Wednesday, June 20, 2007

...the old that is strong does not wither. Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

Religion bothers me. It’s purpose, as far as I can tell, is to suggest that the common person cannot understand the universe, and to understand it, somebody else must contact some additional plane of existence in order to give meaning to the common person’s actions, as well as to prescribe what those actions should be.

Hooey, I say.

And yet, when I walk through the gate with nine rows of nine raised, painted semicircles, I touch one in accordance with the belief that it will give me good luck (nine is the luckiest number in China. As if you couldn’t tell.). When we pass the Happiness Door, I touch the double happiness and make a wish. When we stand at the Altar of Heaven, where only the emperor went to communicate with the Heavens, I too pray for the good harvest.

Why is that?

I want to believe that these are low-cost superstitions, that any idea that required more devotion would be cast aside in favor of the scientific explanation. And yet I know that I, too, am the common person, and I want my life to have meaning. I want to commune with the Heavens, to plea on behalf of everyone for a good harvest.



A similar problem arises with respect to my own work. Andrea read my entry on Caitlin’s orphanage. She points out that (1) Caitlin plays the cello, not the viola, (2) most boys up for adoption these days are healthy, and abandoned due to societal developments surrounding weakening marriages from long-distance relationships, (3) the cross-eyed boy had recently broken his nose according to the orphanage director, so he’s going to get better, and (4) girls have always been preferred to boys in international adoptions, according to international adoption agencies.

These things are all true, or very likely true, and yet I resented hearing them. Why? I suspect it is because I prefer my experience and the feelings it evoked to the data. Why is that? Why am I so willing to trust a sample of one person to the testimony of many? How does one overcome the bias towards one's own experience?

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