"Gloria in Excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus"
("Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace to people of good will")
Those words echoed through the vast open air of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Aurora, IL. My voice was suspended in the air as if carried aloft by angels, the world melting into a symphony before my eyes.
The gig, like most every unique opportunity I've ever had, stemmed from sheer chance. I sing at a Catholic Church on Sundays and, through my connection with the organist, I got the gig to perform at his other parish in Aurora on Christmas Eve.
The kicker of the deal was that half of the mass would be in English, the other in Spanish. I was frazzled at first thought, but I'm a trained classical musician who has sung in every language from Latin to Lithuanian, so my skill set is very much geared toward singing in different languages.
I rehearsed the music, which included the traditional Christmas fare such as "Away in a Manger" and "What Child is This?", with verses in both English in Spanish. As I was rehearsing before the mass, it struck me how relevant what I was doing really was. Here were Christmas songs, which every ear and tongue had beheld, but mixed into a melting pot.
The service started and I was struck by the congregation, which was about 85% Hispanic, the rest being a mixture of Caucasian and Asian. Here were the people who, in his speech announcing his presidential run, Donald Trump described as "Mexico sending its people, [and] they're not sending their best. ... They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." (Source) Here they were sitting, worshipping, and welcoming me, someone who by all estimations would have never set foot in this church, and treating me as a brother.
As I was witnessing the service, a thought struck my mind: Donald Trump is their president now. This man, who has lambasted, defiled, and ridiculed their life and customs, now has to decide what is right for them. These people, pious and reverent, now have to watch as they are left behind by the closest this country has ever gotten to a dictatorship.
Donald Trump's "America" is not their America. In his "America" there is no room for their customs, just as there is no use for my lifestyle. But, oddly, these people have gotten closer to true happiness that the walking press machine we have as our kvetcher-in-chief.
The brilliant Novelist Nikos Kazantzakis once said that "the real meaning of enlightenment is to gaze with undimmed eyes on all darkness." The whole country has now looked into the darkness and found that we have a lot of adversity to face in the coming years.
But, ironically, my experience also gave me hope. Trump is presidents, but here we are, still collectively joining in our own special form of meditation and praise. We may not all agree, we may not even necessarily understand what makes the other tick, but we all coexist in this crazy would.
If there's anything that Donald Trump has inspired me to do, it's that I now take a look at the blessings of the world around me and thank my lucky stars that I am where I am and who I have become. Through force, torture, and death, I will never stop saying that I am proud of myself and that there is still good left in the world.
The ancient Hindu text The Bhagavad Gita has been a recent source of comfort for me, both poetically and rationally. Back in my Republican days, I would have seen reading this holy book as an act of out and out Terrorism. Yet, now that I truly am enlightened to the diversity of the world, I find great solace in these words.
This weekend has healed my soul in a way that I would never have thought was possible after November 8th. The world, and its intersecting and varied parts, is wide open for me and the rest of the world. I know I'm making this more than it has to be but, when one is pushed out of one's comfort zone, they become more aware of something that remained obstructed.
At first, as I said, I feared what a Trump presidency would do to these people, yet I am now comforted in a way that is best described by a passage from the Gita:
“No one who does good work will ever come to a bad end, either here or in the world to come”
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And the newest episode of my podcast, The Objectivist and The Vegan, has been uploaded to SoundCloud!
In this episode, Jack (The Vegan) and Steven (The Objectivist) celebrate the holidays as only they can! Also: Steven dates a fundamentalist Christian, Jack admits that Christmas is all about the presents, and a cavalcade of fantastic guests visit the studio for this Holiday Extravaganza!
Click the orange button in the widget below and listen to our ramblings!