Monday, April 20, 2009


It isn't really about religion.

Last week the New York Times ran a column by Judith Warner about the warm feelings she gets from different aspects of the Passover and Easter season. Warner wrote,

"...I am Jewish. But for nine years, from age 5 to 13, I attended an Episcopal school, went to chapel, sang in the choir. To this day, in good moods, my mind fills with hymns, and on a certain kind of spring day, a day that’s full of promise and hope, I see sunshine streaming in through stained glass windows, graceful specks suspended in the light over highly polished wood pews.

I would never call myself a Christian. But if you begin the Lord’s Prayer, I will join in, with feeling.

'It is worthy of remark that a belief constantly inculcated during the early years of life, while the brain is impressible, appears to acquire almost the nature of an instinct; and the very essence of an instinct is that it is followed independently of reason,' Charles Darwin wrote in 'The Descent of Man.'

My heart sings to the organ chords of the Doxology.

It is an instinctual, not altogether reasonable, sort of thing..."

I found her column true, although I did not identify with everything she said. How could I? It was about personal memories, and my memories are completely different than hers. Well, maybe not completely different -- my heart also sings to the organ chords of the Doxology. It is one of the reasons that I am so impatient with the music at my current church. I don't think it is as good as the music at the church I grew up in, but the main point is that it is different.

That's the problem with growing up and moving away and changing religions. One of the main reasons that I started singing in the bilingual choir at my church is that I didn't have to contend with my own expectations. All the Spanish music is new to me, and I happily take the other choir members' word for it if a song is considered an "old favorite."

But it isn't just religion and music that follows Darwin's rule. For the last few weeks my daughter and I have been exchanging complaints about the horrible spring weather where we live. I grew up in the Midwest, so to me great spring weather is a little (or a lot) overcast and rainy, with a continued chilly breeze. Spring means you're emerging from the cold and ice of winter, but it is gradual, and days that start out cool stay that way -- and will continue to do so for at least another month.

My daughter goes to school in Chicago. She is a New Mexico native, and she expects spring weather to be warm and sunny. Maybe it will rain, but the clouds will last twelve hours at a time or less. Days that start out cold and windy will probably stay windy, but the sun will come out and by afternoon you will probably be able to get rid of the jacket you wore in the morning. To me this is a form of torture. Bright sunlight gives me a headache, and I can't stand getting into a hot car that has been sitting in the desert sun.

On the other hand, she is impatient and depressed with the continued cold. At first I thought it was just her personality, but now I realize it is her upbringing. Midwestern stuff will always be the norm for me, even though I haven't lived there in years and have no intention of moving back. But she has different expectations.

Wherever she goes, my daughter will always judge climates by the standard of a 5000-foot altitude, zero humidity and reliable sunshine. Chicago doesn't have a chance.

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