Belief Stories

I think that this post could be easily entitled “Out of a Cave” in the same way that my last one was. I have not posted in a while and that is due to essentially me losing belief in myself. This whole blog is about sharing people’s stories about faith and belief and what has lead them to believe these things. But one of the things that I have not tackled in my interviews so far is belief in yourself. They say that if you don’t believe in yourself no one will right/ I don’t know that I think that is necessarily true. I also don;t believe that I have ever really contemplated my belief in myself because that’s just not what I associate this word with but I’m glad that the event and circumstances of this Winter 2012 term have forced me to do so. I can’t remember a time where I ever really stopped believing in myself, so again that is another reason why I’ve never thought of this critically. I’ve always bounced right back on track and continued to motivate myself and self soothe if is was needed. I’ve always seen the light at the end of the tunnel no matter how long or short it was. But as winters here have shown me and this one in particular things can get worse, much worse for that matter before they get better. I lost belief in myself and my ability to withstand the complex and demoralizing realities of unanswered emails and scoffing faces. I learned that humans are infinitely complex yet beautifully strange beings. And that sometimes you can’t win for losing. With that said I fully acknowledge my part in stiffing my personal faith (faith in myself). However on a happier note i’m happy to say that for ever cloud there is a silver lining. So while I may not have been able to fully see my goal realized during the course of this year, I think that the Belief Stories program will be one that will be a bittersweet end. Sweet to see the dream realized, bitter to see that it was not realized earlier. 

Out of a Cave

Hi so I know that the title of my post isn’t exactly the most appealing of sane sounding, but it is somewhat literally what I feel is happening at this very moment. I AM COMING OUT OF THE CAVE IN WHICH I HAVE BEEN HIBERNATING!!!!! This cave has been one that is familiar to many of you i’m sure because it is one that has involved writing, research, and more writing. In the next coming day I have many exciting post to share with you all. I have had a wonderful opportunity to interview and collect the faith stories of many people at Dartmouth and had meaningful conversations about faith and it’s meaning in everyday life with people that I consider friends and mentors. I am excited to get back to you all after this long period of research and reflection. But as always I must leave you with something to ponder and reflect on. This is a preview of what the next post will be discussing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EPO4mn4qfA&feature=fvsr

Without Judgement: Second Story

I’m excited to post the second story. This story is so insightful and really shows the extent to which judgement shapes the views of others. 

 

 

It was August 2001.  I was entering the fourth grade at my new school, Presbyterian Day School, in Memphis, TN.  This fancy preparatory school, with its carpeted hallways and strict dress code, was definitely a big change for me.  I was more than excited to start school and make new friends.  When I walked into class my first day, I was slightly startled by the fact that I was the only non-whitechild in the classroom.  However, my classmates, most of whom had been at PDS since kindergarten, welcomed me warmly, much to my relief.  School days rolled by calmly; my classmates would be quite curious about my background, with many of them asking me where my parents were from.  When I would answer Pakistan, almost all of them would give me a bewildered look, having no knowledge of the country.  But aside from such a basic question, my classmates never asked much more, and my first month at PDS went by smoothly.

 

And then 9/11 happened.  I remember the moment our math teacher walked into our English classroom and whispered something into my teacher’s ear, who then gasped and started to tear up.  We all knew something was wrong, but I did not know what until I came home and saw the attack on the news.  My parents were extremely upset, and I heard them tell each other that they hoped theattackers were not Muslim.  When the attackers’ identities were revealed, I still recall my parents’ grave faces as they feared the implications such an attack would have on their daily lives.  As a child, I knew I was Muslim and knew the basic tenets of my faith.  But when this tragedy occurred, all I felt was that some ill-minded individuals carried out an atrocious attack on innocent people. I was puzzled by my parents’ concerns because I did not feel any identification with the attackers.  I knew I was Muslim, but I knew over a billion other people around the world were as well.  But as I attended PDS after 9/11, I grew to realize their concerns.  I was bombarded with crazy questions about my heritage: are you from Afghanistan, are you related to Osama, did you know this was going to happen, do Muslims like America, do YOU like America? I was shocked by the kinds of questions I was being asked, manyof which I had no idea how to answer.  In one of my classes, the teacher decided to show the class a video about Islam.  Unfortunately, the video took the angle of terrorism and Islam, showing examples of the reprehensible acts committed by Muslims in the past few decades and warning of future events in the wake of 9/11. I rememberseeing in my periphery my classmates’ many glances of concern towards me at every mention of the words “Muslim” or “Islam.” When I told my mom about this uncomfortable incident, she complained to the school and asked how such a video was relevant to a class called “OldTestament History.”  Later in the year, I was called to the headmaster’s office, who informed me that I had been recommended and selected by my teachers, due to my academic success, to deliver a speech to the whole school.  I was told the speech’s topic would be in the form of a letter to Bush about the bravery of America after 9/11.  I was so excited that I had been chosen to write this speech by merit. That week, I worked hard on a thoughtful speech about the beauty of America and its unity after 9/11.  I presented it in front of the whole school at Friday chapel and remember feeling proud of myself after the applause.

