Monday, February 11, 2008

The Latest Hot List. And a little bit about God.

On the kids' recent list of favorites (I'm leaving out all things Lego and Star Wars because their love of those things is a given):

1. Classic superhero stuff, including Superman cartoons from the 40s.
2. Astronomy.
3. Cooking and baking with a little help from Mom.
4. Robots. Of course.
5. The Titanic.
6. Babies. Today on the ride home from school, Nolan said, "I want a baby to be at our house on Sunday. But it's not going to come from your tummy. It's going to fly to our house on a rocket ship like shing! bing! woosh!"
7. Tae Kwon Do. Sean is way into it since he started classes last month.
8. Skateboarding. A continually evolving passion.
9. Planning their next vacation.
10. Lots of big questions about God, born out of a natural curiosity about something bigger than themselves, and no doubt fueled by their education at a Catholic school, which brings me to topic two:

A little bit about God.

It's kind of hard to talk about God and not immediately drown in the vastness of the topic. For the purpose of tonight's ramblings, as I listen to the washer on spin cycle and realize I'm wasting time on the computer when I should be doing yoga, I'm going to keep it simple.

I'm a lapsed Catholic. I have a few major bones to pick with the organized religion which dominated the culture and household in which I was raised. Still, I'm drawn to the church. Not its dogma, but the intrinsic beauty of faith in something larger. The further I have wandered from Catholicism to explore agnosticism and, eventually, Buddhism and Hinduism, amongst other religions, I realize that Catholicism ain't so bad. In fact, no religion is bad that encourages us to love one another and ourselves and to treat ourselves, each other, and the earth with respect. All the major religions hit on these principals and more. Still, I disagree with some of the politics of the church, but not the basic teachings of the Old and New Testaments.

And I've chosen to send my kids to Catholic school, because the "golden rule" of doing unto others as you would have done to you is applied there on a daily basis. As my ex recently noted at a dinner party, Sean was in fights several times during his last year of daycare at an esteemed Woodbridge child care center. At his new school? Nothing. The kid is happy. He's popular. He's doing well with all of his lessons and, according to his teacher, has become much more empathetic and supportive of his friends since the beginning of the year. There is an overarching tenet of kindness at the school, coupled with excellent education, that I will not find in a public school. At a wine tasting to benefit the school last week, Nolan's preschool teacher said to me, "You're truly blessed. You have beautiful children who are wonderful little people. You're doing a great job. And the hard days can be hard, I know. I raised two myself. But the reward! When days are tough, just remember you're never alone. And honey, don't ever think the grass is greener. It isn't. At the end of the day, we all have laundry to do and we all have bills to pay."

This teacher is an old school neighborhood Italian nonnie, and I love her. And what's so beautiful is that she owes so much of her life, which has been hard as I have learned in my growing friendship with her, to her faith that life isn't really according to 'her plan'. She goes with the flow. And her idea that we are never alone in our hard times because others are suffering too is absolutely and totally Buddhist.

I'm barely scratching the surface and I've yet to get to my point, too, which is this:

It pisses me off greatly when people slag Catholics, especially when those people are my supposed friends. And for some reason, while it's not PC to dis other religions, it's totally acceptable in our culture to make fun of Catholics. Granted, there is humor in everything, especially much of the Church. And as a survivor of seven years of Catholic school including four years at an all-girls Catholic high school, I can rip it all apart as good as anyone.

But the other day, sitting in Ian's living room with a bunch of family around, one of our friends walked in for a visit and remarked that his wife was off at some "stupid" Catholic church for Mass with her mother, and everyone snickered and laughed. And I thought, WHAT THE FUCK? What's so bad about it? If she wants to go to church, why the hell get down on her? Who cares what her motivations are? Why is it laughable?

Here I am, a totally lapsed Catholic who struggles with her faith while trying to impart good values on her children who she is raising to be grown men. If they don't grow up to be church-goin' Catholics, I'm not going to spin in my grave. Not at all. But if they grow up to be the kind of guys who make fun of people who go to church, or temple, or to the mosque, or to the fountain to throw quarters and wish, or whatever it is they do to believe in something bigger than them, then I would spin away. Simply put, I'm raising my children to be good people. To not be arrogant, ignorant jerks. To not laugh at the idea of faith. To not be threatened by it. I'm trying to arm them with knowledge and exposure to ideas. If they grow up and convert or renounce everything, that's their call. They'll be adults. They can figure out what works for themselves. But if they mock other people's choices in the process, that will be my greatest heartbreak.

In the end, people can think whatever what they want. I have no control over that. I don't want control over it. At least I can go inside my own heart, where faith is not defined by four walls, stained glass windows and incense. It's simply believing in a whole lot of important things, not the least of which is the goodness of my fellow humans and the fact that we are all connected in this great big world, even me and the jerkoff "friend" who makes fun of his wife behind her back.


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