November 11, 2010

"Tis the Season

Although Nov.23 is the holiday called "Labor Thanksgiving Day" in Japan, we don't consider it as a day (or a weekend) to celebrate with family member like in the USA. That means, our modern commercialized life is being filled by those red and green Christmas colors already, instead of brown and orange of turkeys and pumpkins.

It's the time of the year I give myself a good thinking about my religious view.

I celebrate Christmas. Partly because Christmas gives me a good excuse to indulge in cakes and good foods. And partly because I believe in Santa Clause somewhere deep in my heart (seriously).
And, partly because it's the birthday of Jesus Christ. He gives me the cue to my wandering into religious thought every year.

I am not a Christian, though.

I am not so uncomfortable to celebrate a religious holiday I don't really believe in, maybe because my religion (Shinto) is polytheistic. It's not that I consider the God in Christian (or Jewish, or Islamic) belief is "just one of our gods", but that I don't feel troubled to show my respect and awe to any holy power.

My openness to other religions comes from my curiosity, too. Curiosity. I know it's not really a good word when we talk about religious issues. But how else can I describe my excitement I feel when I learn about historic, traditional, and everyday life having been carried for hundreds of years in a far-away part of the world? The way people feel about life, and death, and what is right/wrong is so different but so similar. Sometimes I found myself agreeing the phrases in the Bible. Sometimes I get so fascinated by Jewish rituals or Islamic laws. I feel so connected to women lived way before me, and far away from here.

I was given advises after advises not to talk about religions with anybody so lightly, because it just calls for troubles, because I might lose friends, because I might become a target of a hate crime, etc.
But, boy, I can't stop thinking about how I live - how happily I live. When so many people believe in that the answer I search for is all in their faith, I would love to learn it. I just want to "just learn", without any promises for farther commitment. If I want to learn more, I would learn more. If I find "This is it!", I might change my relationship to my family and turn to "It".
The other reason I want learn about various religions is that I don't want to offend anybody by my ignorance. I don't want to offer hams to Muslim nor cheese burger to Jews. At least I want to have enough sense to ask what I can offer before I invite somebody who might feel uncomfortable on the stuff I take for granted.

I had opportunities to learn the Bible before. Every time, I was very impressed by the love I get from the words and between the lines. And every time, I found myself uncomfortable to be told to follow Jesus, just follow with all of my heart and soul. No. I can't follow somebody I don't really know. Yes, his words and deeds are in the Bible. No, I don't think they are all lies, maybe there're some degree of exaggeration, but it's written hundreds of years ago so it's OK for me. Yes, I found lots of good inspirations in it. But still, no, I can't follow a single person just because he is great and billions of people are following him.
And no, he is not my father.
Does he love me? Thank you. I kinda feel I like you, too, but that's all.
This year, the principal of my daughter's kindergarten (also a pastor) is giving us mothers a once-a-month Bible learning class. I enjoy it very much, and again, I don't think I would convert.

I had opportunities to talk with religious Muslims during my college days. They were students from Islamic countries studying science (earth science, to be precise.) I liked their attitude to Islam. They think Islam is a very well-considered guide to their daily life. It helps Muslim to avoid bad habits and temptations. Sounds like a good system overall.

I only read novels and basic books about Judaism and Jewish life. First, it seemed to me to be bound too tightly with rituals and rules. Then, I thought, if I was born as a Jew and have been lived as a Jew, those rituals must have become part of me. I would find that when I do everyday things comfortably, then it happens to be kosher. (Of course that would not be always the case, seeing there are endless arguments and Q&As about keeping kosher.)

Buddhism is familiar to me, since most of Japanese claims themselves as Buddhist. I thinks it's a good guide to live independently and helping each other, at the same time. Independently, because only how I live liberates me from the reincarnation cycles. Helping each other, because it's so hard to live through this life full of suffers, I would need somebody else's help in many occasions and I would like to help somebody else when I can. I ask the saints to give me the clarity of mind, and to lead us to a brighter and better direction. Sometimes Buddhism looks to have too much weight on deaths, and too less appreciations on daily joys, though.

Every time I think of how I live, what I choose to do, I think of my own father.
Am I doing what my father would be proud of? - this, is the very basic of Shintoism as I understand. It's a simple ancestor worship, and the closest ancestor is your father (and mother, of course). Parents are not perfect, so are not the ancestors before them, neither. But their thoughts, loves and cares, would be purified to become something we can rely upon after a long time. (This purification process might be the tendency of living humans to forget subtle errors, by the way.)
Yes, that's where I come back to.

Well, a long post.

These are the mind pathways I take while I sit and knit on the nights before holidays. They may cross or go parallel with my friends' paths. We see each other at the cross/closest point, and go to where we go. We might take separate ways, but where the road ends, we might find each other again.

I thank all of my friends and families, to share their love and thoughts with me. It's the essence of holidays, right?

Thank y'all.
I love y'all.