Saturday, August 25, 2007

What Fosco learned from Mother Teresa

Fosco doesn't like to discuss religion in polite company; and if my conversation with you here at Fosco Lives! isn't polite, I don't know what it is. Aside from a few good-natured jokes about the Morms, Fosco prefers to live his unrepentantly atheistic life and ignore all the silliness about this Jebus Jesus that people keep talking about. This is the understanding here at Fosco Lives!: let's not talk god.

Fosco is going to break this agreement to make a brief comment about the soon-to-be-released letters of Saintish Mother Teresa. This collection reveals that Mother Teresa may have had (gasp!) doubts about her faith and the existence of god, revealing what is described by the NYTimes as a "profound darkness." From the NYT:

"I have no Faith--I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart--& make me suffer untold agony," she wrote in an undated letter.

In 1956, she wrote: "Such deep longing for God and...repulsed empty no faith no love no zeal. ... Heaven means nothing pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything."

Mother Teresa acknowledged the apparent contradiction with per public persona, describing her ever-present smile as "a mask" or "a cloak that covers everything."

Some writings seem to suggest she doubted God's existence. She wrote in 1959: "What do I labour for? If there be no God--there can be no soul--if there is no Soul then Jesus You also are not true."

Now Fosco has no interest in snarking at Mother Teresa. Even taking into account what Christopher Hitchens has (persuasively) argued, I still find Mother Teresa to be a lot more saint-like than say... me. Or Robert Olen Butler (R.I.P.). No, the target of Fosco's ire here is not MT herself, but rather anyone who thinks that christianity produces peace of mind.

Now Fosco's mind has a long and proud tradition of inquietude. And on several occasions has Fosco been assured by some glassy-eyed christo-zombie that a life of faith is pure blisssssssss. Fosco was once told (at a school board meeting, no less!) that only god could bring quiet to his troubled mind. And at least when Fosco is on an airplane or insomniac in the middle of the night, that kind of promise can seem pretty appealing.

But look at Saint Albanian Nun! This is what Mother Teresa's doubts suggest to me: the key to peace of mind is not faith in god, but rather near-vegetable idiocy. Apparently, even Mother Teresa was too smart for that.

(Of course, part of the Vatican's point here is that MT performed her saintly deeds despite her doubts--she lived a faith she didn't feel. Fine. I can deal with that. We can productively disagree over whether or not that's inspirational or pathetic--or some of both.)

So the next time Fosco finds himself in existential crisis in the middle of the night, he's going to think about Mother Teresa. And then he's going to roll over and make out with his boyfriend Oz, secure in the knowledge that christians all over the country are having similar midnight anxieties (and that most of them do not have a boyfriend with such a cute ass).

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