4/13/11

Faith, by Definition

Since having a child, I've thought a lot about the requirements of having an opinion on everything.  As a child I was very inquisitive, I only did the "Why" marathon once, when I realised it wasn't working out so well...I just began asking honest questions and got some very mixed messages.  I think too it has more to do with the mortality I'm feeling by just having become a mother.  I've been in "New Mother Crisis Mode" since November now.  Specifically, religion and spirituality have held a lot of complexities for my mind lately and I'm left wondering not only what do I believe, but what do I have faith in?  What do I unquestioningly believe without doubt, and what do I doubt or question?  What is it that I fail to recognize at all?

I've lately been reading Eat, Love, Pray: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Yes, the basis for the Julia Roberts' movie by the same name.    If you haven't read it, you should.  Truth be told, I'm more of a genre reader and yet I adore this book.  It's so full of humor and self-deprecation that I can identify with her immediately. 

So, why did I jump from faith to this book?  Well, there's a great passage she's written and it's so...on the mark.  I had to share it.



"Faith is a way of saying, 'Yes, I pre-accept the terms of the universe and I embrace in advance what I am presently incapable of understanding.' There's a reason we refer to 'leaps of faith'--because the decision to consent to any notion of divinity is a mighty jump from the rational over to the unknowable, and I don't care how diligently scholars of every religion will try to sit you down with their stacks of books and prove to you through scripture that their faith is indeed rational; it isn't. If faith were rational, it wouldn't be--by definition--faith."

I think this is a great summary of what faith means.  In the end, it doesn't matter what faith you belong to even if it's the "Right one," Everyone's taking a leap of faith, aren't they.  I think it's important to teach my child this as she grows up.  She's going to be raised in the faith I was raised in...but truly, we can all rely on our scriptures to assure us that what be believe in is the one true faith/belief/practice, but in the end...we're all taking educated guesses and committing to them.

Gilbert goes on to describe faith in more of that humorous way I was mentioning before, and I thought I better not keep it from you...

"Faith is belief in what you cannot see of prove or touch.  Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark.  If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be... a prudent insurance policy."

Also, on the right of my blog you will find a video with the acronym TED, with Elizabeth Gilbert talking about the idea of the creative genius and the muse, you can tell I agree with a lot of her opinions, no?  If you find her as amusing as I do, and are curious to read her book, Eat, Love Pray then here are the details.

Eat, Love, Pray: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia.
By Elizabeth Gilbert
Published by Penguin Books, The Penguin Group
Copyright 2006
ISBN: 9780143038412

4/10/11

Ukrainian Eggs vs. Children's Egg Dying Kit

I grew up not doing a lot of crafts but adoring crafts none the less.  When my mother did have time to treat us to craft time or holiday based crafts, she really held nothing back.

Our family didn't have "craft days" or crafting weekends, we had spontaneous projects.  These projects were often attributed to holidays, items she needed with regards to the household, or they were in preparation for school work/projects.

I think that this method of artistry really prepared me for the mental aspect of art.  We always had projects that took up the entire kitchen table, the most part of a weekend, and tended to make a mess that took longer to clean up.

Take for example the Easter Holiday.  When I was about nine years old, my mother brought home a very serious looking craft.  We'd never made Easter eggs before and I didn't know you could dye your Eggs...I had considered true Easter eggs the ones that were wrapped in colored tin foil.

She told us to sit around the table and wait for explanations.  All three of us, my older brother, myself and my younger brother, sat down and fidgeted wondering what was next.  She pulled out some very disconcerting items, placed bowls of multiple colored liquids in front of us and then sat down at the end of the table.  Watch, she said.  We sat quietly while she pulled an egg out of the centre bowl and lit a candle, the wax in the odd looking instrument melting.  Then she progressed to writing on the egg.

As we watched her dye the egg and reveal that everything with the wax was left undyed, we were wowed.  You could have pulled Puff the Magic Dragon out of a hat and we wouldn't have been as surprised! I think the most recent slang for how I felt was, she Blew My MIND!

We each took to the craft with absolute ardeur.  We sat and covered our eggs in wax, silently for the better part of two hours.  Our mother never pulled out the "How to Make Ukrainian Eggs" book unless she was going to use it herself.  She just let our imaginations run wild.  She did encourage us to think of what an egg is: An egg is the beginning of life, it's usually a treasure chest of life.  What was Easter about anyways? she'd ask.  Of course we drew the religious conclusions of the Resurrection of Jesus, but there was so much more symbolism behind it.  The creativity to express ourselves also led us to cherish the result of Easter.

I don't want to get too religious, but all religions have celebrations similar to Easter.  The celebrations of new life, of renewal, of humanity.  Without these celebrations we wouldn't be the individuals we are today, except for those religious reminders about how they were gained.  I feel as though Remembrance day is a secular example.  If you're not religious, you may still observe Remembrance Day, (Memorial Day in the USA).  This day is one in which the deaths of soldiers and military members are appreciated because their deaths created the freedom that we experience today.  In the Christian religion, Christ died to free humanity from the oppression of their sin and the lack of opportunity to live again in the afterlife.

In this way, the Easter Egg coloring was a way of expressing ourselves for what we were, and I thank my mom for never limiting us on the way we could express ourselves.  In the same way that soldiers dies for the freedom of speech, so too did religions present the opportunity to spiritually understand what we've been given.  No matter what faith you belong to, the freedom of creativity is often spurred by the creative spirit given to us by some form of divinity and only through enlightenment or faith can we truly appreciate that creative freedom... In the Christian Tradition it would be a gift of the holy spirit, a gift from God that we are meant to celebrate.  By using that gift we also honor deity, we honor the being that created us--both human and divine, our mothers and our gods. 

Today, 14 years later, I gave one of those store bought egg kits a try.  It's the dye-your-egg-and-put-stickers-on-it kit.  It was a little depressing.  There are only so many things you can do with four colors and twenty stickers.  The worst was the impersonating white crayon they include to "draw" on the egg.  It was a pale comparison of true Ukrainian Egg Dying.

I have to admit that as a nine year old the egg dying kit, the store bought variety, would have been lame.  I think that after the age of seven... those kits need to go out the door.  Keep the egg dippers and maybe the crayons for the kiddies, but Ukrainian Egg Dying is something every child should be able to experience when they are mature enough.  Plus, if you want to pull all the stops like my mom did, the only choice would be the true Ukrainian dying kits.  It can be just as affordable depending where you shop.  Plus, if you put whatever you can afford towards it, then do so the next year--as your child gets older you'll have a more and more impressive kit.

Of course that year, the only egg that looked truly Ukrainian, was my mother's.  She'd done a very wonderful job with symmetry, colors, and keeping the egg balanced.  The lines she did were perfect, and in the end it was beautiful.

I think mine had stars, hearts and smiley faces all over it.  My mom said she really liked mine.