Symbols

Standard

Some people wear their religion on their sleeve; others hang it around their necks or put it on top of their heads or over their faces. A few carry it in their back pocket; more keep it on the tip of their tongue. Of course you can find symbols festooning churches and mosques and synagogues and temples of all kinds and plenty of people have articles of faith in their homes.

You are certainly meant to notice these expressions of faith but heaven help you if you mention them or suggest they might be a bit over the top. What you do in the privacy of your own home is of course your business – well, that’s the theory – but sometimes it does get a bit tiresome seeing pictures of torture and despair staring down at you while you’re trying to enjoy the hors d’oerves. Though you can get used to it pretty quick. At least I can. To me religious symbols are little more than decoration – good art and bad, judged for its own merits and not on some cosmic scale.

I was looking around my own house the other day and concluded that if anyone were to judge me by my decorations, they might assume I’m an animist – a person who sees god in the works of nature. There are oodles of flowers on my balcony which I dutifully tend and my walls and shelves are covered in depictions of animals – photos, paintings, carvings and sculptures. At last count there were 28 of them – more than enough to turn the condo into some sort of spiritual centre.

Of course, anyone who knows me would understand that these things mostly reflect my enjoyment of kitschy souvenirs. The closest thing to a spiritual experience I ever have is when I consult my electronic cat-in-a-box executive decision maker. Like the oracle at Delphi, Bright Eyes often delivers mysterious and contradictory responses to the questions posed. Like most religions, this leaves me free to interpret the results to my own liking. At least most religions where they don’t stone you for getting it wrong.

Outward displays of faith often seem to me to be more about the community than any real connection to the divine. After all doesn’t God or the gods – in case you have a pantheon – judge the inner man and woman? What purpose outward displays then if not to conform to the communal demands of family and authority? Much of the religious passion and outrage seems more about the secular concern for control than anything else.

But maybe that’s just me. I’ve never been one to judge a person by their covering.

But that’s ten minutes.

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