In Catholic school, the nuns taught us that we were special. God himself made us from the dust of the earth. Or rather, he created a dude named Adam. And when Adam was lonely (more like horny, a concept foreign to the good sisters who were married to Jesus, but didn’t get any), god fashioned him a woman to have and to hold and eventually give birth to the entire human race.
I’ll leave you to figure out how a man and a woman and their two sons managed to do that. Let’s just say it’s a tradition in royal families everywhere.
I also learned that my body was the temple of the Lord (with a capital L), as in the big cheese in the sky, the Zeus-man without the gym-toned body and unlimited supply of Viagra, not the lord that Mama spoke of who profited from the labor of my peasant grandparents before they left southern Italy to come to America.
Because my body was a temple of the Lord, I couldn’t masturbate or even have impure thoughts. I could fill my mind with endless Westerns that showed the guys in the white hats killing the ones in the black ones, and of course march my feet off to America’s latest military excursion to slaughter all those other temples of the Lord because they were followers of some guy named Karl Marx.
Touching myself “down there” was as verboten as anything could ever be. I ended up confessing “I touched myself down there” many times to the unseeable confessor on the other side of the dark church box that could have been Dr. Who’s Tardis.
As the infamous Dr. Smith would say, “Temple of god, indeed!” Fortunately, I gave up Catholicism at 16 when I encountered two of the great minds of French Existentialist literature — Jean-Paul Sartre and Jean Genet.
I also discovered that we are actually stardust. As in Joni Mitchell’s song Woodstock: “we are stardust, we are golden…” Turns out it’s only 93% true. That’s how much of our mass is from the stuff that exploding stars spew out. That star vomit becomes the building blocks of new stars and planets and the creatures that evolve on those planets.
Last night, I was channel surfing and came across an interesting program on PBS about strings. Not the kind the cat plays with or that collects in the drawer in the kitchen with all the other odds and ends we absolutely must have around in case someday by some chance we need them.
These strings are the smallest pieces of the puzzle that makes up the universe. Tinier than those protons and neutrons we learned about in college science courses back in the day when they were all the rage among the type of guys you find on the “The Big Bang Theory.”
At a very basic level, according to this theory, we’re all composed of strings that vibrate in different ways to create the various kinds of matter that makes up trees and kitty cats and hairless killer apes, not to mention the stuff of stars that eventually explode and cough up the basic building blocks of the human body.
Stardust or strings, it’s certainly preferable to being a temple of some deity who doesn’t let me masturbate.
Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a longtime queer writer, performer and activist, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: the early years of gay liberation (City Lights) and co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italian Writers Sail Beyond Columbus. Read Tommi’s blog here.