Chapels: Significance Of, Explored by Pico Iyer in The Utne Reader

A long, long time ago, when self was young, Mother Jones and The Utne Reader were her “go-to” magazines.  She was a little leftist, OK?  She had the idea she was staking new ground, especially after Chinese history classes where a professor talked openly of smoking weed.  New graduate of East Asian Studies from Stanford, head brimming with delightful ideas and notions, self turned up her nose at (she felt) elitist The New Yorker.

When her first book, Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila, came out, Utne Reader reviewed it.

Then, almost 10 years ago, self was looking for a copy of the review.  She couldn’t locate the file.  She e-mailed someone at The Utne Reader.  They found it and mailed a copy to her.

So, last year, self began a (long overdue) subscription to The Utne Reader.  Never mind that the first issue that arrived in the mail featured a drawing of Kim Kardashian on the cover.  Inside was a gathering of articles that self still hasn’t finished reading.  This is the May/June 2011 issue we are talking about here.

On p. 77, self finds an essay called “Where Silence is Sacred.”  She sees that the author is Pico Iyer.  He and Ian Buruma are two of self’s favorite essayists.  So she begins to read.  And here are excerpts:

Giant figures are talking and strutting and singing on enormous screens above me, and someone is chattering away on the mini-screen in the cab from which I just stepped.  Nine people at this street corner are shouting into thin air, wearing wires around their chins and jabbing at the screens in their hands.  One teenager, I read recently, sent 300,000 text messages in a month —  or 10 a minute for every minute of her waking day.  There are more cell phones than people on the planet now, almost (ten mobiles for every one at the beginning of the century).  Even by the end of the past century, the average human being in a country such as ours saw as many images in a day as a Victorian inhaled in a lifetime.

And then I walk off crowded Fifth Avenue and into the capacious silence of Saint Patrick’s.  Candles are flickering here and there, intensifying my sense of all I cannot see.  Figures are on their knees, heads bowed, drawing my attention to what cannot be said.  Light is flooding through the great blue windows, and I have entered a realm where no I or realm exists.  I register everything around me:  the worn stones, the little crosses, the hymnbooks, the upturned faces; then I sit down, close my eyes —  and step out of time, into everything that stretches beyond it.

Oh, so beautiful!  Now self will stop blogging, so that she can read the rest of the essay with full concentration.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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