Sunday, 15 June 2008

Multifaith celebration

In the Grit and Dig household, we are not religious. For that we use the knuckle-biting faith, which is to say as little as possible and hope for the best. When it comes to actual involvement in war and peace, Mummy Grit wags her finger and sermonises with wise statements that she finds in fortune cookies, like From little seeds grow big trees, a catch-all parable which she has been using to spiritually guide her brood for the last eight years.

In general educational terms, for all needs religious, we get down the What I Believe book, find out about Ganesha, go and look at a mosque, drag the Gritlets off to meet sulky nuns and monks with moths, read parables from the Junior Book of Bible Stories, light candles and incense of various colours and odours, and borrow stuff from the library, like the Qur'an. Mostly that last one I admit to impress the librarian.

I think this is the right thing to do, when you are not religious. It is to bite your knuckles. Then talk about everything religious and faith-based, what elements these belief systems share, what they contribute to society, and what help individuals might get from them. And let's face it, I have even considered finding a god somewhere myself when I am in a dark, lonely place and wondering if I should take up religion or crack cocaine. In the end it probably won't matter, because whatever I do, I expect I shall be proved wrong. Someone will be keeping a book somewhere, and the day of judgement will come and I shall be kicked out of a comfy cloud position for all eternity and blasted into some dark and miserable stinking hole with no water supply like our cellar bathroom.

But we hope by this all-round religion method that our children grow up tolerant and aware and wise, and able to understand the various states that motivate people to do what they do, and reach for what they take, bomb or book. Right now though, while Tiger is screaming the house down because a sister said what she wanted to and that's not fair, and then Squirrel gets told off for being lippy and Shark tries to slap me round the face because I give in to a hormonal fit of the giggles, well that elevated and wise position seems a little hard to reach. But in the cause of teaching tolerance there's a lot of daily knuckle biting we do in the hope that it will all come right in the end.

Well today I am handing over the teaching of religion, belief and motivation to the Buddhists, because it is the annual multicultural celebration at the Peace Pagoda. I like the Buddhists, I really do. It's not only because they give me a cup of tea and a free curry once a year, it's also because round here they are so laid back and tolerant of just about anything. Even the sight of Shark, Squirrel and Tiger rolling about in a field trying to claw each other's faces off because someone touched the daisy chain and said it was theirs when it so clearly wasn't and is someone going to pay for that mistake. Even when that screaming wrestling bout is happening right in the middle of the celebration of peace, one of those Buddhist monks will turn round and give us all a big, big smile, and I think if he can achieve that calm smile in the middle of this chaos, just shave my head and pass the orange robes to me right now.

So today we go to the festival and I tell Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to remember that it is all about sharing cultures and being tolerant and not hitting your sister or calling her a fat cow. OK I made up that last bit about sisters, but not about the fat cow because I note that terminology is creeping around now in our front room. And I'm sure it is nothing to do with mummy Grit getting cut up last week on the A5 roundabout en route to a French lesson, it is just the dreadful way our society is disintegrating in respect and manners.

But today it will all be OK, because this festival is very easy. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger listen patiently and nicely to all the speeches, and it is the easiest lesson in tolerance and understanding and sharing things, even your free curry with mamma, that I could possibly have put in front of the Gritlets all year. We get wisdoms to take home like From little seeds grow big trees, from all the major religious groups. We get speeches from the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Pagans and then round it off with a Celtic blessing. They miss out the Pastafarians and Flying Spaghetti Monster but I think it would be hard to bring in a group all the way from Kansas. But I bet the Buddhists are so laid back that they would not ban them or say 'way too silly'. They'd let them in and help hand out free tee-shirts.

And the day is splendid, and tolerant, and lovely, and sharing, especially the curry, which I get several plates of, and Squirrel gets to go back into the tea tent eight times and swipe the sweeties and share them out between her sisters before I end up apologising and ticking her off before flippantly suggesting that next time she stuffs the sweeties in her socks. Then I see with horror half an hour later the little madam is back in the tent stuffing Chupa Chups down her boots.

When we've all been tolerant and sharing with each other long enough, the Buddhists give us apples and send us home. And I do believe that the knuckle-biting method of faith will work in the end, because I am sure something has rubbed off. We get no screaming, fat cows or fisticuffs for a whole three hours, fifteen minutes and forty-two seconds, or until a fight breaks out over a DVD of dinosaurs.

Then Mummy Grit separates the warring factions, wags her finger and shouts about how we have been so tolerant and nice to each other all day long and what benefits came from it, like free curries and Chupa Chups, and then I ask everyone to remember this, above all things, and it is From little seeds grow big trees.

1 comment:

Allie said...

Excellent! Gold star for all things diverse and tolerant (nearly typed tolerable - whoops!). You seem to be setting a real pace of educational visits. Makes me think we should do one tomorrow and not settle for endless CBBC website.