Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

We’re ALLLLL in this together

September 9th, 2009 · No Comments

I find the prompt a bit vague and difficult to answer simply because I’m not at all familiar with how Sikhs and Hindus adjust to life in London.  However, based upon what I’ve seen and what I’ve read, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between the cultural identities of the two in the UK.  I actually think that a lot of their adaptation is similar, mainly because I link the two religions in my mind as well.

Just as an aside, I read a quote today by C.S. Lewis that reminded me of our visits to the two temples: “You don’t have a soul./You are a soul./You have a body.”  I think this is the perfect way to sum up Sikh and Hindu ideas regarding the relationship between God and humanity, that is to say, God can exist in all things and in all people.  I was particularly reminded of our guide in the Sikh temple who stressed the transience of the human body and the importance of tending to one’s soul.  However, it could also refer to the Hindu concept of “Atman,” or the true soul which transcends earthly existence and our false egos.  I think the relevance of the quote extends to each in equally significant ways.

I think the sense of community central to both Sikhism and Hinduism plays a huge role in the ways that these people adjust to London life.  Both temples stressed the fact that their buildings are a gathering place where people can congregate and worship.  In Salaam: Brick Lane and Brick Lane, I got the impression that Tarquin Hall and Nanzeen felt isolated in their respective communities because they were forced to adjust on their own.  Since Tarquin Hall and Nanzeen came from such different socioeconomic, cultural, and geographical backgrounds than their neighbors and friends, they both seemed to suffer from loneliness to some degree.  Each managed to cope until they became more comfortable with their surroundings, but it certainly took time and great effort.  I found that this was in direct contrast to the Hindu and Sikh communities that we visited.  They put great emphasis on community and togetherness, which makes for easier adjustment to a new culture simply because they are able to spend time in comfortable places with people who act in a familiar way.  Similarly, I was able to adjust to London life quickly because I am surrounded by people who are going through the same changes that I am.  From a psychological perspective, change is easier when one is not alone, and I think this is applicable to Sikhism and Hinduism.

Along those lines, both attempt to maintain this community through arranged marriages or simply marriages within their religion population.  Interestingly, BBC mentioned that online dating is increasing for both denominations.  This, to me, is the perfect balance between adaptation to a new culture and adherence to one’s background and history.  They are able to try new things while still congregating with those who share their own religious beliefs and morals.

Since this is getting quite long I’ll finish, and perhaps add more later..but for now, I think my general sentiment is that both Sikh and Hindu followers are able to adjust more easily than other religions because of their focus on community and willingness to support one another in their daily lives in London.

Tags: Amy

Why can’t we all just get along…

September 8th, 2009 · 3 Comments

religious symbols

…simply because we allow our differences to overpower our commonalities. As both groups and individuals we spent a ridiculous amount of time investigating and calculating the differences between who/what we are and who/what we are not.

For example:

From the moment we are born, traditionally, we are dressed in colors that represent our assigned gender. Those wearing anything different must then be who/what we are not. From that moment on, we are being taught to differentiate people by the category of gender.

What happens when we grow up to realize that we are all, actually, just human? A definite challenge that will continue to trouble our society and many more societies to come. Religion, is a complex term that encompasses multiple definitions, it all depends on perspective. It can simply be a devotion or, as described by Kile Jones (a Ph.D student at the University of Glasgow (i found his quote while doing some research on the meaning of religion), “It is apparent that religion can be seen as a theological, philosophical, anthropological, sociological, and psychological phenomenon of human kind. To limit religion to only one of these categories is to miss its multifaceted nature and lose out on the complete definition.” Jones definition clearly being  a more complex one, suits my personal ideas of religion.

A “phenomenon of human kind” which only exists to further divide our global population into sectors that have indefinitely branched from one another, to define our purpose in life. I would like to state that if I had to choose a religious denomination I would categorize myself as an atheist, for I do believe that “God” (when defined as the Supreme being, creator and ruler of all) is a human-made construct. Thus, I am aware that religious ideas and believes are made up of layers after layers of tradition, philosophical, sociological and anthropological values, therefore, I attempt to understand them (from an analytical/academic perspective).

When reading the various world religions profiles on BBC news I realized that they are all not so different from each other. Lets take Christianity and Islam, the two with the most followers in the world, both are monotheistic religions that have existed for thousands of years, are based on a holy book and teachings of God’s prophets. Christian believes can also be found in Santeria, which borrows some religious sense from Christian practices. Like Santeria, Rastafarians worship in ways that are somewhat uncommon, for instance, Rastafairians smoke marijuana to enhance their spiritual connection with their God, meanwhile Santerians sacrifice animals for their God. Both marihuana and animal scarification are illegal in the United States. These are only a few of the multiple comparisons that can be drawn along multiple religious practices and believes. They are all so similar and yet so different.

[Sometimes I want to ask people: Since when do you believe in your “God”? When did you decide that this is the “God” that you wanted to believe in? If you’ve believed in that religion your entire life, then someone had to decide for you… right? So you’ve been taught to believe in something that you never decided to believe in. It has been taught to you why? I think it’s all about power and control, and so many are immersed in a religious world that will never allow them to answer the above questions for themselves, after all, I may just be tempting “evil” thoughts!]

Sometimes, I wish we could break through religious barriers, bring down the walls of churches and temples and unite everyone under one roof of religious acceptance (not fake tolerance). Maybe if we start by deconstructing gender norms and stop dressing our children in either blue or pink when they are born, then that could be the first step towards deconstructing a religiously segregated world. After all, various religions still evoke a gender hierarchy in their practices, such as Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam are four religions which are obviously male-oriented. For example: In Christianity women are not allowed to become priests (a position of respect and religious power within the church), in Hinduism women are not allowed to become either monks nor Guru’s (leaders of the spiritual community) and in Rastafari women have an entirely different code of religion. For now, gender will continue to be a category that further separates us, physically, socially and within religions.

…we can’t all just get along. Globally, we have divided ourselves, and we are all too deep in it. BBC features nineteen different religions on their “Religion and Ethics” site, which one defines you? Which one have you chosen to be the one that separates you from everyone else, from all of the others? Why can’t we all just get along? We’re all just humans.

Reference: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/

Tags: Flow