Saturday, May 13, 2006

Religion in School

Let's pretend that I am a devout Hindu. Let's further pertend that I'm a public school teacher. OK, we don't have to pretend that. I really am. Let's say that I like to start each day by having all of my students stand and chant "Hare Krshna." How many parents do you suppose would be calling the school before the hour was even over (cell phone technology)? And shouldn't they? Shouldn't they be upset that their children's teacher was having them pray to Krshna? Would they complain just the same if it were Buddha? How about Allah? How about if I had them all stand, cross themselves, and say a "Hail Mary" or two? What about a good ol' Baptist prayer. You know, the kind that invaribly ends, "In Jesus' name we pray"?

What it seems to come down to, is that it's not prayer in school that everybody objects to. It's who we pray to. But I'm game. I'll pray to whomever you want. But whom do you want? How do we decide. Let's say we go with the idea that this is a Christian country. We actually are willing to believe that everytime Jefferson and Adams and Paine and Franklin referred to God they were talking about Jesus. Never mind that they were all Deists (well, not Franklin. He was an atheist). Never mind that nowhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights or the Preamble or any of that other stuff do they ever mention the name of Jesus. I'm willing to pretend. Let's pretend that this is a Christian country. Which flavour do we choose? Is it Baptist? If so, which flavour of Baptist do we choose? Southern? First? Second? Ana? What about the Methodists? The Episcopalians? The Pentecostals? The Mormons? The Jehovah Witnesses? The Catholics? They're all Christians. How about the Mennonites? The Amish? The Assemblies of God? Church of Christ? Universalists? Where do I stop? Brother Larry's Sacred Church of the Holy Word of the Bible that Was Written for White Men Only? Believe me, he's out there. And he can show you in the Bible where he's right. Grant it, it may be a bit of selective reading, but then, aren't all of the above religions guilty of that...if only just a little? And believe me, there's nothing more that Brother Bob would want than for every school everywhere to teach his basic fundamentals to all of those children every morning. Well, maybe only the white males, but you get my idea.

What it comes down to is that children can already pray in school. There is no rule that states children cannot pray in public schools. That they can't bring their Bibles. In fact, the only schools where there are rules against praying are the private religious ones. And then their rules are against whom you choose to pray to.

There can be prayer meetings in school. Every year schools across the country have that circle around the flag day. They can have Bible clubs. They do have Bible clubs. What about Fellowship of Christian Athletes? And they can do it during school time. Or after. Or before.

You can even have prayer at school events, like graduation.

As far as that goes, you can even have purely religious ceremonies in school.

But there's a catch. There's always a catch. And that catch is, what we do for one religion, we must do for them all. After all, this is America, and if America stands for nothing else it's equality. After all, doesn't that Christian Constitution of ours claim that "All Men are created equal"? (OK, Brother Bob, it may not say all White Men, but at least it says Men.)

If we want to have a Bible club, we must also allow a Koran club. A Wican club. If we allow the Baptists to pray in our auditorium, we must also allow the Coptics (They're a religion from Jamaica that believes copious amounts of marijuana are necessary to worship God).

Students can pray at Graduation. Adults can't (hey, it's their graduation, after all). And even at that, the students can't proseletyze.

Religion can also be taught in school. But not just one. All of them. And not as if one were more true, more right than another.

And anybody can pray anytime they want. You just can't pray outloud in the middle of a test. But then, generally, the teachers don't want the students doing anything outloud in the middle of a test.

So those of you who are claiming that religion has been taken out of schools, do your homework. Stop repeating what radio talk show hosts have told you as if they really know. As if you really know. Religion can co-exist with education. It always has. It's just that nobody wants their children to have to chant Hare Krsna every morning. Or for that matter, do we really want our children to affirm that we have one nation under God? Whose God?

Hare Krshna.


So as I was driving to work this morning listening to NPR I heard a very brief quip from a rapper out in Seattle, I believe, and he mentioned the responsibility of the rapper. And it got me thinking. What is the responsibility of the artist? Any artist. The writer, the playwright, the sculptor, the poet, the chef, and even the rapper, for after all, a rapper is a musician. Which led to the age old question, what is art?

We could go with the Keats' thing. You know: Art is beauty, and beauty is truth, and truth is beauty. But that's kind of like saying that God is love. It may very well be true, but you still don't know a whole heck of a lot, since most of us truly don't have a clue what love is, until maybe it comes and bites us on the ass.

