Of pink boys, the man box and gayness in Hebrew


Maybe my expectations of society have gotten too high– after all, it was just in my father’s generation where left-handers like him were forced to write with their rights hands. But with the super rapid pace of change that’s happening these days, one can always hope that all the changes I wish to see will happen within my lifetime…

Three things to share today.

1. Pink Boys: Gender is not binary!

What’s so bad about a boy who wants to wear a dress? is an article from The New York Times. I really agree with what it says, and wish everyone would read it and broaden their perspectives a little. Some excerpts:

“…gender is a spectrum rather than two opposing categories, neither of which any real man or woman precisely fits.

It might make your world more tidy to have two neat and separate gender possibilities, but when you squish out the space between, you do not accurately represent lived reality.”

 

“In the 19th century, both boys and girls often wore dresses and long hair until they were 7. Colors weren’t gendered consistently. At times pink was considered a strong, and therefore masculine, color, while blue was considered delicate. Children’s clothes for both sexes included lace, ruffles, flowers and kittens. That started to change in the early 20th century.”

 

“These days, flouting gender conventions extends even to baby naming: first names that were once unambiguously masculine are now given to girls. The shift, however, almost never goes the other way. That’s because girls gain status by moving into “boy” space, while boys are tainted by the slightest whiff of femininity. “There’s a lot more privilege to being a man in our society,” says Diane Ehrensaft, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who supports allowing children to be what she calls gender creative. “When a boy wants to act like a girl, it subconsciously shakes our foundation, because why would someone want to be the lesser gender?””

2. The manbox and why men must and should be liberated from its walls.

Tony Porter: A Call to Men, at TEDwomen

You can find the transcript helpfully typed out here at Shakesville as well. Excerpts below:

“I can remember speaking to a 12-year-old boy, a football player, and I asked him, I said, “How would you feel if, in front of all the players, your coach told you, you were playing like a girl?” Now, I expected him to say something like, “I’d be sad; I’d be mad; I’d be angry,” something like that. No, the boy said to me, the boy said to me, “It would destroy me.”

And I said to myself, “God, if it would destroy him to be called a girl, what are we then teaching him about girls?””

 

Well, just watch the video, it’s only 12 minutes long. And it speaks The Truth, a truth that you need to know!

3. Pretty girls, thorny religious plus gender plus lgbt themes all wrapped up in an exotic foreign language (everything sounds sexier in a foreign language, no?). What’s there not to like? 8D

The Secrets

The 20th Israel Film Festival (IFF) in Singapore is happening from 5th – 11th of September this year and Cathay will be screening this film. I definitely plan to catch it!

Synopsis: Two brilliant young women discover their own voices in a repressive orthodox culture Naomi, the studious, devoutly religious daughter of a prominent rabbi, convinces her father to postpone her marriage for a year so that she might study at a Jewish seminary for women. Naomi’s quest for individuality takes a defiant turn when she befriends Michelle, a free-spirited and equally headstrong fellow student. When the pair encounters a mysterious, ailing foreigner with a disturbing past, they begin a risky journey into forbidden realm, opening up overwhelming new horizons. The girls soon find themselves caught between the rigid male establishment they grew up in, and the desire to be true to themselves, no matter the cost.

Accolades
9 Nominations including:
Best Supporting Actress and Actor, Ophir Awards 2007
Best Feature, 2008 Jackson Hole Film Festival

Advertisements

Rambling thoughts on the insufficiency of God’s love


You don’t care*. No, don’t deny it, it’s true; but I understand. Humans have a limited capacity to care, limited time and attention to give. You have yourself and your family and so many other closer friends to care about first- there’s not much space left for a once a year friend except maybe once a year.

Humans have a limited capacity to care- limited time and attention. That’s one reason they invented god (or the modern concept of god, anyway). God, who has unlimited capacity to love all and everyone, and does it better then any human ever could. Because that’s what most people want most in life- to love and be loved. To feel cared for. To feel like they matter.

