Pecan came home from school the other day with a rather thoughtful look on his face. He looked rather subdued, which, in itself, is rather unusual. The afternoon snack too, was eaten with nay a murmur – another first of its sorts. The afternoon snack was eaten pretty fast and the cup of milk downed without any protest – a h.u.g.e first.
Something was on his mind. Something was bothering him. We did not know what it was. We would not know what was troubling him – until and unless he chose to tell us. With Pecan, prodding around for information does not really help. It just serves to push him into a shell – pretty much like our turtle Timmy.
Come late evening, Macademia was heard calling Pecan for the evening prayers. There was no response. Instead, Pecan turned around with a “Can I ask you a question ?”. Here it comes, I thought to myself.
“Is there really a God ?” asked Pecan
“Yes. I do believe that there is a God” I said, sounding totally sincere since those words echoed from the bottom of my heart.
“How do you know that there is a God ?” asked Pecan. “Is there any proof ?”. You can't see God, you can't hear God .... then how do you know there is a God ?"
“How else do you explain creation ? How else do you explain the universe, the people on it, the life on it, the sustenance that it provides ? “
“That can also be science, no ?” retorted Pecan
“There is a God.” said Macademia, looking befuddled and rather perplexed by this line of questioning from Pecan.
“If there is a God, why is there so much fighting around the world ?” asked Pecan.
Then came the crux of the matter ……
“You know, Mummy – I was just telling my friends at school that God is everywhere. They laughed at me.” said Pecan. “They said there is no such thing as God”.
I was, honestly, foxed.
How does one explain an abstract concept like faith to a 7 year old ?
The Wikipedia defines faith thus “Faith is the confident belief or trust in the trust or trustworthiness of a person, concept or thing.”
Ever tried explaining that to a child ??
Trust me when I say – It is rather difficult to get the essence of the whole concept across in all its entirety, in all its beauty and in all its wholeness and completeness.
We told him that to have faith in something means to place your trust in something. It could be a person, it could be an invisible entity like God, it could be one of your beliefs – something that you stand by very strongly.
“Does God break people’s trust ? Ever ?” came the question from Pecan.
“Yeah, I know what he means” said Macademia. “Like when there is an earthquake or something, so many people die. I mean, what did they do to die in an earthquake. There are kids whose parents die in such quakes and the kids are left all alone. What did they do ?”
“Yeah” nodded Pecan. “All the people who are injured or who die in accidents or natural disasters – don’t they believe in God ? Then why do all these things happen to them ?”
Yet again, we came down to another difficult concept.
Something that is very true, something that has always been true, something that will always remain true – “What goes around, comes around.” “You do good to people, it comes back to you in some form or the other and vice versa.”
Yet again, we do strongly believe in this concept – because life has taught us this – in its own inimitable ways. It is not tangible, it is not concrete, it may not be solid or material – yet this belief persists in a very strong sense – because we’ve placed our “faith” in it. Having read, seen and realized that Karma and the effects of Karma do exist has made it infinitely easier for us to “believe”.
Martin Luther King, Jr. put it very succinctly, when he said
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
How does one put all this into a package which a seven year old and a ten year old can understand ?
Very intricate, elaborate and complex, is it not ?
Macademia, through it all, has definitely seen a lot more of life than has Pecan. She knows what it is like to be isolated, what it is like to be bullied, the pain associated with it and in a lot of ways she has realized that some things are beyond our capacity, as human beings. She is in the process of realizing that there are lots of things which defy a tangible or a concrete definition, yet somehow, it is evident.
The first few foundations of this rather indefinable, indescribable and to a great extent ethereal and subtle concept called “faith” have been laid in Macademia. The teacher has been none other than life itself.
We, as adults, have seen many facets of life that children are as yet unaware of. While we are only too painfully aware of the many wrongdoings around the world, we are also aware of the hows, whys and the why nots – to a much larger extent that children. The spectrum of being worldly wise is, fortunately or unfortunately, much wider in adults than it is in children. Adults have learnt, sometimes the hard way, that life is much more than just shades of black and white. For the most part, what we deal with and what we come across, are indeed those shades of grey that fall neither in the category of black nor in the category of white.
Children, in their purity of heart and the innocence that they are blessed with, believe in single colors. They haven’t, as yet, come across the mixed shades in this huge canvass, this enormous continuum that we call life. Thus, where there is a clash of beliefs, there is bound to be confusion, there is bound to be doubt.
When we were kids, there was no explanation given for rules laid down. If our parents said “This is the way this is”, well ….. that was it. It was an unspoken law - something that was not meant to be questioned, something that was not meant to be argued over, something that was absolutely not to be negated – not in terms of words, deeds or actions. It simply had to be followed.
Now, with parenting having undergone a lot many changes, the equation has changed too.
With parents now being more receptive, with the manner of parenting differing, with the mode and approach being more open – such questions are bound to come up. When there is an element of confusion or a clash of beliefs, children are bound to come back with questions. And as a parent, I’ve realized that it is not always easy to answer them – in a way that covers the whole picture, in a way that encompasses all the shades, in a way that balances all aspects and components.
What Joyce Maynard once said, makes so much sense in situations like these
“It is not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.”