By ZOË SIMPSON
Published: April 24, 2012
Excerpt from Performing & Telling Your Life
ZOË is seated at a desk, off to the side of a projector screen set slightly behind her. On the desk is an open shoe box containing photographs, letters and other “memory” objects. The video projected on the screen is paused on the image of light shining through colored glass shards in the bottom of a jar held above the camera, resembling a circular stained glass window in a church. ZOË begins speaking to the audience as she sorts through the box, placing some of the contents on the desk as she goes, until she comes across the book “Plurality and Ambiguity” by David Tracy. The large bold text written across the cover faces the audience while she flips through the book briefly, then sets it down, still speaking.
My aunt and uncle live on a ranch in Oklahoma. One Christmas they sent my family a Bible with the most relevant parts highlighted, along with a book titled “God is Your Friend: How to Prove Your Friendship to God.” That side of the family never stops trying. My father explained to me that there is no God, only One Great Spirit made up of all of us. We are all a part of one massive web of energy and life, even the trees. (He likes to stress the part about the trees.) In the seventh grade my hamster died and my mother held a ceremony for him, to help guide his spirit into his next life, to begin his journey as a new creature. I didn’t tell her how silly I felt lighting candles for a dead hamster. How his spirit didn’t need guidance. How it was already gone, extinguished. I didn’t tell my father how embarrassed I felt for him when he began talking about the Spirit in the trees. I didn’t want to fight with them like I was fighting with Catie.
(The video on the screen starts playing. An audio recording of CATIE’s interview accompanies up-close footage of the shards of glass from different angles. The glass shifts as the jar tilts, and the camera moves in and out of focus. ZOË continues looking through the shoe box while listening to CATIE.)
I still believe that if somebody doesn’t believe in Jesus, then, you know, the downside is, yes, they’ll go to hell. I guess I feel like I’ve come to accept it. As you grow up, it’s like I’ve also just been too exposed to it so much. Like, now I have so many friends. I, I have a lot of friends who are believers but I have so many friends that aren’t believers as well. And I mean, to like, sit there and think about it every day and feel bad or even cry about it, you know, at some point you’re gonna become immune to it. Part of me still has, you know, this tiny little hope that maybe someday in my life I’ll be able to introduce, you know… I, I’m not saying that, you know, I’m, I’m gonna change you Zoë. But like, there’s always this tiny little spark of hope that maybe, maybe the friends that I have that don’t believe now might possibly believe in the future. You know? And I wouldn’t even try to, like, someone, be like, “You’re wrong, this is what you need to do,” because in the end religion is what gives people hope. And I believe what I believe but I’m not gonna tell somebody they’re wrong and take away their happiness and their hope. And I mean, that might be kind of, I, I’m certainly not the best, the perfect Christian example because a very Christian person would probably be like, “Well, you’re condemning those people.” But I mean, like I said, I’ve learned to accept that. Obviously we can’t change, like, the entire world and everyone’s gonna have differing perspectives.
(ZOË turns to watch the screen as an excerpt from “Le Moulin” by Yann Tiersen begins playing. The video switches to a montage of times that CATIE and ZOË spent together: CATIE making a face at the camera; CATIE wearing plastic vampire fangs and talking while a friend plays with her hair; CATIE decorating cupcakes with her brother and a friend; CATIE and her brother talking and laughing in CATIE’s bedroom; CATIE and a friend making faces and laughing in a school cafeteria; CATIE wearing a home-made birthday crown, sitting on a porch that is decorated with streamers as the hand of someone off-camera smashes a piece of cake in her face; CATIE and ZOË talking and laughing at a kitchen counter. The song comes to an end and the video fades to black.)