Some years ago, I was in a restaurant when I noticed a pale, thin woman in a lacy bone-white dress — somewhat like a wedding dress — seated at a nearby booth. A bit later, I took another look at her and noticed that the book she was reading was the Bible. And a little while afterwards, I took a much closer look, and observed that she appeared to be eating a vegetarian meal, but that she was so absorbed in her book, she was all but ignoring her food.
There could be anywhere from a dozen to three dozen reasons that woman interested me on that day. But the only reason I am sure of — the only reason I know for certain was a reason I was interested in her — was for the sense she gave me of being a religious ascetic.
There do not appear to be that many religious ascetics here in Colorado Springs. That might surprise you if you know of Colorado Springs’ reputation as a hotbed of Christian Fundamentalism. Yet, it’s been my simple luck to have not run into many religious ascetics in this town.
I’ve briefly thought of that woman several times over the years. Mostly, I’ve wondered what kind of religiosity she had. Was she really what she looked to be — an ascetic? And if so, did she become an ascetic out of conviction; or perhaps, was she just someone born to become an ascetic? Where is she today? Did she enter a convent?
It seems strange to me this morning that I have so many memories like my memory of her. Memories that do not seem at all important, but which oddly recur. And almost always, these trivial but recurring memories are associated with a simple theme — such as, in her case, the theme of asceticism.
But they are also most often associated with many questions and few answers. Indeed, there is a strange way in which these trivial, but now and then recurring memories, are like those movies, books — or even like those blog posts — that end suddenly, without any denouement.
At the end of our lives, will we feel life has left us with more questions than answers? That it has been like the memory of that woman in the restaurant — a somewhat repetitious story, with perhaps several themes, but without a plot? And that it has been inconclusive?