I really felt this in my bones. I grew up in the church. I agree about the beauty. My church was in the middle and nowhere, with a small congregation. We still had detailed statues, intricate priest robes, and fine objects. I admire beautiful churches, but also, wonder what good it does for its people.

I knew at a young age, after first communion, that the church didn't feel right for me. But I didn't have a choice. My oldest brother wouldn't allow me to take communion without confession, so I sat in the back of the church during my teens, while everyone went up. There's lots of reasons I left, but I couldn't live with the hate. I feel such a difference in my physical body and in my heart now. I find beauty in nature.

We talk to our son about it like they are stories, like anything else.

Expand full comment

Thank you for the shoutout Elle! I must admit, my utopian answers are entirely based on a simple question: what gives me joy when all of the humans in my life have worked my last nerve? Bread! Animals! Paramore!

This look into your spirituality was very interesting. Beauty itself is such a nebulous idea; trying to define it takes millennia. And so many definitions of it can exist at the same time! Catholic architecture and Islamic architecture are so beautiful but so distinct from each other. But beauty, like evil, is expansive. It can shapeshift into anything.

Maybe anything can be beautiful if it’s created with sincerity.

Expand full comment

You’re a fabulous writer! Learning more about your perspective always prompts me to reconsider my own. I wonder if the beauty you saw in Catholicism was more so the beauty in humanity’s devotion. If that’s the case then in a way you’ve been a humanist all along! 💖

Expand full comment

Beautiful piece, Elle! Thank you!

Expand full comment

Beautiful piece. It is great to get your insights into what is driving the latest novel and its juxtaposition with the debut

Expand full comment

Fascinating, as I’ve never thought of Catholicism as beautiful. It always felt dogmatic, harmful, and “old white man” ish to me.

Love your photos.

“Human” is my word of 2023.

Expand full comment

Thank you for sharing an overview of the deep and intimate processes you have gone through. Self-revelation is difficult to write about, let alone expose to the world. It is clear from your post that you have lived (are living) an examined life. How rare that is today. Excellent!

As you admit, humanism is a difficult construct to pin down. Therefore, your literary choice to employ a lower case ‘h’ is brilliant. I do this as a libertarian, but alas, friends and family alike, miss the point.

It is easy to respect someone like you, who is entirely thoughtful and sincere. Someday, I would enjoy sharing thoughts of love, hope and other spiritual delights with those who I esteem. You have made it to that eclectic list of persons. Until then, keep up the good work.

Expand full comment

Thank you for sharing your faith and creative journeys!

I’ve been on a similar path, looking for something hopeful to believe in. Humanism is pretty close to where I’m heading, but I’ve got some cynicism and old faith structures still “burning down” inside.

I’m looking forward to a brighter day and I know the things I used to believe in will provide good ground for something better.

All that to say, what you wrote is very beautiful and guiding. Thanks for being vulnerable!

Expand full comment