Five Quick Takes

Five Quick Takes September 30, 2022

I.

As people who’ve followed me for a while may have guessed, I’ve been in a funk for quite some time. It’s hard to write; it’s especially hard to write about faith-related stuff. Given that that’s, you know, the main premise of my blog—it’s got Catholic right there in the name—that does stick a wrench into things here!

I think the series I’ve been attempting is extra tough, though. My plan was (and still is) to go through the Apostles’ Creed, phrase by phrase, explaining its meaning as simply as I can, and articulating the ways in which I feel like I have … how shall I put it? Let’s say, assent more than faith. In reciting the creeds or discussing theology, I feel like I’m endorsing a hypothesis, not like I’m trusting a person. Sometimes I question whether I even really have faith.

Because the truth is, I kind of don’t feel like I’ve met Jesus. I realize that meeting Jesus is not like meeting an ordinary human, both because of what he is and because of where he is (both literally and metaphorically). How do you relate to someone you can’t have a conversation with?

I guess the thing to do is pray for it. I’m scared to do that, though—scared he won’t do or say anything, basically. Perhaps also scared that he will? since that might mean I’d have to finally “get around to” shuffling off attachments to certain cherished sins, or at any rate making the sincere effort that I have decidedly not made so far. But I think I’m more frightened of hearing, seeing, feeling nothing.

II.

I’m keeping their identity private, but one of my relatives was just diagnosed with a melanoma. Thankfully, they think they got it all via surgery, though of course they’ll be checking soon to make sure. Nor is this a shock exactly; there’s cancer on both sides of our family. But that of course is not exactly a comfort either. Please pray for me and mine. There’s a parish not far from me which has a statue of St. Peregrine; I can’t truthfully claim to have a sense of connection to him, but I’m planning to light a candle to him there as soon as I can manage.

III.

30th September is the day after Michaelmas, which in my book makes it the inaugural day of spooky season! Taking it together with all the days of October and then adding on Hallowmas and All Souls at the end gets a total of thirty-four days, the same as the number of cantos in the Inferno (which is totally not a thing I came up with arbitrarily to rationalize how long I would like this part of the year to last).

I’m trying out new horror, fantasy, and sci-fi stuff all the time, and I generally take this opportunity to recommend and/or review the best stuff I’ve found. Last year I reviewed Midnight Mass, for instance, and I’ve been getting into a lot of horror YouTube over the past several months: I went back and watched Marble Hornets, I’ve been deliciously creeped out by Local 58 and The Mandela Catalogue (which I discovered thanks to Wendigoon), and I’m enjoying the Volgun’s SCP content as well—my favorites so far are the entries for Seven Strangers at a Feast and LA U GH IS F UN.

I used to only dabble in podcasts, hardly venturing past Welcome to Night Vale. However, after trying The Magnus Archives back in 2020, I got more curious. I’ve discovered quite a number that are perfect for this season, including Let’s Not Meet, The White Vault, Man in the Window,* and Wolf 359. I’ve also gotten endless joy from Stellar Firma, though it doesn’t really count as horror (it’s got some bleak stuff in it, but played for laughs).

Image provided for under fair use.

The one I’m currently most excited about is Malevolent. This is a Lovecraftian story about a private investigator named Arthur Lester. He comes to abruptly, in his office, stricken with amnesia and unable to see—and with a strange voice in his head that turns out to have control over his eyes, which informs him not only that his partner is dead, but that Lester is the killer. Lester now has to cooperate with the voice, which claims to be from some dark, alien dimension, in order to get around and, in the long run, figure out what’s happening.

I’m only two episodes deep, and I rarely even mention a podcast I’m enjoying that early! However, I have to say I’m already impressed with Malevolent thus far, for two reasons. One, the acting and the production value are top-notch—I think I can safely call myself a seasoned horror fan by now, and I have shuddered more than once while listening! The other is, even if the podcast turns out disappointing later on, I strongly recommend “Nine to Midnight,” a bonus piece in Season One. It’s a series of ten campfire stories, told in-story in an abandoned mental institute the narrators have broken into; “Rare Book” by Harlan Guthrie and “The Shortcut” by Jess Syratt, the second and ninth of the bunch, really made my skin crawl. If you have any taste for horror, check it out!

*Note: this is about the Golden State Killer (also known as the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, and several other names), active during the ’70s and ’80s. Some of his victims are still living, and indeed some of them contributed to the podcast. However, especially with such a recent case, consuming true crime content as entertainment always risks being a little ghoulish—in the real-life, objectively bad way, rather than the harmless goth kid way. Use prudence, and maybe skip this one if you’re in doubt.

IV.

Regular readers will probably already be familiar with Eve Tushnet—she’s the author of Gay and Catholic and Tenderness, as well as the novels Amends and Punishment: A Love Story. She has assembled a small conference of LGBTQ Catholics, to try and put together some kind of curriculum for introducing young people to the Church’s teaching on this topic in a way that’s not awful. (This is not to say that introducing young people, or anyone else, to the Church’s doctrine of sex in general or gayness specifically is the most important thing. But it’s taught in a lot of really toxic, incompetent, and unhelpful ways, which is a problem that does badly need fixing.) It’s a two-part event; the second is going to take place out here on the east coast, but the first is slated for San Jose in just three weeks, and she invited me to come! I’m really excited, both for the work and because it’ll be my first time back out there in over ten years. Please pray for us!

V.

There is one setting where I feel like I’m a little more in touch with God than usual, and that’s Eucharistic adoration. There’s a 24/7 chapel only about ten minutes’ walk from where I live. Yet a third time I solicit your prayers—this time, that I’d go there more often, and maybe stay longer.

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