Friday, November 19, 2010

Taking Life Seriously

This little girl was playing in the park near her mother just before Halloween.  Yes, Halloween has made it to China, but it is not the full-blown version of Halloween.  It is simply an opportunity to add colour and playtime for young people - no trick and treating, no pranks, no associations with the nether world of ghosts on the eve of All Saints Day.

I know that I take life too seriously most of the time and don't make much room for play for myself.  Watching the youth in Canada as they grow up in the school system, I saw them too old for their years - they, too, took themselves seriously.  They wanted to be teenagers years before their time; they wanted to be  old enough to drink just barely into their teen years; they wanted to be seriously in love and acting accordingly before childhood had finished.  And parents, wanted their children to hurry up with the growing up so that they could go on with their own lives or find a way to live vicariously through their "hurried children."   Imagine my surprise when I found that the youth in their early twenties that I taught haven't been rushed.  If anything, the college years are the final playground before they get tossed out into the adult world.

Growing up in the Catholic religion, children are expected to be miniature adults, serious in their intention to be on the battlefields of good versus evil.  With confirmation at the age of seven calling on the children to become "soldiers of Christ," there is no room left for being a child.  One was made aware of an external god that was ever-vigilant and had the power to condemn even a child to the fires of an eternal hell.  One was made aware of an almost as equally powerful devil that would be working overtime to tempt one into sin, the route into hell.  And, one was made aware that the robed men of the church were the only ones who could help save your soul, something that even the parents couldn't do.  One was taught not to trust one's self.  One was told to trust the church, to believe what could never make sense, to have faith in an idea that defied one's experiential knowledge of the world.  Catholicism is just one sect of the big three western religions that demand the same from each child - blind faith and obedience.

Awakening from the cocoon that religion wraps around the psyche is a shock.  One is adrift, removed from the community of "faith" that has provided all the answers and the road maps.   Before venturing too far into this unfamiliar realm, one must learn to begin trusting the "self."  And that, is what one didn't learn when one took life seriously as a child.

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