- I had a talk with my mother yesterday about religion, in which I said, "There are at least two levels to everything. There is the first level, which is the observable, direct impact of something, and there is the second level, which is the perceived meaning behind that something."
Yes, I know, I sound like a broken record. I'm always prattling on about this. I'll try and be brief.
"The trouble with most religious customs is, people are told to do them 'just because', and that the 'reasons' will become clear later. People are forced to skip over the direct impact of them, and focus obsessively on their meaning, as though the meaning overrides everything else."
"Take, for example, the religious custom in Islam of making women cover themselves head to foot. The idea is, that by concealing the female body, men and women are protected from the evil influence of male lust. That idea is very noble, but the direct impact of covering a woman head to foot is, the merest glimpse of her ankle or her neck becomes an exciting vision."
"Or take Catholic Sunday School for example. The idea is to make children properly humble and appreciative of the majesty of god. But the direct effect, of having a loud, frightening preacher bang a gavel and scream for half an hour at a child sitting in uncomfortable clothes when he wants to be at home sleeping, was at least for me, quite the opposite."
"I think this is why each new generation struggles to liberate itself further. Children see and feel the direct effects, long before they are able to understand the supposed reasoning behind them. Their minds are clear to see things as they are. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that by encouraging a kind of deliberate blindness, most indoctrinated religions are rife with hypocrisy."
This may seem like an unfair stance, but please keep in mind, I am all for the exploration and practice of many customs because they feel right to the individual, so that he or she chooses to make them a part of life. Or because they actually promote a harmonious family, instead of breeding discontent or fear. I am close to several people who have made such informed personal choices, and I admire them for doing so.
What I cannot stand, is when coercion must be involved, or when the obvious effect of something is contrary to the reasons for it.
- I was listening to Memoirs of a Geisha a few weeks ago, and in it, a character named Mr. Tanaka was described as "One of those unfortunately gifted people who must go through life seeing everything for what it actually is, instead of what people may wish it to be." I felt connected to that somehow.
- I also finished reading Snow Crash a while ago, and I just remembered some dialogue from it. Hiro is talking to Y.T., and he tells her that he may have a chance to pick things up with his ex-girlfriend again.
"Why do you think you'll do better this time?", she asks.
"Because I think I understand her now." he replies.
"Nuh uh. You'll never understand her, so stop trying. She doesn't want you to understand her anyway."
"Then what does she want?"
"She wants you to understand yourself."
That made a lot of sense to me. People who understand themselves are attractive to the general masses. Who you are is just as important, of course -- but it's not the only piece in the puzzle.
- Then, just now, I heard another quote: "Dreams can be dangerous things. They can smoulder away inside of us for our entire lives, burning us out, making our lives miserable."
I don't believe in a spirit world. Of any kind. What I do believe in, is that everything, absolutely everything, lies in the space between the tangible immediate world, and the personal core of my own mind. Likewise for everyone else. The interesting thing I can say about this, though, is that I prefer it this way.
I would not dream of forcing this view on anyone else, but I can say that personally, I thrive on it. For me, it's been an astonishing and rewarding way of viewing the world.
Anyway, back to my book, and my file transfers, and my laundry. Santa Cruz, here I come!