I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.

21 Jan

“Mommy, elephants are really scared of mice.”

“mmmhmm.” I’m in a hurry, ran home from one appointment, grabbed the kid from school, dragging her home so I can dart out the door again. Stupid rules not allowing her to take the bus when she can’t walk home by herself alone anyway.

“Yeah, when there’s a mouse, the elephant jumps up in the air it’s so scared.”

I stop, causing Vivian to stop, her mittened hand tucked into mine.

“Dude, the only thing an elephant is scared of is likely human. And carrying a gun. Do you know what people do to elephants for their tusks? They cut them off and then leave them. Trust me, a mouse is the least of their problems.”

We walk a little further, and sure mutters “But they said that elephants are scared…”

I stop again, and bend down to talk to her, not at her.

“Viv, logically, rationally, think about this. How big is an elephant?”

“HUGE!” she crows

“Yes. And how big is a mouse?”

“Really really little?” she offers

“So, knowing this, does it make any sense that a creature as wonderful and large as an elephant would be frightened by a mouse?”

She pauses, looks off down the road. Then the glimmer starts.

“No Mommy. That doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“Question Vivian. Question what they tell you. You’d be surprised what you learn.”

But now of course, she senses the “mom-lecture” coming, and stops listening.

**********************

I love that we’re raising the girls without religion. I love that they will be raised without the spectre of blind belief, without being taught to never question the things which matter most, to just accept the fantastic claims we make as a society about gods and heavens and afterlife’s. I love that instead of me saying “No, cause god says so!” I have to explain why and how and when, and the words “just cause” rarely exit my lips.

The urge to run with the elephant myth, or to say the moon was saying good night this morning instead of explaining orbit and the tilting of the earth’s axis is strong. It IS easier to run with the prevalent myth, to run with the man in the sky, guiding your life. It’s easier to make magic instead of science. Or so it seems.

I made a decision awhile ago that while I love magic, and all the magical things our world presents to us, I love truth even more. I love the magic in the real world-in how a plant grows, drawing it’s power from our star, the sun. I love explaining the wonderful way that one thing can be many things, and a metaphor for life-water as liquid, snow, ice, vapour. I love watching the magic appear in my children when they watch spiders hatch and run a myriad of ways across our deck, and know that the world has given them this, and it’s sweet.

I believe in the world around me, and by extension, my daughters. I believe that giving them the tools to question the myths they’re given, to really stop and examine if the easter bunny makes any sense whatsoever helps them become smarter, braver women. I knew growing up that most of those characters couldn’t possibly exist. But I loved them the same, for what they meant. I don’t want my daughters sitting idle, accepting what they are told as law, or as a given. I want the questions to be asked.

My mother, raising me under the cloak of  a Roman Catholic god, never accepted this. Her world brooked no questions, not for the important things, as when I’d express my disbelief in a magical place where everyone sat around and revelled in how awesome they were on earth. This wasn’t something said, and I took a long time to finally have the courage to speak my disbelief out loud, into the air where it was made real.

I have found the world around me, the substantial stuff we walk and breathe in, to be more magical and inspiring than any doctrine or book could be. The truths that we link to, the absolutes that settle in our chests and tell us that no, there’s no way that elephant could ever be afraid of something so minuscule-those are awesome because they are ours. They awe us because they start with us, our minds.

I don’t want my daughters to every forget how powerful and magical they themselves truly are.

14 Responses to “I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.”

  1. Jason Dufair January 21, 2009 at 10:15 am #

    I’ve questioned and rejected the myths. Now I love them and invite them back into my world. As myths and not facts. As stories whose meaning is much more subtle but no less powerful. Thanks to Joseph Campbell for helping me see this.

  2. Mad January 21, 2009 at 10:35 am #

    I don’t necessarily think that myth and science need to be mutually exclusive. Science gives us what we need to live but myth/art/religion gives us what we need to live well. I am not a religious person whatsoever but I do want my daughter to have a highly developed sense of fiction and of belief.

    Have you read to Viv Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young–there’s other versions of this myth as well. It’s a fable that strongly supports your world view AND it is about mice and elephants. If it’s in your library the timing would be perfect for you and Viv.

  3. thordora January 21, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    I guess it’s not so much that I want to remove myth completely-I just want to establish logic and rational thought FIRST, something which, in our culture, is not easy to do since they’re bombarded with the need to blindly believe from all angles-be it about why they have to ask to go to the bathroom or where people go when they die.

    Maybe I just got to many euphemisiums after Mom died-but I value truth.