And yet some people would take that away from others– forbid them to love and be loved. (I’m referring to homophobic sentiments, of course.)  Why do you and how can you deny people such a fundamental need of their emotional well-being?

And this god– supposedly his love is all you need, his perfec love. The love that quenches your thirst eternally while every other leaves you wanting. And yet people who feel his love, who bask in his love are not satisfied– god is not enough (what blasphemy!) and they still need the love and support if their community, the love and support of their family, the love and support of their friends, and the love and support of a significant other. Why can’t you subsist on god’s love alone?

All men have a god shaped hole in their hearts, they say. Yet even when you’ve filled that hole with god, there’s still some hole left. How can it be that god’s not enough?

One of the favourite ‘trump cards’: the fall. We live in a fallen world. Our relationship with god now on earth is not as it’s supposed to be. It’s been tainted with sin, restricted by sin.
But even in paradise, even before sin and the fall, god wasn’t enough. Man was made to worship god, but worshipping god didn’t fulfill man enough, didn’t make man satisfied. God wasn’t enough, and god said so himself: it is not good that man should be alone. But he wasn’t alone, he was in PARADISE, with god, in his intended, untainted state, with all the incredible wonders of creation at his beck and call. And… It still wasn’t enough.

How can it get better than that? As Adam, the first man, in paradise, knowing god? Isn’t that what Christians claim is god’s original, intended plan? Trump card ‘the fall’ is out of commission; it hasn’t happened yet. Isn’t that the thing that is separating us from god, and isn’t separation the thing that is keeping us dissatisfied? Apparently not. Adam had it all, and still it was ‘not good’.

Apparently you still need AT LEAST a mate (in addition to all of paradise and being on one-on-one speaking terms with god) to be satisfied and fulfilled.

As little sense as this makes, it makes even less sense to believe all that and still deny some people the right to love another**. God himself said that even with everything else absolutely perfect, it’s still ‘not good’ to be alone.

*Is there a difference between actively not caring and not actively caring? If there is, I mean thelatter.
**I guess this refers specifically to people who admit that homosexuality natural and beyond an individuals control but insist that they should abstain from being an ‘active’ homosexual. 

It just has to make sense


I’m going to watch avengers with some friends and they insisted that I should watch Thor, Captain America and Ironman as preparation, so I watched Thor and captain America two days ago.

As I was commuting today, my mind was wandering and I found myself thinking about the movies. I still didn’t understand why Odin stole Loki. How is stealing the child of your enemy’s leader going to help with bringing the two kingdoms together? And why isn’t grownup!loki blue and why doesn’t he look like his race at all?

While thinking all that, I was reminded of what I kept repeating to my ex in my email, back at the start when the break up saga was just beginning: it just has to make sense. Show me how it makes sense.

I mean, we don’t even have to talk about proof. It just needs to be coherent in-story. Even if I’m watching, reading or understanding from outside of that framework (as we all are when we read or watch fantasy or sci-fi), I should still be able to make sense of it. It just needs to hang as a coherent story. Tell me the premise, tell me the rules and off we go.

When you read Harry Potter, you don’t fault the story by saying “They can’t do that, there’s no such thing as magic.” That’s one of the premises we’re starting with, that there is such a thing as magic. But you can fault it for inconsistencies. You can fault it for not following it’s own rules, or not having any rules. A fantasy story’s not much fun if the characters can do anything whenever, making up new rules as they go along with minimal or no explanations.

Isn’t it a mark of a well written premise if, the closer you inspect it, the more questions you ask, the more you find that it hangs all together? That not only are there answers to the questions you’re asking (Why is Loki not blue? How exactly does a time turner work?), the answers are satisfying ones that are consistent and coherent with everything else in that universe?

Reality should be the best at this because it’s reality. You don’t have to make sure it fits, make sure it’s consistent. It already is! If your reality is inconsistent, you can know that it must be your interpretation that’s suspect, and not reality itself.

If this story you’re telling me is reality, why does it seem to make less in-story sense then brainless action movies? Why does it make less sense the more I stare at it? Why do you have to do the same acrobatics a back-peddling author has to do if he discovers he made a mistake, a loophole or contradiction?

