Tag Archives: Family

On the Power of Guilt

Dearest Father,

As you well know, we are once again in the Season of the Fast. It seems like barely any time has passed since I wrote you about the last season, and I am certain that it won’t be long before I find myself yammering away about the next Season of the Fast, wondering what happened to the year in between. Such is the way of our childish minds; time seems to fly when we give it little attention, and appears to crawl when we focus on it most intently.

I almost missed the bells this time. So far have I travelled that the sound barely resonated in my ears. I was actually stunned by how little I was affected by the noise. There was a time when the sound of the bell would have evoked strong emotions in my heart, when I would have been compelled to face the Season with all the solemnity deserving of your trials in the wilderness. There was a time when I would have prepared for the arrival of the Season days in advance, eagerly awaiting the bestowment of ash upon my forehead so that I could mark time till the celebration of the resurrection of the Brother-Saviour. Such a time is long gone, dearest Father, for I almost entirely forgot about the Season this year, and I when I did hear the bells, it was with heavy reluctance that I dragged myself to a House outpost to participate in the receiving of ashes.

I am sure you are not surprised by this, Father. The past months have seen me devolve ever so slowly into condemning what I perceive to be the flawed and counterintuitive manner in which you have made and ruled our world. With my mind drawing farther from you is it any wonder that my heart has started to do the same? Among the greatest motivations claimed by your children for their worship is love. Where others claim to be cowed into submission by your awesomeness and power, or cajoled into acceptance by promises of paradise, your children say that they are with you because you love them and they you. They say that your love is the reason for everything around them, that your love is all that they need to live and breathe. As you can tell from the tone and topics of my letters past, I have looked upon your world and my poor eyes are finding it very difficult to see this song-inspiring love all your children seem to speak about. Perhaps if I were a child of the Crescent or the Star such an absence would have had no bearing on my closeness to you, but in a House built on love it is little wonder that it has left a sour taste in my mouth.

Of course the fact that my heart has been drifting from you did not prevent me from receiving the ash many days ago. And the fact that my ire has been raised towards you has not prevented me from wondering once again what to give up in these 40 days. Try as I may dearest Father I cannot shake off the biting guilt that I am doing something wrong by not fasting this holy season. I am angry with you, distant from you, unsure of whether or not I shall ever return to you. I have questioned everything in the doctrines that the House and the Family have told me about you. Even last year, when I was much closer to home, I pondered on the effectiveness of the Brother-Saviour’s sacrifice and in so doing drew into question the point of the entire season and the celebrations that it preceded. And yet, even as I tell myself that I owe you nothing until my questions are answered, I still cannot ignore the pangs in my chest from ignoring tradition. I feel as though I am betraying not just you by failing to observe the Season’s solemnities, but myself as well, and try as I may I cannot convince myself otherwise. My heart, it seems, is set in its guilt.

Perhaps it is my devout upbringing speaking. Perhaps it is the effect of years upon years of Universal Family training via the Catechism, and the host of prayers I had to memorise as I child. Perhaps it is in fact you that is talking to me, in one of the famously ambiguous (and quite frankly ineffective) ways many claim you speak to your children. Or perhaps it is the famed guilt all children of the Universal Family claim to possess, even those like me that have strayed far from home.

It matters not, dearest Father, for regardless of its cause this guilt has kept me up at night and caused me a lot of bother. I have considered simply defaulting to fasting from food as I did last year, but Doubt has warned that such a sacrifice would be hollow for I already go 12 hours between meals quite frequently. I do not know what to do, but I know that this compulsion will not cease until my guilt is sated.

I find it most strange that this guilt has had such sway over me these past few days. It would be funny, would it not, if my guilt ends up being the reason I remain close to you, if even when faced with all I cannot accept and all I do not understand, I end up back in your arms in a desperate bid to hush the disquiet in my chest. One must wonder how many remain in the House not because they truly believe in your power and your love, but because they feel too guilty to take a step outside the gates.

With a guilty heart,

Your Prodigal Son

P.S. Please forgive the lateness of the letter, Father. I was to send it shortly after the Day of Ashes but my earthly duties have kept me quite busy and I haven’t had the time. Hopefully it arrives before the Season ends.

P.P.S. Doubt has suggested meat, Father. Do you think that is a worthy sacrifice from a heart mired in guilt?

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On Fathers and Their Works

Dear Father,

Today is a day for fathers. Today, all around me, people are praising their fathers, appreciating their fathers, showing their fathers that their endless labours of love have not gone unnoticed. Today our fathers are the centres of our attention, the axes of our small universes. And so today, setting aside all my musings and discoveries about truth, arbitration, doubt, knowledge and what not, I think it fitting to focus the purpose of my letter on you Father, the Father of all fathers.  I understand that by Universal Family tradition the Day of Fathers was the nineteenth of the third month, but I already spent that day writing about my companion, and so I feel in many ways that you are owed this missive.

