Monday, October 13, 2008

Articles of Faith - Part I

1. Sins of Thought

When I was a child, no one ever asked, but if they had, this was my catechism. And these were the articles of my faith.

“I believe in God. And I believe in heaven and the certainty that it is the reward for the pure of mind, and hell – a deep pit of everlasting brimstone that is as certainly the reward of sinners.”

But the catch for me was that sin goes beyond evil deeds. It is also the mental act of impure thoughts. That blows my mind cause I can stay my hand when tempted to steal, or hold my tongue when tempted to lie, but it is impossible for me to avoid the equally vile sins of thought.

As a child, from little more than tiny seeds of resentment of expectations placed upon me, a forest grew of anger and annoyance and thoughts of bitter revenge. And likewise tiny spores of dissatisfaction with the poverty and want of my circumstance, grew like a flourishing field in light soil enriched with pig manure.

And so, it was hard for me to accept responsibility for the thoughts I entertained in my head of envy or distasteful judgment of other human beings. I knew it placed me in danger of burning brimstone, but though I could stay my hand from committing sins of the body, I could not stay my mind from mental digressions. Scenes and scripts in my mind fell so solidly outside of my control, that I was compelled to think my mind was oft under the control of a spirit other than my own.

So the pit of brimstone couldn’t be ignored with evil pictures unfolding in my mind for which I had little means of prevention. I feared the nasties that played endlessly like the music of a looping MP3-Player. Enough to wonder if perhaps I carried a curse that had descended from one evil individual within the root system of my family tree that would make my mind forever and always think impure thoughts of evil, envy, and disdain.

My father once told me that the most damnable act one could ever do was to wash a stone three times in a stream and each time repeat, “I wish to be as free of God as this stone is from sand.” And after the third time, there would be no turning back. That life would remain lonely, solitary, and godless.

I had never done it, never contemplated it. But had someone somewhere in my genealogical history done it. Is that why my father knew that and told me that?

So maybe this was the original curse, and maybe that curse is what prompts evil thoughts of hateful disdain for those who belittle things about me. Things over which I have no control – the eats in my lunch pail, my clothes, my shoes, my home, my family, my mother’s plain and unfashionable dress, or the culture of religious beliefs that rule my home.

But I digress when I want to get back to my articles of faith. To continue…

“I believe also that I can only save my soul from eternal damnation by mimicking my mother’s attitude of sparseness, humility, and self-denial.”

Like her, I need to deny the charm of riches, vanity, and worldly pleasures. Like her, I need to form alliances with lonely social misfits (without consideration how such alliances will damage my own status), and though I have a scarcity of luxuries, the few I have, I must willingly share with those who have less.

I do what I must but there is no denying it. I still miss the beloved doll I gave, at my family’s suggestion, to the little girl who had none. I gave Dolly away but, in truth, I still feel more remorse than beatitude for that so-called generous act. And extreme guilt not only about the misplaced loyalty Dolly had in my love and care but also, sadness for my other doll, Lulabell, and her separation from a dearly beloved sister.

NEXT POST: Conclusion - The Fools of Dingley-Dell


Pauline said...

what religion were you raised in?

Scotia said...

I'm not so sure I agree with religions that try to deny you pleasure and comfort. I DO believe in moderation in all things (I believe there is an inherent balance in the universe), but complete denial? I've always felt that those that preach denial (churches, "morality societies", etc) are those that are jealous of what others have, whether it be material or spiritual, so they try to deny it to others.

When I desire something that is not based purely on need (that which keeps me from starving, walking around naked, and shelters me from the elements), whether it be physical or just emotional, I think about it... and then I wonder if what I want is going to hurt someone or something (including me!). If the answer is reasonably in the no range, then I proceed and allow myself that pleasure, or that luxury, or that desire.

For instance, who is it that will really be hurt if I spend some of my overtime earned this month on a new mp3 player?

Your story of the doll, however, leaves me in a quandary. I can see both sides of the issue... and I can sympathize. :(

Roberta S said...

pauline, that's not so easy to nail down but it is of little consequence because whatever religion it is, it's all in the interpretation. For a child it is interpreted one way, and for an adult another. That is what this story is about.

I know you understand interpretation as a writer of great poetry. One poet can touch 100 readers in 100 different ways.

The doctrine here is not a recitation of articles of faith committed to memory. It is a recitation of the quandries and questions of my own interpretations.

Roberta S said...

thank you for that comment, scotia. As an adult, I would have to agree but with some reservations that still echo from my childhood as you will see in the conclusion of this story.

Thanks for visiting.