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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Strube

To love and To sit

You know you are aging when Jesus starts to look sexy to you. This, I’m sure, is a sacriligeous tragedy.

It all began on Good Friday, as most tragedies normally do. I had pushed myself to the local cathedral, like a good Episcopal does when on a visa run in Hong Kong. I hate each time I say “visa run.” I feel like a spy, as though I am doing something illegal by trying to become a proper working citizen. I wouldn’t mind the term “visa run” so much if it came with the cool accoutrements of spyhood, such as a cool Inspector Gadget watch or black leather courset with built in GPS like Angelinas. But I don’t have any of these sexy accessories, since I’m not a spy nor a proper working citizen. I’m just Jen —  a traveling blogger, trying to teach music to children who put xylophone mallets up their skirts, and trying not to check out the Christ through the stainglassed windows of Hong Kong. 

While organized spiritual gatherings are still rather taboo on the mainland, here in Hong Kong all things are go. The cathedral was a good a mix of locals and Brits, which meant the service was conducted with a Chinese Royal British accent and the aged stone walls filled with stain-glassed windows were inscribed with both Mandarin and High English terminology. I could understand neither, since my English vocabulary has gone to crap since I moved East and my Mandarin is improving as slow as the hair growth on a Chia Pet.

Yet, there I was, staring at the Christ’s abs. Now that I’m 32, he’s only a year older than me and the chartreuse coloring of the dimly lit cathedral made him look rather ripped from behind his tunic. If he were alive, we might both be down at the local Israeli expat pub together, drinking some of his homemade wine, discussing global warming. It’s strange. You look up to someone your whole life and then, suddenly, he’s no longer an older spiritual hero, but more of a comrade. I keep aging and he does not. If we were in school, we’d now be in the same grade together, because his birthday would have made the December cut-off. God, at 33, look what he had accomplished! And I only have this tiny blog.

I have to get on it. I crossed my heart and took off for the hills, fleeing like a monk in search of enlightenment. The neighboring mountains of Lantau were full of their foggy grey sky, enshrouding the mystery of this holy afternoon. A single cable car drug me up the misty mountainside skyscape toward a grass-covered plateau, where the Pin Lo Monastary stood unfettered by age and time (but reconstructed by modern-day money). From the monastary steps, incense burned from crimson candleholders and beautifully shaved head devotees swept the trellace of the temple. Beyond the wafting Nag Champur were 984 steps, the top of which could not be seen.

“What’s up there?” I asked a local. He pointed. Such is always the next step — a mystery enshrouded by an upward climb through fog and mist that will surely make me breathless. I brought my camera and started scaling the hillside, up 984 steps to be exact, until I stumbled upon a very large man, sitting calmly with an open hand. 

The world’s largest sitting Buddha.  

Buddha is not like Christ. First of all, he’s way fatter. He’s still. And most portraits of him are sitting unattached and calmly on a stone rather than hanging for insatiable love. But both have a message. To love until it kills you. To wait until it kills you. Either way, enlightenment is not easy. It’s death and fog and waiting and loving and living like each day is your last. Which is so cliche but it’s a better mantra than: following your spiritual path will eventually kill you.

But then, the fog will lift.

I’m waiting on many things in my life — a visa, a book, and the chance to love until it kills me. Until then, I’ll keep walking through the mist, holding my Nikon, in search of the GPS that will guide me home. 

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