Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Loss of Innocence

A few days ago, my room mates and I had some friends over and were playing a very boisterous game of Fish Bowl. Shrieks of laughter, loud conversations, guys and girls. Little did I know that was the perfect ingredient that made us seem open to the following encounter:

There was a knock on the door. We fell silent, as I jumped up to open the door. We don't often have unexpected visitors. Outside my door were a couple of young men, a couple of young women, and a perhaps five year old little girl. They obviously were renting the apartment opposite for the weekend. I live in a guesthouse in the party state of India.

I looked enquiringly, "Yes?"

"Do you have some stuff?" the guy asked, in a matter of fact tone,

I thought I had misheard him.

"Some what?"

"Some stuff." All their eyes were on me, including the five year old.

"What kind of stuff?"

"You know, weed."

Outraged. "No! Why would you think I had weed???"

"Oh.. Sorry." They backed away.

I closed the door, and then told my friends what had happened. "I cannot believe he just casually knocked on the door and asked for STUFF. And they had a child with them! Just because we're having fun he thought we would have 'stuff'? Is it normal for people to just ask perfect strangers for weed? Wow. I cannot believe that just happened."

A I was speaking, I realized that I lead a very sheltered life. I have never been offered drugs or asked for drugs even back in my college days. But many of my friends had. And experimented with stuff I guess. I realized that the two guests in our house that evening possibly were surprised by my outrage. I wondered how naive and sheltered it made me sound.

But then I thought about it some more. And I was GLAD it shocked me. I wish I lived in a world where drugs and drunkenness and sexual excess and the mockery of goodness was rare. Where our minds didn't immediately fly to the dirty double meaning. Where innocence was valued and preserved. I wish I hadn't read all the books I had read, watched all the movies I had watched. I wish I could protect young children from the ugliness in the world, and worse, the ways their innocence has been perverted.

Last month, there was a friendly lady that I met who made the most perverted jokes. She was just trying to be funny, and she really was very kind. But later someone repeated one of her jokes to me, and said "It was so funny that you and your mum had no idea of the double meaning of her joke." For a moment, I felt embarrassed that I hadn't understood. And then again, I felt, "I'm GLAD I didn't understand. I'm so happy my mother's innocence had prevented her from understanding."

I think of children in their sweet, joyful innocence... and then the changes that happen as they lose it. The cynicism that creeps in, the mockery, the self-consciousness. It has happened to most of us, hasn't it?

But it CAN be reversed. It's possible to go against the tide, to fight to regain lost innocence. I find spending time with people who choose innocence too can be so enriching. I find that I can limit the media I consume. I find that I can choose to be silent instead of laughing along to an off colour joke. I find that enjoying the good beautiful innocent hilarity of this life builds up a new culture of innocence. It is not ignoring the other side of life, but choosing not to glorify it, to act like it's normal. It is not naivete, but a deliberate choice to focus on what is good, to look with loving, pure eyes on the world, to see the good and the potential for good rather than the evil and the corrupt.

The more of us that choose innocence, the more we can allow light into a dark world.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

An Encounter With the Faulty Philosophies of the Modern World

In my work as a Catholic volunteer, I come across all kinds of people, and attitudes, and perspectives. The other day I got into an animated discussion with four young British teenagers or 20-somethings who were visiting India as tourists. As we talked I realized that I was coming face to face with a lot of the faulty and not very well thought out philosophies of the modern world, not just reading about them on blogs. Here are some snippets of our conversation.


"What do you believe? Do you believe God is a person? I don't believe god is a person, but that god is in each of us, and each of is god, but we just don't know it yet. Have you read the Alchemist?"

"Ah.. Paulo Coelho."(thinking, 'I knew that philosophy sounded familiar')"Sounds like we believe two very different things. But one of us has to be wrong."

"Or both of us."

"Or both of us. The question is- are you willing to consider the possibility that you may be wrong? That God really is a person?"

"No. I can't believe that."

