Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pictures in books

I can't remember how the conversation started. We were driving home from spending the day dressed as Ninjas, I think the place was called Iga-shi but I'm also equally suspicious of being completely wrong about that. At some point though, he asked "don't you believe in god?"

Misaki and I exchanged glances. I employed an extreme amount of mental effort to carefully time and calculate my responses, a rare occurrence for once as myself who usually lacks so much as an inner monologue. I said "Why, do you?". The exact words of our exchange have lost me, but it was something along these lines. "Yes, of course", he said. "Why?". "Because I've seen pictures in books". An interesting response for a six year-old who has never been to church, seen a bible, or been to scripture class. At least not in my presence...

"Grandma and Grandpa told me about Jesus, and God. They had a book with pictures". Another calculated pause... "Can you remember any of the pictures?" He couldn't. When asked if he believed them, he said he loves learning because it makes him smarter. Not what I asked, but an excellent answer. He instinctively trusts knowledge passed on to him from people he trusts and admires.

"Don't you believe in god?". What could I say, isn't it about ten years too soon for this conversation? "Which one?" I reply. Learning what I believe is of less importance than discovering the ability to discern right from wrong independently. The concept of multiple gods was new and intriguing... you mean there's more than one?

It depends who you ask, I explain. There are many people in the world, some people believe in Jesus, some in Muhammad, some follow the teachings of Buddha, while many once worshipped Amon-ra. Most of them believe that their beliefs are right however, while everyone else's are wrong. "I just go one step further - maybe we're all wrong. The important thing to remember is: don't believe everything you read in books".

I don't want to influence my son's religious views one way or another. Actually, that's not true, I do truly want to protect him from being blinded, but I have to trust that he'll open his own eyes in time and see, see whatever he chooses to see. I hope he never looses his child-like sense of wonder though, his empathy and compassion for all living things, and his joy and humor. If he has to learn from pictures in books, may they be photos that are true to life without any bias or opinion, that invite him to explore and discover for himself.

I don't fear answers, only that we forget to ask the right questions.

love, peace

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