If it’s my interpretation that’s wrong, why is it so hard for you to help me see where I went wrong? My invitation still stands… I just want to understand.

Prayers for Bobby


Touching story. Real people, real lives.

From the description, “The true story of a mother’s struggle to reconcile the tension between her deeply held religious beliefs and the suicide of her gay son. Mary Griffith came from a religious family and raised her four children to believe in God and live a Christian life. Their conservative Presbyterian church was the center of family life for every family member except Mary’s husband, Bob. When 17-year-old Bobby confided to older brother Ed that he was gay, the family’s life changed. Mary convinced Bobby to pray that God would cure him and to seek solace in church activities. Bobby did it all, but the church’s hatred of homosexuality and the obvious pain his gayness was causing his family led him increasingly to loathe himself. Excerpts from a diary he kept, family photos, and letters written by Mary to her dead son make the book intense reading for both high-school and public library patrons.”

Give it a watch if you have the time!

Will it take the death of someone close to you for you to consider that you may be wrong?

Suffering > Joy


A simple equation.

Take all the suffering in the world. Past, present, future.
And then all the joy in the world. Past, present, future.
Perhaps they even out, in the sense that the joy makes the suffering worth it.

Do you think so? We often think that falling is worth it to learn to run; a thousand failures are made up by the eventual success. (but of course, we have to think that, else how would we go on?) Does this apply on a global scale? Throughout all of history? It’s easy to dismiss your own suffering and focus on the things that make you joyful. But to bring it to a global, historical scale seems to be dismissing other people‘s suffering, which I don’t feel I have the right to do. But perhaps we can assume that everyone dismisses their own sufferings and elevate their own joys. So, while it still seems It seems doubtful that global joy would be worth global suffering, let’s just assume it is.

Next.

Take all of the suffering in hell.
And then all the joy in heaven.

By sheer numbers alone, the suffering in hell would be many, many, many, many times the joy in heaven.

And this would be God’s overview. He would see that many more would end up in hell than in heaven. And somehow he chose to go ahead with his entire plan.

If you tried to say that the joy is worth the suffering, this time you have no choice but to dismiss someone else’s suffering. And what would balancing out the overwhelming abundance of suffering, in terms of numbers?? God’s own joy in heaven?

How can that be all-loving or all-good? There’s nothing loving about eternal hell, or dismissing the suffering of many as necessary for attaining a certain good. There’s nothing good in prioritizing your own interests and glory over others, even if the ‘others’ are ‘lower beings’ compared to yourself.

Don’t tell me ‘god works in mysterious ways’. I can accept that we can’t understand God. I can’t accept that an all knowing, all powerful God is not able to simplify the concept into something we CAN understand, rather than leave us with a contradiction-filled idea. And then fault us for not getting it.

One man’s meat, another man’s poison


I remember once, in the earlier part of our relationship, we had a relatively bad fight. I don’t remember what the fight was about (who ever does?) but it was probably one of the worst ones, because unpleasant and hurtful words were exchanged.

Later on, she called me up crying and apologizing. It must have been the devil, she said. The devil trying to drive us apart, the devil that made her say those horrible things which she didn’t mean.

Strange how now it has become the devil that brought us together in the first place, and God who gave a ‘sign’ that we should be apart.
~

In Julia Sweeney’s ‘Letting go of God’ show (which I shared two entries back), she tells of how she was upset when her mother revealed to her that her birthday was not on September 10th as she had thought all along, but on October 10th. This made her (then a young teenage girl) upset mainly because she had a huge virgo poster on her wall, and read her horoscope every week (which was so totally her!!) and now this meant she wasn’t a virgo but a libra?! So she went into town to buy the libra poster and started reading the libra horoscope… which, to her amazement, was ALSO soooo totallllyyy her!!
~

I have this group of good friends and most of us are Terry Pratchett fans. We don’t see each other that often (because half of us are always overseas and half of the other half are always uncontactably busy) and we do pretty different things in terms of study, work and how we spend our leisure time. But we’re good friends nonetheless, and enjoy each other’s company when we do get together. Somehow, we’re mostly on similar wavelengths, similar intellectual levels (alternating between talking about medical terms and rainbows, yes.) and have s similar sense of humour.

