Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The end is a beginning

This post was what I had imagined to be all that I would have to say on the subject. I had thought at first that it would be better to begin at the end but then it didn't make much sense. And then I started to try to organize my thoughts in my head and realized that there was so much more to be said.

It all started one day last week when I was a little bored at work. I started off reading through the selections available on Project Gutenberg and then realized that there was no Kierkegaard available. I thought of this because while I've always wanted to read Nietzsche as a result of reading Crime and Punishment in high school, I've always meant to read Kierkegaard as well. And a number of other philosophers. I spent a number of my college years reading Eastern philosophers but very little of the Western philosophers. Although one could argue that one my favorite books, The Tao of Pooh, is an amalgam as the author argues that Pooh is the great Western Taoist. So I spent an afternoon searching through the writings of various Western philosophers online. But I was a bit confused as to what would motivate me to do such. Then everything clicked into place Thanksgiving evening.
"Julia, honey, that's exactly who I am talking about. You have to understand what we are trying to do here. We are trying to to keep these kids in the church, because the church is the only hope most of them have. They go to school, and they can dress any way they want and they never hear about God but they hear about sex and they hear about being themselves and doing their own thing. Well, maybe for the white folks in the suburbs, it's okay to tell kids to do their own thing, to be themselves, whatever they learn out there. I wouldn't know. I only know that for our kids, it's a disaster, Julia. Just a disaster.
Some stupid boy gets some silly girl pregnant, and the white folks say they don't have to get married and it's wrong to pressure them. We fall into line. We do what the white folks tell us. See, Julia, we're still basically on a plantation here. The white folks get to set the rules. The white folks say no God in the schools, so there's no God in the schools. The white folks say you can't tell the kids not to have sex, so they have sex. The white folks say you can't make them feel ashamed if they get in the family way, so nobody feels ashamed. Like I said, the white folks set the rules. And then they get to live in the big house. Down here in the fields? Nobody asks our opinion. So, we live on the street corner or we live in the Lord's house. Down here, there isn't any third choice."
From New England White

When I read that passage, I suddenly knew what had sent me on that search for materials of various philosophers. And why religion has always been so important to my family. I had been there before. And religion had been appearing throughout the book as well as other organizations of the well-to-do African American community. (I chuckled when I saw mention of the Boule and Jack and Jill.) Even though these things are not active parts of my life, they are still a part of me. Especially since they are still active in the lives of my family members.

And the hardest part of my mental journey was when I relived those days during which I decided to stop attending church. I remember the consternation of some members of the congregation when the choir started singing gospel songs as well as the old hymns. (In a Presbyterian church, the only music should be psalms and hymns.) And the hymns? There weren't enough hymnals to go around so over time I memorized them. Every now and then I catch myself singing one. And that's what I miss about not going to church -- the music.

But I won't go back. The man who was the minister passed away about ten years ago. The only time I set foot in that church since age 17 was for his memorial service. I felt that I owed it to him. Summers during college, I would take the bus into San Francisco to go to work. On my way home, I would have to pass the church. At least once a week, the minister would be out front sweeping the walkway as I passed. So I would stop to talk. I mean this was a man who knew me before I was me. (My parents had joined the congregation before my mom became pregnant with me.) And I could tell him all the things that I was afraid to tell my parents. And he never judged. Even more shocking was that he never asked me why I didn't go to church anymore. (And this was a man who was known for showing up at parishioners' homes if they had missed too many Sundays.) Because I like to think that he understood. Because those were dark times for me. I did not believe there was a God or any other higher power. I was in pain and had seen too much death, or so I thought.

It took a great number of years before I realized that faith and spirituality have nothing to do with going to church. Kind of like I had tried to argue to my mother back when I was 17 and had decided to stop attending church. But now I also realize how much of a wonderful place church was when I was younger. It was a place in which I could feel safe. In which I was encouraged to be all that I could be. And this was really important when I wasn't necessarily getting it from the rest of the world.

And I also realized that this was all important to me because over the last year or so, I have wandered from my spirituality. And I realized that the whole getting organized at home would help me to achieve this goal. Because then I could easily find the books and whatever else I needed. (And then the whole leg thing started up. Vicodin seems to cover the hip problem. The knee is a little more challenging. And now I know that I won't be heading back up to Sacramento next weekend for my stepbrother's birthday party like my dad requested. Besides I had other plans.) So now I have a new impetus for getting everything all together. Because I need to do some more reading.

Anywho. I hope that I haven't rambled too much. (I wrote the two posts over the weekend so that I could have time to edit. But then I didn't do much because that's just how my mind works. And I had already spent days thinking about what I would write.) There was just so much that I felt like I needed to get out. And I had to get it out. Because if I didn't, it would continue to haunt me and I wouldn't be able to move onto anything else.

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