This is how I got here
This little piece is new. I have reread some older writing and scared myself at how frank I have been and I realise I haven’t got the courage yet to make public my most inner thoughts. The writing I have been doing recently is really a cop out. First I have simply written on a single theme, secondly my essays have been restricted to around 1,000 words. An essay of this length doesn’t take forever to write and I can only assume it doesn’t take much effort for a reader to follow.
I was awake through the night and I realised I cannot condense my understanding of life into passages of 1,000 words. In fact I cannot tackle what I understand of life’s mysteries in less than a book. Why would I write a book? I have lived an interesting life to now just one day at a time. I have never set out with a plan for a grand life. Very early in my life I realised I had no special skill at anything likely to have an impact on the world. Now at this late hour of my life It is dawning on me that an ordinary life is reward enough. And this is what is motivating my fingers to keep hitting this keyboard one letter at a time.
I have long had what others might describe as a perverse view of crowds. I hate crowds. Every day I cherish my solitude. I can only put up with others for a short while and then I become agitated by their noise. However this is not the perversion I sense in crowds. When I am in a crowd I first wonder about the unknown. The person beside me, the one before me, in fact everyone I can see will die. Who are they? Each nameless person has a name. Each one will be missed, perhaps by countless others, and their loss of life will cause grief. Who are these people? Why must we wait until their death to learn their name or value them?
Another perversion relates to the logistics of dealing with such a crowd. How does every link from the farm, or the factory, find its way to a plate to feed them? What organisation that takes. In cities all over the world the bustling crowds find fresh food to feed them. Admittedly in many cities thousands struggle each day to earn enough to pay for a handful of something. In fact that is the way for too many. It is easy to drift from my point – I do not see things as most of you do. For even more perversely, I question when everyone pees what happens to all that effluent?
When you are at a concert, or at a sporting match you are thinking of what is happening I am off daydreaming about weird things. Jennie says I am weird. I realise I am weird but weirdness is also common. If you ask ten people to describe what they experienced there will be ten different accounts of just one event. That is weird. It is also weird that over time the memory one has of something will be different to that of another, or more weirdly, different to the account they first gave. That is why authorities try to recover evidence as early as possible after a catastrophic event. Over time events become conflated, disjointed, or otherwise contaminated.
My experience with religion is like this. As a child I had a thorough indoctrination into the Protestant Anglican religion. I was a Christian in every way I understood. I was a very devoted, if naive believer. I was helped to believe that way through my family. My mother remained steadfast to her beliefs throughout her life. My father surprised me for he did too, as have my sisters Elizabeth and Margaret.
Unsurprising our friends were of the same faith. I sang with the talented choir. I became a server, an assistant at the altar to the celebrant. As a young teenager I would often go to three services a day. Sometimes spending the whole day visiting parish churches with the Vicar for country services. On Saturday mornings I played tennis and later coached the young players. I was involved with the youth club called the Young Anglican Fellowship. (YAF)
By the by time I left school I was a damaged innocent abroad. When I went to in Geelong, being a member of a church gave my life a framework. I was comfortable living within. At teachers college I shifted my allegiance to a Church in Geelong. I was also involved with a Christian group at college. They met one lunchtime each week. As teenagers do, I engaged with others in debates on religion. I could not understand how others could not get joy from knowing what I knew because it was all I knew.
When I started to go out more with Jennie. I joined with her in Catholic services. Coming from a church that celebrated mass in much the same way and with similar prayers it was not too hard a step to accept Catholicism was the first Christian church so unbeknown to her I started instruction with Fr Flanagan in Hamilton. I thought I was well versed in what I needed to know and my discussions with Flags were very casual as he seemed to accept I did not need conversion.
It came as a surprise to me he wanted to baptise me, as even today, I have at home my baby Christening mug but I went along with it because it seemed little different to that of my forgotten childhood event. So I became a practising Catholic. I was a little put out that many of the church goers thought so little of their church that it was just something they had to cross off in their diaries each week, and I missed the music. The congregation paid little attention to the words said. I was sure that was partly due to the fact that the words were in Latin. A language no one knew. (Some did of course).