Yet we found out recently that one within our midst didn’t like Terry Pratchett! What was there not to like, we wondered? His writing is funny, witty, smart and has all kinds of references to real world events and realities… it seems exactly like something she’d like too!

Well, it’s just one of those things I suppose.

It’s like when you hear a song, or watch a movie, or see a painting and you think OMG THAT IS THE MOST AWESOME THING EVER!!!!! and other people are just, ‘…meh.’ and you really for the life of you can’t understand HOW THEY CAN NOT THINK IT’S AWESOME.

Well, it’s just one of those things.
People are different. They see things differently.
And we’ve learnt to accept that, even if we still think, at the back of our head, “HOW IN THE WORLD CAN ANYONE NOT LOVE THIS?”
~

I’ve blogged about this before, the subjectivity of words, the subjectivity of perception. The thing out there in the world only holds half the meaning. The other half happens inside your own head.

There are subjective truths, and objective truths.

Subjective truths may be true for you, but not for other people. It may be true at certain times, under certain circumstances but not others. It may be true depending on your mood, on your interpretation, on your perceptions. And while we can all champion our subjective truths, we should not have problems when people disagree with them. It’s different for them, then. It’s just one of those things. The song speaks to me in one way, speaks to you in another, and doesn’t speak to someone else at all. And there’s no conflict. Neither me, you, him nor the writer of the song should be upset at these differences. There IS no ‘right’ interpretation. That’s art, your input and participation is half the process.

Objective truth on the other hand, should deal with something that is more out in the world than in your head. Objective truth should be something verifiable– anyone and everyone who goes to check should come away with the same answer. They should agree. And if you don’t agree on the objective truth, then that’s where we have a problem because it means someone is right, and sone one is wrong. The views are mutually exclusive.

Actually, the real problems come about when people mistake subjective truth for objective truth. When they insist that people who don’t agree with their subjective truths are wrong. When they think that because it feels true for them, it must be true for all and anyone who doesn’t think so is wrong.

Based on how religion is experienced, based on how there are so many kinds of religion, based on how there are so many different interpretations and understandings… don’t all arrows point to religion being more of a subjective truth than an objective one? How else can you explain the incredibly varied responses to the same journey (search for meaning and god), to the same activities (prayer, meditation, going to places of worship) to the same religion (Christianity and it’s many branches, cults and denominations), to the same books (sacred texts), to the same words, even? How can you claim your own answer as objective truth when it’s plain that so many have come away with so many different answers, over and over and over again?

Oranges are not the only fruit


Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a novel by Jeanette Winterson published in 1985, which she subsequently adapted into a three-part BBC television drama. It is a bildungsroman about a lesbian girl who grows up in an English Pentecostal community.

I plan to read the book, but in the meantime, I found the TV series on youtube, so I watched that first. It’s a great show, give it a watch if you have the time. On youtube it’s uploaded as 6 parts of about 7 minutes for each of the 3 episode. There’s a part missing though, so if you can access the video via other means, maybe you could try that too. For example, I’ve just realized that the esplanade library carries the video cassettes! …not sure how I would watch video cassettes though haha, maybe the esplanade has a multimedia room you can use. Nonetheless, the missing part didn’t make the show any less enjoyable to watch.

Some thoughts:

It made me think, once again, about how flexible the human mind is.
I mean, how easily we can twist words to mean what we want them to mean. How words can mean anything.  How easily we can delude ourselves, how easily we can truly believe what is not true. How easily we can think, with all our heart, that we’re doing the right thing.

Can you blame the mother in the show, as unpleasant as she is? Can you fault her for treating the main character, Jess, in that way? It may not be your idea of love (it may be, in fact, your idea of hate) but I do think she does love Jess, and every horrible thing she did, she thought it was for the best. No, she knew it was for the best.

