Sunday, February 26, 2012

don't stop believing

[This photo's from one of the boards at Ateneo, when my friends Zebra and the Ent and I went to watch "Fireflies" by Tanghalang Ateneo. Taken 25/02/2012]

The last few days, I've been thinking about systems of belief. I suppose because it's officially Lent already, when Catholics give up something they love or abstain from eating meat, mirroring the sacrifice of Jesus before the events of Holy Week. And because I live in a predominantly Catholic country, these kinds of practices take over most people's lives. Even McDonalds get in on the act by serving a variety of fish dishes to appeal to Catholics who are cutting off their protein supply for the next forty-odd days. And I think about how much of what we do and how we act is proscribed by the religion we are born into, or believe in.

Mind you, I haven't been a practicing Catholic since I graduated from high school - and even then, by the time I was a senior, I was pretty much set on not being Catholic in the foreseeable future. I guess the closest term I can think of is agnostic, and even the term itself is problematic. I guess my main problem with the Catholic Church is how the institution, especially in the Philippines, treats women (which is another thing I'll probably talk about, but not right now), as well as the invasive way the Church enters politics in this country, despite the clear delineation in the Constitution between Church and State.

But I'd like to believe in a higher power, whether you call it God or Goddess or Eru or Bathala, fate or chance or circumstance or string theory. And this is something that I'd like to firmly point out: believing in something outside of yourself isn't a bad thing. If not anything else, it's a humbling comfort. But I also believe that this should not dictate the way I act or the way I think or the way I live my life. I live my life the best way I know how not because I'm scared of Hell or because life is a set of checks and balances, but because I inherently think that people should be good to each other because it's the most logical thing in the world. I think that being empathetic and being aware of how other people think and believe and act and to simply try and see things from their points of view is an underrated human ability, and we should exercise this more often.

I read an article a few days ago about how we're slipping back into another Dark Ages because people refuse to believe in science and scientific reason. And the thing is, guys, even if you don't believe in science, the empirical evidence is right in front of you. I guess for most of us, it's easier to believe in a nebulous, invisible being because we can shape [insert personal pronoun of choice here] to our own requirements. Because it's easier to fit gas and vapor in a round hole than a solid square peg. Science isn't a belief system; it's empirical proof. No amount of praying is going to stop methane gas from rising to the atmosphere or carbon emissions from burning a hole in our ozone layer, and even if the Church dictates that the Sun revolves around the Earth, it doesn't mean that our small blue-green planet will stop orbiting in an elliptical path around the Sun.

Human beings are great at imagining things: whether it's a new strain of H5N1 that's resistant to drugs or sending tardigrades to space or creating a pantheon and systems of belief. But I think the thing we're not good at is controlling our hubris. Because something is different, it's immediately bad or evil or out of this world; we forget that the world is not homogenous, that there is something larger and vaster and infinitely more beautiful than anything we can imagine. Because we let our fear get the better of us: if it's not familiar, it must be fought against. But change is a necessity; it's how we evolve. And we need to evolve if we are to survive and see the future.

And no amount of praying is going to stop things from changing.

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