Religion and tradition—opiate and analgesic?

ADDICTIVE TRADITION 
If religion is the opiate of the people, tradition is an even more sinister analgesic, simply because it rarely appears sinister. 

If religion is a tight band, a throbbing vein, and a needle, tradition is a far homelier concoction: poppy seeds ground into tea; a sweet cocoa drink laced with cocaine; the kind of thing your grandmother might have made.
—Zadie Smith

I have given up worshipping in a church. I have a faith and I have a spiritual practice but my church has no walls, it is wherever I am and it’s most solid in the natural spaces around me. I chose my alternate path because I don’t like dogma and I don’t like being ‘preached’ to by other mere mortals who profess to be superior because of their faith and because they worship in a church.

Everyone sins, some of my ‘sins’ have been more obvious than other people’s. I grew up in the catholic faith and had a child out of wedlock at 18. Didn’t that cause a stir for years to come. Funny too, I was judged for it years and years later, by a family whose religious convictions were very strong until their daughter, the youngest, fell pregnant while still at school. Not a word was breathed about the sin in that.

Tradition is interesting. What tradition are we talking here? The tradition of wearing blue or maroon during the State of Origin series? Having roast turkey on Thanksgiving? Or the traditions associated with initiations, such as the sculling six cans of beer at a party through a hole in the bottom of the can, a naked beach run?

I actually don’t think it’s so much the tradition but the adherence and expectation of adherence to tradition that is the problem. I remember when I said I was no longer buying Christmas gifts for my family. There were some high emotions. I was looked at like I was obscene. I might have dropped a turd in the middle of the living room floor for all the looks of disgust I received.  I was no longer interested in a token effort at playing happy families. My family rarely spoke to me or included me in gatherings (admitteldy I made it very hard for them to love me at the time). I thought it was time to get real. Why give a gift to someone when you really can’t stand them, why uphold a societal norm when you think and feel otherwise? I guess in some ways my action was forcing others to act in congruence with their feelings and it was uncomfortable, exposing.

I see a grim side of tradition where people are trapped in a situation or, worse still, where bad behaviours occur but no one is willing to stand up and say no or put an end to the behaviour.

An interesting thought to ponder. There is so much more, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Thank you Zadie Smith, your words are glinting, grabbibg my attention and causing my mind to turn somersaults. I like it.

 

Connecting hearts – a simple bridge to build connection

 Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.  Dale Carnegie

I’m not sure I totally agree with Carnegie that our name is the most important sound to us but certainly to hear your name spoken by one you love can fill you with joy. I remember my grandmother always made me feel like I was the most special person alive. Whenever I telephoned she would give the most joyful exclamation, “Oh, Shannyn!’ like it was the best thing in her whole day to hear my voice, as though she hadn’t heard from me in years. I loved her for that and I still hear it in my head, often. I can hear her tone, the smile and love in her voice. Few others have ever said my name in a way that has made me feel so loved and valued.

When my lover said my name for the first time it was like the shimmery, sparkly sound that wind chimes make on a lightly breezy day, the sound danced in my ears.  I didn’t realise how tremendous a little thing like that could be.  It came as a surprise because even though we’d known each other for some time our primary language had not been words, until then.

Carnegie’s words have made me more aware. I’ve been paying attention to who uses my name and who doesn’t. There are two people who I have met recently, and have almost daily interactions with, who call me by name. While they are not people I love and are acquaintances only, I feel like I’ve been seen, acknowledged and some connection has been made. It’s an incredibly rare thing, I have come to realise.  Think about it – how often are you called by name? I am surrounded by colleagues who say hello and goodbye, each day, without specifically using my name. I have friends who text or message in some form or another and launch into a conversation without the opening salutation including my name. It feels a little like we’ve adopted the Harry Potter approach and everyone has become he or she who cannot be named. Is it laziness or a consequence of our highly digitalised social media engagement? I don’t know but it’s an interesting exercise to note who uses your name and who doesn’t. I speaks volumes to their character and their regard for human interaction. I appreciate those people a little more now that I have begun to notice.

I also appreciate those who call me by the correct name and those who spell my name correctly. It’s spelt with two ‘n’s’ in the middle.  I’m not sure how you get Sharon from that. It’s also spelt with a ‘y’ not an ‘o’.  It’s been a life time of eye rolling and head shaking. How can they get it wrong I wonder? Australians have a tendency to shorten people’s names. I tend not to do this and I detest using nicknames, especially weird ones, preferring always to call someone by their Christian name as a sign of respect and to demonstrate their value to me. My father and sisters used to shorten my name and call me Shan. I actually don’t mind it. So, it was a surprise to me when Michael came to work for me and very early on he called me Shan.  He was horrified when I said to him “You know, only my family call me that.” He thought he had offended me and overstepped. Far from it, it was really natural, a sign of his comfort with me and of the deep friendship we would develop.  I still enjoy hearing him use it when we talk.

At times, when I’ve been introduced to someone at a noisy party or gathering and I have missed their name or been unsure of how to pronounce it, rather than confirm early I have hesitated and it quickly becomes too late, and I’m stuck in a situation where I converse with someone and don’t call them by name. It’s awkward, I don’t like it and I realise now how different my interactions might be if I more often used someone’s name and simply asked for clarification right from the start.

Using someone’s name is a powerful gesture, a bridge to connect our human hearts across the dross of the everyday. I think it’s time we stopped skating across the surface of life. I think it’s time we connected by simply using the names of those we converse with.  It may not be the absolute, most important sound in the any language but it sure is sweet to the ears and touches the heart. A person’s name is sacred, in a way, and the use of it is a beautiful blessing and acknowledgement of our respect and interest in them. See what a difference it makes to use someone’s name in your interactions; it can buoy a weary soul, calm a raging beast and turn a frown into a smile.

 

“I remember when your name was just another name that rolled without thought off my tongue.
Now, I can’t look at your name without an abundance of sentiment attached to each letter.
Your name, which I played with so carelessly, so easily, has somehow become sacred to my lips.
A name I won’t throw around light-heartedly or repeat without deep thought.
And if ever I speak of you, I use the English language to describe who you were to me. You are nameless, because those letters grouped together in that familiar form….. carries too much meaning for my capricious heart.”
― 
Jamie Weise