Saturday, July 11, 2009

Entry #48

Chalice Of Life
by Mona Rahman


It was a lively party. Not that she had attended many in the thirty-five years of her life; she was just used to attending functions within her Moslem community.

Susie had insisted she went along, and she'd agreed. Not reluctantly, not enthusiastically. Just knowing that it would do her good to socialize a little beyond, than she normally did.

It was good for her; her doctor had advised after the mild angina she had experienced . A glass of wine would do her heart good and prolong her life he had added.

She had known they would serve alcohol while making a toast, sooner or later...

Being born, as it usually does, had determined her fate. At least to the extent of what she had learned : a religion, as what it stood for. The drill had started much before she was capable of thinking rationally. The conformation and the integration , the tuning and the yielding...

Being a devout Moslem was more about restrictions than allowances she had imbibed:
"And among things forbidden to you are flesh of....alcohol...fornication..." she'd heard, preached a countless number of times.

So touching alcohol was a one way ticket to fire and brimstone they had affirmed...

She saw that champagne was being served

She had to decide...

Now...

It was Free Will verses Religion...

...Truth verses Belief...

...Judgment verses Day of Judgment...

...Life verses Life after Death...

...Surety verses Uncertainty...

...Faith verses Doubt...

With determination, she reached out and picked up the proffered glass…

30 comments:

laughingwolf said...

a brave soul, thx mona...

Laurel said...

I like the religious conflict. I'm fascinated with faith in all its variants and the struggle of dealing with whether or not childhood faith and conscience truly coincide.

Is it wrong? Or is it just brainwashing?

Nice take.

vinay pandey said...

Super stuff Mona

Aerin said...

LOVE this entry - this struggle, so well described

wrath999 said...

Great battle with the inner self. Very well done
alex

James Goodman said...

This is a great piece, Mona. The inner conflict and the resolve not to believe blindly are portrayed with almost tangible emotion. Nicely done.

Chris Eldin said...

Nicely written! I thought you handled this topic well--without being judgmental or preachy. And it is fascinating to glimpse into another culture. A special thanks for portraying this honestly.

Charles said...

As your piece states, its a medicine, good for the heart, so its hardly something that could be considered a sin. I know of at least one religion that uses it in its rituals. That and the guys with the strange collars seem to like it.

Good study of the attendant feelings of reason vs dogma.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Not only did your character have to struggle with her religion, being a female (yeah, thee old double standard) she had to struggle with her reputation as well. Nice portrayal of your character's conflict.

Mona said...

Laughing wolf, You utter the key word 'brave'. To go against the tenets of one's religion would be doing exactly that since most religions are based upon the fear factor. It is literally being bullied to blind belief. Beliefs are such, that they would want Truth to conform to them when it faces them.

Laurel, belief is theoretical and Truth is existential. We are fed with ready made beliefs right from our childhood till they become deeply ingrained in our subconsciousness. Later, when we are old enough to see for ourselves, we may be faced with Truth that negates all that we have believed. Yet, it is very difficult to strip yourself off what you have believed till now,even when truth stares you in the face since you have invested your entire life in it.It is not like the taking off of your old clothes, but peeling off of your skin.
Truth burns you as you are. It will erase your entire self as you have known yourself uptil now. That is why it takes Courage to embrace Truth.

Vinay :) Thanks!

Aerin, Our entire life is a struggle , where we are faced with choices that will determine our fate. By making choices we initiate a cause that will surely have its effect.

Wrath999, The inner conflict is the biggest battle that shall ever wage. I always feel that the only true revolution is the revolution of the self!

James! :D Thanks for expressing your opinion here! Yes, the most important part of such conflicts are the decision making . We are always on the edge, and most are afraid to jump to go beyond!

Chris, Thank you for your kind words. :)...the least one can do is to be true to oneself :)

Charles, Yes. it is a scientifically proven fact that wine has anti- oxidants and several healing properties, and is good for heart patients. yes, some things are reasonable, some dogmatic and some plain commonsensical. The last one is the rarest to find!

JR, the reputation part , as far as the drinking goes , is not limited to females amongst the Moslems.

iovan@creativewriting.ca said...