I would love to praise you Father, to shower you with the kinds of words I have heard uttered by my fellow men on this celebratory day. I would love to tell you how grateful I am for all that I have, how wonderful this life is that you have given me. And it is wonderful. I am not as affluent as some of your other children, but I am satisfied. By your grace I have never wanted for anything; all the things I have needed to ensure a comfortable and happy life have been provided me. I have had friends genuinely concerned about my wellbeing; I have had family to support and shelter me; I have had a mother that cares for and nurtures me; and I have had father that guides and protects me. I have, quite frankly, had it all, and on days such as this, when I think on the things my earthly father has done for me, I am filled with what I expect other children felt as they showered their fathers with praise.

It hasn’t always been perfect, my relationship with my father. I have not always liked some of the decisions he has taken. There have been days when I wished I was not his son, days when I hoped to see him vanish. As I have advanced in age however, I have learned to see the reason behind many of his actions. I have come to understand that he loves me, that he has sacrificed a great deal for me and for my siblings, and that all he does he does with the hopes that he would be able to provide us with better opportunities and better lives than he and his brethren had. On a day like this, thinking on things that he has done, I can appreciate some of his work. I can appreciate my father. We may disagree on his methods, but there comes with the understanding that his intentions are good a certain respect. He is only human, after all, much like the rest of us, and expecting absolute perfection from him is simply expecting failure.

With you, however, the situation is quite different. Of course I understand that a lot of what my earthly father has been able to do for me, he has only been able to do because of you.  In fact he, the staunch Universalist that he is, would say that you have been doing these things through him. With requisite humility he would say that any feelings of appreciation I feel towards him should be directed to you, for he would have been powerless without your help, purposeless without your guidance. And therein lies the rub, dearest Father, for while I can accurately conclude that my father has done no more for me than he has for my siblings, I cannot say the same for you. I have looked at the world around me, at your other children both within the House and outside it. I have stared at your creation, from the lowliest pauper to the highest prince, and what I have seen has not convinced me of your benevolence. It has in fact nearly convinced me of the exact opposite.

There are glaring inequalities amongst your children, dear Father. In the same manner that some live in comfort and abundance, others live without their most basic needs. In the same manner that some are surrounded by friends and family, others, through no fault of their own, are surrounded by foes and demons, placed in these unfortunate situations by no more than an accident of birth. In the same manner that I have never had to want for anything, even now that I have left your House and spoken critically of your person, there are countless that have dedicated themselves completely to you and yet suffer daily, bearing pain upon pain all for your sake.

Ignoring your children and looking upon your world we are met yet again with the same problem. For every single beautiful day, fresh of air and warm of feeling, there are days of such immense cold and darkness it is a wonder they even exist. It has been ages since I sat to peruse the words of your Book but I remember what it said after it had described your amazing works of creation. It said that this earth was good. That you looked upon your creation, upon all that you had ever made, and you concluded that it was perfect, just as you wished. I remember thinking on this as a child, remember looking at the horrors around me: the beggars in the street, ravaged by disease; the stories of floods displacing people and destroying homes; the tales of earthquakes crushing towns, and I remember wondering: Where is the good in this? Your world, your good world, it seems, would like nothing more than to be done with your children, to wipe itself clean of our existence. We have to build houses, take drugs, wear clothes, and employ vast amounts of accessorising in order to give ourselves a fighting chance; and no sooner are we done with these than are we reminded, often in a manner most brutal, of the fragility of our tiny constructed domiciles, of the frailty of these forms we call bodies.

And then there is the issue of the nature of your children. I have oft mentioned this in my other letters, lamenting on how lacking we are when compared to you, our Father. As you know, I left the House because of your apparent absence, because I seeking you had never once seen you. In my younger days, when I voiced my doubts about this wonderful and perfect Father everyone seemed to talk about, I was told to look around me, told that I would see you in your works. Well Father, on what better work am I to focus my attention than on your greatest work of all: your children? I must say that I have looked at my brethren Father, and what I have found is not promising.

Looking at the things we do to each other, the horrible acts of murder, theft, rape, betrayal, discrimination, that we do with ever increasing viciousness to each other, it is hard, very hard, to believe that we have a perfect Father. We are supposedly made in your image, cast in your mould, and yet every single thing we do spits in the face of this notion. Our minds are weak, easily falling prey to Doubt and falsehoods; our hearts are rank and dark, often compelling us to do the most horrible things to even those that we care very deeply for. And we were the last thing you made, Father, the pinnacle of your already perfect creation.

