- Mental Health
Traditions and Customs as Form of Robotic Ritualism
A Curious Mind
Right at the start let me tell you that I have no arguments against any tradition, religious, cultural, ethnical, whatever - let everyone honor what they consider sacred. It's only that I have this very curious, inquisitive mind with this passion to jump out of the paradigm box like a man possessed and question everything - not sparing the very existence of everything material.
And maybe all this about my curiosity is an understatement when human nature and life are the theme, because it seems like I was already born with that passion. At the age of ten I read my first book in psychology, followed by a ton of books on relating topics; and some three years later, after having heard many stories about "ghosts walking around cemeteries at night" I had to check it out.
So I visited our huge cemetery around midnight all by myself; just sat on a bench in front of someone's grave sweating bullets at first, but resolute to find out or die finding out. Well, many a time my curiosity made me "open a can of worms" - or is it a "Pandora box full of demons" that were released, causing me one trouble or another, but I just couldn't help being myself.
And so it is now. Not that there is anything bombastically sensational to be said about traditions, but I am merely driven from within to turn yet another rock over to check what's hiding underneath, if anything.
Identity without Labels
Being an individualist I have from ever been extremely reluctant to identify myself by any of those attributes given to me by society. For one thing, I was not "born" a Christian - they baptized me as a baby, not allowing me to grow up first and to decide for myself what kind of god and savior would look most interesting to me.
So they did it for themselves, not for me. As a matter of fact, starting with family authorities, then school, job, army service, communist regime - everyone was trying to de-personalize me. With so many roles I was supposed to become everything else but myself.
Well, I haven't - with this obvious curiosity to question all taboos and fetishes, and refusing to be indoctrinated into any of the popular beliefs while allowing others to do thinking for me. Besides, the world with all its stupidities hasn't impressed me enough that I would blindly accept anything from their repertoire of imposing ideas - other than those that passed as logical in my own mind.
The Puzzle of the "F-Word"
As people age, they usually become just more of the same with some added complexity to it. So, here I am, at this age of seventy one, still scratching my head and wondering about some stuff that has been taken for granted but simply doesn't sit right in my logically oriented mind.
For example, have you ever asked yourself how in the world the "f-word" became an obscenity? One day, when you younger folks get older and retired, you may want to ask your own strange questions, but this one is mine, O.K.?
It seems like an ordinary dude like you or me got out of bed one morning, and having an epiphany with an inspiration to contribute to the mankind with something valuable proclaimed that "from now on, this "f- word" should be a bad, bad word - never to be spoken out publicly, god-forbid in churches. With the only exception if you would get a flat tire on the road, or when you have calculated how much taxes you owe to your government." That word was to be valid only in English speaking countries, while all others should make up their own obscenities according to their own culture and traditions.
Now, what makes it such an amazing proof of human capacity to be brainwashed is the fact that it had to be only one person who came up with that idea - not that people collectively decided upon it. You see where I am going with this? How the hell did that "f-word" become "officially" a no-no-word after that one dude said so?
How did people adopt it? Was it because the word "intercourse" was too long to say when people had a flat tire or accidentally hit their finger while using a hammer? I know all this sounds like a humorous matter, but I am quite seriously asking - what made that author of the f-word so important that everybody agreed?
Go ahead, you try to proclaim a word to be a bad one, and the world will laugh at you. Maybe because our culture already has enough of them, so there is no need for fresh, and better sounding ones. Well, we may never find out.
Wrong Teachers - or a Wrong Classroom
How does all this work in peoples' minds? I just don't get it. It comes easy to understand why an important discovery gets passed from generation to generation. So a stone age genius discovers something like a wheel, and then Flintstone tells his grandchildren who tell their grandchildren. But how something like a belief becomes so contagious that all of a sudden you are having a pandemic of believers in the same idea?
O.K., knowing enough about people's natural suggestibility to understand their falling for someone's suggestible influence, we can even accept it as a temporary thing. We all tend to "believe", let's say in an advertised product - but then we promptly "snap out of it" and go for something else.
But why in the world did we need a belief which we were not intending to follow? You see, I don't get it. Does the whole history of wars and brutalities look to you like people have been following "The Word" about love, compassion, tolerance, support, absence of greed, lies, pretenses...and so on?
