When I was a kid, I wasn’t known to take no for an answer. I don’t get the impression that I was rude, just persistent. I have fond memories of my mother repeatedly pleading, “Stop bothering me!” If I was told the refusal, I wanted to understand why. I wanted to agree with the logic. I wanted an explanation.
Since the badger was most likely the result of frustration, I suppose it was because the logic I needed wasn’t forthcoming. Apparently, my mom wasn’t providing a proper rationale for denying my application, and “because I said so” wasn’t cutting it. To be sure, her reasoning was probably sound, which I didn’t agree with, in all likelihood, barely after I was a little girl.
I didn’t really have a niche to outsmart or outsmart. Also, my mother was always a reasonable and kind person and her parenting skills were almost uniformly nice. Only the size and length of the word unleashed her wrath. (The more she gets mad at us, the longer the words I used. I have a lot of vocabulary to this day because of cause.) So I’m totally relieved to admit that I didn’t know my backside from my elbow at the age of four and she was probably right.
But it does point to a personality trait that eventually led me into a career in which the biggest questions are asked, but the answers are always inadequate. I anger the universe with “Why?” Sometimes I get answers that I consider sufficient. Or at least, intuitive thoughts I conclude are answers. Most of the time I don’t imagine a response. Which, of course, I consider insufficient. So I keep asking. To my memory, God never asked me to stop defaming her. Ergo, today I am a perennial theologian with an equally optimistic streak. Obviously I wouldn’t go on asking if I had no hope of a reasonable answer.
This tendency makes me curious about rules that have no apparent plausible reason to support them. If people are asked to follow a rule, we’d better agree as to why. This country was founded on exactly this idea. It has upheld the very culture that gives us the right to question the laws of both man and God.
For example, I think everyone should play with their food. Or at least always be free to do so. Regardless of age. Even when the company exists. As long as the food is still eaten, and is still appreciated, does carving potatoes actually cause harm? If you feel embarrassed about your child doing this, first ask yourself what does carving say about your child? Then ask, what does your embarrassment say about you?
When we look at arbitrary rules, we often find that they are more about control than care. They are authoritarian when the authoritative approach is wiser.
In religion we find many phrases which can be defined as laws, rules, advice, and guidelines, in decreasingly strict order. My desire to understand it is as strong as the requirements for approval. Personally, I don’t follow religious rules unless I agree with them and understand why they exist. However, their presence in the sacred texts makes me honestly conclude that they have a purpose of some kind, whether at all times/all places/all persons, or for a particular group at a specific time, perhaps there is little wisdom behind them. Or evidence of a desire to control people. One of them intrigued me.
Ask all rules that appear or reveal themselves to be arbitrary. Why can’t boys cry? Why should we obey our elders? And circumcision for that! Why do we still stick to these things?
The truth is that this is the exact process that all human society is going through at the moment. Everything is checked for authenticity and value. Old, outdated ideas are being abandoned at an alarming rate for some. Pray for them. They are kind of freaking out.
Be kind to the power we have to get rid of the old rules and the old ways of being. Remember, it’s hard and scary for some to realize that it’s okay to play with your food now. It only demonstrates creativity that must be identified and nurtured, not suppressed. The world becomes better when we abandon these old authoritarian methods. But it is a process that requires the use of empathy for our persistence.
We are experiencing a sacred evaluation process. Nothing is immune. This is a good thing, but uncomfortable. Be a balm for those who fear change even as we work to dismantle traditional inequalities of the past. Be at peace with yourself as well. This is a spiritual advice that is certainly not arbitrary.
Wil Darcangelo, M.Div, is a Unitarian Universal Minister in the First Diocese of Fitchburg and First Church in Lancaster. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTokwildarcangelo. His blog, Hopeful Thinking, can be found at hopefulthinkingworld.blogspot.com.
#Play #food #told