--That's what's amazing (about big old churches). At two in the afternoon there's nobody in any of them. There they sit with all that stone and mahogany and stained glass--and they're empty. I mean, they must have been crowded at one point, right?--for someone to have gone to all that trouble. There must've been lines outside the confessionals and weddings with girls dropping flower petals in the aisle.
--From baptisms to eulogies ....
--Exactly. But over time the congregation has been winnowed away. The newcomers set up their own churches and the big old ones just get left alone--like the elderly--with memories of their heyday. I find it very peaceful to be in their company.
--Amor Towles, Rules of Civility, a Novel
This strikes a note for me. This strums a chord. Here I am left alone, empty, yet strangely content. What, after all, is the alternative? I am a dull, unattended eulogy to myself, stone, mahogany, stained glass and all. I am found at the same places day in and day out, week in and week out, though sought by no one. There I am at the table with my book, in this or that cafe. The man, the book, the coffee, and the banana bread. Nothing to see here (or perhaps it is occasionally wished that better use might be made of the space).
Did you know that two people engaged in conversation are more likely to be interrupted than one person reading a book?
The other day, the neighborhood dogs brought bad feelings to a head when some of the neighbors began to complain. Ultimately, the trouble was narrowed down to their shit. By some, it was not appreciated. Especially by those who own little warungs on the street that serve food and desire customers. An acutely, rather painfully polite argument, something that only truly be accomplished by Indonesians, ensued via text on the neighborhood Whatsapp line. There were those, myself included, who prefer to see the dogs run free, leaving everyone responsible for their own property, and there were those who preferred to see the dogs somehow corralled and leashed. It all petered out eventually in the vague agreement that everyone should do what I have already stated--that is, take care of their own shit (or rather that of the dogs which happened to end up on their property or nearby in the street.
Everyone would be responsible, it was agreed--but it was added by one writer that an exception to this general rule should be one Mister Richard who was "sudah sepuh" and should not be expected to carry out the task under discussion.
Sudah sepuh means old, elderly.
The big old ones just get left alone, not good, to put it another way, for shit.
Not that I mind.
Nor do I mind the fact that sepuh is a bit different from tua--both meaning old, but the first carrying a shading or honor and respect.
Nonetheless, I feel the quiet surprise and pain of those old churches, standing outside of their own world, once central, now peripheral; once essential, now forgotten.