[Creative Writing Contest] Communities of Rigor

post by j_t · 2021-10-10T16:39:48.309Z · EA · GW · 1 comments

Running late. Changing into good clothes at the end of the week. Traditional music. Adults murmuring with their heads bowed. Eyes closed — but for transgressive peeks, glances the kids fear that God notices. Scripture books piled near an altar. A youth group, shushed, is led trundling by the inner sanctum.

Billions have these memories. At ages we can count on a single hand, we learn these are our special places. These are essential communities. A man at the lectern brings a microphone to his mouth. We are in a sacred space. A solemn pause. Our presence here suffuses us with holiness. Those who don’t bear witness in this room are distant. Distant from goodness, and from us. They run fearsome risks. The speaker’s voice is clear. His eyes scan the audience. The sermon is refined.

Before leaving the room, we turn our reading to the page he announces. We follow him in a recitation, or a song. We will be back next week.

Years later, we join another community. We may be decades into adulthood. The person who shares the premise with us is halting, uncertain. She, he, they hesitate to impose a challenging set of principles. They do not feel ordained to this role. The community’s boundaries are porous. Meetings are irregular and optional. Practice is not formulaic. Founders of the community emphasize that no two people have the same path to good works. The frameworks the leaders themselves live by are tentative and imperfect. They encourage public criticism from new voices. A 120-degree change of course may be advisable. No certain gender, age, robe, or diploma is required for authority.

We can only do our best, but many lives are at stake if we don’t do that.

These communities need not exist in tension. Yet many of us — skeptical (“devil’s advocates”), gender-diverse, queer, sexually active, born out of wedlock or to fractured families — are filed under problematic by our earliest communities. We transgress by our immutable nature, or by loving acts that seem to hurt nobody. Brows furrow. We are pushed away from “goodness,” and from the sanctuary.

The second community has no sanctum. Rewards of good acts mainly accrue to others. Solidarity extends to all people and species, whether they live now or in the far future. Our clothing style, language, and love life are immaterial in comparison. They were always irrelevant, anyway. We do not gain status by demonstrating good posture or perfect pitch or an attractive family during service. Our good works are measured by other yardsticks. In lives protected, and pain averted. Across national and species boundaries. And across time.


Feedback is greatly appreciated. This is submitted pseudonymously, but in the tiny chance this is a prize-winner, please direct any funds to WANBAM. Thank you!


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comment by WSCFriedman · 2021-10-14T07:38:42.903Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'm sorry, but I don't have anything to say about the story, because I didn't 'get' what it was saying.

Sorry. I don't know what you were trying to do because whatever you were trying to do you didn't succeed in doing it to me.