This evening I stood in jaw-dropped amazement as a parade of men walked past me carrying strange contraptions on their shoulders, their flesh pierced with hooks and skewers that went through their lips, tongues, backs, sides, chests … even their arms and legs were not spared.
ThaiPusam is celebrated at the full moon of the 10th Tamil month – which happened to be today here in Singapore (you can find more information here) – and involves a parade of men (supported by the chanting, singing and clapping of their friends and family – and the watching crowd) carrying Kavadi which often features an elaborate design of piercings and towering decorations (you can read more about exactly why they do this here).
Man carrying Kavadi, ThaiPusam, Singapore 2012 - Photo by Stef
But what really had me in awe wasn’t the elaborate Kavadi or pierced flesh – it was the fact that this is something that these men do every year as a sign of their faith. Me? Well … Is there anything in the world for which I would put myself through this kind of pain?
I consider myself a fairly passionate person – I get excited over things I believe in and can become quite vehement in debate when arguing something that is important to me. I have a set of beliefs that I would call spiritual but they’re vague enough that I don’t practise a religion or believe in a set code of ethics. I know what I, personally, consider right and wrong (and what rests in a shady grey area), and as long as I’m permitted to continue believing what I believe I won’t hinder anyone else in their beliefs.
But would I put myself through serious pain as a demonstration of my faith?
And what is this faith that so many people seem to have – and I, apparently, don’t?
On the bus on the way home I watched the streets pass from the bus window and had visions of needles piercing flesh and Hindu gods looking at me from feathered frames adorned with flashing lights. I considered the very meaning of the word faith. In fact, I considered a lot of things.
I had a bit of a funny day today. By funny, I mean that if it weren’t for the fact that I had organised to meet a friend in Little India I probably would have stayed in bed with the covers over my head. I felt flat. Restless. A tad apathetic. I wanted to write but I couldn’t focus. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t be bothered wiping my eyes. Then I watched a link that a friend shared with me – it’s long, but well worth viewing.
If I externalise my Genius, allow my Muse freedom to exist as a separate entity to me, as a holy and amazing being who influences me but isn’t me … Wow … Life suddenly got a lot easier. I am, after all, only human. The pressure placed on me to be clever, creative, and (im)perfect is suddenly transferred to that beautiful chaotic mess in the corner of the room – my Genius.
I let the tears out. I let out the grief that I felt over not having written anything of substance today … and I forgave myself. I haven’t had a chat to my Genius yet, but it was with good feelings that I set off to Little India to watch crazy people lugging heavy ornaments stuck into their bodies.
So sitting on the bus, I thought about faith. I thought about Genius (who was sitting next to me nursing my camera and doing his utmost not to play with the buttons) and I thought about skewers and hooks and the pained expressions I saw on some faces, the euphoria I saw on others.
Faith is complete trust or belief in something. While it can refer to a God or a religion, or to having faith in a person, the overall the definition can be simplified as having complete trust in something.
I thought about my Genius. In fact, I’m looking at him now. He’s smiling at me and you know what? I have never had faith in my own abilities – I am too full of self doubt. To externalise the creative urges that come and go, to separate myself as a mortal and very human being from the creative and turbulent Genius … this division into two entities – my Genius and my Self – liberates us both.
It’s hard sometimes because there are days when I feel like I really am walking on nails just to get a sentence onto a page. But that’s just it: I’d walk on nails for my creativity, for my ability to write …
I finally have complete trust in something: I have faith in my Genius.