Thursday, July 8, 2010

Religion, worldview and writing

I've been a little flaky with my blog posts of late.  If you've been following my Twitter, you'd know why, but that would require you to know who I am, which makes this a moot point.  Regardless, I'm here now, and I have something I'm wondering about.

Cleaning out my bookcase, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is an enlightening experience.  I found books I didn't even know I had, gifts from friends and uncles and aunts that were so strangely not my taste that I wondered if they knew me at all.  Nostradamus?  Really?  But I also found a bunch of books on spirituality that were very interesting to peruse.  It seemed like I had a world collection of religion, growing in the bottom shelf of my favourite bookcase like a field of particularly pretty and educational mushrooms.

I'll make my views clear, so no one is offended, or, if they are, it's because they read further even after being warned : I'm opinionated.  This may already be apparent.  My stance on religion is this : the more evangelical, the worse.  I don't care who you are, whether you're Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha'i or Pastafarian, if you try to convert me, I will never listen to another thing you say, possibly even, "Watch out for that truck!"  If you want to practice in your own way, in your own time, obviously that's not my right to judge. If you want to tell me your worldview without me specifically asking first, then we'll have a problem.

You may have also seen my post about the Falun Gong.  I feel for them, but they shouldn't be in my ballet.  I feel the same way about books.  They also shouldn't be in my ballet, but they definitely shouldn't have real-world religions in them if they're supposed to be fantasy.  Sci-fi is perhaps acceptable, but if you want to make your work accessible, it's better to avoid both politics and religion (though I still note with delight that V for Vendetta avoids neither, however, me not having the brilliant beard of Alan Moore obviously precludes me from writing as brilliantly).  This is why I loathe the Chantry in Dragon Age.  Not because it misrepresents Christians, but because it represents them at all.  I'm trying to enjoy my escapism - don't bog me down in real-world stuff.

But then I got to thinking about the different ways these different views would influence our writing anyway.  Say, for example, I believe in reincarnation.  My characters might die and come back in a different body.  If I believe death is final, it's unlikely I would resurrect anyone.  Similarly, if I believe in Heaven and Hell, there will be some serious undertones to the characters (and particularly the type of magic) that I write, whereas if I believe more in a Gaia entity, I'll be far less concerned with how my characters act while they're alive.

And, inevitably, this brought me to the question of : can I write like that guy?  Could I have a godfearing person in my work?  Someone who fears for their immortal soul, is constantly afraid of sinning and takes drastic steps to avoid it?  Or am I only then painting a caricature, which does both me and Christianity a disservice?  Similarly, can I write a Buddhist monk if I don't understand the tenets of Buddhism as well as I could?  Does it really matter?

To the people of those faiths, yes, it matters.  Stereotypes exist for a reason, but that's not a reason to rely on them.  Could I ask someone from that religion to read my work and give feedback?  Yes.  Am I committed enough?  Nah.  I just don't care.

You may be noticing some parallels between this post and my earlier one about the Holocaust.  It's essentially the same thing.  But those underlying ideas, that's what gets me.  The ideas that I put into my work that I don't even know are there, and the ideas I read in other people's work that make me either more or less interested, depending on whether or not their worldview is similar to mine.  I don't even realise I'm doing this.  The way we think is so integral to our experience of the world that understanding other points of view on something we feel strongly about is probably one of the hardest things I've tried.  I can see their point logically, but when the ideas transcend logic, as religion does, I just can't wrap my head around it.

I believe what happens, happens, and it is neither good or bad.  Those are only our terms for the events around us.  That makes it easy for me to put my characters in situations where they get hurt, without feeling too guilty.  I don't believe there is any evil in the world.  That makes it hard for me to write characters with no redeeming features, even if those redeeming features never explicitly make their way to the page.  I believe we will all be reunited after death, regardless of actions in life, which makes it easy for me to kill my characters.  If I believed opposite of these facts, not only would my writing style be different, I would be a different person.

It all comes back to being unique.  Everyone is, and no one any more so than another.  That's the reason for writing, the reason to keep on writing - no one is ever going to produce the same work of art as you.  You're special, just like everyone else.  Every single event in your life has been building toward this moment, and every current moment is building toward your future.  No one can take that away from you.  No one can take you away from you.

This is why I write.  To get my thoughts and feelings and experiences down on paper, to look at them through a different coloured pane and say, "Ah!  There is Suffering; but turn it this way, and it becomes Growth.  Slide Love behind that panel of blue and it becomes Desperation.  Place Death within the fire's glow and it becomes Humanity."  I write myself in every word.  I can't not.  I might be able to edit myself out later, with help, but my values will remain.  Some small part of me is in everything I do.  I find that a comforting thought.

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