it has been bone dry in the word well for me these past two weeks. many a draft started and saved. i’ve tried not to attach, not to force, not to care.
and today, i don’t need to find the words. my daughter has done it for me.
today is her fifteenth birthday. fifteen. i cannot remember a time when she wasn’t here. i cannot remember a time when her energy didn’t fill our home with voice, music, brilliance, and opinion. she’s got an exuberance that cannot be reckoned with and dreams to work with doctors without borders and to record her own record of original songs. today she will arrive at the grand canyon on a school trip and i cannot think of a better cathedral for her to be in to dream her way into her sixteenth spin around the sun.
a few days ago, my daughter shared with me her final exam that she wrote for her world history class. with her permission, i am posting it here. again, these words are all hers. the prompt was for the students to define the four pillars of their own religion, and that she did. all i could say after reading it was “i love you,” to which she rolled her eyes and said, “oh god, are you crying?” wise, prophetic, and still sarcastically teenaged. fabulous.
her dad and i take no credit, but we are fantastically proud and crazy in love. happy birthday marandah rain.
What I Believe by Marandah Field-Elliot
Throughout history, each religion is taught as a structured school of thought, as something you must give in to. However, I feel blessed to live in a world where I can create my own faith, where I choose what I believe. The four pillars of my religion are as follows: I bow to the best in everyone, Namaste; I believe in Satyagraha, or non-violence; I think that everyone should partake in Zakat, or charity; and finally, that each individual should have a sense of impermanence.
In the Hindu religion, the most common greeting is “Namaste,” and it loosely translates to “the divinity in me bows to the divinity in you.” I believe that there is true, pure divinity in every single human on the planet, that that is our individual job to seek that divinity out. I know that no one person is perfect, but an essence of imperfect perfection lies in all of us. True, we all have flaws, but each soul is a sort of quirky perfect. In my opinion, the whole point of religion in the first place is being able to access this divinity inside of us. People pray to gods, worship deities, and sing tribal chants in hopes that some outside source will tell us how to become divine. Well, I believe that only you can strive for divinity, it does not come from an outside choice. God or Shiva or Allah or Buddha is in each and every one of us.
The second pillar of my “religion” is also a derivative of a Hindu belief, Satyagraha. It means “non-violence,” and was the essence of Ghandi’s movement. He believed that instead of using violent and forceful protests to achieve freedom in India, he should use his intelligence, faith, and calm power. He is one of my idols because of this. Violence achieves nothing, all it does is put you down to the level of your opposers.
In the words of Ghandi, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Instead of fighting, if all the diplomats and leaders of countries worldwide were to sit down and discuss why they wanted to fight, the world would see peace. Peace forms out of unity, out of a feeling that we are all part of something bigger. And essentially, we are. Everyone laughs, sings, and smiles in the same language, everyone on earth has felt anger, pride, happiness, or sadness. Violence only takes these feelings away and makes people numb to our similarities.
In order to be a true Muslim, it is said that you must partake in “Zakat,” or charity. Each individual, not matter what there socioeconomic status, must give 2.5% of their belongings or money to a charity. Living in a community that is as fortunate as Santa Barbara, I feel that it is beyond necessary to partake in some sort of charity. Every person deserves basic living standards, like medical care, clean drinking water, food and education, and I think that it is our job as the human population to help everyone have these things.
I am so grateful to live in the place that I do and have the lifestyle that I have that I think it is crucial to help those less fortunate. Charity, or whatever you want to call it, has become such a status symbol for wealthy people “helping the African children” and such, that sometimes I feel our modern world has lost the essence of what it is. The pure joy of helping others is the best feeling a person can have, and it is out of joy that we can truly live life to the fullest.
The final pillar of my faith is impermanence, the Buddhist belief that life is in constant motion. Often, I am called out in my day to day life for not thinking about the future or living a little too much in the moment, but I don’t care. Of course you should be wary of consequences and where you want to go in life, its essential to have goals, but I love living life for each moment it throws at me. As discussed in Siddhartha, life is like a river. You cannot control the river, you cannot stop the river, all you can do is follow its path and treat each moment like a beautiful gift. I adore having no idea what will happen next in my river. I am enjoying each exciting bend and holding my head high through each rapid. I am challenged every day, whether it be from my insecurities or outside sources, but I try to keep in mind that everything fades, and everything changes.
If I was a leader of a religion the one piece of advice I would give is to believe in yourself. There is divinity in you, there is divinity in me, and the only way we can reach that is leading a fulfilling, beautiful life. Fill your existence on our planet with no violence when possible, it will lead you no where. Be as giving and caring as you can, because it is this that brings true happiness. And finally, carpe diem! Grasp each moment like it is your last, and be exactly who you want to be. Life is too short to pretend you are something that you’re not, so go follow your passion, fall in love, do something that others would laugh at like dancing in the rain or singing out to the world. This is my religion, my world of divinity, peace, giving, and impermanence. This is what I believe.
photo: one of my favorites of her. taken over a year ago.