by XIAO MING WEE
Religion should be part of how I lead my life. Should. Growing up in a conservative Taoist family, I am accustomed to much of the rituals whom my mother perform. We pray, burn incense papers, offer gifts like fruits and cakes. As a kid, I followed blindly what I had been told. I woke up early, placed the joss sticks and participated in religious ceremonies. I never question why did we carry ourselves in such a manner, why couldn’t we do some stuff, why shouldn’t we lead our lives this way… and as a kid, the funniest question that I always ask my mother is: why can’t we eat beef?
However, things have changed. Moving away from home, I lived by my own for a period of time. I stop following these rituals with my mother anymore. Religion, god, or whatever it is, I have moved away from it. It was not a part of my life anymore, so to speak. I do still visit the temple when we travel back to grandmother’s place, but it does not mean that much to me anymore. I start to lose my own faith on what I should believe in. When I moved out and got my own place, there was a Guan Yin placed in my living room. Yet, for the first year I never pray at all. It is simply not part of my “system”.
Things began to change when I started working. My workplace was located opposite a Hindu Temple and next to a Taoist Temple. It was a street full of cultural artefacts and places of worship. I passed by the Taoist temple every day, watching people of all ages walking in and out of the temple. Flowers, joss sticks and fruits were sold along the street. At that time, my workplace was a relatively dangerous place. Then, of course, there was a bunch of superstitious people that had influenced me. After few days walking by without doing anything, I decided to enter and pray, I asked for peace and safety. When I told my mother that I had been going to the temple regularly, she was happy, on the fact that I began to understand what she has always wanted me to. Unfortunately, I didn’t. It is not the case where there is an inner calling to me where I started believing or so. I just went in to pray because I thought that I should.
I have numerous friends that I can label as “religious”. They go to churches, mosques, temples, or other places of worship of their own beliefs. However, I do realize that not all of them understand the concept of religion. Some of them believe in it because they were brought up in such a way. Some of them did, however have questions that they were not supposed to have. For me, I have always asked the question “why”. Why do we do this? Why do we believe in this? But why must I ask “why” to begin with?!!
I had the luxury of bunking in with a “religious person” over my winter trip. I have known him for a while, and was surprised that he had changed drastically in terms of his way of life. I was also curious about his understanding on his religion too. We have long conversations, and he was happy to answer my queries. At the end of the whole conversation, I questioned myself: why didn’t I understand my religion the way he understood his? The focus is not “why” or “the way”, but “I”.
I am the problem here!
Obviously, there are lots of problems regarding me, my faith and my desire to understand the rationale of me believing in my religion. I want to understand everything. However it wouldn’t be clearer just because I wanted to. I need to do some soul-searching regarding… well everything!
So, why am I still writing this article, when this publication wishes to challenge the young minds on these so-called “sensitive issues”? Any Ben, Jane and Tom will go through these self-doubting themselves. I am not someone famous, not much attention will be placed on this article. However, you will read this eventually because there will be less than 10 articles here, and you have.
What is so special about my story that it is worth publishing? Well, no.
There is nothing special about this story. It is just my own god damn business with my own faith! Period! So people, why make a big fuss about religion?