Saturday, October 21, 2006

Boxes, Stereotypes, and Leave it to Beaver

I am starting to relate the dilemma of my generation with that of the feminist movement in the late 1950s. Let me explain. In the fifties, women began to realize that there was more out there for them than the life they were leading at home, being a mother and a wife. Where did this desire come from? Perhaps it could be said that deep down inside they felt something calling them to more. This same thing was challenging the current system and looking for a broader perspective. This all came to the forefront with the feminist movement; the recognition of equality amongst the genders. And once the walls of “domestic hood” were destroyed, women (and men) faced an entirely new way of looking at the world. And they would face the repercussions for their actions, both good and bad. I would argue that the children of the feminist generation have suffered, but not because women were empowered, but rather because a balance was lost. In many cases the mothers return to the work force left her children without any parent, including the father. This, to me, was the big mistake of that generation. In a quest for equality, something was sacrificed. I am not an advocate that the woman’s place is in the home; rather I am an advocate that the balance must be maintained. And being that it wasn’t, the children of this current generation suffer. Hence violence, disrespect, apathy, obesity, a sense of loss plagues these children. It is not the responsibility of women to correct this by returning from the work force; rather it is the responsibility of all of us, to find a way to gain the balance that was lost.

How does this relate to religion, you might ask, being that’s what I generally am pondering. The dilemma of the current generation, my generation, is similar to the feminist generation because we feel boxed in by something. We feel that beyond the “walls” that surround us, there is more out there; and we want it. My generation is generally frustrated with stereotypes, because stereotypes are indicative of a mind that does not actually know that person who is being stereotyped. Perhaps my generation is cursed with a desire to be “known”. I don’t know, but I feel that desire in myself often. The “church generation”, by that I mean each generation of kids who grew up in the church, face a certain dilemma as well. Raised to believe certain things as Absolute Truth, they are boxed into a religion that they may, deep down, not actually believe. They believe it enough to answer the questions correctly, and make their parents feel secure about their “eternal security” but when push comes to shove, and life takes a turn for the worse, that faith might not really stick. And these kids KNOW it. And in many cases they don’t like it. They want to change something. They want to believe something. But they are boxed in.

To me they are like the women in the 1950s. They aren’t satisfied with the life they’ve been handed by the previous generation, and they plot to escape it. But if they succeed, which I think many have, we have to think about the consequences of these actions. If we abandon our faiths in favor of something new, will that destabilize the next generation? Where are absolutes in all of this? Is everything relative now? I think sometimes we dream so much, and focus so much on the escape from something; we forget about those who will come after us. Why is this current generation of kids all on antidepressants, and have ADD and Autism? Conspiracy theorists have their ideas. But maybe it’s because in the past generation, parenting has changed drastically, and it’s everyone’s fault for letting it happen. Drugs won’t fix it; family will fix it. I worry that the current faith generation that is busy busting out of the church and tearing down walls will damage their children as a result. Does that mean they shouldn’t bust out? Hell no. But the busting must be thought filled and done right. What’s right? I’ve no idea, but this essay isn’t about the answer, it’s about the problem. The answer ain’t too easy. But faith never is.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

What you do versus where you are

I had a conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee, and we talked for some time about my current field of inquiry, conversion. I am writing an extensive essay on the topic of conversion, contrasting Evangelical Christian conversion against Tibetan Buddhist conversion. I wanted to get my friends thoughts on the topic. We agreed on the idea that conversion is more than a rite, but rather a process that takes a lifetime (or in Buddhist circles, many lifetimes). The question of how to break free from the rite and experience the process came up. My friend said that each person is different, and so the process is going to look different for each person. I asked him then if he thought there was one path with many “different” people on it; or if there were many different paths. He said something very profound, and I took it as a lesson that I needed to center myself yet again. He said that the “path” is not where the emphasis should be placed. Rather the emphasis should be on what you are doing on whatever path you are on. I would state it this way: it’s not as important to be on the right path, you must be on “your” path, because the definition of it being your path will only be found in how you interact with it, not by how some outsider defines it.

My friend went on to tell an analogy for this idea. He said that there is sometimes a very defined path, lit by lanterns, but his heart calls him to the woods, off the lit path. And it is only in the woods that he can truly be alive. I pointed out that there are dangers in the woods, it’s not as safe as the “lit path”, but he said that to fully engage the process of faith, and by that also conversion, there is always some danger. But in those instances you must rely on your faith, which is of course the whole point.

I often get so focused on making people understand that there are many paths to God, and Truth, that I forget the path isn’t the important part. It’s what the path calls out of you; what you do in relationship with your journey that is important. A good thing for me to remember as I journey down my own path, and share in the journeys of others.