Vincent Cheung

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Keeping an open mind

I was inspired by this page about exercising an open mind about a year ago. Since then I have been making an attempt to keep an open mind - do things I don't normally do, work outside my comfort zone, break the regular cycle of things. It's fun to add diversity to your life and in doing so you also meet new people. I'm making it a point to not outright discredit things that I know nothing about, and rather, learn more about it.

Britton told us engineers way back in first year to expand our minds and not just do "engineering" things. He told us to visit art galleries, see the ballet, watch plays, go to the opera, etc. I have taken his advice. Davidson told us way back in AP English to read the bible. Not to try and convert us or anything, but to at least consider it as a literary work. There are so many biblical references in literature and popular culture, and I just don't get any of it. Plus, there are always Jeopardy categories related to the bible and I can't get any of those.

Today, I made progress in religion, specifically Christianity. Elsa invited me to go to the University of Toronto Chinese Christian Fellowship (UTCCF) meeting. I had no idea what to expect. I have never gone to church for a sermon or whatever. The only times I have been inside a church have been for elementary choir, weddings/wedding receptions, high school convocation, and to play basketball. I've also been in a synagog for Kives's Bar Mitzvah. That's all the religious exposure I have had. My family is not religious, so I never went to church as a kid.

I decided to go to see what it was about and keep an open mind about it. There was a lot of mingling beforehand with over 100 people in attendance. I got introduced to seemingly everyone and don't remember anyone's name. I don't think I've ever seen that many bananas before (yellow on the outside, white on the inside), with the whole meeting in English and I didn't hear anyone speaking Chinese before or after, which was strange. Two things always throw people off when they meet me. First, I'm in "8th" year. People were always asking if I was 4th year (probably b/c I was getting introduced by Elsa), and technically I am 4th year, just not 4th year of undergrad. I can also be considered 3rd or even 2nd year, depending on how you count things :). Second, I'm from Winnipeg. Who wouldda thunk that there were Chinese people from Winnipeg? People here assume that since I'm not fob that I'm either from Toronto or Vancouver. Oh, and another popular question was how I know Elsa. We... umm.... met "at" the beach...

So, today's meeting was mostly "worship". Worship of God through song (they had a band with people singing, a choir, and an acoustic set), dance, art (a guy from OCAD brought his thesis consisting of all the pages of the bible used as a painting canvas - it was pretty cool). There was also testimony and prayer. I was mostly observing today and seeing what it was all about. It kind of reminded me of this video where a guy went to Dearborn, Michigan (a mostly Muslim town) to be a Muslim for 30 days (a show created by the guy that did Supersize Me). It's a good watch. Initially, when he went into the Mosque with his host family, he was confused. The actions that the people were doing had significance to them and they were praying to their God, but without knowledge of Islam, he didn't understand it, was taken back by it, and could not bring himself to do it in fear of what the implications were with respect to his Christianity. Over the 30 days he learns more and becomes more accepting of the Islamic religion.

Muslim for 30 Days

Worship felt a little like that for me. I was actually rather amazed that people were allowing themselves to be so vulnerable and opening themselves up to "God". I enjoyed the music, I think Christian music generally has catchy tunes and the band was quite good. I remember sometimes tuning into the Christian radio station in Winnipeg for a change and liking the music (I didn't even know it was Christian music for the first little bit), I even downloaded some of the MP3s, though I don't attach religious significance to them. I like Christmas music, but I don't believe in Santa Claus. They had the lyrics on a projector today and I was carefully paying attention to the words, but didn't attribute meaning to them like the people that were literally exposing their souls. I'm so used to making sure that I do not make myself vulnerable and thinking that everything is in my own hands and it is up to no one but myself to make things happen. Prayer is awkward for me because of this. I'm not accustomed to asking for things, rather, I do them myself or make it happen. The only other experience I have in this is in school with The Lord's Prayer and saying grace before meals at John's house.

I do see why people tend to turn to religion in times of turmoil. I can see the appeal of knowing that someone is there for you and looking out for you, and the hope that that gives you. I also see the appeal in the whole fellowship thing. Everyone's friendly and genuinely interested in meeting and knowing each other. It gives people a sense of community and that they belong. I definitely felt that today and it is something I am missing here in Toronto. After the meeting, most of the people went to Kowloon restaurant on Baldwin for food (it's their tradition) and we took over the entire restaurant.

So, where does that leave me now? I don't know. I would like to read the bible and learn more, at minimum from an objective standpoint. Will I keep going to this fellowship thing? Not sure. I like the group setting and it would be nice to be a part of the group, but it feels kinda wrong if I go, but not believe. I still strongly believe in evolution and that is not going to change. Plus, come January, I won't be able to go anyways b/c of snowboarding :), well, unless I go straight from the bus in my snowboarding gear, do you think God would mind?


Ola said...

Interesting post: I should try more things too...

When praying, you don't always have to ask. You can thank God for what He's done, you can praise, worship and glorify Him and you can pray for other people.

And I don't think God will mind you coming to church in your snowboarding gear. You might just have to explain to a few people in church so that they don't look at you weird. And you don't have to. It could be fun to keep them guessing...

Ms. Ly said...

hahaha i remember when i asked you what year you were in... you gave me the same "2nd 3rd and 4th year" answer. next time, just stick to the technical 4th k? lol.

you might be interested in checking out a video/story about a straight man (and i think also very homophobic) who lived a few weeks with a gay man and could only socialize with his new roommate's friends - who were also very gay. it was interesting. i remember seeing him on oprah but it was not oprah's project. i wish i could remember the title of it but i can't and i'm sure you could google it.

you know, a lot of ppl who go to practice christianity believe in evolution right? christianity is a big and diverse religion - there are even sects that support same-sex marriages.

all in all, a very interesting post vince. i remember when i first was exposed to fellowships and all that jazz. religion is extremely confusing... at least for me. i used to attend regularly but not anymore but i'm definitely confused as to what i believe in and what i don't believe in... but anyway, i think this comment is too long already...

but i will close off with my new favourite quote (it's oh so spiritual):
"McDreamy was doing the McNasty with McHottie? What a McBastard!"

Vince said...

Well, if someone asks me what year I'm in, if I say 4th year, that's misleading b/c they would assume that I'm in undergrad. I usually say grad school and then if they ask what year, then I can say 4th (or 3rd or 2nd...)

That video is also from the show 30 Days, but I haven't seen that episode yet. I'm downloading the whole first season now.

Like I said in my post, I really know nothing about religion...

Anonymous said...

Man! your post suddenly reminded me of the tie-totting evangelist walking around Pembina. Those Guys are mostly from the Church of Jesus Christ.

One time, they got me at the bus-stop and started with if I believe in Jesus Christ. Well, being a muslim Jesus is our Prophet and we call him by Isa (peace be upon him) but these guys were persistent in converting me and gave me a website address and even offered to hang out with me on weekends. I told them that if I convert to Christianity and leave my current faith, what gurantee is there that I wont fall for another religion after I become christian, I asked if they would be interested in knowing more about Islam. Man! they walked off quickly. LOL.

Anyhoo, being a muslim, I automatically beleive in the biblical prophets and the religions of God. Hence, I feel like I believe in all religions.

Whatever religion you study and understand and feel interested in, stick to it. Religion is mostly about finding you inner peace. However, you are most welcome to understand my religion Islam (Not the George Bush version) . :)

Vince said...

Hey, I don't know anything about Islam either, I'm willing to give it a shot and keep an open mind :)

Anonymous said...

muslims scare me

John said...

wow. so elsa suckered u into all of this? lol

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