Mona,

Well, you sure have the major element of a story: conflict.
I used to tell my students that generally speaking, it is best to follow the religion of your parents, even if you aren't that much into it, I mean, in Dubai or the United Arab Emirates rich Muslims come home smelling of vodka and pork, and no one seems too upset. I have met many Moslems who sort of, like me in my Catholicism, take their religion a' la carte.
Old Platonic rule here: Nothing in excess...Maybe not even religion.
I'd go over your copy a bit, though. Opening sentence of Paragraph 5 needs light copy editing.
For example:
"Being born, as it usually does, had determined her fate."
--Kind of like Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase...Sort of cluttery. "It seemed to her that just being born had determined her fate?"...Could work on it.

...Picky little shit, aren't I?

Nevertheless, a good, good story and I'm sure it will be yet published in a treeware edition.

the walking man said...

What I see in this is that by crossing the boundaries of her religion she is taking the first step in building her faith.

Then comes the real world test of her new found seed of faith, what happens when she returns to her Muslim community steeped in the strictures of that repression?

To my personal way of thinking she was flirting with eternal damnation had she allowed the rules of a religion to dictate her action.

I like this Mona...made me think outside the box.

buffalodick said...

It seems all religions forbid one thing or another.... A thought provoking story, showing me another side of the coin...

Catvibe said...

I agree with the comments and also your comments in return. This is a great story, regardless of what 'belief' a person has been indoctrinated with. How to move beyond that really quite superstitious mode of seeing the world into something that allows you to see and think for yourself. A lifelong struggle for many, including me. Great piece, thought provoking.

Adisha said...

Really enjoyed reading this and it's quite thought provoking as well ... Religion and free will often butt heads and sometimes, it's good to let lose for the sake of experience. Breaking barriers that make no sense , always makes sense :)

Conflict is a part of our lives I guess ... Lovely post !

The Preacherman said...

Mind out for the Fatwa! ;-)

Like the thought process behind this and nowt wrong wi critisising religion - especially any that ban alcohol. Disgraceful behaviour!!!!

Four Dinners

Mona said...

Ivan, Thanks for coming out of your quarantine, for a visit here :)
You talk about 'picking religion' as if it is obligatory to pick one. I, on the contrary feel just the opposite : to reject all that is a herd mentality. And believe me, when I say this, as long as man is following the herds, humanity has not yet arrived.
Thanks for your opinion about writing. I need some good teachers to teach me yet, and I am blessed to have plenty of from the best out there!

Walking Man Mark, You make an interesting point there.That brings us to the basic question about what it is that should be determining one's Faith. Is it being born to certain set of parents, by the same process of birth that every human being on the Earth is subjected to? For surely we did not come into the world with a tag of particular faith attached to our cute bottoms.

I feel it is doubtful that she would ever want to 'return' to her 'has been' community after that. Its like when a person has been in a dungeon for twenty years and who suddenly comes out of it and is faced with sunlight. As soon as he comes out, the sunlight would hurt his eyes and threaten to blind him. It is surely going to be painful for him and for a moment he might want to go back to the comfort of darkness. But he will not be able to. For once he has seen light and freedom, he will never return to the darkness of the dungeon.

I guess almost every human 'flirts' with eternal damnation, not because they want to, but because they have been 'conditioned' to.

Buffalodick, Indeed you are so right. All religions are various sides, angles, nook and corners of the same coin! :)

catvibe, Thank you. To look beyond is something one has to do on a personal level. It comes through watching and awareness. Awareness is the key.

Preacherman, :) In my country there is a saying : " Jis hajjam ko kaam nahin, woh billi kutton ke sar mundaye"
Meaning: The barber who has no work to do, will start shaving the heads of cats and dogs.

That is exactly what the fatwa decrees are about.

Sarah Laurenson said...

The barber who has no work to do, will start shaving the heads of cats and dogs.

Now that is priceless.

Very well done. I love the inner conflict, the search for her own truth and faith. It is a process. I think you find faith by questioning not by following blindly.

Mona said...

Sarah, You are so right. It is indeed a process, the goal of which does not lie at the end of the path, but is the entire path itself. And everyone makes their own path asthey move.
Indeed the question has to arise first before the understanding comes. But then what the established faith does is just the opposite. It starts providing ready made 'facts' and orders us to start believing them, with threats of fearful consequences aka. Hell.

I feel that a child learns by questioning only up to twelve years of age or so, then the ready made beliefs are thrust upon him...by the Parents, the Priests, the Professors and the Politicians...

Mojo said...

