Last day in London. Mostly cloudy skies with a high near seventy degrees while C. and I sat in the National Gallery, awaiting the results of our mandatory Covid tests so we could fly home. The possibility of containing this thing vanished years ago, yet America still believes the fictional boundaries of nations matter, so we installed a widget that verified our identities and had a man swab our nostrils. Then we sat among portraits of saints and gods, refreshing our telephones every few minutes, knowing our odds were fifty-fifty. At last, our screens turned green. We slapped high-five and did a quick tour of all the postcard sights we hadn’t yet seen: Big Ben, Tower Bridge, thousands of CCTV cameras, etc.

In the evening, we wandered into a service at Westminster Abbey, where we were seated next to a bust of William Blake, looking haunted and a little crazy. I saw his birthplace between an Indian restaurant and an expensive handbag store during my first days here. Now I was seated beneath his gaze while I admired the rituals of Christianity, particularly its acknowledgment that we’re imperfect: “We have sinned against thee and against our neighbor, in thought and word and deed, through negligence, through weakness, through our deliberate fault. We are heartily sorry.”

High voices filled the soaring canopies of stone while the names and faces of the famous dead surrounded us. Austen. Dickens. Newton. Darwin. Each time I go to church, I encounter something new. This time the priests washed people’s feet, and they burned so much incense our eyes watered. The Archdeacon was a woman who sermonized beautifully about “the body language of God” and how divine grace is manifested in the way we carry ourselves in the world. As far as I can tell, the Church of England preserves the mystery, guilt, and theatrics of Catholicism while draining its venom and dialing down the neurotic obsession with sex. If I ever join a religion, this might be the one— although I’d be joining for largely aesthetic reasons. But maybe these are enough.

James Murray – London Plane

Falling Backwards | Home Normal, 2018 | Bandcamp
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