Friday, January 05, 2007
A New Start
image of the Kaaba
This blog has existed for more than two years now. I started it soon after the presidential election in 2004, as a way to vent my frustration with the world. Though I've tried out monthly themes, and, last August, vowed to blog only about bus-related topics, I've never managed to stick to one theme for very long.
Tonight at dinner, Mrs. Octopus and I discussed what religion we would teach to any children we might ever have. Mrs. Octopus's parents are Buddhist, and though she has not been that observant to this point, both Mrs. Octopus and I see signs that Mrs. Octopus herself may become a more observant Buddhist in the future. My parents are Muslim. My father has never been very observant; my mother is more of a believer. My brothers and I have been agnostic for quite a while, and I don't feel signs of becoming more devout anytime soon, but I know that I would want our children, should we have any, to be exposed to the traditions their grandparents believed in. I would want them to learn about both Buddhism and Islam, and to that end, I would want to take them with Mrs. Octopus's parents to the Buddhist temple to expose them to the Buddhist faith, and to learn about Vietnamese Buddhist practice from Mrs. Octopus's mother, who has relied on her Buddhist faith and practice to help her achieve a remarkable grace and serenity, overcoming years of illness. And I would want to take the children, perhaps with my parents, to a mosque, perhaps for Eid prayers, to get a sense of the faith that has been such an integral part of their grandparents' lives, and Bengali culture since the thirteenth century.
America is changing. The new Congress sworn in this week includes the first Buddhists and the first Muslim elected to the House of Representatives in American history. Keith Ellison, newly-elected Representative from Minnesota, and a Muslim-American, took his private oath of office with his hand on a Quran owned by our founding champion of religious liberty, Thomas Jefferson. Our children will be a part of this momentous change, and I want them to respect both of their grandparents' traditions, and thereby, to recognize the beauty that can be found in all the world's great faiths.
My parents just returned from a hajj to Mecca. They called me yesterday morning at work just after they landed in New York. As I spoke to my father on the phone, looking out over a hazy Los Angeles morning, planes landing and taking off from LAX in the glimmering distance, I noticed that he sounded different. He sounded older. His voice was muted, but a with a tone of being at peace. He had been a good man, a good doctor, a good husband, a good father with three grown sons who loved him, and now he had completed one of his duties as a good Muslim. A chapter in his life had closed, and a new one had opened: one who returns from the hajj is given the new name of hajji.
The impact of my parents' pilgrimage did not fully hit me at first, but crept up on me as I began to recognize it for what it was: a final preparation. I was thinking about this tonight after my discussion with Mrs. Octopus and I realized I had found a subject I could live with for a while.
the wheel of Dharma