With this faith I eventually resigned as a teacher in public schools and was appointed as Vice Principal at St Alipius school. Specifically I was to help the parish amalgamate the boys and the girls into a coeducational school. The school was previously only for girls. The boys, in the neighbouring school however had been told how awful girls were by their teachers. (The school was later to become infamous. Courts found too many children had been abused by the same teachers in the years leading up the amalgamation). Consequently I found the older boys almost unteachable and especially unruly that year and didn’t know why.
It was an awful year. By the end of the year I no longer had the support of the Parish Priest and a job was found for me in the Catholic Education office as an adviser to teachers. I was studying to upgrade my qualifications but many of the teachers in schools had little formal education themselves. The reason for that was they ran on the smell of an oily rag. To get a job, teachers first had to be Catholics, consequently many only had one year of teacher training. They continued to teach as they had been taught themselves. They were not resistant to change but as the church was rapidly changing they were a little lost. There were old time unquestioning Catholics and a new breed with more liberal views. The attitude of many younger Catholics in the wider community became quite liberal especially as by then Latin was banned from Masses and many younger priests had left.
After my education degree I studied, as I worked, toward a graduate diploma in religious education. Much of the work was on Liberation Theology. It suited my disposition to a T. because it was in step with my own thinking at the time. However this new thinking was challenging to those in power. Before I completed my Grad Dip, Liberation theology was debunked as being humanitarian and the old men of the church commenced undoing the good of Vatican 11 as they have ever since. These oldies had previously never been questioned simply because they got their respect through their role alone and that is the way they wanted it again.
The pressure in me was building up. Within 18 months I was in a new job and off work with a breakdown. Some of the pressure was from study. At that stage I was almost through a Master of Education. Some of the pressure was from died in the wool old time Catholics resistant to change in the school, Soberly, most of the pressure was within me. It was pressure I hid even from myself – until all emerged much later in life. During that time many people supported me, but one nun took me aside and said, “You have been taking yourself too seriously I suppose.” That was a help because I felt I had some support from the church for the first time. It was a validation that there was nothing wrong with me although in fact I felt horrible. I
Shortly afterwards Jennie and I both said goodbye to teaching. What comes next I will explain at another time. As for this it was, and continues to be about religion.
That dark period of my life was a long time ago. Religion in all its shapes and forms is another land to me today, and has been for more than thirty years. It may find its roots in people as a human need. Observation shows people get energy from one another and for many religions it is the cement they use to bind themselves together. It becomes dangerous when that bond is stronger than mankind itself. Radical people emerge from its every incarnation working from the belief they, and only they, know how the world should run.
I do not share that view. I don’t think I ever have but I do think it is time Australian returned to it secular roots. Religious groups have been favoured by a succession of governments. In doing so they have made worse, they continue to make worse, state education. It is second class because they have taken the responsibility from the state governments by freezing funding and given more to private schools. Too many private schools are obscenely rich at the expense of public education.
I am not unhappy our grand children have had an introduction to ethics through the eyes of a church. I am however pleased each of their parents has not burdened them to hold a particular view on any religion. It is my thought one is not free unless one is free to discover belief on their own way. Deep down I hope they discover for themselves each myth is but a foundation for their future life and not life itself.
I continue to have a fascination about religion because I find it all so weird today. In 2018 I made a submission to the Ruddock report on religious freedom mainly because I believe it was unnecessary and action as a Bill of Rights was more important. I find it weird that people with religion say it is a gift, and if you see more sense in science it is your loss you have not got the gift. When in most cases, The Gift, is something unquestionably simply inherited.
I read articles on religion and feel sorry the writers take it so seriously. I continue to enjoy religious music. But for organised religion of any kind I think none of it make any more sense than The Flying Spaghetti Monster of the Pastafarians. Be not offended. These are personal opinions. I do not expect anyone to share my views, after all what you believe is not the theme of my essay. This little piece is new. I have reread some older writing and scared myself at how frank I have been and I realise I haven’t got the courage yet to make public my most inner thoughts. The writing I have been doing recently is really a cop out. First I have simply written on a single theme, secondly my essays have been restricted to around 1,000 words. An essay of this length doesn’t take forever to write and I can only assume it doesn’t take much effort for a reader to follow.
Refer to this podcast. It illustrates why Liberation theology rose and was disgraced, https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/god-forbid-abc-rn/id1203570353