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Diwali (Keturah)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009
What do we do as humans to remember what is important to us? We celebrate, we create days where our devotion to one another, to religion, to our beliefs climaxes. We have birthday parties, holidays, remembrance days...We loose ourselves into our humanity through music and movement, through drunkenness and joy. I had the opportunity to witness that in the context of the Hindu celebration of Diwali.

My experience of India and the Hindu religion is limited to the school's textbook version. I have always labeled it as a place that might be cool to see, but my reflections stopped at Gandhi and Mother Teresa. However, unexpectedly, a night of Diwali drew me into this remarkable culture vociferously. The bright warm colors glowed in candlelight that was dancing to the tinkle of bracelets and shiny things adorning the beautiful Indian dresses. Starting out rather calmly, the participants performed all the usual rituals, sang the ancient songs and danced steps well known. All of this was interesting from an objective standpoint until an Indian man came forward to light candles and blow a seashell as a horn. I am sorry, but I cannot remember the purpose of his action. Even still, the look of rapture that took hold of his face, as if emerging from beneath his skin, made me hold my breath. He was involved. He was engaged with his beliefs. He was communing with Something. He was experiencing his religion. I stood in awe and felt a pull to understand his assurance. Diwali was more than an idea to him; it was truth.

Diwali is the Hindu celebration of light's triumph over darkness, thereby also known as The Festival of the Lights. Such a vein is following me wherever I go, it would seem. Earlier in the day, I saw a series of paintings depicting the power of light trumping dark. A fundamental idea in the Christian religion is light always being stronger than darkness. The positive thinking movement stands on good winning over evil. Even Cinderella and Star Wars are based entirely on this idea. And I wonder if what we are all looking for is some escape from the drudgery and pain of life. I am not trying to be a bummer, but as glorious as life can be, we cannot deny its inevitable sorrows as well. So, we draw courage from the battle, from our fairytale heroes' strength to win every time. We exalt what is good and pure in hopes that we and our world will became as such.

This may seem like an obvious idea, but it also seemed to coincide with another track of thought I have been running on (usually out of breath). Perhaps humans are fundamentally the same. They have the same emotions, the same desires, the same questions. Thus, it could be that their religions and philosophies are fundamentally the same as well. Don't shoot me. I am not saying I am a unitarian or a communist or a peace-and-love hippie. What I am saying is that we all value the same things: love, relationship, peace, fortune, etc. And we celebrate what we value. Religion is one way of doing that, of exalting those characteristics so high that they remain unadulterated by ourselves. Each culture simply seems to have a different way of expressing that. So, perhaps there is one God. Perhaps God is Allah, Spirit, the Universe, Jehovah, Vishnu, the wisdom of Buddah. Perhaps we just call him different names. Perhaps different cultures choose different aspects of God to celebrate and so we think their God is wrong. But maybe it is all God. It would make sense to me that on a planet as diverse as Earth, filled with people of different colors and cultures that God may need to deposit Himself in a various forms within these cultures, so that their people might understand who He is. Let me try to break it down...People all have different personalities. As much as we can learn from each other and grow, we will always remain within the limitations of our own personality. i.e.: As much as your wife wants you to be organized, you will never be as organized as her if it is not in your nature, although you may improve. On the scale of culture, the West is very intellectual, time and task oriented. Africa is much more spiritual, people and event oriented. It is okay for these cultures to always remain different as long as they can still learn from one another and grow, to a degree, in their weaker areas. In the case of religion, some sects of Christians go to church on Sundays and do good unto one another. In India, religious people meditate and burn incense. Perhaps God is all of these things, but each culture can only hold so much of Him. For example, when you put all the people together in the world, you have a fuller picture of what a human being is. When you put all the cultures together in the world, you have a fuller picture of what people are and what they can do. When you put all the religions together in the world, maybe we have a fuller picture of who God is.

Churchgoers are probably thinking this is blasphemy and the rest of you are rolling your eyes at all this talk about religion. But the truth is, as much as I am on a road trip and I am discovering the United States of America, I want to ask that question as well. Who is God?

I would love for you to post some thoughts, arguments, ideas, etc. I am very interested to hear from you all...

1 comments to Diwali (Keturah):

Heather said...

I've been really challenged, encouraged, and thought provoked by your posts. Thank you for sharing!! I'm so excited to see what more you experience, and search out. =]

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