Talismans & ShibbolethsT. SHER SINGH
Monday, August 27, 2012
It’s a fascinating phenomenon.
Ever watched sports on the telly?
Soccer, ice-hockey, cricket. Whatever.
Or the Olympics. Runners, swimmers, jumpers, cyclists, divers … synchronized swimming?
Ever noticed how athletes, during the precious moments before the race or game begins, look skywards, roll their eyes into their heads, and make signs with their hands, or fingers, or heads. Sometimes mutter something. Sometimes kiss a talisman hanging around the neck, or hold it up to the heavens to show somebody up there as proof of their piety. Then they give a prefunctory bow of the head, and off they go … blessed and consecrated.
Hopefully, even guaranteed victory.
But there’s always disappointment, at least for most of them. If there are ten runners, only one wins, or only three get to the podium, the rest lose. If it’s team sport, say soccer, one team wins, the other loses. Even if it’s a draw, ultimately, one loses, the other wins.
Has anyone been keeping track? Whose protection was the winner under? Wouldn’t it be good to know, for example, if all gold medal winners worship the same deity? I would be willing to follow suit if there was stats to back it up.
Strange, but the deities these good people turn to for help haven’t found a way of helping them all win, because I‘ve noticed that almost always some of the losers have been claiming protection of the same power that helped the winner. It appears the deity chooses one, and abandons the others.
I’m not one to question the veracity of anyone’s faith, or the power of any deity to deliver. But I am curious. So many people are into this religious sponsorship bit - intelligent, rational beings, all, I’m sure - that I want to know what I’m missing out on.
Hence these questions.
So, the fact that a person continues to appeal for help to an entity implies that there’s been success, some good results, in the past, doesn’t it? What’s the score, it would be nice to know, with any given god or goddess?
Surely, if it isn’t 100%, you want to try something else. Look for someone with a perfect average.
Or, if your deity has failed you, what do you do?
Have a dialogue with him when you get home? Give an ultimatum? Offer a bigger bribe? Say a few more prayers? Or simply threaten to switch to another?
Is it that Usain Bolt’s deity is stronger than those of the others?
How about Michael Phelps’? He obviously had linked up with a powerful force. But then, what went wrong? A falling out? Things weren’t going too well for him for a while in London. Trouble in paradise? Time to renegotiate terms? Or the deal simply fell through and Phelps said: That’s it, I’ve had enough of you. I’ll swim no more. So, I don’t need you no more!
What athletes do, of course, is their business. More power to them, no matter what the source of their power.
But where things get a bit antsy is when I see those who call themselves leaders and strive to lead nations, when I see them doing the same thing.
And I don’t even want to get into analyzing wars where each side claims to have God on its side, yet only one side wins … if at all. Certainly, each side suffers terrible losses, regardless of whether they subscribe to the same god or separate ones. But let’s not get into all of that here.
What I want to talk about is the other sport: elections.
Talismans and shibboleths - the very same ones employed by the athletes - are also brought into service, I notice, by our politicians.
I remember how fervently Rick Santorum prayed - publicly - with his pastor, reminding God to favour him and his supporters (the good ones) against the rest (the not-so-good ones), so that he could then save the world from the non-believers (the bad ones).
I remember they looked so sincere. And felt for them when they lost, abandoned - I suppose - by God.
I wonder what Santorum and his pastor did then. What went on in their church the next Sunday? Or at home that night, when he (Rick, for example) was alone in his bedroom, kneeling down, and talking to God?
Did God say I need more donations? More prayer? More buildings, or higher ones? A total ban on abortion, maybe? Or a more aggressive campaign against gays? Muslims? All “non-Christians”? Or that he had decided to favour someone else? But why? And for how long? How far? All the way to the presidency, or merely the Republican leadership and no more?
Was Newt Gingrich having the same argument with God in his bedroom?
I mean, surely, if you publicly claim a special relationship with the Big Guy, you need to show some proof, some results, sooner or later. You can’t go through life claiming to be special and yet have nothing to show for it.
If you claim tebowing produces results, then winning two times out of four doesn’t help your story much, does it?
I mean, look at George W. Obviously, someone somewhere, someone really big was favouring him. After all, he became President of the most powerful nation on earth, for heaven’s sake!
But then, couldn’t that all-powerful deity that he had on his side, couldn’t It/He/She also got him some respect? To be President and yet be treated like everybody’s village idiot, now that’s a bummer.
And now, in retirement, he has to skulk away in his home, not allowed to come out into the public much, for fear that bad people might do bad things to him. Did God abandon him? Why this life imprisonment?
Or, may I ask, has God been punishing him all along?
Or, if I may let my imagination wander, Doctor Faustus comes to mind immediately. Did “W” make a deal, not with God but with the devil, and had to pay a price for all the undeserved and unearned goodies he received?
Am I being unfair in asking these questions?
If we genuinely believe that God is on our side at all times, then when he beats us up, isn’t it fair to assume, that he’s unhappy with us? Maybe we’ve done something wrong?
Shouldn’t we then be asking somebody why, or doing some kind of soul-searching?
I had always believed - I mean, they claim so and I have no reason to question their claim - that God was a Republican and that he was on the side of the Republicans.
So how come this Hurricane Isaac that’s messed up the Republican Convention this week? It couldn’t have had worse timing for the Republicans.
I’ve read the bible, and I do remember how God speaks to his people, especially when he’s angry. Surely there is a message in all of this for the Republicans, what with the storms and tornadoes and things being pulled out of their roots and thrown around like tooth-picks, especially where they‘ve all gathered this weekend?
I’m not saying there is. I’m just asking.
Isaac was son of Abraham and dear to God. There must be a reason why God sent Isaac to Tampa, don’t you think?
Conversation about this article
1: R. Singh (Canada), August 28, 2012, 7:44 AM.
We are as guilty as well. The merits of becoming 'nirbhau' escapes us. Amidst all the debates about our outer form and environment, we neglect the inside mind. Distracted and impressed by the props, we feel deprived seeing others whip out a talisman or a chant, the mindless fear of getting left behind, in receiving divine handouts, drowning any memory of ever hearing of the art of living fearlessly and respecting the Hukam - something that should be entrenched in our psyche. Alas, God did not guarantee us automatic immersion - effort is the name of any game.