Conversant

We mounted the spiral staircase that crawled along the inside wall of the cathedral’s steeple, taking each ancient step at a time. He bounded up ahead, eager to reach the viewing deck at the top of the steeple. We had, in fact, come all this way for this view, enduring long lines, mistaken identities, lost luggage, other people’s crying babies just to look out from the steeple at John Calvin’s church, the first protestant cathedral in the world. And he was making a beeline for that view, albeit a deliberate one, careful not to trip on the centuries-old construction that seemed to be doing anything within its own power to slow his progress. But, finally, we arrived at the pinnacle of believing, we two–one atheist, one Presbyterian–and we stood together on whatever architectural structure it was that bridged the opening between the steeple we’d just scaled and its neighbor. And together we surveyed the city below us, the international organizations on the horizon, the mountains in the distance. And he, so conversant in the ways of the world and the faiths of other people and yet so withdrawn from the world, looked at me with pursed lips and furrowed brow. “You know,” he said, “I just  don’t understand the appeal of this perspective.”

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