Saturday, November 27, 2004

fun at my aunt's house

It's now almost 1 in the morning. I'm not usually up this late (or this early?). But tonight was unusual.

Most of of my family members that live in the Louisville area are more-or-less evengelical/fundamentalist in religion and conservative in politics. That makes my aunt (who moved here just a year or two ago) stand out a bit. She is a Christian, but of a more open-minded and liberal variety compared to most Christians I know. She knows about my atheism, and we have had a few good discussions about religion/politics/philosophy when we are away from the rest of the family.

Anyway, I was at her house until shortly after midnight tonight. I had gone there earlier today to help set up a new TV and sound system along with Mom and Dad. Luckily I came in a seperate car, so that when Mom and Dad left I could hang around for a while with my aunt and some friends that she had over. And we had quite a time. The highlight of the night was the "talking stick." That is where the whole group gets in a circle and there is a decorated stick (Native American theme in this case). The stick is passed around the group and only the person holding the stick can talk (though that's not always how it worked LOL).

So, we would get started on some question that would get a conversation going. The first one was "Are we humans having a spiritual experience or spirits having a human experience." Basically it was a "who are we and why are we here" question. And in the small group of people who were there, there were answers ranging from belief in karma and reincarnation, to the idea that we are all gods who create our own reality, to my own naturalistic pantheist views. I once commented, when I had the stick of course, that I was thankful for the stick because it reminded me to keep my mouth shut when listening to views I diagree with. And actually it was interesting hearing what they had to say. It was especially interesting hearing a rather long debate on the ethics of karma between my aunt and one of the guys.

I don't think anyone changed their point of view as a result of all this conversation. I didn't anyway. But it was a great experience to be able to say what you want, and question what the others were saying--even openly disagree. And I did openly disagree, often, particularly with the guy who was saying we create our own reality. It's amazing to me how people can talk like that without degrading into an argument, and without me feeling as if I must convince them that I'm right or bad things will happen. I won't go to sleep tonight afraid for the soul of the ones that don't agree with me. (Ok, I don't believe in souls. But I used to. And when I did, the things that I heard tonight would have terrified me. As a Christian anyway. Well, if you've ever been there you know what I mean.) And it paid off--at least I think I understand the whole idea of karma better now then I ever have before.

And now that it is past 1:30am, I think I'll go to bed before I doze off at my keyboard.


Osiris said...

That's a concept that has always intrigued me, the ability to keep quiet and honestly listen to points of view that you completely disagree with, and then maintain your composure. Sadly, most people lack this ability...

Ruthie said...

Wow - I like a lot of your thoughts here. This Native American stick sounds like a lot of fun. I love meeting with people who are able to meet in mutual respect, express their perspectives and seek to understand rather than to convert one another.

It is an incredibly challenging, but altogether enlightening thing to do. It gets you to the point where you want to understand and value the differences in the ways in which we approach the world and life.