Friday, 31 August 2007

My poor, beautiful, injured car

Good morning, boys and girls.

Today's the last day of August, so I considered it my duty to update one more time, avoiding the shame and humiliation of admitting that I only updated twice this month. Thrice is far more impressive.

I don't have any particular philosophical ramblings to communicate, nor events to divulge, nor 101 tasks to exult over. Unfortunately, this whole blog has mostly fit into one or other of the above categories; when I have none of the above to talk about, I'm slightly at a loss.

This has been a crazy week, though. Partly due to my own lack of organisation, I have to admit, but not all my own fault. I had an assignment due last Friday; one on Monday; one today; and two next week. Add to that visits from Darcy, Shaun and my sister, and three contact courses, all within this week, and it was busy — especially when two of the contact courses fell on exactly the same days. Amusingly, they're exactly across the hall from each other, so I'm sitting in one lecture room, looking across the hall at the other lecture I'm meant to be at.

I was gutted that I didn't actually have time to hang out with Shaun in the end — I almost didn't have time to hang out with Darcy either, but managed to squeeze him in. And it was great to see Anna — Joy cooked dinner for her, Dan and me, and afterwards she and Dan and I went to his place and watched a movie. Just relaxed... but I guess Anna and Dan haven't ever really hung out together before (living on different islands makes it difficult), so that was cool. She and I are so alike though, it was hilarious. Joy didn't notice it, but Dan and I definitely did.

My big stress for next week, though, is not my two assignments — nor my meeting with my lecturer — nor even my job interview on Monday (wish me luck! although Kylie may never speak to me again if I get it).

My big stress is my sister. Well, more accurately, my car.

My sister in my car.

Yup, next week Anna is borrowing my beautiful, new, glossy, featureful car to drive up to Auckland with one of her friends to go to a concert. My baby sister driving my car for several hours on end. Then in Auckland. That's Auckland — not renowned for easy traffic. Then keep my precious car there overnight. Then drive back.

All without crashing or being broken into or hitting another car or being hit by another car or bumping something while parking or getting out of a park or falling asleep at the wheel or having my lovely new car stereo stolen....

Stressed, so very very stressed! If anything does happen, Anna's volunteered to bear the costs (damn straight!) but when I asked her if she actually had enough money to cover the excess, she had to admit she doesn't. So I would have to pay anyway, and then my little sister would owe me money (cos I'm not forgiving that kind of a debt!) and owing money within the family worries me. Or being owed money within the family, for that matter.

It's stressful, it's very stressful. I'll be so relieved when (when, not ifwhen) my car is back with me, safe and relatively sound. We're ignoring the fact that I've actually mildly jarred it twice in the last two weeks — once misjudging the distance as I edged out of a parallel park, and once a fence springing up to plow a huge horrible dent in my poor car. I feel so guilty for injuring my beautiful car!

Surprisingly enough, writing about all the things that could and have gone wrong with my car is not calming me notably, either. In fact, I might go and do what I'm actually meant to be doing — working on the assignment due today.

I hope my poor, beautiful car is OK. I hope my sister treats it well. I hope Auckland treats her well.

...Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

Friday, 10 August 2007


I can't remember when it occurred to me that I didn't have a cultural background. There's the Maori culture, Aboriginal culture, Native American culture, Russian cultures — but what's the Pakeha (New Zealand European) culture? I couldn't think of anything that was culturally mine, and suddenly I felt a chasm of historical nothingness open up behind me.

I do have a culture, of course. Christianity.

It only occurred to me recently, how closely religion and culture are connected. It explains why so many indigenous cultures have been wiped out, in missionaries' zealous attempts to chase out ungodliness. It shows why Christians who come from a different culture, can have problems reconciling their faith with their intrinsic beliefs and systems.

I can't remember what brought it up, maybe the furor a little while ago about having a Maori Day. After all, Maori don't have a day that's specifically theirs.

That got me thinking about how Pakeha don't have a day that's specifically ours, either. Not that I particularly feel the need for one, to be fair. I've heard the argument that every holiday New Zealand has is a Pakeha holiday — Christmas, Easter, Labour Day, Waitangi Day, Anzac Day and so on. A couple of those are debatable. But all of them (except Waitangi Day) at least have English names.

I've wondered, since I stopped believing in God, if I should still celebrate days like Easter and Christmas. I do, of course. Even if I'm not exactly thanking Jehovah for the gift of his son, I don't see any reason not to have a fun family time and all give each other presents. I imagine very few people honestly believe in Christianity these days, but that doesn't stop almost everyone from celebrating what is still, in its essence, a Christian holiday. It's our culture.

