Journey to the East and the Thought that Struck Me

Tonight is one of those nights where I flitted between two phases of my life, going back to my camp for a short while to check out the passing out parade of a junior batch. I followed a friend along on his journey to the east, down smooth train lines and colourful conversations.

The parade was great, I guess. Whatever I expected to happen, happened. But it hardly stirred me, or made me feel anything for who I was, or for my former self standing proudly on that same parade square two years ago. I felt nothing whatsoever; my heart somewhere very different, no longer confined by the (newly reconstructed) gates of a place I tried so hard to call home not so very long ago (but alas, failed).

A very strange thought developed on the way back, and not in the way film develops in slow progression shrouded in darkness. This thought developed instantaneously, like an instant bullseye on virgin dartboard. BAM, and it was there.

The thought went about like this; that religion and love are very similar ideas. (This is the first time I’m writing about religion on this space and I still don’t think I possess the maturity to do so but here is a shot at a larger picture).

Ok, so lets get some background. When you fall in love, two things are at play; the practical and the emotional aspect of this relationship you will embark on. Practical matters being that of compatibility, interests, age gap, potential future income, parents, beliefs, etc. We think about these things now and then, subconsciously or not. Then there’s the emotional aspect, where raw feelings are unearthed, and this, in a nutshell, is rather difficult to explain. I like to use verbal imagery to summarise this, and so yes, a lot of eye contact, heart rates, shifty feet and lightheadedness, tingling of the extremities and so on and so forth. If you can’t describe the wind, describe the slanted tree that it blows. But since we all want a more mature depiction, I’ll give it to you. So here we have an instance when a deeper love is being cast into question. A lot of time and energy must have been poured into this one, the poor miners getting covered in thick soot digging so deep. What we unearth will be feelings of assuredness, comfort, familiarity and every strange (sometimes negative) feeling that encompasses what we know as love. These are not so easy to imagine on a verbal plane, and are feelings we feel over time, rather than observe immediately.

And so we have religion, and to me religion and love share some parallels in the sense that there is also this element of practicality versus emotion. But from how I see it, the word “emotion” would have to be replaced by “faith”, for the latter encapsulates an aspect of blind allegiance. We simply cannot know of the entirety of the renewed paradigm religion casts us into, and so have to accept a few things through acts of faith. So here we go again. We have practical issues of family agreement, dining habits, institutional commitments and moral standards, a lot of it revolving around the utility to our lives.

Faith, on the other hand, deals with instances where we feel more than we know, and believe more than the physical evidence provides. Again, this is debatable. In a lot of testimonies I’ve sat through, a lot of what holds faith together does manifest physically; sometimes the sudden healing of an illness, or a recovered relationship with a loved one, or just stabilised sleeping habits. The result of overwhelming faith can be observed in numbed extremities, warm tears, unshakeable assuredness, a sense of direction and for many, a reinforcement of communal ties. However, physical manifestation or not, faith seems to revolve around interpretation, and in that sense, a single situation can be perceived in many ways, depending on individual faith, and the direction and extent it directs one. We have our own unique relationship with what we believe in, like it or not. Institutions can influence our beliefs, but each relationship is unique, and constitutes a huge part of us. In other words, I don’t have to worship an IKEA Scissors to be unique, my own reading of the holy bible constitutes a unique relationship with the religion.

The next thought that came was this: in the same way I didn’t want to get romantically involved with anyone whilst serving the nation, I didn’t want to go about defining my religious beliefs when times got tough. Think about it, it makes sense, and the whole army analogy must have come from the parade I watched.

The same way an army camp reduces prospects with the opposite sex (or any long-term involvement, at least), the trials in your life takes away any semblance of comfort and familiarity, one that religion promises to endow (or at least, do a better job of than your problem-ridden life).

So in the same way you feel a heightened desire for the opposite sex whilst in an army camp, you will feel a heightened desire to seek solace in religion during hardship. This, I always felt, turned notions of emotion and faith into something wholly illegitimate under the cloak of neediness and heightened dependency. It’s not too hard to imagine, is it? Or am I oversimplifying the matter?

I feel perfectly burdened because these assumptions don’t necessarily hold true. A choice made in your time of need isn’t necessarily a bad choice. Going down that line, your preferences during times of plenty won’t always have good outcomes, or be any more legitimate. An army boy can find love the same way a girl who has lost something dear to her can seek legitimate solace in religion, and do a good job of it as well. This is not so hard to imagine, and is well within the spectrum of possibilities.

So on my journey to the west, I made the realisation that we shouldn’t be burdened by our preconceptions. Possibilities abound and life awaits. Just because I’m busy with work doesn’t mean I cannot start writing a novel. Just because life feels empty doesn’t mean I cannot seek solace in religion. Just because I was never a “science kid” doesn’t mean I cannot pursue an elective in quantum mechanics. We don’t need common sense to feel happy, because happiness, as we know, is a complicated matter that pays little regard to logic. Hell, this entire post has been a complicated matter.

Finally, I take the lift up and sit in my room. What happens next? is the question that lingers on the peripheries. Unsurprisingly, the room is silent, as if telling me only you can answer that, so let’s get your act together. 

I sincerely hope I can.

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