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Thứ Năm, 12 tháng 8, 2010

It’s snowing outside. Snow, it can be enjoyable, annoying, scary, beautiful, terrible, troublesome, exciting, cold or dirty. It can be anything, depending on your personal view. Snow is either lovable or detestable, or both. You can love snow in the morning when you wake up, and hate it in the afternoon when you have to stand waiting for a bus. You may be so excited seeing snow the first time, and exhausted after a short while. You praise the first snow you have been desperate to see in a winter, then the next morning, you wake up early and find your driveway blocked, you have to work half an hour outside in the cold so that you can move around. That moment, you will wish you were in a tropical country and never knew about the existence of something icy, or flurry, big or small, pure white in the air and pure muddy when melt, fall under a gloomy sky and blind your eyes under the sun. It can be fun with the sports involving snow (especially tobogganing, yeah), and painful because you fall and hurt yourself no matter how carefully you walk (you just can’t help that, even if you know you’re about to slip). It contains all possible contradictions, both physically and emotionally. It can be anything.
This morning when I open my eyes, it was totally dull outside. My window was half covered in snow, so I had to stand on the bed to be able to gaze out. It was strikingly beautiful, a kind of beauty that makes you want to scream, or to cry, out of happiness or astonishment, or admiration, or a mix of all possible feelings. While I was dazedly standing by the window, I heard my roommates calling each other up to look outside. They were swearing loudly at the scene and at the prospect that they would have to shovel a lot of snow (I live in a house with three guys, so hopefully they won’t make me labour, not to mention that Im so tiny according to their standard: D).
And now as Im studying for a test tomorrow in my Society and Religion class, in rare quietness and “Still water” by Maksim played on Repeat mode, I suddenly think of snow as a manifestation of God, the God in monotheistic religions, not God of Rain, God of Nature, or God of Virtue, not God as plural supernatural beings, nor God as an essence like Budda, but the God as an absolute being, an end in himself, a totality of the universe, or the university himself. Adopting Max Weber’s view, I would say Im neither anti-religious nor irreligious. I never know what to answer when someone asks me what my religious affiliation is. I can’t call myself a Buddhist, even though there is Budda statue in my house, I pray when I go to Buddhist temples, I read Budda’s teaching, and I consider some of them as highly admirable intellectual gem, because a real Buddhist must engage in practice aiming at obtaing Nirvana. I have been to a Protestant Church, I have attended some Sunday Bible study, I have done a course about Christianity, but Im not ready to accept the teaching as truth. Im truly interested in Dao Mau – an authentic Vietnamese religion I think, after reading “Mau Thuong Ngan” by Nguyen Xuan Khanh (one of my future goal is to translate this novel into English – readers can find the spirit of Vietnamese people in this book, in my opinion, a very valuable piece of literature both in terms of historical facts and local culture). I don’t think of myself as an atheist, because atheist is someone who believes there is no God. Frankly, I don’t know what to believe. Im still waiting. Im still searching. Faith is simply a gift I have yet received. I know something is out there, but what is that something, I don’t know. I will someday.
Being trained as a social scientist in a Western intellect atmosphere, I am being empowered to build a general foundation since what I do in university is mostly about tracking back the line of most influential ideas as far as 17th century to the present moment in post-modernity. I can’t help recognize that while it is easy to be religious for natural scientists, it is not at all similar for social folks. When you are a biologist or a physicist, you can be awed by the way life is arranged and made possible, and many famous scientists claimed to be highly religious. But when you are a sociologist, you study religion as a human product, created by human and in turn affect human affairs. The view is advocated by sociology founding fathers. Karl Marx famously claimed religion to be “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”. Emile Durkheim is too well-known for his study of elementary religion and the notion that when people worship, they worship society itself, they worship themselves as a collective. And Max Weber studies religion as a crucial factor leading to social change, namely how the Protestant Ethics facilitated the raise of capitalism. And it is far from unusual when my Sociology professors casually mention that they are atheists in lectures.
Phew, too long a self-explanation, back to snow and the seemingly irrelevant connection. It just occurs to me that the whiteness of snow is not a colour, not an even dominant colour, it is the absolute. Once it snows, everything is covered in that white blanket. Trees, house roof, roads, cars and people, all can’t help but give in to that white. Nothing else is allowed to present. It is the Absolute. You can either hide away from it, or walk in it, but the thing shelters you, be it a house roof or a car, is white-washed, too. Snow is passionate, for it triumphs over everything. Snow is powerful, because of its irresistibility. Nature and human alike have to bend under the whiteness of snow. It is so mighty that you feel awfully small walking in it, even though it just consists of an indefinite number of tiny pieces of frozen water. You may feel, like I do, the inherent helplessness of a human being facing forces of nature, or you may feel, like I do too, at the same time, a warm embrace of nature, a spiritual kind of link between a human and the Earth. It is like, you are afraid of an all too vigorous individual, but with them, you also feel loved, and protected. You admire them, love them and are spontaneously urged by a need to prostrate yourself.
It is the beauty that makes you want to cry.

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