Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Wedding of Math, the Pontiff, and a Fishing Hole

I'm late for the wedding.

I hurry my pace towards the church. Layers of English schoolchildren fitted in azure-blue blazers man all the traditional checkpoints. One hands me a program at the threshold of the narthex, and I mumble "thanks," self-conscious of my American accent. My wife and boys follow.

The church interior is light and airy. It looks much bigger on the inside; this is clearly a cathedral. It instantly reminds me of where I was married in Kingston, Ontario. But the ceremony has already started, and I scan the pews for seating; we're supposed to sit on the left side. I hastily pick an open pew several rows back. Pope Francis is in the front row, sitting among several other attendees from the Vatican I suppose, and I don't want to draw his attention as a latecomer. From behind, I can tell it's Francis from his white vestments and zucchetto.

I look at the program. It's a five-in-one job. The local pastor must be overly stingy with his printing budget, and I vainly search for the particulars of the specific service we're at. Where is the itinerary for this wedding, I ask myself.

I know the celebrant is my home parish priest without recognizing him. I don't consider how he got here, or why he's celebrating  mass so far from where we live. He has just begun his homily. I realize he is using mathematics to prove that some music used in church isn't sacred! Suddenly, I find myself near the front, watching intently. I must have made my way here quietly when the sermon took this interesting turn. This priest knows his math! I can see the obvious logic of where his integral is heading. "Does anyone here understand the calculus?" asks the priest. He looks directly at me, but I'm hesitant to raise my hand, conscious that the Pontiff is seated immediately to my left. I don't want to look to overly self-confident in front of the Pope.

The final flourishes of the solution are flawlessly logical. The priest finishes his proof and states unequivocally, "Now here is the type of music that should be played at church," gesturing towards a band composed of men in women dressed in short, red lederhosen, just long enough in the leg not to be unseemly, though I'm struck by the dissonance. Some of this group begin to play instruments while others sing. Then they march out of nave ahead of the congregation.

"What are they singing?" I ask someone who I know is my cousin in an arched hallway. "I can't understand the words." I am told it's just an intonation of voice in reply. I'm unconvinced, sure there is meaning sewn within the tonality.

We enter a banquet hall. At least two rows of tables are covered with steaming trays of food. Won't all this get cold before we're even to communion? I'm curious about how the priest intends to finish the mass in here, and I briefly wonder where the Pope is, though I don't dwell on where my immediate family disappeared to. But it seems I must wait for the answer. I sit with several others in chairs aside from the laden tables, and I notice my first cousin Tim sitting across from me. "Have you been fishing?" I ask him. I'm thinking of a fishing spot in upstate New York, where my every cast of even a bare hook brings in a big fish. It's right next to a boat ramp, so I've always been surprised no one else knows that spot. I've been there many times with my Dad, in other dreams.

Before my cousin can answer, I suddenly hear country music. How I hate that packaged syrup. Where is it coming from?

And then I realize it's my alarm, and it's 5:30 am. Time to stumble out of bed for work. Nothing will have me hit the "wake" button on my radio alarm faster than country music.

Dreams -- they take you places, but you rarely get to the destination. Now I'll never know who was getting married, though I must have been a guest of the bride. I ponder whether I'll ever find that fishing spot, so seemingly in reach. I may never again have an opportunity to meet the Pope. And how I wish I could remember the flawless logic of a priest's application of integral calculus. 

It was so clear.