Introspection: Finding god, choosing sides, losing faith


We had a little rain last night here in Depok; perhaps the changing barometric pressure elicited some dreams. Apparently, the Black Forest is no longer on the corner of South Nicollet and 26th, but is somewhere down Jalan Margonda Raya, across the street from Ayam Bakar Christina. Anyone who has asked me where I would like to meet for a drink in Minneapolis will know how much of a loss this is for me. (By the way, it really is worth a trip over here, just for the grilled chicken at Ayam Bakar Christina, Christina’s Grilled Chicken, with lalap and sambal…) I don’t remember what language the group was speaking, some of whom I recognized, some I didn’t, and I think there was someone playing badminton somewhere…

I seem to exist recently with a certain degree of paranoia. It’s based on an exaggerated perception of reality, of course; but it is still based on reality. Like the fear that I will offend someone (or everyone) with these letters of unconsidered streams of conscious… Also, for example, I sometimes feel that everyone I meet is on a mission to convert me to their persuasion, be it a political or a religious one. Which is great, I am always wanting to know about such things. However, the implications of such encounters seem to have more gravity in my present situation, and they reach beyond the realm of intellectual stimulation and perhaps into one of survival. Religion is such a divisive issue, lines are constantly being drawn, and one gets the impression that you have to be on one side or the other. Most of the white/ Western people that I encounter at University (in my limited experience) are from missionary organizations, or from NGO’s that have a degree of missionary work built into their development activities. Many of the South Koreans, too. I am constantly getting invitations to come to church on Sunday. Also, it is not uncommon for a Muslim to perceive that I am curious to learn about their religion or how it affects their life or society and take the opportunity to do a little proselytizing.

What is it that attracts such polarization here? What is different about my environment back in Minnesota that people are not compelled to act out their religious rituals in such a publicly visible and uncompromising way?

To tell the truth, if it came down to it, I don’t know which side I would join up with. It is sad, I think, that I even consider the possibility that one might have to choose sides in a battle. Famous for its support of the Non-Aligned Movement, I’d like to think that Indonesians would appreciate the fact that I prefer to be, for the moment, “Non-Aligned.”

However, just as children are destined to cry for the lost illusion of Santa Clause (OK, I’m not “global” enough yet to drop my ‘Western’ cultural vantage point), I fear that idealists such as myself – people who want to believe that a global humanity can transcend the divisive traits recognized in the present – are destined to cry for the loss of their illusion.

In fear is no way to live, however. I will maintain my belief in that “illusion,” even when it is betrayed by news headlines and experience.

Live Long and Prosper.

“…a week earlier I’d been locked into the idea that the Redskins would win easily- but when Nixon came out for them and George Allen began televising his prayer meetings I decided that any team with both God and Nixon on their side was fucked from the start.”

— “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail” Hunter S. Thompson

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