This was our last work day here in NOLA (New Orleans, La.). Most of the job sites were repeats, including the Live Oak School, Project Lazarus, and the various construction projects. I spent my last day back at Ms. Evelyn’s house pulling down plaster and lath. We got the huge timber installed under the sagging corner of the house, so our crew chief was excited.
I do not consider myself a gourmet by any means. In fact, I am really not all that discriminating an eater at all. But, there are some foods that turn me into that drooling vision of Homer Simpson. We ate lunch at Cafe Reconcile again, and today I had the Shrimp Creole, Crawfish Bisque, and chicory coffee. New Orleans deserves to be restored to its original condition if for absolutely no other reason, meals like this.
Tonight, I walked a few miles along St. Charles Avenue to the Camellia Grille. My daughter has been raving about this place for years on her visits. Again, my palate was delighted. They had a chocolate pecan pie. I told the man behind the counter that I do not order pecan pie north of the Mason-Dixon line, because we Northerners just don’t know how to make it. He assured me that I would be delighted.
I watched as he cut the slice of pie and inverted in onto the grill. Then he squirted a little butter on the grill and flipped the pie over. After placing it on the plate, he topped it with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream. Words fail me in describing that experience.
I don’t exactly know what makes a memorable experience religious. Perhaps seeing a child’s precious stuffed animal atop moldy textbooks in a collapsed elementary school in the Lower Ninth Ward two years after Katrina is a religious experience. Perhaps every experience is religious to some small degree. I am not sure what the percentage must be in order for an experience to be truly described as religious. I think that I have reached a point where any moment in our lives that takes us beyond the normal and routine, and that stimulates our thoughts and emotions, is religious.
Because if God is the ultimate, or the combination of all experience, or the universe, or however one views the concept, then any experience that opens our senses, our hearts, or our minds to something beyond ourselves is placing us in the presence of God. Perhaps thinking of eating a chocolate pecan pie trivializes the nature of experiencing God. I certainly do not intend to do so. I am trying to say that a simple act – feeling a breeze, wading in the surf, watching the first golden rays of sunlight in the morning – can inspire awe, and put one in a state of self awareness and awareness of our connectedness with all of existence.
The potential for such an experience should exist every Sunday morning in worship services. But, we should be on the lookout for these moments all during our hectic lives. Perhaps a truly religious life is one filled with religious experience – some that are life changing epiphanies, and some that waft on the wind like a butterfly.