The Cosmic Ellipsis (or How I Chose to Go to Seminary)

The Cosmic Ellipsis (or How I Chose to Go to Seminary)

by Guest Contributor October 15, 2019 6 Comments

By Robert Diamante

I was six when the Sound of Music premiered on television. My mother was thrilled and wanted me to watch it with her. Something about her enthusiasm strikes a chord with me to this day. I realize now that she was sharing with her youngest son—her most sensitive child—a bit of her deepest self. It was something she loved, and I was her witness.

The day after the movie premiered, my mother shared the album with me. I fell deeply in love, not only with the snappy brightness of each melody, but with the idea of crossing mountains to find a dream. It was after all a true story, or so I believed then. I listened to that soundtrack over and over.

My mother’s name was Maria. However, I never identified her with Maria Von Trapp. In a way, I think my mother and I shared a fantasy that such a perfect world of sweetness and light could exist. But we weren’t that kind of a family. Really, we were more like something out of Steinbeck.

We moved from New Jersey to Texas during the Reagan years and the oil boom, landing in a tony suburb of Houston. When I was eighteen, I left my family and headed back up to the East Coast, roosting with relatives while I started college in New York. I lasted two years there. Discontented and compelled by something internal I did not yet understand, I moved to Maine and enrolled in art school. During my senior year my mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer. I wanted to quit school and fly home to Texas to be with her, but she insisted that I finish college. I did.

My thesis was a series of photographs depicting popular stories of Catholic lore. I was a lapsed Catholic, and there was little doubt that my mother’s illness brought dark things to the surface. Some things that happen to us mold our internal spaces and, regardless of how intensely we try to deny them, creep up from our subconscious and poise with ominous insistence. Like the Kraken who rises from the depths of the sea, years of discontent with the Catholic church roiled and surfaced. It was my first experience with making art in response to injury. The day of my graduation it was sunny in Maine as my Mother lay dying in Texas. The next morning, she was gone.

Six years later, I am in Salzburg, Austria. I have a decision to make. The year before, I was travelling through India. It was there I began to feel a calling. I, who had been making a living as a photographer and whose relationship with religion had grown even more acrimonious, became spiritually curious. In Varanasi there were many temples for many gods. Not gilded nor gorgeous and Baroque, but beautiful in their utility. People used temples there every day. I was in awe of the omnipresence of the divine; God was everywhere. Something inside me opened. It was not a tectonic shift. Mountains in my psyche did not crumble. It was more like something dormant which had always been there awakened and became generous. It was time to become more sensual about my mythology.

Upon arriving back in the U.S. I began a dialogue with the local Congregational Seminary. I went through the motions of becoming a student. I was stealth; no one knew. I was embarrassed as much as I was compelled. I was confused and not entirely convinced I would follow through with matriculating, or that it was even the right decision. I asked my mother—dead six yearsfor guidance. I wanted a sign, something that would tell me what to do. The only thing that came to mind was The Sound of Music. So, I booked a flight to Salzburg.


Now, I am on the Monchsberg in a park staring over a vast expanse of green hills that roll toward the Untersberg. It is a peaceful park at the end of a trail, which winds upward between two old stone houses. It is a sunny and slightly cool day. It must be near noon. I had been searching for some poetry during my trip to Salzburg, listening for the muse’s voice to rise up over the aggressive Baroque cacophony. I hadn’t heard it until now, almost a week after arriving. The simplicity of the massive Untersburg tumbles down around the western part of the city. The peaks are dusted with snow. Long before the VonTrapps, the Dom, the Maribell Gardens, Paracelsus’s martyrdom, the Roman baths, before the age when we were telling stories by pressing reeds into clay molds, the Untersberg rose, powdered, un-moving. Finally, after days of exploration I have discovered a panorama of divine magnitude. I find in all of Salzburg’s sweetness a holy spot. This is my church.