I don't think you can ever completely separate religon from culture. You can stop practising a religion, and cut yourself off from your culture as well; but I don't think you can really adopt a religion without adopting at least some of its culture, or continue cultural observances while disassociating yourself from the related religion. Religion and culture are too intertwined.

And all this talk about culture got me thinking about cultural/historical background. Everyone else seems to have a history to be proud of.

What's my history? Englishmen and Scotsmen who came over to conquer an inoffensive land for the sake of their own greed.

I'm still proud of my history, though. I'm ashamed to think of the things those first Europeans did in New Zealand, those blood-shedding pioneers and overzealous missionaries, but it's not exactly something I can change now. And I am proud of how far the English got, their technological advances, their pioneering spirit. I'm proud to be descended from so many intelligent, courageous people.

Part of the reason I decided to major in history was to find out where I come from, what my roots are, what traditions and observances and changes my ancestors, way way back in the day, went through. I mentioned once to a fellow student on a contact course, that I was studying history "to see the wider picture of where I came from", and she eagerly recommended I take a paper on Maori history in the twentieth century. I smiled and murmured something noncommital, but I was thinking: I meant a much wider picture than that.

Maybe it was started by the hullabaloo a while back about whether or not Palmerston North should keep the cross on the top of the clock tower in the Square. In the end, the cross was knocked down during a storm (or stolen by Muslim vandals, depending on whom you listen to) and the City Council replaced it with a far uglier cross than before.

But people were protesting that the cross was offensive to people of other religions. Why not put up a Star of David, a pentacle, a crescent? Why elevate one religion over all others?

Yes, the cross is a Christian symbol. But my European heritage doesn't come with any cultural holidays or symbols that aren't Christian. To me, the cross on the clock tower isn't a symbol of Christianity lording it over all other religions — just a reminder of my Christian heritage.

My culture is Christian; my history leads from one of the world's greatest Empires; I'm proud of both. We get taught a lot about Maori history in New Zealand school, which is great. But I think it would have been nice to get some sense of pride in my own history, too.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Being happy with who YOU are

The other day I was in a conversation with someone who started talking about how I will bring up my future children. Midway through our discussion, I mentioned something about my parents' Christianity, and how they'll want my children brought up to know about Christianity and God etc (neither Dan nor I, of course, are Christian) and the person I was talking to made some sweeping statement about how my parents will have to support my beliefs as equal to theirs, or something to that effect.

I think it's very easy for people to talk about respecting other people's beliefs, when most New Zealanders don't have any firm beliefs themselves. But as someone who has had a firm belief in God in the past — even if I don't any more — I think that's rubbish. I don't mean respecting people's beliefs is rubbish; but the people spouting off that phrase usually don't honestly understand what it means to hold a strong belief.

Say I had a kid. My parents believe that if this kid doesn't become a Christian, she (we'll assume it's a girl) will go to Hell. In that case, I think the most loving, caring thing they can do for their granddaughter is to tell her about God to at least try to prevent that.

I'm not saying I'd bring my kids up as Christians; that makes no sense, when it's not something either Dan or I believe in ourselves. But if I had a kid, I'd talk to my parents about it, and as long as they don't tell my kids "Mummy's wrong and is going to hell", I've no objection to my future children learning about Christianity, deciding they want to be Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or whatever. Hell, Christianity might be true, in which case I don't particularly want my kids heading for hell either! I wouldn't undermine my parents' talks as long as they wouldn't undermine me and my partner. I don't think they would, though.

But respecting other people's beliefs is only relevant if you believe it doesn't matter in the end. "As long as you're OK with you." Truth is relative, the afterlife's unimportant, and as long as you're happy and healthy it doesn't matter if most of the world is quite literally going to Hell.

I don't really know what my point is here. I did have a point, at some stage. I think my point was that people might potentially be critical of some people (like my parents) who have strong beliefs, because my parents don't hold that all other beliefs are equal and good and irrelevant so long as the person themselves is happy. That doesn't mean that people like my parents wouldn't equally respect a Muslim or a pagan or an athiest. Just that they don't believe any belief is OK.

It's that whole thing again, being intolerant of the intolerant. So ironic.

Unfortunately, truth is not relative, facts are facts, and if there's an afterlife I'm very worried. If you're happy your whole life long and then end up in an eternity of torture, it does matter.

I don't believe in Christianity. But if any of these spiritual theories are true, then "being happy with who you are" just isn't enough, in the long run.

And people who believe that they respect all beliefs, should respect the beliefs of people who don't respect all beliefs.