"Then you're not really open minded, are you? The only way to know if something is true, is to test it. All you would have to do is say 'God, if you are really a person, if I'm not just talking to myself, can you reveal yourself to me? Can you show me that this is true?' What would you have to lose?

"My time!"

"Um.. okay" (We had an hour-long discussion, so maybe time wasn't the issue.)


"Why do you need church and all those rules? I don't believe that love has rules!"

"Well, to explain rules.. imagine that you were married."

"I don't believe in marriage."

"Okaay. Expand your imagination, and imagine that you did. Would you cheat on your wife? No, if you really loved her, you would follow the rule 'Do not commit adultery.' So... rules are just what you will and won't do out of love."

"That doesn't make sense- you're saying rules are not rules?"

My challenger's two friends tried to explain to him what I was trying to say.


"Do you believe you should follow the head or the heart?"

(Tongue in cheek) "You know it's not really the head and the heart but it's all the brain, right?"

"No! It's the heart! That's where your feelings come from."

"Um, not really. That's the brain."

His three friends go "She's right," and try to convince him it's biology, while he tries to convince them that if you had a heart transplant, you would have another person's feelings. Hmm.

Me, laughing, "It's okay, it's okay. I was just kidding. I know what you mean."

One of the friends "Anyway, what DO you believe- head or the heart?"

"Both. Follow your heart, and take your brain along with you."


"Do you believe you can choose the person you love?"

"Ooh, tough one. I think you can't always choose who you fall in love with, but you can choose to stay in love, and continue loving a person, despite your feelings."

"Wait, so you'd stay married to a person even if you weren't in love with them anymore?"

"Feelings change, but I believe real love means choosing what is best for the other person no matter what my feelings are. Some people go through times in their marriage that are hard, but the ones who stick it out and persevere and choose to love in spite of how they feel in that moment, are often the ones whose marriages are stronger on the other side."

"No, that's just wrong! How could you stay with a person you didn't love? You'd be resentful!"

"You can choose whether you'd be resentful. That's up to you. Life doesn't just happen to you, you choose how you respond to it."

"But you should feel what you're feeling! That's not healthy! People can't do that."

His friend: "Actually studies prove that it's healthier to let go of resentment"

"But you should be true to yourself, and do what your heart tells you at any moment."

"You might call that being true to yourself, I would call it being selfish. Very often the emotions of the moment may not be the kindest choice to make.' (another tongue in cheek moment) 'I might at this moment feel like punching you, but I won't do it, because I know that would hurt you."


One girl told me she grew up in a Christian family, but didn't consider herself a Christian. 

"What has Jesus done for you? Do you ever doubt your faith? Why do you believe? Why did Jesus say 'turn the other cheek'? How does God speak to you?"

I answered those and many others, and she looked thoughtful. 

"Do you think it is good to ask questions?" 

"Of course I do! If you don't ask questions, how do you find answers?" 

"My parents didn't encourage us to ask questions."


"Do you really think people have questions and find answers in Christianity? Do you think everyone is searching for something?"

"You tell me. Are you searching for something? Do you have questions you need answers to?"

"I don't know."

"Well, that's a good thing to think about, wouldn't you agree? Search your own heart. Do you have questions about why you exist, what the point of this life is, if this is all there is to this life?"

The guy who asked the question looked thoughtful. It seemed like he had never considered those questions before. It looked like maybe he would now.


Towards the end I told them, "Maybe you walking into this church and having this conversation wasn't a coincidence, but an invitation from God. But it's your choice now whether to keep searching, or to close the door on this encounter. "

"Maybe," said the girl.


There was a LOT more. I asked them if I could have their names so I could pray for them, and they gave them to me. But I was left thinking, 'Why don't they teach Chesterton and C.S. Lewis in schools? Or at least logic and rational thinking?'

I recommended Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis to them. I wish I had recommended Jennifer Fulwiler. Here are some of her articles I really enjoyed-

Explore your doubts but do so in peace

The ignorable God

Doubt after atheism

Finding God in 5 Steps