I stare out at the Untersberg as the sun tips forward to light its face. It is a beautiful enigma. When, in the presence of a mountain, we must endure its puzzle. It is something greater than us, and everything that is greater than us invites us to rise. Over the past year I have been tested and asked to rise. I have come here for an answer, and the answer has become clear.

The week before I left on this trip, I watched the Sound of Music. It was difficult. I shifted uncomfortably through most of it, and just as the family Von Trapp marched their lederhosen over the Austrian Alps, away from nasty Hitler and his evil Anschluss, it suddenly became cartoon-like. It was difficult not to wince at the irony of the gold scripted letters that flashed across the screen as the final note soared into falsetto: The End. The sentiment made me uneasy knowing that it was untrue.

For years I have been fooled by the happy ending—the bow—that denies us the imperfection of reality. The narrative, however much it may be pointing us toward the happiness we crave, just isn’t the nature of the divine. The perfection that nostalgia aspires to denies us the mystery inherent in all things. It is a subtle tyranny over the senses. The message isn’t bad: climb the mountains, follow the streams, and out there is a dream which leads us toward our destiny. That’s all fine. But I have come to Salzburg with a ghost because of a fairy tale. I am not angry because I finally understand what it truly feels like to surrender. I am resistant, but know I have no other choice.

I look over to the Untersberg and the labyrinth unfurls into a stream. It is nameless. I just invite it in and let it finds its own voice. I lay some things to rest and I find that there is space inside me for more. I have not come to find the happy ending. I do not need the bow, but rather a grand and cosmic ellipsis…

 

 

 ________

Robert Diamante is a professional photographer and writer best known for his work in the contemporary jewelry industry. His photographs and articles have appeared in books, magazines and blogs. His latest fiction has been published in an anthology called North by Northeast (Littoral Books). He lives in Maine.

 

 

On to From Where Does the Light Come?

 

 

 

Photos by Robert Diamante and Mark Koch on Unsplash




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6 Responses

Dan Gillotte
Dan Gillotte

October 22, 2019

Wonderful essay, Robert. I appreciate your line from early on in the piece- “It was something she loved, and I was her witness.” The idea that we get glimpses into our parents’ selves as children is compelling to me and not one i thought of before. It also makes me wonder what subtle “inner self” is being shared by me with my own daughter. Thanks for the essay.

Amy
Amy

October 16, 2019

Lots of golden nuggets here but especially love…” It is something greater than us, and everything that is greater than us invites us to rise.”

Marietta DeAngelo
Marietta DeAngelo

October 16, 2019

Love that this print hangs in our home ❤️

Blu Glavin
Blu Glavin

October 16, 2019

Robert Diamante, this glimpse into your discernment process does not disappoint. I enjoyed especially the connection to your mother. For that, there is always a bow and a happy ending. Beautiful read, thank you

Cheri dunnigan
Cheri dunnigan

October 16, 2019

Robert…I love that statement that everything that is greater than us invites us to rise……..thank you for that…..

Michael J. Tobin
Michael J. Tobin

October 15, 2019

The Cosmic Ellipsis (or How I Chose to Go to Seminary) by Robert Diamante… a few quotes embrace me as I read Mr. Diamante’s blog- “Some things that happen to us mold our internal spaces and, regardless of how intensely we try to deny them, creep up from our subconscious and poise with ominous insistence”… “For years I have been fooled by the happy ending—the bow—that denies us the imperfection of reality”… “I just invite it in and let it finds its own voice. I lay some things to rest and I find that there is space inside me for more. I have not come to find the happy ending. I do not need the bow, but rather a grand and cosmic ellipsis”… Bravo, Mr. Diamante- you speak (write) in a universal tongue that one can apply to ones own self. Perhaps you (we) should go back to the lyrics of “Climb Every Mountain” (from SOM)- you may realize your journey and SOM have more parallels than you realized… “Climb every mountain, Search high and low, Follow every highway, Every path you know. Climb every mountain, Ford every stream, Follow every rainbow, ’Till you find your dream.” Thank you, Mr. Diamante, for a great read.

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