This is how humans are. We can operate separate from the ‘truth’. It doesn’t matter so much what is out there as what we think is out there, how we perceive what is out there.

And that’s the problem I have with ‘faith’. Knowing how susceptible we are to such thinking, to being able to have unwavering belief in your own thoughts, positions and actions, shouldn’t we be guarding against such thinking rather than encouraging it? Guarding against ‘having faith’?

Because isn’t such type of thinking the essence of faith?

To have complete trust in something. To believe in god without evidence. To… just believe. Just have faith. With all your heart.

People are capable of being blind enough as it is. Don’t tie blindfolds over your eyes and tell me that’s a GOOD thing. The more blindfolds you tie, the more you trust without EVIDENCE or PROOF, the better and more PREFERABLE that is? Seriously?
—-
The show had me crying. Because the worst thing was… knowing that this isn’t merely fiction. Knowing that this isn’t merely history. Knowing that this isn’t merely abstract ideas, or something happening far away.

This is real. This is now. This is here. This is me, and those are my friends.

Please don’t pretend that the church’s position has ‘progressed’, that your position has progressed and is better and more reasonable than historical positions. Does it really matter what words you use? Whether you call it a ‘demon in you’ or an ‘illness’ or a  ‘disorder’ or a ‘result of the fallen world’ or an ‘abomination’ or even just simply a ‘sin’?

You change the words, but the final meaning is the same. The church’s idea of ‘progress’ is ‘accepting’ new evidence but without letting it change the bottom line. So you have to change your interpretation a little. That’s not a problem. As long as you keep the bottom line the same.

I don’t remember if I’ve said it out loud on this blog yet, but… my girlfriend of three years broke up with me–yes, you guessed it– for religious reasons. You could say this blog is born from that incident.

During that break-up period, she showed me two different cases from two different Christian books she was reading– about homosexuals having had demons successfully cast out of them.

…how do you think that makes me feel? To know that the person you love thinks that the only reason why you love her and why she loves you is because of a demon?

…so when we enjoyed each others’ company, simply sitting on a bench enjoying the breeze and talking; a demon at work?
…so when we celebrated anniversaries or valentine’s days, exchanging heartfelt gifts; a demon pulling the strings?
…when we went out for dinner; a demon ordering dessert?
…when we said ‘I love you’ countless times, cheered each other on through tests, exams and school work, listened to each others’ problems and worries… all through a demon’s mouth and ears?

I understand a little more now why people can be so cruel, why the mother in the show can behave so hard-heartedly towards her daughter. That’s not her daughter, it’s a demon. The devil’s limb, as she says.

How people could have burnt women at the stake: they’re not women, they’re witches. The cries you hear aren’t the cries of a women in pain, they are the cries of evil knowing it has lost the battle. When someone cries and screams while having a demon cast out, that’s the sound of the demon, in pain.

What does ‘demon’ even mean, anyway? The idea of ‘ALL GOOD’ and ‘ALL BAD’ is really an incoherent one to me. It can’t exist in more than the abstract. If this thing you call a ‘demon’ can feel pain, shouldn’t we have compassion for it too?

I can’t wait to read the book.

Swim against the current, run against the wind.


Stay strong, stay true.

I’ve just finished watching the season finale of series 6 of this UK television drama Waterloo Road, which centres around a school and it’s students and teachers.

One of the larger story arcs that has been taking place involved one of the teachers, Francesca, getting involved with a student, Jonah. Since it is not just taboo but illegal for a teacher to ‘take advantage’ of a student in this way, you can imagine there was a lot of sneaking around, being paranoid and alternating between ‘I/we can’t do this. It’s wrong. It’s too difficult, too risky. It’s not possible.” and “It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. I love you and all’s fine as long as we have each other.” All this cumulated in ep19 and 20 with (SPOILER ALERT!) them being found out, Francesca being suspended and charged along with pending imprisonment, and then the two of them running away to get married (before being arrested and brought back). Makes for great TV drama indeed!

