Saturday, December 31, 2011

How I Welcome 2012

I'm having a conversation with my inner Chaplain this morning.  In the next novel I'm writing, the Chaplain is an unconventional hero.  Since he's a blend of a real Christian teaching Bible study and my refusal to go all preacher-like, this exercise is similar to me having a conversation with myself.  I'm not particularly Christian, but I think the Bible is a pretty cool book, and I like the idea of calling the universal, positive power "God," since that's the most common name we give to the cosmic all.

The fun part about writing the Chaplain's character is I ask questions and then answer them, kind of.  It's an exploration of philosophy that doesn't trample on other religions and doesn't require self-flogging.  The Chaplain (who works in a jail and is fondly nicknamed "Chap") isn't a hellfire and brimstone kind of guy.  He makes his Bible study attendees really think beyond the obvious.  I guess you could say he's a contemporary, liberal sort based on some priests I've listened to.  But I don't like using the word "liberal" because it's got all kind of connotations associated with it.  I prefer to think Chap has a unique perspective, one that respects the Bible and Christianity, one that doesn't trample on other religions and one that is really universal.

In my personal faith journey, I explore all different religions and try to find common ground.  When there is no common ground, I find my own way, which usually matches some tenets of world religions.  If you have to label me, you can call me interfaith, which probably best describes me but is offensive to many believers and non-believers.  Since I offend some people anyway, I'm not too worried about it because I do respect their beliefs and their right to believe what they want or don't want.

There are times when I really slip back into my Catholic heritage, go for the traditional image of God, believe Mother Teresa was a saint, admire loving nuns and appreciate the ritual of things like mass.  I grew up on these, and I no longer resent  my upbringing.  However, I also believe in reincarnation, evolution, ghosts and aliens.

I believe certain people really were incarnations of "God" in that they were way more highly evolved than we are.  They are role models.  We're creating some of our own right now, but we don't yet recognize them.  They're like dead poets--we don't put them in the cannon of great literature until they're dead, which is kind of stupid, but I guess we want to see if they're going to slip up while they're still alive.  We tend to like our role models human enough to relate to, divine enough to look up to.

In my job, I come across people who most need compassion.  They are criminals, people most people wouldn't dream of giving compassion to, but having been a victim, I see the reasons why they've done what they have done, which is incredibly healing and empowering.  I see the sickness they have been given, the same sickness they give to others.  They have a disease, and until we find a vaccine, the virus will continue to spread.  The virus is deadly to victims, perpetrators and society.  The virus spreads pain, anger and hatred.   

It's not that's I'm a saint in the making (not sure I want to be one).  And it's not that I feel I have the magic elixir.  I don't.  All I can offer is my honesty and love, which are rooted in forgiveness and understanding.

Yesterday, a student said something that made me want to cry.

" Can I say something with all respect?" he asked.
"Of course."
"I learn because you teach with love."

How many times do you get that in a traditional classroom?  And how do you respond to such an open admission of need and gratitude?  I am quite sure mine was inadequate.

"Well, I am glad you are learning. I love being here.  I belong here, as funny as that sounds.  It's my mission."

Yikes.  Let's move onto the next exercise, shall we?  And let me take this instance home with me.

Happy New Year.    
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