The girlie and I were reading The Moffats on the couch during her brother’s nap the other day. The book, written in 1941, is a charming tale of a love-knit, depression-era family headed by a seamstress widow in small-town Connecticut. We were on Chapter 3: “The First Day of School,” in which Hughie Pudge, a neighbor boy to the Moffat family, steadfastly refuses to go. Rufus Moffat and his sister Jane each take a hand at trying to persuade their recalcitrant chum, with little effect.
Finally, in desperation, Rufus says, “Everybody has to go to school. Even God had to go to school.”
This statement elicited a chuckle from the girlie. “But God doesn’t even exist!” she said, delighted at the double-layered hoodwink.
“Well, many people do think God exists â€“ these kids did.” I say. A brief series of hypothetical playground debates flash through my head, each featuring the cute little faces of her Agnostic, Animist, Atheist, Buddhist,Â Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Â Sikh, and Unitarian (wink) classmates. Â “What’s really important,” I add,Â “what’s most important, is that you’re respectful of whatever it is that someone believes.”
“Mama and I don’t think God exists,” she says.
“Well she does, just not in the way that lots of other people do.”
I think to myself the more complicated details behind that. She believes in god, maybe even more, godness. Not the capital-G God Â attributed to organized religion, but more a God-like entity that represents the combined power of love and life and all such very large things. She often even calls this god, for lack of a better name.
“You don’t think God exists, do you Baba?”
“Not really, no. But I do believe in the natural goodness in all people, and in kindness. And I also believe that can sit alongside those who believe in God.”
“Like those people who came to our porch, who you talked to forever?”
“Exactly.” Man I exhausted those Jehovah’s Witnesses. But they left with a smile (and probably a “talkative heathen lesbian” notation in their book), and my girlie witnessed the whole thing.
“What’s important is that it’s okay for someone to believe what they believe, and we can believe what we can believe.”
Clearly she got the take-home message.
“Yep, pretty much.”
“I believe there’s a red thread that connects all people together.”
Months ago, we’d read The Red Thread, a beautiful tale about adoption and belonging. Author Grace Lin takes the ChineseÂ “red thread of fate” myth, which connects people destined to be together, and threads it through the theme of international adoption. Our girlie just took a good idea and extended it to its logical conclusion.
I was about to launch into further discussion of the beauty of this belief, how true it feels to me, too, how it does a nice job of illustrating something I think of as integral to the Buddhist teachings that I try to pilot by, but she abruptly brought us back to the matter at hand. She’s a lot of things, our daughter is, but sentimental is not one of them.
“Go back to reading, Baba.”
And so we did.