The cultural insights of Jia Tolentino
Jia Tolentino started her connection figuratively by painting a picture familiar to most of us that we learned about in childhood, Religion and Spirituality. Which began for her in a thirty-four-million-dollar church that was founded in Houston in 1927. She explains that as young children most of us were taught a certain set of religious beliefs. But we didn’t really know what it meant until our parents or other adults told us and it became part of the weekly ritual. We learned right from wrong, good and evil and how-to live-in harmony with each other and if you were bad there were consequences not only from our parents but from God and you would be punished for your sins and if you were the perfect child of God you experienced intense emotional states of pure ecstasy and bliss. As children we always wanted to please those who loved us the most and so we went with the flow and didn’t question the world around us.
As she started to mature and become more aware of the world around her, she began to see that everything was not exactly as it was pounded into her head. She started questioning everything around her but not with childlike eyes as before, now with more inquisitive open maturing eyes. The older she became the more the people around her felt she was mature enough to handle some of the real truths around her and started to give her a little more freedom to explore these truths as they were subjecting her to their own personal experiences and beliefs. One example of Jia being subjected to someone else’s beliefs was when she brought a copy of her Archie comics and it was confiscated and she was given a copy of a new best seller about the Second Coming. Jia was now under the impression that everything whether it was good or bad was always God's will. The more she started to learn about the world around her, the more she was becoming influenced by what she heard, saw, or read. She no longer felt certainty in this religion she had spent her younger years in and needed breaks from the services and went out to her parent’s car and turned on the radio and heard music that she had never heard before and she was hooked and wanted more.
With the introduction of Houston rap music into her religious world, she was now enjoying this new found interest in the thicket of liquor stores and strip clubs a mile up on Westheimer in dark rooms, twerking, wearing miniskirts and dancing, and felt a powerful connection with the people around her with their raised hands and euphoric energy that she let her religious beliefs fall to the side and what she started experiencing were such intense emotions that made her want to quit everything else in life and only pursue this new adventure and keep invoking those feelings of pure bliss and she remembered that she also had experienced those same feelings as a perfect, eager, little religious girl many years before. As she skipped happily down the road to a place of complete abandonment and absolution, a place where she could feel completely free from all the pressures of society and religion, she was reminded of a quote by C.S. Lewis where she felt the connection of his words, He basically was telling his nephew that the choices he makes and the road you choose to travel can eventually lead you to Hell gently with no warnings. Her road was gently headed with big signposts that read Ecstasy this way.
The final connection of this girl’s awakening rapture was meeting ecstasy’s magic mirror. It was like seeing the world through eyes in which everything was filled with light and love for the whole universe and no judgment from above. In that moment she felt so alive and at peace with herself that she realized that although she no longer wanted to be religious and didn’t believe in God it had been part of her journey that led her into her own spiritual awakening of music, drugs, religion, and virtue.
Tolentino, Jia. “LOSING RELIGION AND FINDING ECSTASY IN HOUSTON.” 20 May 2019, pp. 1–9.