12 May 2011

The Inevitable "Religion" Question

It's that time for me, a time I had been looking forward to and dreading since she was born. Caitlin needs to be enrolled in public school to start Grade 0 next year.

I am lucky that because we live with my dad in a little house they bought a decade ago, in what was then a new development, and what has become quite a safe, and good neighbourhood, that the closest public school is also known as one of the best in this region.

Going through the 100's of forms ( some of them involving selling my soul into permanent bondage if I ever can not pay them) the inevitable question always comes up. The one I had been dreading and could have such a huge impact on her life.

Firstly it is asked " Religion?" hmmmm first instinct is "None", in which case it might most probably be assumed we don't care, or we are godless lazy creatures, who are really undiscovered Christians, as long as someone manages to convert us from lazing in bed all sunday morning instead of getting off our behinds and going to church. (You'd be surprised how many Christians around me actually think this)

Second option: Secular Humanist. If I am lucky I might find a teacher who knows what this entails in it's entirety. In that case I hope they tell me as well, as it is just a term I recently adopted because of the wiki page putting this in as part of the definition:

"Fundamental to the concept of Secular Humanism is the strongly held belief that ideology — be it religious or political — must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith"

Ok so let's leave the "religion" question there. Now comes the Doozy. Next conundrum and the true test of my child's future influences lie in this easy little question:

" Do you have any objections to your child participating in any religious activities?"

If YES, please furnish reasons.

Now firstly I need to now what do these religious activities entail? Will there be forced bible reading, lively questioning? Will it be more moral or more religious? Will there be forced prayer and false piety?

What happens if I state Yes I object? Will she be rejected by her peers as strange and weird? Will she be rejected and targeted by teachers for the same reasons?

I've always said I will allow her to make up her own mind one day. but In my opinion I will be doing her an injustice to allow her to be subjected to the same kind of brainwashing that I was as a child and teen.In order to find one's own truth one needs to be educated on all the available options. Somehow I doubt this is done properly in most schools.

I wouldn't mind her receiving religious education that is educational, factual, and discusses the main religions and their similarities and differences. But I don't think I want her to take part in any form of worship activities.In her current school there is a huge preponderance of religious worship, they barely do secular nursery rhymes and stories, most of it is focussed on religious stories and songs.

I was never made aware of this before enrolling her, and obviously I am scared of the Primary school taking the same sneaky approach, or just assuming that this is okay with everyone, when it clearly isn't.

Maybe I must just included a whole letter stating more clearly what our beliefs are or rather aren't? Or finally take the time to thing and write down a kind of personal manifesto of beliefs which I can attach.

Or do you think I am making too much of this and should just let her be shepherded along with the other sheep and hope she doesn't get too brainwashed?

Oh and unlike the USA, South African schools can and do offer religious teachings as long as they are in line with this Draft policy on Education ( which I have heard is not enforceable as it is only a draft policy, and which many schools have been known to ignore)

Unfortunately my only other choice in school is much more openly Christian, even though they are also a public school. At least this one gives me a choice. The other automatically assume that one is a Christian.

What I wish for is not only Freedom of Religion in all governments and school, But Freedom FROM Religion

08 May 2011

Being me, is enough

I sometimes wonder if it is really enough to just be me. Be myself, in whatever fallible or unacceptable way. Does that lead to happiness? Is happiness even something that can be real and lasting or should we just be "happy" with the occasional times when we do feel Happy, and let the rest go.

Mostly I feel content.... I lie. Mostly I feel discontent... not even that. Mostly I feel like maybe I could be more than I am. I like myself, but I have not made peace with the fact that I am not enough for many others. That they would in some way seek to improve me. Improve on what I am, who I am, how I am.

I like it that I search and explore life, not intent on finding any specific destination, but constantly intrigued by all there is to learn and know. I would like to experience more of life instead of just to learn more, so I have tried to do that slowly and in little ways.

I mostly don't mind that some strangers or friends find me "unacceptable" in whatever way. That some find me in some way displeasing, or not to their liking.

But I occasionally get slightly sad...no I get quite melancholy when I realise, after having told myself over and over that it doesn't matter, that my family sees me in this light.

I realise that my whole life I had not been good enough in some way, or pretty enough, or clever enough, or hard working enough. I had not married rich enough, I am not fashionable enough, thin enough, or pliable enough.

I used to be too shy, but am now not quiet enough, but when I am quiet I am too quiet, and when I speak I speak too much. When I don't drink alcohol, I am unsocial, but when I do drink I drink too much. When I don't know what they are talking about I am quite an outcast, but when I have an opinion I will be cast out.

I feel sad that so much of my life was wasted to attempt to find some kind of acceptance in a family I have very much loved forever. After many years of feeling like the stranger in a strange land though, I sadly come to a realisation that somewhere I will have to accept that I can not be accepted by them, and that this is as a result of my own growth and finding myself. I feel that I have to learn this again and again, year by year. I will be fine with it for some month's until another family holiday appears, and I am reminded of the taste of rejection.

I am not in denial about it. I accept it with great sadness in my heart, and wish it was different, knowing it never will be. I still like me, but my heart breaks that they do not. And by rejecting me they reject my daughter who will never know the joy's of large family get togethers, and fortunately never the pain of family rejection.

I could pretend to not be me, for someone else sake pretend to be what they want me to be, but having done this for 35 years with great failure, how can I now succeed. No. I do not believe I could be all they would want me to be, because I do not think they know what they want me to be.

I think to me this is probably much bigger than it is to any other member of my extended family. To me this probably brings much more emotion than to any one member of a family who do not really know me, want to know me, or in any way even think to care. For if they actually did, surely this would not be so hard.

So will my happiness lie in just forgetting that they exist? Or not caring about them, should I not feel so much?

Should I be less wanting of their love?

I'm not sure I think I have confused myself again and might not post this at all.

Then on the other hand why should I apologise for being an emotional being, and for feeling this so deeply. Why have I always had the idea that I must hide my true emotions at every point. I refuse to do that. I am who I am and will be me. In that process I might have to share my pain, and be rejected for it. That would add to my pain, but I must be able to experience it in my own way in order to get through it somehow.