I’m sitting in a child-sized chair in a playroom at the Keelung Church of Latter-day Saints opposite Sister Price and her companion for the day.
I’m trying to articulate a concept without being offensive, or disrespectful, but I’m finding it impossible. Words I’m attempting to string together come up short, get mashed in a mental gizzard and are vomited out.
Let me explain: I was spooked at Church the weekend before. Imagine me, a lost little Lamb, and the Church, the Shepard, trying to bring me into the fold. Like an animal, I was spooked. It was the second time I went to Church in Taipei and like always, I was running late. But I still felt alright. I met a woman I’d seen the week before and walked with her into the service. It was a special day – the children were putting on a musical program about all the things they’d learned in Sunday school, so that was cute. Songs were sung, including “Family Can Be Together Forever,” which I imagined could be spun into this ironic song a la the Nirvana cover of the Vaselines revisioning of the Christian song “Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbean.”
But anyway, it was very cute. One girl was adding runs at the end of the verses and everything.
At the end of the service I said “hi” to a few people I’d met the week before and met one of the missionaries. He spooked me when he said: “Have you talked to the Sister’s in Keelung about your Baptismal Day?”
And I was like, “whoa, dude, it’s been like 3 weeks.” I didn’t actually say this I just thought it. I said: “You know, I’m not there yet. I’m just trying to learn more at the moment.”
I could see wheels turning in his brain. He did that thing where it seems like the person isn’t even really listening to you. “Yeah, you’ll probably want to come to church in English here in Taipei after you’re baptized, right? So you should probably be Baptized here.”
And I was like: “You know, like I said, I’m not there. I haven’t felt that call, you know. I’m just learning more.”
And he was like: “Okay… yeah, you should talk with the Sisters in Keelung.”
So I left the Church feelin’ pretty weird. It’s a commandment not to buy anything on Sunday and the previous Thursday the Sisters had “invited”* me to keep this commandment. So I thought*** “WHY NOT?”
There are actually some obvious reasons why not. At my home in the U.S. I don’t think it would be hard: I’ve got a kitchen and a pantry and can easily whip up food for myself to eat.
NOT SO in my Keelung apartment where I have a mini-fridge and a Panini press that’s too small for normal-sized slices of bread. Those are the only appliances I owned that weekend**** that could suggest “kitchen.”
So… what do I eat? Peanut butter and banana sandwiches that are half toasted.
It was hard not buying some delicious Taiwanese food on my way back to my apartment. I wanted a potsticker so badly. And I began to think: why am I even doing this? Do I actually believe this will help me come unto Christ? But I don’t believe in Christ, so why does this matter to me?
In my hangry state, I couldn’t answer this question. I still can’t fully. Here are some thoughts:
1) I want to learn more. I’ve never seriously considered any religion and this is an opportunity to really experience and thing about religion because all the members totally want to help you figure it out. Which brings me to #2…
2) As a human, it’s nice to be wanted by other humans. I think this is one of those basic human desires that was necessary (or that spurred) the evolution of human society. So I am not embarrassed to say it feels good to be wanted and welcomes by these people. I know it’s a very shallow thing on both sides – I mean, they don’t know me so how could they want to be my friend and everything and I’m being welcomes but I acknowledge that I don’t feel at home with them. I feel on my toes. Skittish. Easily spooked, which brings me to #3…
3) An object in motion stays in motion. I’m going down this path. I’m not hurting myself. I’m not hurting anyone else. I’m being honest. I’m learning new things about a religion that’s ignorantly mocked in pop culture. I’m learning about my own person faith. Why not stay on this train*****? If things get too bumpy, I’ll bail. But for now they’re fine. The force required to reverse my trajectory completely seems greater than the jarring Baptism comment from the missionary.
But the comment, and my subsequent train of thought, makes me want to re-state my purpose to the Sisters.
So I’m sitting in a child’s chair in a playroom (our normal meeting place was occupied tonight). I’m trying to articulate this idea that makes sense to me but I realize may not make sense to them. I hope it makes sense to you:
Galileo dropped (or just thought this would happen if he dropped) a heavy thing and a light thing from a height, observed that the heavy thing fell fast, and inferred that this must be a universal law.
Newton said the light thing only falls slower because it encounters a stronger force of air resistance. In a vacuum, they will fall at exactly the same rate.
That is part of the theory of relativity and that is the problem I’m having.
Every week, the Sisters ask me how I’m doing and if I’ve gotten any answers and no I haven’t. What I want to say is “I may never get any answers,” but I think that would not make sense from their perspective. For them, God is out there and he is trying to call me home. I will get an answer but I have to keep listening.
But I’m going at this experience from the point of view of a person who believes in a Creator of the (Multi/Uni)verse, but nothing really more than that. I don’t necessarily believe there’s a God that cares about what I do and I believe even less that Jesus was that God’s son. However, I admit that I could believe that these things are true. For me, it’s acceptable to say, “I may never get an answer.”
I’m beginning to think that absolute truth is just whatever we decide to believe absolutely. Or, alternatively, objective truth does not exist and the only thing that really matters is: does your subjective truth allow you to live a fulfilled life? If the answer is yes, perfect, that’s your absolute truth. Hold fast to that.
If it weren’t for 7th grade science class (and the subsequent physics classes I’ve taken…) I’d never know that a feather would fall as fast as a bowling ball if dropped in a vacuum. This is something I was told by a teacher and read in a science book and believe because I was told it was true*******. Because of things like Youtube, I’ve been able to see that this is in fact what you will observe in the real world. But if it weren’t for these things, I’d never know of this observation. But what’s more important, I think, it that IT DOESN’T MATTER. It’s not relevant to my life that I believe and understand Galileo was wrong, Newton was right. Obviously modern science and technology relies on Newtonian physics, but what I’m trying to say is since I’m not making these technologies, nor am I rejecting them, it doesn’t matter what I believe!
Believe your truth********. Live your truth. It doesn’t matter to anyone else.
Because I imagine 7th graders in the year 2525 reading their Houghton-Mifflin Physics textbooks thinking: those dumbos actually thought the bowling ball and the feather were falling!
*These are actually called invites: things that they ask you to try while you are an investigator**
**It’s actually called being an investigator! Or at least, that’s what several people have said I am, which is cool with me because that’s how I feel.
***You should know this by now. Erisa’s catchphrase = WHY NOT?
****I’ve since purchased a toaster oven and induction skillet. WOOT WOOT.
*****Ridin’ the rails hobo style.
******That might be a gross oversimplification. If so, physics friends, help me out in the comments.
*******There have been so many things like this in my science education. Like when I sat through a lecture on NEGATIVE TEMPERATURE and was overwhelmed by equations I didn’t understand and when, at the end of the lecture, the Professor was like, “so, do you see?” and I was just, like, “SURE! YES! I BELIEVE YOU!” because he obviously knows what he’s talking about and I have no idea.
********So I guess the challenge is finding your truth.