OK – maybe the fact that I no longer practice the faith (nor have I for many a decade) is hardly a ringing endorsement, but still there are many things left in my day-to-day behaviour which hark back to those days when they did their best to immerse me in the rituals and practices demanded by the Vatican.
Still, overall I suppose their attempts to bring me into the flock failed, but not for a moment do I consider them failures. The main reason the “indoctrination” never took hold was that it is meant to be presented as the only philosophical option when there is so much information on the wider world for young people these days, even when my generation was growing up in the pre-internet age.
It must have been extremely frustrating for them. My grandparents (Lord rest them) not only “failed” with me but also with my mother and her two brothers before me – sometimes I think the main reason they not only took on the challenge of raising me but also brought me to Catholic-centric Ireland was because they saw themselves as having a “second chance”.
The religious aspect of my upbringing came more from my grandmother – since my grandfather served in World War 2 (military intelligence for US army in Czechoslovakia) his outlook on life was always more “worldly” yet he was a man of few words and let her deal with that side of things. I should note that he had cancer nodes on his voice box and had an operation to have it removed, but I think the lack of voice actually suited his character and he turned down all offer of having a “robot”-style voice as a replacement.
The thing about the paternal influence in your life saying little is that on the rare occasions when they do say things, they stay with you.
I remember one time when I was well into my “know-it-all teenager” phase I was harping on some weighty subject or other. Lord only knows (there’s another one!) what the actual topic was, but it doesn’t really matter. The audience for my rant consisted merely of Grandpa, and naturally I assumed he was paying attention to what I was saying.
What he said in his whispery tone when I paused for breath, however, made me think otherwise.
“You think you’re always right, don’t you?”
Taken aback doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. There I was trying to make a point about something that was important to me, but as it turned out I wasn’t even being listened to at all.
“Well, what do you want me to do…think I’m always wrong?”
“See? You’re ‘right’ again!”
That brief exchange could well have been the catalyst for my blogging today.
I don’t see anything wrong with having opinions, nor do I see anything wrong with sharing them. But what my grandfather taught me is that you have to be careful about how you present those opinions because it will affect how they are received.
Not once have I ever presumed my views right, neither back then nor now. By expressing them I am challenging the world at large to set me straight or at the very least nudge me in the right direction if I am even slightly off.
With this blog I am trying to outline my views on the world at large, and in particular the way we are prevented from doing that by the premises and spin with which we are presented on a daily basis.
I imagine my grandmother is up in heaven with her head in her hands. Beside her, I imagine my grandfather is allowing himself a wry smile when she isn’t looking. JLP