizing the deceased. It was then that it dawned on me that the sense of community that religion brings was something palpable. These two separate groups of people had come to celebrate a union of a new couple and to collectively mourn the loss of a man way too young to die. “I get it,” I finally thought. That’s what this is all about, the sense of collective joy or grief.
Despite my heathen nature, there are some things I hold sacred. In it’s simplest form, sitting down to a meal, “breaking bread” if you will, is something that is sacred to me. I don’t eat with people I don’t care about. I eat with family or friends or I eat alone. There is something intimate and almost holy about sharing food and laughs with family and friends. I feel the same way about sitting in a cafe and having a drink with friends or family. “Bourbon” is in the title of this blog. Sitting down in a darkened bar, with music playing in the background and sharing a drink is almost a sacrament in my mind.
One of the most sacred events in my universe is the concert. I remember the first concert I ever saw – it was a triple bill, three great bands, well 2 great bands and 1 moron (yes, talkin’ to you Ted Nugent) – and looking out into the crowded arena and seeing the crowd lift their lighters (this was long before cell phones) and I felt like I was in a church of sorts. I was connected to these people through the music. The communal vibe of people coming together to see a band, to listen to music, to celebrate that music and life itself is imprinted on my very soul. Again, it was that sense of community that I felt most strongly. Once my musical tastes became more sophisticated I found myself in smaller and smaller venues but that feeling of community and connection while the music played remained strong in me. The program in my childhood church said, “Singing Is Twice Praying.” Maybe they did get something right there after all…
While I sat in my home last night, a world away from Paris, my heart broke. To think that someone would shoot people in a restaurant or a cafe staggered me. There is a lot to be upset about last night, too much to put in a blog about bourbon and rock music, but what struck me the most was the attack on the Bataclan. I know nothing about the Eagles Of Death Metal, but my heart goes out to them and all the concert goers and their families. I read on Rolling Stone magazine’s twitter that “ISIS says they targeted Bataclan because it featured “hundreds of idolaters together in a party of perversity”.” You can not come up with a more fundamental misunderstanding of what was happening in that concert hall. People coming together in a joyful way to celebrate music and community has nothing to do with idolatry. Music is something that has been celebrated in every community since the dawn of man. Heartbreaking. Simply, heartbreaking.
They came into my church last night, the concert hall, and attacked. Senselessly.
I’d like to say I’m going to #prayforparis but that is not in my skill set. Like I said before, I’m not a religious person. And it would appear prayers and religion might be what fundamentally caused this horrific act. Perhaps a quiet drink and a tasteful toast would be more appropriate. My heart broke last night for the Bataclan crowd and the people of Paris. My thoughts, my heart, my very spirit is with those concert goers and with all of Paris. I think of the crowds I’ve seen in concerts my whole life and I can’t help but think of all the people who went out for a night of communal good times and met an untimely, senseless death. My despair over all the attacks in Paris last night is endless. These people were doing things we all do – dining, having drinks and listening to rock music – and they paid for it with their lives. It just makes no sense.
I am feeling a host of emotions. Despair, frustration and of course, enormous amounts of anger. The only fear I am feeling tonight is the fear that my thirst for vengeance brings. It will be easy for us to want to knee-jerk react to these senseless acts of violence and cowardice. Yes, cowardice, it doesn’t take guts to walk into a cafe or theater and shoot the unarmed and the innocent. It’s important to stand by our principles as civilized societies and make a measured, calculated response to this senselessness. Let’s not let these bastards take away who we are, or what we stand for.
Tonight, I toast Paris and I toast France for their loss and for their courage in the face of this outrageous act. I toast for the Eagles of Death Metal, who must be in shock and despair tonight.
Hang in there people. It’s a dark ride. Let’s not let the thugs and the lawless drag us down.