Thursday, September 20, 2007


Some years back, when I still worked at the bookstore and was experiencing a patch of tough sledding, I used to eat my lunch then head around the corner to the downtown cathedral. They opened their doors to the public from noon to two. I'd steal in, tiptoe to a pew somewhere near the middle, then sit down and take deep breaths.

The first time I entered the sanctuary, I had the bizarre sensation my scalp was being stretched like Silly Putty toward the arches. It was a little nerve-wracking the first time, but I calmed down. With every successive visit that sensation became less and less pronounced. Two weeks later, the sanctuary was simply a place where I could breath with greater ease than I could elsewhere.

The cathedral was built in the Gothic Anglican tradition. I was all set to pontificate on the differences between this sanctuary and the evangelical protestant sanctuaries I was more accustomed to. Lots of material to explore in these home-town meeting houses, to be sure: the wall-to-wall carpeting; the nearly-universal color scheme that favors autumnal browns; the ever-present banners with a cross, a crown and a dove; the fetish for technology over functionality (video! digital video! video digital streaming!!) etc. etc. I've never had that "Silly Putty feeling" in a Mennonite or evangelical sanctuary, and I figured it was a physical response to the surrounding aesthetic. Except...

Except the only other time I experienced this sensation was two years later in California, when I first walked through the doors of .... an enormous Barnes & Noble. Yup: my first exposure to a stadium-sized bookstore.

Make of it what you will, 'cos I haven't figured it out yet.

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