Before Wonderlust started I had most of a day with nothing scheduled in Helsinki. Mitcz sent me a couple of lists of things to see. A Finnish burlesque performer named LouLou D’Vil reminded me that walking can be fun by pointing out how walkable Helsinki is. Steve Prue (my platonic domestic partner) emphasized the Temppeliaukio Church—I’m uncertain about whether he wanted to live vicariously or wanted me to see something specific there.
So I walked over to it. Even though the sky was intermittently pouring rain and hail. Perhaps because it was—when in Rome/when in Finland, yes?
The Temppeliaukio church is carved into rock. It’s Lutheran, which is a branch of Christianity I’m unfamiliar with. The ceiling is a giant coil of copper, ringed with windows. I laid on a pew to look up more easily.
My memory tossed up two things: Rebecca West’s descriptions of the underground worship spaces she reported as being Bogomil (bog is generally slavic for god, and the Bogomils were a Christian sect that was considered heretical) and the boisterous fire & brimstone church my family went to when I was very young.
That church practiced a form of the laying on of hands, but the thing is they didn’t actually touch people until they’d already begun falling backwards. Whole lines of adult humans would be gently guided onto the floor as they started twitching and babbling in guttural syllables.
Whether you believe in a god or not, what sent those people keeling over was the intensity of their faith in one. Other strong themes included our bodies as temples of the lord which should be cared for as such, and the concept of being called. If a member felt moved (by the hand of the lord) to the pulpit then it was believed they should preach from it.
Back under the copper coil, I wondered what the Lutheran God would think of my work and of the fact that I had felt called to it. Since the practice of candle-lighting in Catholicism always seemed like a way of attaching a high-priority flag to a message to god, and there were candles on the wall, I lit one.
As a child, I thought these adults flailing on the floor were driven by the same intensity that made me into a perpetual hyperactivity machine. School looked like a process of removing intensity, therefore adults must need somewhere that they could be intense, and this speaking in tongues must be it.
A few years later, sex sounded like exactly the same thing—a place where adults were allowed to get their intensity out. However, I would not have been able to articulate this at the time.
Back under the copper coil, I remembered being wrist deep in Jiz Lee a few years ago. I felt as though I was touching the inside of god. My hand inside Jiz in my memory was touching the inside of god, my body contained in the rock was inside a representation of god.
Because whether you believe in a god or not, I believe it is important to understand how powerful beliefs and intentions can be. Those two things with little else can create and destroy entire worlds. They can unite people, and turn us against each other. They can do things so incredible they might as well be magic.
Are you there god? It’s me, Stoya.
Also published on Medium.