    On another note, ALL have enjoyed those SkippyJon Jones books. I love that damn cat, and they are SO fun to read. I’ll look for that book though.

  4. Sol January 21, 2009 at 10:59 am #

    Thank you so much for this. We have an on going diatribe in our house, on whether or not have the boys christened. My in-laws are very religious people but my husband shares my love of rational thinking and atheism, though he is less radical and is willing to accommodate his parent’s wishes. I oppose fiercely because I think the last lesson I want to teach them is hypocrisy.

  5. de January 21, 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    I think I remember the exact moment when I realized the adult world stank of hypocrisy. It messed me up.

    However, as a parent, I am muddling along, learning as I go about how a child’s brain and comprehension develop, and I think there is a time and a purpose for many of these myths.

    Perhaps what my parents did not do is stick with the program and guide me through the successive levels.

  6. superlagirl January 21, 2009 at 12:20 pm #

    We’re raising our girls without religion, too. Two members of our family died last year, and the temptation to regurgitate all of the myths I was fed as a child was so strong. We resisted, though.

    Hard as that was, what really worries me is the inevitable day when my daughter realizes that her grandparents, who are devoutly religious, and parents don’t share the same beliefs. I’m not looking forward to that at all.

  7. bromac January 21, 2009 at 12:20 pm #

    I am not religious. I do not believe in a god overseeing our every move, nor I do believe there is something more vague out there, some spiritual being. However, just like my parents did for me, my daughter may choose whatever route she likes. She has been exposed to religion, both through the horrid, awful daycare she spent two years at, and through attending church sporadically with her Grammy. I sometimes wish I believed in a god, someone to blame for all the bad things, some belief that makes me feel better by just saying “it’s god’s plan”. But I don’t and, ultimately, I am glad for that. I will not begrudge her that peace if she so chooses.

    On the myth. Hmmm, I agree to a point. Mine is about 3.5 and everything, EVERYTHING is pretend. And I love it. I believe the imagination has to be nurtured for a little while before we insert reality. I understand what you’re saying, and agree with it even, but I’m just not there yet. I just want to wait a little longer….

    Excellent post and topic! Loved it.

  8. crazymumma January 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm #

    I find it hard to find a balnace between the pragmatic and teh dream magic. The stuff of myth. But I too, like to inject that commo sense criticality into how my girls look att eh world.

    But, when I am tired, busy, fed up. I let so much slide and just say ohhhh, mmm, mmmhmmm, really? And think to myself i should be doing more than that.

  9. thordora January 21, 2009 at 1:29 pm #

    I suppose what bothers me is that we find it ok to let a child slip into fantasy, but we wouldn’t feel the same way in ten years. Right now is when we should be setting them up to think rationally and constructively. there’s still plenty of room for the stories, but I think it’s important to remember we’re raising women and men, not just children.

  10. Marcy January 21, 2009 at 3:53 pm #

    I’m right with you about truth and questioning, although I am aiming to raise my daughter in the Christian faith. Not everyone who believes in God does so blindly or without questions or without concern for truth.

    • Alex November 2, 2009 at 1:06 am #

      Hey. I just randomly saw your comment while searching the source of the quote she used in the title, and I wanted to thank you. I’m not sure why, but reading your comment made me feel better about my faith, questioning it, and hoping i can find some of the answer i need to believe

  11. Eden January 21, 2009 at 4:55 pm #

    In my belief system, questioning is part of the belief. It’s not about blind faith; it’s about learning (about myself, others, the world, nature, etc.). I can’t imagine *not* questioning what you’re told.

  12. Hannah January 21, 2009 at 8:36 pm #

    My only comment – you say I wouldn’t be comfortable letting my child slip into fantasy in ten years’ time, but for me, I disagree. I believe in all sorts of things that have no scientific basis – fairies and Jack Frost and Santa Claus and wood sprites. And I am passing that love of myth and magic on to my boys, as well as explaining things like how the light refraction in the atmosphere creates beautiful sunsets and how a tiny seed grows into a tree.

  13. bromac January 22, 2009 at 1:14 pm #

    Yes, I agree with Hannah. I hope that I do not stifle the imagination/mythology in ten years either.

    I still believe dragons and unicorns existed at one time. Same for Merlin and other magicians/sorcerers.

    On the other hand, I have a great love of dragonflies because they have survived since the time of dinosaurs and the fact that we have learned so much of flying from their method of flight.

    I, personally, don’t think they’re mutually exclusive.

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