My first year as an altar boy, the masses were in Latin. It took me a long time to learn all the words. I was very proud to have done it and thereby earned the right to be an altar boy. And I was definitely going to be a priest when I grew up.
My second year as an altar boy, they changed everything to English. I was really pissed off at God for making me learn the Latin mass and then changing his mind.
Soon after that, when I was 10, I had my first doubt about my religion. It sprang directly from one specific bit of logic. I already knew that Jesus was the Son of God. He was divine. At age 10 I learned that the Jews thought that Jesus was merely a prophet. He was special, yes, but he wasn’t divine, according to them. And they were absolutely sure they were right. But my side was sure we were right too. This meant that there was a large group of people – either us or them – that was absolutely sure they were right, but must be absolutely wrong, since both sides could not be right. How could I really know for sure which side was right? Wasn’t it at least possible that my side was wrong? I determined yes, it was possible. In that case, it was simply up to me to pick a side. Yet I really had nothing tangible to go on.
And thus was born on the earth another agnostic.
Over the next ten years I morphed gradually until one day I decided to call myself an atheist based on the grounds that I really, really, really didn’t think there was an interactive all-knowing omni-present universe-creating being.
20+ years after that, I started meditating, which is basically a type of concentration exercise. Because of my mental workouts every morning, I am now able to beam myself back in time and do things like feel the rack of bells in my hand that I used to ring during mass when the priest drank from the chalice and ring again when he ate the Eucharist. I can feel my knees on the hard wood of the first of three stairs that lead up to the altar. From side stage, I look up at the priest. I can see him move ever so slowly. I can hear little bits of throat-clearing and clothes rustling from the cavernous reverberating chamber where people are sitting in silence.
I can see the priest lift the chalice to drink. With two hands. Father always used two hands.
From my books on meditation and mindfulness, I have learned how to pay attention to what I am doing. When I first get up in the morning, I walk slowly to the kitchen sink, I turn the water on, I hear it, I see it, I put a glass under the water and I watch and listen as the glass fills. I turn the water off. I stand straight. I put my feet together and make sure again that I am standing straight. I raise the water to my mouth. With two hands. Always two hands. It is impossible to be unmindful with two hands on the chalice.