The whole thing could easily parallel a closeted gay relationship; constantly watching your back and being afraid of being found out; the way you act around each other in public, a necessary facade; the lies that come with keeping a secret; and huge secrets, even from those closest to you; the conviction that you’ll be ostracised and worse if anyone knew; knowing that no one will understand; all that negativity, risk and adverse concequences being offset by the joy you feel when you’re together…

To be honest, most of the arc made me really dislike both characters, possibly precisely because I could see myself in a similar situation so easily. They were being retarded and brainless! Too careless and impulsive and immature! C’mon guys, it’s hard but not impossible! Can’t you sacrifice some short term pleasures for the long term happiness!?

At the very first signs of it, when Francesca was still trying to stop it from even starting, and then stop it from progressing… To me she didn’t try nearly hard enough. Later on, when they were well into it; Acting so suspicious, doing really stupid/risky things, not taking enough or proper precautions, and not planning or talking about things seriously… why couldn’t they have kept it a secret until Jonah graduated? Like I said, it’s difficult, (in the sense of being mentally and emotionally draining,) but not impossible, (like I cannot NOT speak to you during school hours.) I’ve been there! …or maybe I haven’t, since we didn’t share a working/schooling physical space and weren’t closeted with most mutual friends.

But these last two episodes really brought me over to their side. What was once blind, stupid impulsiveness has become an inspiration: If i were in a similar situation, with hostility and disapproval on all fronts with no sign of respite in sight, would I be so brave to continue to stand firm for what I believe in, and do what I think is right?

To lose your family, your friends, your job, your community, you life and still stand strong?

At least they can get married. Part of me thought. Even if gay people were to run off to some other country to get married, that piece of paper would have absolutely no power back home. We’d still have absolutely nothing. And in time, when the scandal has blown over, they will become just any other couple, blending in. They can rebuild. Gay will always be gay, and will always stand out. 

What would you do? What would I do? Would I be willing to give up my family, my home and friends if it came down to it, for the person I love? Would “giving up” your family, home and friends even be the ‘Right’ decision to make?

Here’s my stab at it:

You’re not ‘giving up’ anything. You’re merely standing by what you believe in, you’re merely staying true to yourself. And if, because of that, other people fall away, that’s hardly your doing, your choice, nor your fault. And if they should, in time, change their minds about accepting who you are, you’d more than welcome them back with open arms. The only ‘giving up’ would be if you gave up on your dreams, your beliefs, your values and yourself.

The only choice you should be making is to stand by what you believe in, and to stay true to yourself. Leave judging and rejecting of people to someone else, that’s not your choice to make.
—-

I guess this is the follow up to my Charles and Erik post that I’ve been meaning to do for the longest time, but hadn’t truly reached the conclusion in my mind and heart. I knew where it was heading all along; It just took me a while to get there. Am I there yet? Maybe I still have a little way to go… maybe we’ll always have a little way to go. You always have something to better, something to work towards. That’s life.

To recap my entry, I was envisioning Charles Xavier as someone holding a belief (presumably the Right one): that mutants should ultimately live in harmony with humans ie humans are friends, and Erick (Magneto) holding a differing belief (presumably the Wrong one): that mutants and humans can’t be in harmony ie humans are the enemy. And these differing beliefs, while not directly pitting them against each other, were different and serious enough to change them from friends to enemies. And I wondered where such a line would be drawn? What kind of differing beliefs would make turning against a friend justifiable, and inevitable?

Specifically, I was using this fictitious example to help me think about these these differing beliefs: homosexually is morally wrong / homosexuality is NOT morally wrong; religious beliefs in general.

Soon after I wrote the post, a friend pointed this out to me: If i insist on alienating or cutting ties with people who think homosexuality is Wrong, I would have turned into Magneto. It’s not, as I was envisioning, Xavier vs Magneto representing pro-gay and anti-gay. But rather, mutants as homosexuals, humans as heterosexuals and Magneto the one who has turned evil, hating all humans for the evil deeds of a few. So the right answer, according to X-Men? Be Charles, and not lose hope. Be Charles, and reach out even to the ones kicking you down. Be Charles, for how else would humans be able to know that mutants aren’t all bad?

