Saturday, June 16, 2007

At the watchtower of Amon Sur...

In our last day at Chengdu, we visited a Daoist temple. I am not one for religion*, but I have a very respectful attitude towards visiting another person's church as a tourist site. For starters, running, pointing, staring, or reacting in any way that one would not react were one in her own church is strictly forbidden. (I chastised the girls on this several times. That's not smoke, kids. Those are somebody's prayers.) Second, I try not to understand what each of these symbols means. However good your interpreter/guide/tourist attraction finder might be, he is incomplete. You're getting the watered-down version of the story. Just take in the sight in reverence and keep moving.

Finally, once, and just once, I must perform a ritual that I see a native worshipper perform. Nobody else may see me do it. It is a sign of respect** to acknowledge that one is in the presence of the divine, even if one does not believe that there is a divine in whose presence one can be.

*Assuming, of course, that it is not worshipping me. I am all for religions centered around me. The more, the merrier!

**Today, I bowed low three times, got on my knees, and focused on one of the twelve lesser dieties of Daoism. It is not only a sign of respect; it is also a hat tip to Pascal's Wager, but in multidimensional religious space.

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