Well since my first attempt seems to have gone in the bit bucket, I'll try leaving this comment again.

You've really nailed the prompt square on with this one. Your heroine has certainly found -- or is about to -- her truth. Or a truth. "dharm aur vishwas do bahut alga bat hain| aur ek dusre zaroor nahin|" Which (I hope) translates as: "Religion and faith are two very different things. And one does not require the other."

"Faith" does not require the underpinnings of oppressive "thou shalt not" dogma to be "true". Nor is piety a substitute for faith. Witness the number of faithless clergy in all religions worldwide if you need proof. Whatever higher power you pray to, if your faith is true you know that He cannot be deceived by ritual learned by rote. A true God will know the faithful from the faithless no matter what name they call Him, or how they choose to invoke it.

This is the fundamental truth your character has the opportunity to learn from this one glass of wine. Ergo, "In Vino Veritas". In wine there is truth. And while I feel certain that the one (or ones) who coined the phrase didn't have this scenario in mind, it is no less true for that.

Well turned Monaji. Well turned indeed.

Mona said...

Mojo, You make some very relevant points.
Indeed there is a vast difference between religion and faith. While one may be ritualistic and dogmatic, the other is spiritual.And indeed, one does not require the other.

Truth, Greater Being , Faith , are devoid of all form and quality, and therefore remain unmainfested. And yet, paradoxically, they are inseparable of every form or phenomenon ; material or spiritual.The variations in the transformations result from the variety in the underlying processes; yet all path are a single path which is of Humanity as a whole,leading to a single point, goal, God or Center.

pjd said...

Personally, I find her age the most intriguing aspect of this story. 35 is that time when many people really start questioning their lives, their beliefs, their marriages, their traditions. I have seen it in a host of my friends and in myself. I think it has something to do with finally being experienced enough with the world to be able to let go of the crutches we leaned on through our upbringing.

Those familiar with me know that I don't have much patience or time for Religion with a big R. (My favorite bumper sticker is the one that says, "My karma ran over your dogma." (followed closely by, "If you're riding my tail, you'd better be pulling my hair... but I digress)) Anyway, I don't actually see this story as a question of faith but as a question of finding one's own way through that mid-life mire of questions and doubt.

Clearly, you've written something that has made people think and respond. Well done.

Mona said...

Pjd, :) I love the writing on your bumper sticker! Its priceless!

Of course , many a question arise in our mind at that time of life. Yes, it is maturity taking over, when you are experienced enough to see.

They say, that it is the small children who see most clearly. Yet they do not know that they can see. So their 'innocence' ( read clarity of perception) is lost sooner or later. After having experienced life a bit, we begin to see again and keep 'seeing' till we grow old. That is the time we regain our 'second childhood'

The 'first childhood' is lost, since it was a gift of Providence, and what can be given , can always be taken away. But the 'second childhood' (old age) is never lost, since one Earns it, and what is earned can never be lost.

Thank you for your kind words!

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

This is a rich, courageous and honest piece of life, describing so well the personal battle against religious and cultural conditioning. Really well done!

JaneyV said...

Mona - as someone who has had many crises of faith (until finally abandoning organised religion), I find this piece absolutely fascinating. I love that your character is growing into her own identity and is finally understanding the difference between faith and conditioning. So many organised religions use guilt as a method of control.

Wonderful and thoughtful piece of writing.

Mona said...

Absolute Vanilla, Thank you for your your visit and comment. My intention here has been to make that very statement. So I had to be simple and direct here, succinctly using the device of parallel juxtaposition in order to be able to express much with clarity and precision.

Janey V, Indeed, there comes a time, when your own Truth stares you in the face. Some become aware of it, while some move on like somnambulists in a haze of their conditioning. The more we shift around from one Organized Faith to another, the more crises we are likely to land ourselves into. It is like carrying a Corpse eternally with you, only shifting it from one shoulder to the next.
Beliefs in such Organized religions may be able to offer people much consolation, but never the liberation.

Jade L Blackwater said...

An honest, and strongly-articulated inner conflict. I really like the way you use the In Vino Veritas them for this discussion.

Jade L Blackwater said...

(theme for this discussion.)

Mona said...

Thank you Jade, for your kind words.

jason evans said...

I liked being let in to this struggle. One does have to doubt when religion becomes more about curious restrictions than active good deeds.

High marks for pacing.