I wish I could say, much like those I left in the House, that the few goods things I have seen on your earth are enough to cause me to forget the bad. But they are not. In a world where more of your children for most of their history have lived in conditions most deplorable, in a world where they are supposed to have a Father much more powerful than the one that nurtured and cared for me growing up, it is difficult to believe that this Father is good, or that he has done his best. It is difficult for me to look upon you with appreciation and praise, to acknowledge, with even the slightest hint of approval, the work that you have done.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not say that I am well aware of the answers the House has given to some of the problems I have listed so far. I would also be remiss if I did not say that my months of thought and observation have largely led me to view these answers with scepticism. Adamant that you are perfect, dearest Father, they have laid the responsibility of the earth’s issues with us, the children. You, blameless before men, holiest in all the universe, cannot be responsible for all the evil that we see. No. We, your weak and frail children, found a way to damage your perfect creation. Your Book says this, the elders confirm it. And years of listening to this, spoken by various House members in various ways, have revealed the primary progenitors of these issues: free will and its direct consequence, sin. Powerful things these are, Father, for they effectively free you of all responsibility, absolve you of all blame. They tell us, on this Day of Fathers, that we are the cause of our problems, not the being responsible for all that we have and are. They tell us that we need not look to our Father for why we are so terrible; we can only blame ourselves.

I will be addressing both of these in coming letters, free will and sin. But on this day Father, I cannot praise you. The magnitude of all that we are not weighs too heavily upon me. Because it matters not what excuses our elders or your holy Book give. In the end you are the Father, and we the children. If you are really so perfect, surely you would have been able to do better than this; surely we would have been able to rise higher than the base acts our lowly natures compel us towards. We are nothing like the perfect image you are supposed to be, and thinking on this, dear Father, I find it most suspect. There is, after all, a saying amongst your children about apples and their trees.

 

With sadness and disappointment,

Your Prodigal Son

 

P.S. As with the letter on your guide, this would probably reach you after the Day of Fathers has passed. Forgive me, Father; I had a slight preoccupation.

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On My Departure

Dearest Father,

I have left home. I cannot say I am surprised by this, and neither (I expect) can you. And no, that is not a reference to your wonderful gift of knowledge, which permits you to know anything you desire. No; even if you were of limited mind like me and the rest of my brethren, you must have been able to sense this inevitability through my behaviour these past years. I have left home, and I have taken with me my possessions, all that you have given me since the day I was born. I am writing specifically to you and not the rest of the Family because, well, they do not know that I have left. To them, I am simply not around. It is a testament to the size of both the Family and the Ground Floor that I can leave the House completely and no one would be able to tell I am gone. Those in my wing, my dearest, closest relatives, they would simply assume I am visiting another wing. And those in this supposed other wing? They have never met me; they will not be expecting me, and so they cannot be suspicious when I do not show up.

Keeping with tradition, you were absent when I shut the door behind me. You are always absent, even though the official Family line is: “You are Everywhere.” In fact, your apparent absence is among the reasons I left, but I am sure you already knew that. Nevertheless, it would have been nice to have you show up just this once, if only to bid me farewell. You cannot be happy that I am leaving, but I can cynically assume that some of my uncles and aunts Upstairs are slightly pleased by this turn of events; the celebration that is bound to ensue should I return is something I am sure they are looking forward too. Perhaps you share their joy. Regardless, happy or sad, I think, as all children do, that my Father should have been present for an event as momentous as this.

Your absence at the time of my departure is the primary reason I am writing to you. As I said, I took all my possessions. I have been told, however, that it is customary to give departing sons their inheritance as well. I have no idea what this inheritance could possibly be, but I am already giddy with anticipation. You are the greatest Father there is; one can only expect that the inheritance for your children would put the most opulent of humans to shame. I left a note with one of the guards at the gate before I left, but I have not received a reply. This letter addresses that. Without the peace of mind that comes from being at home, I find that I am in dire need of whatever tools you can send me. I know I left willingly, but you are my Father. Indulge me this last time, and I promise not to disturb you again. Besides, this is my inheritance, no?

In other news, the Outside is not nearly as scary as I was made to believe as a child. You cannot imagine (perhaps because you already know) the trepidation that gripped me as I opened the compound gate. I fully expected to be swarmed by You-Know-Who’s minions the moment I stepped out, immediately drowned in their calls and cries. But there was nary a whisper beyond the gates. In fact, had the gate not been standing behind me, I would have wondered if I had even left at all. All that is to say that I am faring quite well; I have seen nothing too shocking or out of the ordinary. I have, however, picked up a friend, a strange creature with tiny wings and bright eyes. It’s been flying beside me all day and even now, as I write, it watches me with its soft, tiny eyes. I am starting to suspect that it is one of his minions. Small fish like me probably deserve small watchers. I do not like it though; it’s eyes are a tad too piercing. I feel like it can stare into my head. Perhaps a tool in my inheritance kit will help me deal with it…

I’ll wrap up now. The bulk of my responsibilities have not changed since I left the House, and I must still attend to them. Alas the life of a young man remains largely the same, whether inside or Outside. I look forward to hearing from you Father; it can be very lonely on the other side of the gate.

With love,

Your Prodigal Son

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