Then there is one of my favorites: Art is what you can get away with. That was offered by Tom Miner and Betty Grossens. They used to publish a poetry magazine out of somewhere in California called PinchPenny. Quality stuff for low budget small press. Then one day they decided to explore the world and haven't been heard of since, at least be me, that is. Are you guys still out there? But back to their definition. It very well may be true that art is what you can get away with. After all, look at some of the things that we have called art. Is Maplethorpe's photographs of gay men having sex truly art? Is Michelangelo's David art? Playboy certainly has artistic qualities to it, but then, how about Penthouse? Hustler? Jugs? The trouble with Grossen and Miner's definition is that it asks too many questions. We're looking for answers.

So on to my current favourite definition of art, that given to us by Tom Robbins from his novel Skinny Legs and All. (In my opinion not his best, but still good. My favourite Robbin's novel has to be Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climes. But I digress.) Where was I? Oh yeah. Robbins says, "Art is imagining what no one else has ever seen, and then creating it." Of course, according to that definition, that would include any new invention. New ways to torture would be art. New ways to put stripes on the highway would be art. New ways to cook left over spaghetti would be art. And maybe they are.

Along those those lines, does an artist have a social responsibility? Should an artist's goal be to create beauty? Should it be to avoid those things that will cause suffering? But then, is suffering sometimes necessary to bring about a greater beauty? Should an artist be an agent of change? Damn it! More questions.

And of course, there's always the Beatles. "There's nothing you can do that can't be done." (All ya need is love...wah wah wah wah waaaaaah....)

OK. Here goes. A melding of all of them. It is the artist's responsibility to take the ordinary--to take what we may already know, may already believe...or perhaps should already know, should already believe--and present it in such a way that has not been seen before. A way that conveys both beauty and truth. And he or she will know it is art if only one person agrees.

In a nutshell: It is the artist's responsibility to convey a message to the audience without boring them. That message can be anything. It can be that homosexual eroticism is art. It can be that genocide needs to stop. It can be that art doesn't need to have a message (think on that one for a while).

Regardless, art must entertain. Perhaps not everybody, but at least somebody. And preferably that somebody is who the artist was intending to entertain to begin with. But not necessarily.

OK. I'm going to stop now. More later.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


I’ve concluded that nobody would have a problem with evolution if we had evolved from Tigers. Tigers are cool. They’re big and hide in tall grass and rip things to shreds with huge, gnarly fangs and claws. They roar. I mean, that’s what you go to the zoo to see. Tigers. Pacing back and forth with that look in their eyes like they know exactly what they would do if they could get out. They would eat you. They would slash you to bits. Whatever they would do after that is pretty much beside the point as far as you’d be concerned. As far as ways to die go, being eaten by a Tiger ranks right up there at the top...well, if you have to die anyway.

You don’t go to the zoo to see the gorillas. OK, maybe you do, but gorillas are nasty. All they do is sit around and scratch themselves. They masturbate. They eat stuff they find crawling on each other. Every once in a while they get up and scream and then throw their feces at each other, and maybe you. They sleep a lot. They like to drink. They think that an old tire hanging from a tree is a pretty cool thing. They have that not so subtle look in their eyes like they don’t have a clue. Like if their cage were left open the most we could expect them to do would be to get up and close it, but probably not even that. Let’s face it; they’re emphatically stupid.

But then, I suppose it’s fairly obvious why some people, like scientists and archeologists and paleontologists and sociologists and all sorts of others -ologists, believe that we came from gorillas, aside from all that scientific stuff that nobody really wants to believe.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

This Week's Thought

There are very few people who are not worth knowing.

Lunatic Monologues #5


In there, boy. In there. In your head. That’s the devil, boy. That’s the devil talkin’ to ya. Oh, but he’s slick, boy. He can make white black and black white. He can make the sweet symphony of truth sound like a cacophony of lies. And he can pass of absolute nonsense for pure knowledge. That’s right, boy. He’ll make you think you’re smart. Make ya think you’re a genius. And he can make thousands believe you, and there can be millions that would agree with you, and there could be billions that would follow you, and you could make every single soul on the planet be on your side...every single soul but one. And do you know who that one would be, boy? Well, I’ll tell you who that one would be. He would be me, boy. Me. For I know what the truth is and I shall never falter. For verily I say, “Woe unto he who turns away from the truth, for it is better to die a martyr than live as a sinner. But better yet to kill a sinner.” Now, boy, it’s up to you. I can open the door for you, but it’s you that’s got to step through. What’s it gonna be? Heaven or Hell? Light or darkness? Pain or pleasure? What’s it gonna be? You know, I can go on baptizing all night long.