The Face of Jesus (in the wood grain of a grandfather clock)
A couple of years past retirement, I moved into a "retirement community"
(i.e. Old Folks Home) which was convenient like a hotel.
Once a week there would be a coffee and doughnuts Meet and Greet get-together so you would know who your neighbors were.
Well . . .
I went to few and missed a few.
After an absence of two months, I entered the community room where all the blue-haired folks gathered. The conversation seemed to be about a fellow who had passed away.
One white-haired dearie said to me, "I thought YOU were the one who died."
I assured her I was not.
Only two (count em') TWO guys were still alive and I was (presumably) one of them.
Thankfully, another fellow moved in and news spread like wildfire he had retired with plenty of money!
The ladies just adored and befriended him. In fact, they liked him so much they shared their woes with him and he became the local Savings and Loan, only without the "Savings" part.
Well, one Sunday at the coffee thingy, I say hello to the new guy and we start chatting. Suddenly, spoke up all excitedly...
"Did you see Henrietta's clock?"
Well, I thought that sounded like a straight line if ever I had heard one.
"You did say: CLOCK, right?"
"What'd you think I said?"
I told him I didn't think a woman with a clock was newsworthy enough to warrant his enthusiasm, so I . . . well, never mind!
(His name was Stan.)
Stan didn't miss a beat.
"Oh come one, come on--you gotta go with me--Henrietta loves to show people her clock. You've never seen anything like it."
Other folks, (always eavesdropping) jumped in all at once.
"Oh, that's right! YOU CAN SEE THE FACE OF JESUS in the woodgrain of her clock!"
But, the serious expressions of the others told me not to scoff.
There were more of them than of me, so . . .
Let's cut to the chase.
I end up, along with all the others, marching down a few halls like vigilantes until I found myself standing in Henrietta's room.
We formed a semi-circle around a sort of smallish version of a Grandfather's clock. A cheap clock with awful fake woodgrain.
We probably looked a bit like those ape-like hominids at the beginning of Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey as they beheld the MONOLITH.
One by one the lady hominids lurched forward with trembling fingers and touched the sacred "face" of phantom woodgrain Jesus. There was "oohing and ahhing" and the others
were purring like shaggy kittens with blue permed fur.
"You do SEE HIM...right?"
"Do YOU SEE our Saviour?"
Each one of them was cocking their head this way and that like a puppy in a pet shop window.
"Isn't it amazing?"
Henrietta's face glowed like a Renaissance oil painting.
I blinked. I squinted.
I got closer, then farther away.
It was sort of like trying to read an Optician's Eye Chart in Swahili.
My internal dialogue went like this.
"I'm screwed. If I don't see it, I'll be skinned and tossed into the furnace as a witch."
A few minutes passed. The ancient cheerleader's tempers were getting short with me. Some were making excuses for me, while others were suggesting I was atheist or Muslim. I'm not kidding!
"Aren't you a BELIEVER?"
Henrietta narrowed her suspicious eyes at me while traces of a snarl curled the side of her lip.
There have been many times in my life where I have been tested as to faith, belief, and willingness to take a stand. I have always thought you have to swim against the tide and say what's really in your heart and your mind. Take the consequences as they come, that's what counts.
So, I took a deep breath and faced the menacing lynch mob squarely.
"Yes, ma'am--I think I'm starting to see something...it's shaping up... I'm almost there....oh..Oh..OHHHHH Wow!"
("Waitress, I'll have what THEY'RE having, please!")
In other words: I FAKED IT.
Don't judge me too harshly. I had to see these people every day. It was time for me to learn to go along to get along. Screw integrity. I've been there and done that. I gave at the office.
Smiles like campfires in the night glowed among the crinkled faces. I was now accepted as ONE OF THEM.
(At last, he loved Big Brother.)
One by one the congregants drifted out into the hallway all aglow and deeply, spiritually satisfied.
Now alone, it was just Stan and Terry remaining, glancing back and forth at each other in a weird sort of way.
Henrietta had sauntered off to go back to the coffee and doughnut soiree' in the recreation room.
Stan heaved a weary sigh and turned to me.
His face was turned down in disappointment.
"I was hoping you couldn't."
"Couldn't see the Jesus face in the wood grain."
"Huh? I stood there in front of all those old women and lied my ass off!"
"Really?" Stan replied with eager delight.
"Not unless Jesus Christ looked like a knothole."
Stan gave me one of those inscrutable looks for a second and shrugged his shoulders.
"I wish you had SAID something. They browbeat me for a solid hour yesterday until I gave in!"
"Ha! Better you than me, my fine-feathered friend." I exclaimed in my best Daffy Duck impersonation.
I just stood there. We both stood there with pursed lips contemplating the injustice in the Universe.
So. THIS is what it felt like to be a Sell-Out! Well, it didn't feel too bad at all. At least I was in good company with old Stan.
Besides, maybe, just maybe this is how Christianity spread in the first place!
The image of Jesus can be found in the most unusual of places.
Love your writing Terry - but as a snooty Brit I've just got to say ...
"Only in America"
The pressure--oh the pressure!
Who cares if others see what you see? Well, it matters apparently.
I should have sloughed it off. I can see that in retrospect. I could have said something like...
"Hey--it's KENNY LOGGINS!"
Time to start seeing Jesus in the salt shaker. "You don't see Him?" After all, He is everywhere. Turn the tables on them. Do they really have the True Faith or do they not?
i don't know if it's okay to post links to the amazon site to show a product - so i'll just say, there are face of jesus toasters, so you can see him or kenny loggins on your toast every day!
Old Henny Youngman joke:
At a Seniors Home:
Lady: "You're new here! Where were you before you came to live here?"
New Guy: "I was in prison for 35 years, for murdering my wife."
Lady: "Oh! So, you're single?"
Also, your story reminded me of "The Emperor's New Clothes". And yes, that is probably how Christianity began, that's probably how RELIGION began.
My theory about religions is it began because, way back in the primitive times, the tribe had hunters, gatherers, cooks, weavers, builders, tool makers, and then there was some guy who couldn't do jack. Had no useful skills except gab and tall-tales. So, they kept him around to entertain, and he created all these stories about the unexplained phenomena of weather, the stars, death, etc, and eventually became the priest.
What is interesting is the (apparently) common fixation on possessing artifacts, icons, fetish items of numinous connotation (such as the Holy Grail, or grill cheese sandwich with the Virgin Mary, etc.)
These things seem (possibly) to instantiate belief itself by a weird form of (non) logic, to wit: the icon is actual therefore the religious object is magical. There are two closely related words: eisegesis and exegesis.
Eisegesis means you "read into" something a meaning.
Exegesis means you extract what actual meaning is intended out of it.
Modern Art exemplifies this phenomenon, does it not?