 

 

But as I grew older and less naïve, this speech and that year or so after 9/11 hurt more than they did back then; their memories still hurt.  I meant everything about America in that speech, but I now know enough to know that I was not selected due to any academic merit.  I was chosen because I was the only Muslim kid in the school, and they wanted me, as a sort of Muslim American poster boy for Islam, to present a patriotic speech to ease all thepost-9/11 tension.  Although I understand the school had good intentions, I regret the abundance of such mentalities after 9/11.  In a way, from the glares of my peers during the Islam video or from the cliché speech presentation after 9/11, I was forced to identify with and be associated with people that I myself never felt any identification or association with.  I wish I could say these kinds of incidents slowly decreased with time, but they didn’t.  Even at Dartmouth, during a Q&A session at an event last year, I recall the visiting speaker ask me “don’t you feel the need, the responsibility, to explain Islam and the controversial actions of Muslims to people after 9/11?”.  That question brought back those memories of my experiences at PDS.  While I am a Muslim, while I am more than happy to answer questions about my religion to the best of my knowledge, I do not feel the need or necessity to explain the actions of every bad seed in the world that calls him or her self a Muslim.  Some people may disagree with my approach, and that’s okay.  But I encourage everyone here to think about these questions of identity and faith: how much do you identify with your faith groups? Should you feel responsible in addressing the damage caused by those who misrepresent your faith?  While I have certainly had many trying experiences since 9/11, I am grateful to have gone through them, for they solidified my identity today: as Amir, one Muslim out of a growing 1.6 billion, all of whom have different beliefs and different life experiences. And just as they do not need to explain my poor decisions, I should not have to explain theirs. Thank you!

Superbowl Sunday- Who do you believe will win?

 
 
So I am such a football enthusiast that I completely forgot that it was coming on this Sunday. A friend reminded me by asking me what I was doing this Sunday, and when I replied “school stuff” my friend said, “oh so you’re not watching the Superbowl?” I then proceeded to slap my hand on my forehead as I chastised myself for not remembering the most important day of the new year besides the new year itself. Ha…ok so you get it, i’m not much of a football fan and when I “root” for a team its the Tennessee Titans, who didn’t even make it close to the Superbowl this year. And even then it is just because that’s the only station that the t.v. happens to be on.
 
But with all the Superbowl predictions about who will win or not I just had to tie this in with faith somehow. The Superbowl would cease to exist if the coaches,players,fans, and others had no faith that they could potentially have a shot at winning. In fact the whole exercise would be pretty pointless without some element of belief. And how could I forget the billions of dollars that companies would not make if there were no commercials during this coveted air time. So I leave you with the question: Who Do You Believe Will Win Superbowl XLVI? 
 
 
GO GIANTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First Story

This Friday I am happy to present to you the first story of faith from a Dartmouth student. I will keep her anonymous for now but hope to follow up with an interview at some point. This is her story:

I was born and raised in the LDS (or more commonly known as Mormon) church. However, I always knew my family was not a traditional or orthodox LDS family. I liked church, but I never felt convinced or converted.

I think my first truly spiritual experience came when I was a sophomore in high school. Since 8th grade I had been struggling with an eating disorder, and it got serious enough for me to be sent to an in-patient facility. As I battled my illness I felt my first inkling of the reality of the Atonement and how it could be applied in my life. In the hospital I said my first heartfelt prayer. That was the beginning of a long, spiritual journey into recovery.

            During my junior year of high school my parents stopped going to church. This was hard for me. After trying to go by myself, I stopped going to church too.

When I got to Dartmouth I decided to investigate Mormonism along with other religions, and decide what I really believed. After lots of prayer, conversation, and careful thought I felt strongly that LDS church was where God wanted me to be.

            Dartmouth has not been easy for me. After almost every term I have thought very seriously about transferring. During my sophomore and junior years, I dealt with my stress, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, and loneliness by reverting to disordered eating and exercise. Throughout my isolation and despair, I forgot about the power of the Atonement. I let my worries consume me to the point that I wasn’t open to God’s love. Because I felt so distant from God, I also let all my questions and doubts about Mormonism and my parents’ objections trouble me again. I kept going to church, but I didn’t feel the same degree of surety or comfort the Gospel had once brought me. I tried lots of things to overcome my disordered eating habits and depression. I went back to a psychiatrist, therapist, and nutritionist. I started taking anti-depressants. Nothing really worked.

The one thing that did work was seeking healing through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. When I was finally ready to ask God for help He welcomed me with open arms, and I knew he had been patiently waiting for me all along. It was only through His help that I was able to slowly but surely turn my life around.  Thinking back to where I was a year ago, I am astounded by how far I’ve come. I know I couldn’t have done it if God hadn’t led me by the hand the entire way.

