18. Welcome to the big people’s world

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, la-la-la-la-la. Our diligent teacher transformed the Old Testament into a catchy song. It was unmistakable brainwashing with a cheerful tone. Indeed, we were the lucky ones. Other worldviews were not discussed. Not during this class or later classes of religion. Oh hell no! It’s very logical since only Christianity possesses the ultimate truth. Blimey. Such a blinkered view was what I really needed. Let’s say what is learned in the cradle is carried to the tomb. And that’s true. I’d missed the first week and some classes due to a faraway trip (back then already!). Secretly I hoped for some probing introductions, but it was too late for that. Having heaps of fun instead of attending classes. It was a disgraceful blot on my tender personality development. After all, education is the source of civilization, knowledge is the driving force of progress. Right?

As I sang, I realized I didn’t miss out at all. In fact, I could have stayed away longer. This shy youngster questioned the added value of this song. Deep inside I wanted to share my doubts with my classmates, but I didn’t have the balls to do so. How fortunate. For the teacher, that is. Just try to provide a sensible explanation to that. Anyway, I was bored to death. A monster of a fart was lurking for some time. I released the beast and it went off with a bang. The silent rebellion turned very loudly. I raised my right leg like a dog, so the boy next to me got blasted by the wind. Poor kid, his glasses nearly fogged up. Virtually the entire male half of the class burst out in laughter. My neighbor laughed at the other side of his face. I felt relieved of a bunch of hot air as I listened to the teacher. It was childish and close to blasphemy in his point of view. This potential follower and spreader of ‘the true cause’ only got a warning. He didn’t retaliate out of compassion. I secretly crossed myself, God has granted my wish.

A farting freshman, intriguing huh? Well, this day really made the history books. When I got home, my mother was glued to the telly. The first thing I saw was a plane crashing into a skyscraper. And then another one. It looked so unreal and bizarre. With youthful naivety, I asked what film this was. Well… The news report wasn’t part of a Hollywood blockbuster. It was the ‘real’ news of September 11th, 2001. It’s a day that I remember vividly. I wasn’t concerned about world politics or societal issues at that age. Still, I was old enough to experience what’s going on. It was clearly an enormous event. Neighbors came over, the landline phone kept ringing. Later on I suddenly heard the distant tune of the ice cream van. With a few Guilders in my pocket, I rushed outside to score some treat. It required quite some patience since the van became an improvised adult shelter for big-people-talk. Youthful innocence stepped aside for a moment. Everyone was talking about it. Young and old followed the latest news in utter disbelief.

I’ve seen enough after a while. What can I do with this far-from-my-bed show… I went to my room. This well-bred choirboy grabbed his Bible to do his homework. Oh, all those wonderful virtues. Thou shall not steal, murder, abuse, lie, deceive, hurt, cheat, betray, etcetera. They’re such divine pearls of wisdom from various noble religions, philosophies, doctrines, great thinkers and the whole lot. It was a stark contrast to the mass murder I just saw on the tube. The most repulsive images were repeated continuously. Crushed people, suffocating people, exploding people. People who jumped to their deaths out of utter despair or celebrated other people’s suffering. Indescribable suffering and misery, anger and sadness, hate and hateful speech. Why such madness… Do people pray incorrectly or not frequently enough? Who did or said something wrong? Explanations didn’t come up in my simple childmind. Then I wondered what the hell I was doing. Endless repetition and mindless regurgitation of texts, yuk. There was no proper questioning, analysis of content or mastering of any subject. I didn’t encounter absolute, all-knowing and all-inclusive wisdom of life. All I saw was unclear, tedious and outdated stuff. Apparently the writer couldn’t explain it simply. Damn it. This Millennial with no attention span doesn’t have time for that. Writing is erasing. That’s why I tore one page after another out of the holy book. I stopped at a certain point, otherwise there wouldn’t be much left to bring to school.

Alright, this was a really blunt form of secularization. I didn’t think I need an imaginary Supreme Being to be a ‘good human.’ As if there’s something inherently unnatural about ‘good’ behavior or an irreligious thought process. Goddamn, the teacher will be so disappointed in me. I’ll probably be Satan himself, a sub-human or (if I’m lucky) a lost soul. I no longer fit into his worldview or the worldview of billions of others. Such tension, Such inconvenience and hassle. The world would be so much better if everyone just lived according to this or that ideal vision. Then we wouldn’t waste tons of energy on endless bickering. The struggle to achieve something in the name of whatever would simply dissolve, as will all the ‘(in)avoidable’ blood-shedding. What a noble ideal, surely nothing competes with that. It justifies a crucial mission to correct all those who think differently. If required, mental pressure or violence rules okay. The end justifies the means. The good cause has free reign, which makes perfect sense for everyone. Everyone believes in doing the right thing, everyone walks on ‘the right path’. All this lost devil did was hoping. Hoping to receive some decent, relevant and practical education. Hopefully, I’ll be shown how to deal with conflicting worldviews, hard emotions, the challenges of a globalized society and the rapid pace of change. What a false start of the make-or-break millennium. The 21st century looked very modern at first sight. But appearances can be deceiving. First Santa Claus and now this. If only the disillusionment could be less child-unfriendly.

I always thought that the grown-ups know everything perfectly well, but that isn’t really the case.

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