It is Palm Sunday today and when I stopped at Starbucks for a coffee, there were palm fronds everywhere. I tried to find a parking place near the Basilica while Maya was practicing violin at Peabody, but my limitations at parallel parking kept me from dashing in as I had planned. I had watched the celebration of mass at St. Peter's in Rome and reminded myself that I wanted to acknowledge the day. Instead, we meditated while watching the flowing landscape between Baltimore and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or 'Pennsyltucky' as Maya describes it, 'the backwoods of Pennsylvania' (her ballet teachers live there). She had insisted that we see ' Coppelia', put on by the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and the performance was stunning. The main ballerina was 13 and remarkable. It was unbelievable that in the middle of nowhere, a woman has established a stellar ballet school. Maya traded seats with one of her instructors, who sat next to me and explained that the director of the CPYB ballet had started her school in her parents' barn, with the goal of bringing opportunities for local children to advance in dance. She has built herself a stellar reputation and students come from all over the country to study ballet with her. Maya was thrilled, and wore her ballet attire under her clothes in the hopes of dancing for the director.
Tara and I had watched Bill Maher's movie, 'Religulous' last night, which made fun of all religions. It was interesting to hear that the story of Jesus closely mirrored that of an Egyptian deity described in the book of the dead. Horus was a child of a virgin, walked on water, raised Lazarus up form the dead, cured people of their ailments and changed water into wine. It appears that the Christians recycled old stories from past religions to write their bible. December 25 is the birthday of a god of the Persians, or some other pagan deity. I have never worried about whether the bible is 'fact' or 'fiction'. I believe the stories are symbolic and have meaning because they teach us about our lives and convince us that we mean something, that we are relevant. It is interesting that research suggests that there is a part of our brains that is receptive to religious beliefs, that we are hardwired to have faith. Perhaps it is evolutionarily advantageous for humans to believe, that we survive as a species when we believe. I have always enjoyed the rituals of church. I like the incense and the singing and the repetitive chanting and the order of the mass which reassures me because of its constancy. Tara was baptised, confirmed, communioned and schooled in Catholicism when we lived in Salt Lake City. Maya is very interested in religion and would love to go to church regularly. Since we have not, every time we enter a church she is insistent on lighting a candle and praying in her own way, although she has never been instructed in anything religious. Perhaps while in Ecuador, she will experience more religion. Interestingly, the school she will attend in Quito is the local Jewish school, so each time we have visited, a Jewish cultural holiday is being celebrated. Eric's grandfather was born Jewish, so that is part of Maya's heritage, so I am delighted that she will be exposed to a relevant culture and religion.
I have always found Catholic mass meditative. Perhaps that is why I like yoga. Once we returned from our afternoon in Pennsylvania, I took both girls to my hot power yoga class, where the movements are repetitive and flowing and naturally meditative, and I feel quiet and peaceful and that part of the brain that is receptive to faith is satisfied.