Although this experience is a huge part of my faith, it is not the sole reason I believe that the LDS church is true. I have thought carefully about my membership specifically in the LDS church, and the implications of the claims the LDS church makes. I have had lots of questions and I’ve reasoned through them with God. My long list of doubts, concerns, and legitimate reasons not to believe just falls to pieces in the face of the multiple powerful spiritual experiences I have had and simply can’t deny. Although I don’t have all the answers, I now can say what I couldn’t before: I’m convinced of the truth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

I am indescribably grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ. At times the Gospel has brought me quiet peace and clarity, and at other times it has filled me with joy so pure and real I felt like I couldn’t hold it all and understood what David meant when he said “My cup runneth over.” I’m so grateful for the grace that makes it possible for me to feel God’s love and mercy while I am so imperfect. Although I fail more than I succeed and destroy more than I build, God abides with me if I just keep trying. He has encircled me about in the arms of His love, and poured out joy far exceeding my pain. In the words of Isaiah, His gospel has given me beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”

I am so grateful that Dartmouth could be a place where I could take this spiritual journey. I wanted to speak today to say thank you to this community full of amazing, loving, thoughtful people who inspire me to be better. I am thankful that Dartmouth has challenged, strengthened, and loved me. I am grateful to be a daughter of Dartmouth because Dartmouth helped me come to know the beautiful reality of being a daughter of God.

Short and to the Point

So I miss you all so I wanted to do a short post tonight. I am really excited about thup discussion that Zain ( a student intern at Tucker) and I are going to moderate on Tuesday. We are trying to get people to talk about faith in the context of service and I think this will be pretty interesting. It will be in the afternoon so there might  be FOOD!!!!!!! So that should be some incentive to come on out and share ideas and such. I areal ally looking forward to this and hope to see you alL or some of you there, it would be great. Until next time….

Hello Once Again~Religion and Politics??????

In the “excitement” and “festivity” of the first draft of my thesis being almost due *sigh* so I have unfortunately left you all to contemplate the wonders of faith and belief alone. And for that I apologize but not completely, but things like this really are much better when you are left to contemplate them alone and explore the deep dark recesses of your mind and then re-immerse yourself into your reality once again. So really you should thank me… And during this period of absence I too have had time to think and re-evaluate.

After watching the State of the Union last week, I thought about faith and its relation to politics and government. While I would like to fill the rest of this thought with something profound and worthy of a Pulitzer I fear that my observation are not quite there,not after this week at least, but I was reminded that the amount of faith that we have in the government is directly translated to our political affiliations or lack thereof. Although religion and politics are best left separate they are eerily similar. I think the phrase “God Bless America” somewhat proves this point that religion and politics are more interconnected than we would like them to  me and then they should be in some instances. Now before I go on I feel that it is necessary to put in a disclaimer that these are just musings of an over-educated, over-programmed, over-comtemplating mind of Master’s student and are in no way endorsing the mix of politics and religion!!!!!!

Ok now that I have that out of the way I wanted to discuss a portion of the book The Children’s Book of Faith. The woman with which I am living had a couple copies of this book around and since the word “faith” was in the title you know I couldn’t resist flipping through, despite the fact that it is a children’s book. In the introduction The author writes “We as Americans have received some extraordinary blessings: material comforts, economic prosperity, breathtaking advances in science, medicine, and technology”.  And with this statement the author goes on to say that this is way we as Americans should have more faith or look through things with a more spiritual lens. Hmmmm…….this is interesting to say the least, and is a thought pattern that many Christian Americans have, and it is interesting because in recent times this though pattern has been hotly contested by Americans of other beliefs. As a “melting pot” America is no longer predominantly a place of one faith, but to be quite honest it really never was if one considers the native religions that were practiced way before the Puritans came to this fair country. But Im going to stop here and perhaps pick this up in a part two at some point if I don’t get distracted by anything else. 

 

Lesson’s From the Magic School Bus

As I write this post I feel that I have so many things to say all at once but cannot type fast enough to express them all! I am so excited to write the inaugural post of this blog because it feel as if I have been waiting for a long time to do so. And what was stopping me you might ask? Well really just logistical things and the fact that I have this uncanny notion that everything should be in place before a first step is taken. But I have been dutifully cured of that… as least I hope. A friend of mine encouraged me to stop making goals to do things in the future and just do them now. And I must say he is more than correct. As a great poet once said “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy”!  For those of you who watched PBS Kids in the 90s know that the great poet that I refer to is none other than Ms. Frizzle the star of  Magic School Bus. Faith in the same way demands you to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy. It is letting go of reason to an extent and letting the unknown guide you. It is also fitting that I should quote the Magic School Bus, considering that my predecessor in the Berthold Fellowship voiced one of the characters on the show. So I have successfully connected all those thoughts in what started, to me at least, as an extremely rando post.  I will take that as a sign to end this post here and leave you with this quote to contemplate until I join you again.

Faith is an assent of the mind and a consent of the heart, consisting mainly of belief and trust.
~E.T. Hiscox~