Beliefs: Part I

B4C0A454-579E-47EC-B306-E76CD25BDF24In the battle of beliefs. Who wins? Might? Wisdom? Gods? Beliefs are always right of course, at least to those who hold a particular belief. Why would anyone believe something they do not believe is true? We are conditioned to believe what we believe. The course of this planet’s existence following the dawn of humankind has been led by beliefs. We once believed the earth was flat, that the sun revolved around the earth, and that Pluto was a planet. All the major revolutionary events of history were founded on the strength or weakness of a belief: political, social, economic, scientific, or religious. My invisible god is better than your invisible god. My political system provides the greater good for the greatest number. And my favorite, “We will bury you!” The strength of my belief is backed by my military might. What would my life be like if I did not have to believe in anything at all?

A belief is always true to the individual who believes it to be true. A belief takes me outside of myself. A belief can result in an individual sacrificing one’s life to the belief.

As a child, I believed in the Easter Bunny, Santa Clause and the boogyman but eventually I out grew those beliefs. That is the thing about any beliefs. They don’t seem to stick around for too long at least not to the philosopher in me but for the poet, it is a different story. The poet believes in beauty, joy, love, the curve of a woman’s body, and the endless possibilities in a child’s eyes. These are beliefs having to do with ascetics of life but very little to do with fanaticism. One could, I imagine be a fanatic in love to the point of narcissism or self sacrifice. This is the closest I have ever come to the experience of fanaticism, but I did not think my action fanatical at the time, more of loss and despair. Despair can be a fanaticism, I suppose, but not one chosen, like a religion or political party.

I have never believed in anything strongly enough to make the ultimate sacrifice of my life. I have experienced moments of euphoria, of ultimate despair, but never have I believed in a cause for which I would sacrifice my life. Life is too important a gift to be taken lightly. I would not fight for my country’s belief and would not have gone to Viet Nam, if drafted. My “number” was never called.

If I have a belief, at this time in my life, it is that the perfect exists in everything. It’s the yin, yang balance of existence. We must experience both in order to see one, for the one would be unknown without the other. We cannot know the experience of light without the experience of darkness. Although this is my belief, I do not know that I would sacrifice my life for it. Perhaps this belief has not been tested to the point of sacrifice. How many lives have been lost since the dawn of humankind because of what someone believed was true?

The central beliefs of the inhabitants of the planet have religious roots, bound with religions dogmas created to serve man, or was man created to serve religion? When did the belief in an invisible god take over our minds? Was there one large event or no event at all which caused us to stop the search of self and replace it with the search for a god? Was it fear that caused us to lose faith in ourselves and place it in an external, invisible being with omnipotent powers? What happens when the belief in an invisible God leads to fanaticism and a breaking of the dogmas upon which the belief was initially established?

In this first part of my writings on Beliefs, I raised a number of questions. In the follow up essay, I hope to answer some of them.

Christmas Time in Fiji

Christmas time in Fiji is different from Christmas in the States. It is a commercial venture, for sure, but not as much so as in the Western World. The first sign, a Santa Clause above Courts Appliance store, appeared early on in December. The second, a painted Santa Clause on a store front window and other store decorations, appeared just this week. So far I have not seen any religious displays in connection with the birth of Jesus.

There is obvious excitement in the town as more people seem to be walking the streets shopping for gifts but missing is the mayhem of crowds and the frantic shopping discounts by large department stores to bring in the buyers. Although rich in culture and the spirit of love, Fiji is a poor country and its citizens are just now entering the dark hole of credit and weekly pay-as-you-go, lay-a-way purchases.

Here, Christmas is truly for the children. The one or two gifts at Christmas will carry them through the entire year. Christmas in Fiji also arrives during the summer vacation for the children, so they have a great deal more to celebrate. They won’t be starting school again until February. Yes, it’s summer in Fiji. The average daily temperature is 84º F and the daylight hours are extend due to daylight savings time being in affect. During the rest of the year, the daylight and nighttime hours are almost evenly divided.

The Methodist missionaries were the first to introduce Christianity and Christmas to the Fiji Islands at the close of the eighteenth century. Because it is not a traditional Hindu holiday, the Indian Fijians seem to go along with it but don’t appear as involved as the Fijians. Their large seasonal holiday, Diwali, was just celebrated in October and in many ways is very similar to the lights and sounds of Christmas. It is a celebration for the end of winter and the arrival of spring. The Fijians use the Christmas holiday to be with family. Many are traveling to Savusavu or to the other islands to share this three day affair. Christmas is a national holiday along with Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, as a result of the British colonization of the islands but not everyone celebrates the event. There is a rather large contingent of Seventh Day Adventist and Jehovah Witnesses in the Fijian population who do not celebrate Christmas or other Christian holidays. The missionaries of many religions have had a strong influence on the people of Fiji and for the most part have eliminated their spirit gods for the Christian one but more will be said about that in a future examination of Race, Culture and Religion.