Ladies, I apologize. For one, I failed to post last Thursday (due to technical difficulties that have since been happily resolved). Second, this post will not be a top ten list. Third, I'm about to get all somber and spiritual on you. Sorry.
When this post was first inspired, I was standing on Elgin street in a huge throng of people. I toyed with the idea of working it into a list-form, but it just didn't seem appropriate. And after yesterday's post, I think our Rememberance Day coverage is pretty much complete. But there was one thing that I couldn't help but to write about. Its not the kind of thing I'd usually opt for, but here goes.
If you've never experienced Rememberance Day in Ottawa, I'll give you a quick run-down. A memorial is held at the foot our beautiful Cenotaph, starting just before 11am. Elgin street, a pretty arterial downtown route, is closed off and hundreds of people gather in the streets, right up to the edges of the barricades. It draws an impressive crowd, especially for Ottawa.
There are appearances by the likes of the Prime Minister, the Governor General, and yesterday even Charles and Camilla showed up. There are words of gratitude and praise spoken, prayers led, commemorative music is played by a marching band and sung by a children's choir. There is a parade of soldiers, sailors, pilots, all representing the people that are still today pledging their service to our country, like all those of the past whom we gather there to honour every year.
The air is always thick with reverence. The normally bustling intersection is quiet, despite actually hosting hundreds more people than usual. It's silent. Not in a creepy way - in a peaceful way. Everyone is gathered for the same reason: to remember. Listening to the silence of all those people is like listening to someone remembering. And we were all remembering the same things today. This is pretty much when it happened.
I was standing there, and I started to feel very strange. I'm not one for crowds, but I felt comforted standing there. Seeing all these people coming together for a common reason, one that unites all of us living in Canada today. It was magical. Ok, maybe "magical" is a stretch, but it was something. My first instinct was "Oh my God. It IS God. God is here. I can feel him." Think Pam at the Dundies.
The only thing is, I'm not really sure I believe in God. I was raised Presbyterian; my Dad took my sisters and me to church every second Sunday. But the more I learned about religion, the less I wanted to follow it. For a long time, I've considered myself agnostic. I like to believe that there is something out there looking out for me, but probably for the same reason people follow religion in the first place. It helps us sleep at night.
But, being a woman, its easy to resent religion of almost any kind. Most of them got their hands pretty dirty over the years; religion has played a HUGE role in the oppression of women for a long, long time (witch hunt, anyone?). I'm not here to point fingers in any way, but it's interesting that (as far as the western world is concerned) as religion has become less and less an accepted part of the fundaments of society, women's rights, status and credibility as valuable citizens has skyrocketed. Just in the past century alone. Obviously, one trend is in no way solely due to another, but it makes you wonder. As far as religion goes (aside from some of the most beautiful contributions of music, art and literature the world has ever seen) I generally would leave it sooner than take it. Which is why having these moments is weird for me.
I won't try to describe it. The only thing I can compare it to is a moment of enlightenment combined with utter calm. All those people. The heavy silence. The pain of the inevitable empathy. The shame that we only take one day a year to remember the people that died fighting in our name. These things really get to me, every year. But this year was different, or maybe just more intense. "Emotional" doesn't seem like quite the right word, but I can't think of a better one.
So here's the rub: is it possible to inherently believe in something without consciously acknowledging it? After all, I wasn't thinking "I can feel this mysterious, unknown presence amidst all these people!" I was thinking "That is most definitely God." The same Presbyterian God I grew up with. Despite all the despicable things religion is held directly accountable for, things I've learned slowly but surely over the years (and still am learning), it seems that deep down I am still willing to believe in the same religious God I was raised with.
It makes you wonder how many of your conscious ideals actually reflect what you truly believe.