Nothing Wrong with Different – Pentecost #161-162
Pentecost #161 – Light and Dark
Many things have been done in the name of religion and spiritual beliefs, things that actually seem, when one thinks about them, that are actually contradictory to the very nature of both. Condemnation, discrimination, and bullying are just a few examples of this. We’ve seen how some myths became incorporated into religious beliefs and spiritual practices. What about one of the world’s biggest problems – racism? The African myth of Sa and Alatanga not only explained creation but might just be the first case of racism, all brought about my a father’s anger.
In this myth, Sa is the god of death and he lives in a house he built from mud. One day Alatanga comes to visit and is unimpressed by the dirt house. Alatanga sends Sa and his wife away and sets about redecorating, adding lush vegetation and animals. Sa and Alatanga become friends, very good friends.
Alatanga falls in love with Sa’s daughter and asks for her hand in marriage. Sa procrastinates giving an answer so his daughter and Alatanga elope, moving far away to escape an angry Sa. The couple lives a very happy life and raises fourteen children. Three of their seven daughters are black and four are white; three of their seven sons are black and four are white. Each child speaks a different language so their parents have no way to talk to them or understand them.
Alatanga goes to visit Sa, suspecting he has caused this and Sa admits he did so out of anger at the elopement. Sa instructs Alatanga that his white children must marry only white and the blacks must marry only blacks. This is done and the world, according to the myth, becomes a place of all white and black tribes, a very segregated world indeed. However, they still live in darkness because there is no light. Alatanga returns to Sa for help.
Sa calls to the bird that rise the earliest, the red tou tou and the golden rooster or cock, and tells them to call the light with their musical warbling. In payment for giving the world light, Sa tells Alatanga he must give Sa one of his children whenever Sa requests. Alatanga agrees since he had violated custom by not paying the bride payment when he married Sa’s daughter. This, according ot the legend, was when death became a reality for humanity.
This myth may sound incredibly cruel but it creates some interesting thoughts to ponder. What if there was no death? How do we call light into our own lives? Is diversity really a curse? For me, death is just a step. After all, the myth never tells what Sa does with his grandchildren or that death is the end. I personally love diversity. So does our next myth.
Pentecost #162 – A Box of Crayons
There is a very old African myth which tells the story of how mankind came to be “scattered” all over the world. In this myth, every person starts out as equal with the same amount of possessions, the same type of clothes and housing, and all look exactly the same. Sounds like a great world, huh? Is it, though?
The thing about sameness is that it can be boring. While the supreme deity in this myth believes the oneness of mankind will prevent future problems, mankind becomes bored. Imagine if you bought a box of crayons, opened it, and discovered they were all the same color. While some art forms emphasize black and white designs, most of us prefer color images. We are very much like the people in this myth.
The story tells of the people sending a messenger to God, begging for some diversity. God protests but eventually relents. With differences, though, problems do arise. Now that the people are no longer equal, some become jealous, others envious, and still more are greedy.
I once taught a class of young men and, like most of life, there were good days and bad days. On one particular bad day, it seemed like they were competing for the title of “worse kid ever”. Completely frustrated with their bickering and fighting, I made each of them come up to the front of the room one by one and stand before the class. Then we went down the roll and everyone had to say something nice about the student standing in front of them.
I expected this exercise to take up the rest of the class period. After all, these kids had spent quite a bit of time bullying each other. How could I expect them to go the opposite way and start praising one another? It did not take very long at all. Once they really looked at each other, the compliments flowed. They knew deep down good things about each other. They loved the exercise. It became our Friday routine after classwork and tests were done.
The students in this class began to broaden their horizons and learn new things. We need to take pride in our diversity and value it in others, not spend our time tearing people down because of their individuality. Diversity makes life interesting, not threatening. When we allow ourselves to see the goodness in others, then we become happier and then lead fuller lives. After all, we all want a box of crayons with the colors of the rainbow, don’t we?