Worshipping Mr. Loh

Our personal deity is a 76-year-old Chinese guy

| May / June 2004

Since religions no longer depend upon location and culture; since one can be a Lutheran Buddhist, or a Shiite Mormon, or a Neo-Pagan Universalist; since my wife and I both rejected the religions we were brought up with; since faith is now a matter of convenience rather than calling: Cathy and I have decided to ignore the existing religions altogether and worship our own personal deity. His name is Mr. Loh.

Regular listeners to the PRI radio show This American Life might recognize the name. In 1996, writer and performer Sandra Tsing Loh recorded a portrait of her 76-year-old father and the Malibu rock band that adopted him as a mentor. The band, Boy Hits Car, wrote a song about Mr. Loh and his apparent freedom from conventional patterns of behavior. In it, Mr. Loh walked the beach naked, sang his wisdom, and swam with dolphins-an image of her father that Sandra Loh found absurd.

For a while this idea, that an eccentric Chinese man could serve as a spiritual figure for a group of X-generation slackers, was a shared joke in our marriage. While we were looking for a parking space, for example, we would comment that Mr. Loh wouldn't need a parking space; he was beyond the need for parking spaces. At the same time, we recognized that Mr. Loh's ambivalence toward parking spaces was precisely what would make them appear. And so, when an exceptional parking space appeared for us, we began to thank Mr. Loh for loaning us his power.

When Cathy and I decided to buy a house together, we felt the need to create some sort of ritual that might help our odds in such a tight real estate market. We belonged to no church, so in an ironic gesture, we decided to build a small altar (left) for Mr. Loh. It had a Buddhist flavor. We lit candles and set out small gifts of food and alcohol. Then we solidified our intent by asking Mr. Loh aloud for his help in finding a house.

A week later we jumped ahead of all the other applicants trying to get into a beautiful old Craftsman-style house in Portland's hip Hawthorne neighborhood. Mr. Loh had come through.

Subsequent ritual prayers had similar results. Mr. Loh helped me get into a very competitive graduate school, helped our friend Heather's newborn go through several surgeries, and helped us to conceive in a single go.

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