Saturday, May 29, 2010

"The probligo's Progress"

Al the Bourgeois Philistine has written a very good and most readable start to a "spiritual autobiography". That led me to thinking what the ol'probligo's version of the same journey might look like.

I guess that the landscape has to begin with the family; my father of Anglican stock, my mother Methodist at best. Other than the usual family events was always "home work", chores and preparing for the following school week.

The school at Te Whaiti is right next door to the local Presbyterian kirk; well, there was a shortcut through a swamp, or it was a brisk walk a hundred yards up the road. So we were "required" to attend Sunday School where we were "baby-sat" for about two hours every Sunday morning. The significance of this move escaped a naive nine year-old and in fact it was another 15 years before I worked out what may have been behind the idea.

It was an "interesting" experience. Interesting because I almost immediately began running to difficulties. I have the memory of trying to understand the meaning of the Catechism; if I have to say this, what does it mean?. Colouring pictures of the major festivals, while learning the story of the man and the pictures; artistic ability zero, concentration about the same.

I think I lasted there about 6 months, I remember the Christmas and Easter services because the Sunday School took part (after suitable teachings) and all of the hymns were sung (very beautifully I think) in Maori. There was then a brief sotto voce but fairly heated discussion between the Minister and the old man following which I was told that I had been expelled from Sunday School for being "too disruptive" and asking too many hard questions.

My parents made another attempt after we moved north. The Baptist Church had a "camp" just down the road from us and used to turn on a Sunday School programme on the beach during the summer holidays. There was an associated three week "boarding camp holiday". I was sent there as a twelfth birthday present. My chief memory of that experience was being woken - or kept awake - in the wee smalls by two of the senior boarders. Their intent was to "convert" me to religion. Sorry guys, but the myth of "original sin" still escapes me; there is no honest belief in me; anything that I might do or say will be nothing more than pretence; without honest belief my participation would be a lie. After that exerience, "Sunday worship" for the warmer half of the year became the religion of "messing around in boats" as Ratty put it. The Sundays of the colder half were spent recovering from the previous day's rugby game and schoolwork.

It was about that time that I discovered two of my father's books. First was "The Importance of Living" by Lin Yutang, which I still have. Second was "Perennial Philosophy" by Aldous Huxley.

Yutang gave me a very small peep-hole into Chinese traditions and beliefs, Confucionism and Tao. Huxley put me on the road to Hindu and Bhuddist thought.

And so began a long period of digestion. It continues.

To misquote a sf writer "Either there are gods out there, or there are not. Both prospects are equally frightening."

In the meantime I am quite comfortable with how I have lived my life, and the fact of my mortality.

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