Indeed, why did we choose to keep a system of ideas if that was all going to be just a cultural pastime, something to celebrate and break the monotony of collective life? Was it all meant to be an entertainment Halloween-style? If not, why doesn't this world look better?
For instance, it's easy for me to picture those heads of corporations that are polluting our air, water, and soil taking their families to church. Can you? So, are they doing it "in the name of love for the mankind?" Or take all those heads of states who issue an order for an attack on a country, killing an untold number of civilians - why do they call themselves "religious"?
Every now and then I get to see people frowning when I ask these questions. Some say that I am "against" their faith. No, I am not. I simply don't understand why bother having a faith and not follow its tenets.
Whether teachers were wrong by expecting too much from imperfect humans - or the students were wrong by intellectually "biting more than they could chew" - I don't know, but something simply doesn't add up there.
What's a Life without Sugar!
Just off hand, and maybe a little inspired by my current giving up sugar and wheat - let's say that a modern messiah of these days tries to brainwash everyone into believing that sugar is an "evil" behind most of our suffering, spiritual, mental, and physical. Here, I already got myself brainwashed - but with a whole bunch of logical information from "holy books" of biochemistry.
Now, that would be one real, tangible "evil", not one of those spooks from holy books that no one has yet seen except in their nightmares, hallucinations, or in a Hollywood movie. O.K., just like it is the case with any other holy book, this one would not be followed.
Imagine people agreeing to give up their sweet sins. Beside, that "evil" happens to be at the top of the list of commodities in the Stock Market - so who would go that far in insulting the deity of dollar by exorcising that "evil" out of our pantries?
We just can't help it, we love our sins sweet. Not that my resume would have in it any qualifications for such a messiah, but we have a whole bunch of those who could easily mass-produce something like stevia for a sweetener. Well, like with all other "evils" sugar also happens to be addictive, whereas stevia is not, and no one would go religious enough to crave those coffees and pastries and ice creams without being addicted.
Anyway, that was just one example of a possible historical change that could happen if we ever chose to implement a concrete and useful system of beliefs that might even stop those wars, that arrogance and animousity among people - without a bunch of chemicals that make our brains and stress hormones go ballistic.
Indeed, why don't we all smarten up and start a new religion of being more pragmatic. I mean, focused on "what works", because the old religions obviously haven't produced those results prescribed in their holy books. People could still keep those parts that look like a manual for decent behavior, but maybe they should go beyond it - so that their gods would finally start smiling at them from high above.
Dates Designated for Loving
Let me surprise you a bit before I finish my not so holy sermon - I do celebrate Christmas. While I don't go robotically ritualistic about advertising it, I have an enormous respect for every spiritual teacher - not necessarily for the way they are being followed.
So, Christmas is to me symbolizing that good in me and in all people, not as Jesus's birthday, not depicting any of those things attributed to that date by the church. It also means to me a celebration of my willingness to join others in their good hearts' intentions - which I live from day to day, not waiting for that special date.
I love decorating my Christmas tree. To me it is far from being a ritual, it's an act of recognition that there are spiritual values in this world, not religious ones. Would I shock you a bit by saying that Jesus was not a religionist, but a spiritual teacher, telling everyone to follow their heart, to explore the divine within themselves? And, as we all know, you can't fit a cathedral into your personal space.
As my good friend's son is playing on piano Christmas carols and a bunch of us are singing, a wave of sadness regularly passes through my heart - that people need to be told a date when to feel closeness, when to love.
In my family we hug every day, and I don't wait for the Valentine's Day, birthday, or Wedding Anniversary to bring flowers to my wife. In my free spirit every day is like Christmas, but on that one day I join the world in their celebration.
To round it up, I view traditions and customs as a brainwashed - while clumsy - following someone else's ideas, without pursuing an intelligent psycho-physical model of functioning which would automatically generate love, peace of mind, and all those spiritual goodies ever prescribed by holy books.
To me they are sterile, ritualistic forms of thinking, not a gut-felt drive to live up to ideals of the only "normalcy" that homo sapiens is worthy of.