Dear J-

They say that you can’t count on people to share your politics or your religion (and I would extend that to include music too) but bear with me as I digress for a minute here. Although we were not a regular churchgoing family (my parents’ preferred church* was twenty miles away), I have developed a sort of religion — not a capital R organized sort of Religion**, but more of a personal stance on the everyday miracles that make me think there’s something intelligent up there pulling strings and putting things straight.

There is of course the miracle of you: of the billions of people in the world, it boils down to two people and of those, there’s any one of hundreds of eggs and millions of spermatozoa that could have combined. The astronomical odds boggle the mind. Might a guiding hand have some invisible influence in the process? I suppose this is how it all starts: people start thinking how and why and before you know it there’s an explanation, a creation story that encompasses what we know and how we count it.

The strange ideas I come up with to explain the world in terms I understand don’t bear much mention except to think of the invisible hand as a sort of cosmic accountant: for something here, we need to take away from something there. In all the wish tales I’ve read, the literal meaning of the wish is fulfilled without regard to the intent, so a birth comes from a soul freed by death, riches taken from something else you wanted; a never-ending cycle of O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi. I wonder at our good fortune, worrying about what it must mean for someone else.


* I think they chose the church they did primarily for social reasons: it was the only Chinese congregation at the time, sermons were delivered bilingually, and the last Sunday night of the month was a potluck where we were regular attendees. The church shared space with the Grace Baptist Church, though we were generally shunted into a small basement room while services were held in the gracious upstairs space. It used to inspire a kind of strange gnawing envy: why didn’t we get the chance to head upstairs?

** My main objection to such Religion are the acts committed in the name of Religion from Crusades to jihad, Prohibition, and everything in between.


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