And I also realized: neither Charles nor Eric ever rejects each other? They never said, “You’re not with me? Then you’re against me. From this day forth you are my sworn enemy and I hate your guts and nothing will change that.” Wasn’t it more like, “Friend, join me. No? Well, I’m sorry, friend, I have to go. But the invitation stands.”? Being ‘enemies’ only as a technicality of finding themselves on opposite sides.

Well, I’m not an X-men fanboy or fanatic, so forgive me if I’m straying from canon and projecting my own ideas onto the characters.

But… the lesson never seems to change does it? Be a Gandhi. Be a Jesus (ok tbh I’m still feeling slightly sore about Jesus/christianity). Be a Charles.

That is… hold on to what you know is true. Stand up for what you know is right. And most of all, love and accept everyone. Leave the judging and rejecting to the one who has all the answers (or thinks he has all the answers, anyway.)

Parents are excused from strange beliefs


A couple of days ago, I went with my father to the temple to pray to/for my deceased grandfather, because it was 清明节, a day where you’re supposed to visit the graves of your ancestors to pay your respects and clean up the grave and things like that.

There’s only one cemetery still open for burials in Singapore (and even then, the graves are exhumed after 15 years) so most people are cremated instead. Which means no graves to sweep. What we usually do when we go to the temple on Qingming is: lay out all the food (the deceased’s favourites) nicely on a table (for them to eat); get some joss sticks and light them, then ‘pray’ to the buddha (??) at the altar; stick half of those joss sticks in a huge urn full of joss sticks; go to the marble block/mini tombstone with our grandfather’s photo and particulars and pray to/at/for (???) that. Sometimes people buy lots of ‘spirit money’ or paper cars/houses to burn to give to the deceased. I also see priest doing some chanting for families, reading from books while knocking on the wooden block.

There’s a whole lot of question marks in there because… my parents aren’t particularly religious (or so I like to think). Visits to the temple have always been once-in-a-blue-moon occurrences and the significance of what it done is never explained. As a kid when we saw the grown ups being all solemn, we don’t dare question too much and just imitate what they do, and do what we’re told.

But after my recent bout of questioning religion, unexamined beliefs and irrationality…this time round I found myself wondering. Does my Dad really believe my grandfather will get to enjoy the food and wine he puts on the table? and who are why ‘praying’ to or what are we ‘praying’ for?

And, more importantly, if I don’t believe in any of this, why did I agree to come along? If I can attack people of other faiths for just blindly going along with what always has been done and look down on such practices, am I not being hypocritical if I close my eyes to the irrational practices of my own family? Why not attack these senseless rituals of burning joss sticks and stacks and stacks of ‘spirit money’?

I have this anecdote I like to tell people when I want to illustrate how ‘strange’ my mum is: She gives me free reign to do many things other mums would deem risky or dangerous such as traveling overseas on my own or learning to ride a motorcycle. Yet she vehemently refuses to let me get my ears pierced. And I’m a girl! There are parents in Singapore who will bring their daughters to pierce their ears at a young age, and  parents who will not even allow their sons to ride a motorbike!

It’s really silly, and I obviously don’t buy her reasons why I shouldn’t pierce my ears at all. But still, I’m not going to disobey her and pierce my ears. Because I don’t want pierced ears badly enough to disobey, disrespect and upset my mum.

And I realize that’s a principal I apply to other issues as well: that you give more leeway to your parents. Parents are excused from ridiculous beliefs that you’d normally wouldn’t stand for in other people. You might chide them or try to explain it to them for the billionth time, but you’re not going to pick a fight about it.

Of course, you’d have to draw the line somewhere, like if your parents’ beliefs involved causing harm to others, or if they were being exceedingly unreasonable about something that means a lot to you, but I think most times, respect and love for your parents (and family) should have priority…

So why did I agree to go along and participate in rituals I didn’t believe it? Because I know it’s important to my father, something solemn and saddening for him. So if he asks me if I want to come along, I will, as a simple show of support, because he’s my father.