Friday, April 22, 2005

Our Lady of Perpetual Delusion

April 18, 2005, 1:35 PM CDT
Curiosity seekers joined the faithful today to view what some said was an image of the Virgin Mary at an underpass of the Kennedy Expressway on Chicago's Northwest Side, CLTV reported. About 20 people were among the first to perceive the image shortly before midnight on a concrete wall of the Fullerton Avenue viaduct in the city's Bucktown neighborhood, officials said. By this morning, television news crews were on the scene and media reports were spreading the word of the alleged apparition. People milled about, taking photos and shooting video of what some were calling "Our Lady of the Underpass," WGN-Ch. 9 reported. Some prayed and set lighted candles and flowers at the base of the image. Officers of the Chicago Police Department and troopers of the Illinois State Police were nearby in case they were needed to direct traffic."It's a miracle. It's an image. You can't describe it. It's the first time I've seen something like this," said one witness, Jose Recinos. Some witnesses told WGN the image was more visible on camera or when there was less light. Officials, though, said the pattern on the wall simply might be a stain caused by road salt dripping from the expressway. Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune
Okay, Roeper beat me to this in Wednesday's Sun-Times, but I just have to say that whole event, phenomenon, spiritual frenzy--whatever you want to call it--got me thinking about faith.

I don't get faith, but I think I have it. Faith is like the baseball bat my dad kept under the bed. I knew it was there, limned with what little dust was ever allowed to creep into our weekly-Pledged home, there to be used in case someone or thing ever broke into the house. How, when, or why--I never knew. But when I was laying in bed at night, listening wide-eyed to the creaks and sighs of our tiny post-war cape cod, the lash of branches at the window, the barely-perceptible-oh-my-God-was-that-a footstep on the shag carpet stairs to my room, I knew the bat was there--and there, for all intents and purposes, to protect me. It never was used, ever.

Or maybe faith works according to the opposite dynamic--the Horoscope Effect: you see what you want to see. But I worry sometimes that we are all just deluding ourselves, at our desks, over the deli counter at Jewel ("it really is fresh"), in front of the bank balance, the mirror ("I'm happy, really"), in the glance of a would-be friend, in the words of a knows-you-too-well friend ("Sure you should call"), at the corner of North and Milwaukee ("I will beat the light"), at dawn in bed, at church. If I just "believe" it's there, if I "see" it there, why, it's there! And I can live happily, hugging my tacit acceptance. I can send a photograph of a worm on the fizzy-wet sidewalk of Chicago Avenue to Japan in an instant (if I knew someone in Japan), so yeah, it's got to be there, anything can be there. It can be here---and it can be there. It's just past my fingertip, I can just barely discern it, so it must be there. In front of a salt stain on a sooty expressway ballast, in thrall...it must be there.

Faith? Folderol? Fantasy?

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