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

Spiritual Museums?

September 6th, 2009 · No Comments

So arriving in London two weeks ago I have dove into a world of museums, churches, and recognizable landmarks (some of these locations encompassing all three of these aspects; ie. Westminster Abbey/St Paul’s ). As I read my other classmates blogs about these locations I was less than inspired though to throw my two-sense into the conversation.  However after visiting the Sikh gurdwara I realized that discussing the architecture or the history of these churches was not what I was interested in.  Rather, my focus was on the spirituality and religious nature of these locations (or lack there of as the case may be).

I’d be crazy not to acknowledge Westmnister Abbey’s incredible architecture– the dedication to style as additions were made to the building, the multitude of famous persons from his or her particular field buried in the ground of the building.  I had the same reeling of awe walking around St. Paul’s Cathedral.  The detailed stained glass windows, the enormous dome, the ceremonial burial sites all over the building—they are images I will remember forever.  However, as I left both of those places I felt more like I was leaving a museum than a church.

Because of this feeling I decided to stay at St. Paul’s for evening song.  It was a beautiful service, but I continuously found myself distracted by the other tourists walking up and down the church looking at all of the graves.  I hoped that I would find myself in a state of spiritual prayer, but only found myself frustrated.  I had a similar reaction when I sat in on Holy Communion at Bath Abbey.  Sitting in another beautiful church, trying to take in and appreciate the holiest of sacraments and all I could focus on was the people going in and out of the attached gift shop.

While also in Bath I decided to wander down random alleys exploring the city.  It was here where I ran into St. John the Evangelist, a Roman Catholic Church.  Being the first Catholic church I had seen since arriving I decided to go in.  Assuming to find myself surrounded by graves and gift shops yet again, I was in disbelief to find myself in one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. No gimmicks. No crowds. Beautiful architecture. Amazing stained glass. And peace. I couldn’t even tell you how long I just sat there, engulfed in the church’s beauty and feeling of spirituality.

When I attended St. Patrick’s in SOHO for a service I hoped I would feel the same sense of peace I did in Bath, but was slightly disappointed not to.  I’m not sure why, but I’m hoping as I continue to investigate churches in both London and Norwich I will find a common thread in why I find some churches and temples more spiritual than others.

**I wrote this last night, and I thought it had posted. And now after visiting the Hindu temple I have even more thoughts on this subject, but will expand later. **

Tags: Amanda · Churches and Cathedrals

A Taste of Home

August 26th, 2009 · No Comments

As I’ve said to some of you in conversation, I don’t consider myself to be a very religious person but I am rather spiritual. Visiting Westminster Abbey today was INCREDIBLE, and so I really wanted to attend Evensong since I’ve never experienced an entire mass in song.  Unfortunately, the choir was not available this evening but we stayed for Evening Prayer instead.  The whole church “process” felt familiar to me, and was thus comforting.  Much of the ritual and most of the prayers were exactly the same, and so I enjoyed having a small taste of home.

I think that religion can either be one of the most unifying or one of the most dividing factors between cultures, depending on how you look at it.  For cultures that subscribe to entirely different religions, I’m sure it’s a difficult obstacle to overcome and that agreement or even healthy debate is nearly impossible because it’s such an emotionally and personally charged subject.  However, I come from a varied background (I grew up in a Reformed Church, then a Nondenominational Church, went to a Catholic youth group, work at a Protestant summer camp, and agree with many ideas from other religions such as Buddhism).  Therefore, I find it easy to notice details or concepts within almost any religion that I can identify with.  Westminster Abbey’s service was so similar to Catholic services I’ve attended, and I remembered a homily from the United States in which the priest said that “everybody meets in the Eucharist.”  Even though the people I sat with during the service in London were strangers, from assumedly varied backgrounds, we experienced the same ceremony together.  I found it to be a bonding experience, because even if we didn’t all necessary believe the same things or wholeheartedly agree on all the things stated, we all attended and stayed for the entire service collectively.  Maybe I’m alone here, but I found that somewhat comforting.

I understand that religion can be a touchy subject, but it is important to me and I enjoy knowing that it can (and did) carry over between my home in America and my new experience in London.

Tags: Amy