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Dear Henry #4

April 2022

The other day it hit me that you may not know that there are schools which don’t educate you about God. So I asked you, and you said: What? Why? What do they learn about? … That makes me angry!

My indignant, fiery almost seven-year-old.

I didn’t grow up in a household with a strong foundation of faith. I grew up in a household that viewed God as a loose foundation (fairly in line with how our society, although largely atheistic, is founded on Christian principles). It wasn’t examined too deeply and the part it played in my day-to-day life was largely ignored.

I remember casually reading designed-for-children interpretations of the bible but it was passive. I enjoyed the beautiful images more than I did the words. As I grew older and went on the cyclical path that characterizes true learning (not the memorization set out in schools) I uncovered more about atheism and then more about faith itself. From there, I was able to entertain the different religions and the common denominators between them.

This experience revealed to me that there was much more than the stark dichotomy of black/white, right/wrong, winner/sinner interpretation of faith. Faith is malleable. It helped me to see how faith did impact and inform people’s daily lives. It was no longer about proving or disproving a literal God (or gods). It was not synonymous with sin and depravity, power and institutions. They were separate questions and separate problems from the undenominational act of faith.

So that is why I put you in a Catholic school. Does it sound a little ironic? Let me explain a li’l more: I wanted you to be immersed actively in the process of faith and ideology; not to restrict yourself to one way of living but rather to deeply understand the beauty and utility of having a faith. Of having a purpose, a place, and a promise to keep.

I did not place you in this position to enforce a moral code on an otherwise immoral! world because I’m not so cynical as that. Yes, we can argue that the world, extracted from the marionette show put on by humans, is immoral as seen through the morals we humans construct.

The point though is that we are humans seeing the world from a humanistic perspective. So, my approach to life is, let’s accept this tenet and run with it:

Everyone sets their own morals, regardless of their position on the God figure. Even people of the same religion, same denomination, and the same exact church have different takes on morals. They have different priorities and different beliefs on how these ethics should be ‘correctly’ implemented or put into action.

The experience you have firsthand will be different than the one I tried to orchestrate, no doubt, so I wanted to drop in and explain myself. I worry that you will become so submersed and dependent on this particular faith that it may unnerve you and shake the very core of your Self when questioned — and by that I mean when you begin to question it.

Oof! That sort of identity crisis is something I want you to avoid. I’m sure it has its important aspects but I have seen how it can completely destroy a person and I hope for you to be more resilient. I hope this backstory will help counter any helplessness that may fall upon your shoulders.

I want you to have firsthand experience of what faith can give you. I want you to see how others’ Gods (or whatever it is they have faith in) offer them happiness and direction in life. That is the ultimate goal of life, I would say. To find something you’re willing to believe in.

Isn’t that magic? You get to choose what you believe in. You choose where you put your trust and faith. Now listen here: It is the belief you put into that choice that garners its benefit. If you want something to work for you, baby, you gotta give it your all.

Your thinking mind doesn’t have to believe in a scientific rationale. That is not the point. It is the subjective and creative human brain, the emotional brain that needs images, stories, and meaning.

At eighteen I read Big Fish by Daniel Wallace and in it he quotes his father to have said something like ‘I don’t believe it, I believe in it.’ The ability to do just that — to understand the benefits and the limitations of any given faith — is a great starting point. Carry that with you, always.

What I will advise you against is buying into any sort of leader. Religion and mythology, suffering and purpose, life and death — the base components that befit human connection and friendship — that address the human condition — I give a big ol’ fuck yes! but as soon as you cross the line and meddle in and interfere with specific human dynamics, you’ve crossed a line and I won’t follow.

I don’t care what the word count is or how great of a story the bible is. You cannot prescribe a generic, black and white, code of honour or trail of living for all the infinite shoots that comprise existence — nor should you try to. You’re human.

You cannot behold all of existence and if you try to speak for God you instantly prove yourself wrong because you cannot contain all that is God in you. You are a sliver — as is every other existing thing. Saying all the answers are to be found in the bible is as ludicrous and immature as Dawson Leery saying you can find the same in a Spielberg movie.

As for a historical account, it is well known that history is written by the conquers, by those in power and is therefore biased by a narrow segment of society and lacks perspective. As well that historical records and accounts are by every means possible skewed and fractured and cannot be counted on as a matter of fact but rather as a matter of interpretation.

You must never lose sight of this: History is far from complete or exhaustive. It is bite-sized out-of-context details and events that our imagination colours in.

The cool thing about it is that you get to really play with these ideas and the knowledge in its many forms and create a system. How fun! You get to create your own meaning. In creating your own system you are able to see its edges, its limitations, and see the infinite surrounding space there is for others and their systems as well.

It’s all a game, one that is just as moving as a good picture show.

Now, if there is one tenet on which I would say all others of my own are built — my first commandment, if you will — would be simply stated do no harm. To go into what that means to me, nothing you do is isolated. It will have far-reaching consequences you cannot see. With this in mind, make your decisions the best you can to avoid harm and never knowingly put someone in harm’s way.

While acknowledging that I fail at that, and I do so all the time, I have faith in its value and will continue to repent when I have failed and fall back in line because I choose to believe in it as a moral principle. I wonder what you will decide.





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