Puff the Magic Wizard of Pot, and Other Children's Stories
Assistant Village Idiot -- father of four fine young men, I might add, each of whom, from what I understand, receives nothing but praise from their parole officer -- expressed it very clearly, writing that "I think if you simply teach the stories of the Bible at first, without trying to relate them to explicit doctrines, they will sink down into the bones of Future Leader. We read Genesis to our boys when they were quite young, trying to give only such explanation as was necessary. We let the stories themselves teach. It is much the same way with the parables and the events of the life of Jesus. They are stories, and in a true Bettelheim effect, teach at multiple levels simultaneously.
"We began many books as read-alouds every night well before the ages they were 'supposed' to be read. We did Tolkien over a six-month period every 4 years starting at age 5, and Narnia in 3 months every 3 years. Let the stories teach."
Let the stories teach. Of course! Let them sink down into the bones. Duh!
A dream from last night, hot off the press: It was in the form of a rather shockingly tasteless public service announcement with a humorous punch line. It looked like it had something to do with rape, as it depicted women being dragged off against their will, with close-ups of terrified faces, as in a trailer for an over-the-top 1950s horror flick. Then the voiceover at the end says something to the effect of, "Take a loved one to the church of so-and-so. It's not as bad as they think." I guess you had to be there, but I did laugh myself awake, which is better than crying oneself to sleep.
Because that is the essence of the problem. I was thinking of the study that came out a few months back, indicating that a mother's religious commitment has no effect on a boy's religiosity. Rather, if they see their father getting up off the couch and dragging himself to church, that makes all the difference. It is apparently one of the reasons why Europe's eventual extinction is being preceded by a brief layover in radical secularville. Their menfolk lost all interest in religion, with the exception of soccer. If that ever happens here in America -- that is, if the silly sport of soccer ever replaces baseball or proper football -- it will be curtains for us as well.
However, I was mildly complaining to myself, "This isn't exactly fair. After all, I wake up each and every morning at 5:00 and enthusiastically worship at the altar of the Vertical Church of the Perpetual Raccoon, or at least I try to." For what it's worth, I really do attempt with all my faculties -- heart, mind and soul -- to have a genuine encounter with O, trancelight it into some peremptorer's new colloquialisms, and spread the godspiel around for the innernauts, with very little in the way of personal gain or profit -- although I shouldn't even hint at such a thing, since the process is so intensely spiritually rewarding for me, and the more I do it, the more I get out of it.
Isn't that enough?!!!
I had to attend Sunday school as a kit, but I couldn't stand it. My dad rarely went -- maybe on Easter -- but even if he had gone on a regular basis, I don't think it would have made any difference, at least if he had only done so robotically, absent a true sense of O-bligation. However, if he had been passionately interested in religion -- now that might have meant something, especially if he had shared that interest with me and my three brothers. But his attitude toward religion was pretty simple, and can be summed up as follows: 1) Only kooks and reprobates don't know that some sort of God exists. 2) You know the difference between right and wrong. 3) Do the former.
In short, not much context. However, in my case, God is the context of everything I think and do, at least when I'm not being forced to do or think about something else. For example, my book is simply the end result of trying to make everything harmonize with a spiritual outlook. I would stare at this scientific fact over there, consider it in light of this metaphysical idea over here, and then will them with my cOOn vision to reveal to me how they related to one another.
So, just as my education is continuous except when I am being forced to attend my dopey mandated continuing education courses, it is quite possible that I would have to disrupt my own church service to attend one. Is this a rationalization?
If there were a good, spiritually resonant church right down the street, I'd go there all the time to pray and meditate. Yesterday Gecko mentioned the beautiful Vedanta Center in the mountains above Santa Barbara, which is thoroughly ecumenical and welcomes all religions. It would be a personal dream to live next door to that place, but in order to purchase a house there, it would require several million dollars that I don't have at the moment. As a matter of fact, I read somewhere that the jazz great Charles Lloyd did just that -- moved near the temple in order to focus on the spiritual life. Frankly, you can't not focus on the spiritual life when you're in an environment like that.
(You might remember the photos from my little trip there last August to visit my book. They had me buried next to a prominent display of one of my cut-throat competitors, the Dalai Lama. It almost appeared as if he were looking down his nose and smirking at my book, in that little condescending way of his. See what I mean?
Hmm. We'll see about that. Figuring the Dalai Lama is a pacifist -- what's he going to do, get Richard Gere to lecture me? -- I fearlessly took matters into my own hands and corrected the karmic situation:
Afterwards I decided to go over his head and obtain a blurb directly from the Buddha, who said -- and I quote -- "One Cosmos bring good luck, just like rubbing my belly."
Regarding providing a context for spiritual understanding, Will expressed it perfectly: "My suggestion is simply to track his developing interests/talents and then feed them while stressing their innate spiritual value. For example, if it's sports, stress the self-discipline, sacrifice, team play, etc. If it's music or science or nature... well, you know what to do. If he later develops an interest in institutional religion, give him a smorgasbord of info as to what's out there. But start with the simple stuff. Whatever he's interested in, there's an attendant natural wonder and sense of awe -- I would say work with that, work to increase it, mature it."
Exactly. No matter what it is, there is a way to spiritualize it if you only look at it in a weird enough way. I'm sure I'll naturally do this in the course of everything from sports, to movies, to homework, to reading to him at night -- which I can't wait to do, as I'm sure I'll get more out of it than he does, as per Van's observations, similar to something Jerry Seinfeld mentioned about doing comedy. Although it is a kind of awesome power to stand on a stage and make people convulse with laughter, he said the feeling didn't match the simple joy of making his children laugh.
And as AVI said, there is no reason to analyze or over-intellectualize. For some reason, I had been hung up on this, as if it would be necessary for me to get all didactic and metaphysical on the boy. Now I can see that the perfect situation would be to find a Sunday School taught by a gifted story teller who knows how to engage the imagination of a child. His theology wouldn't really matter at all, so long as he keeps it to himself.
It reminds me of the things that used to fire my imagination as a child, say, The Wizard of Oz. That film operates on such a deep and unsaturated mythological level that I can still watch it any time it's on TV and not be bored.
But what if some pinhead -- say, me -- were to say, "Son, you see, it's all an allegory of the Great Depression. The black and white world of Kansas is a symbol for America at the time, and the 'Wicked Witch of the West' is the evil capitalist, Elvira Gulch, who 'owns half the county' and rules over the 'little people.' The whirling cyclone is the great socialist revolution that will lift everyone into the false utopia of a worker's paradise, run by leftist charlatans such as the Wizard. The Tinman is the helpless and dehumanized industrial worker who will link arms with the farmer, represented by the Scarecrow, to overturn the capitalist order. But Dorothy proves that a heavy-handed state is not required, as she possesses all the resources she needs to succeed in life. She is the American Spirit, reborn and awakened from the bad dream of socialism, now able to appreciate the simple beauty of America, in spite of the hardships."
"But dad, the book was published in 1900."
"Er, yes. Right.... Have I ever told you the real story behind Puff the Magic Dragon?"
He's showing an early interest in being a cardinal (the fence keeps him from destroying my awesome collection of Harlequin romance novels you see in the background):