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A deep desire to believe

I find it entertaining when a ­Twitter war ensues between prolific ­tweeters, especially on “black” ­Twitter.

It will start with somebody like ­
@SimphiweDana making a belligerent statement that will make someone like @HelenZille look bad if she does not respond, but almost always makes her look bad if she does.

In this country, race is the choice-grade bait that most will bite because it is easy. I long for the day when ­people will be as vocal about their religions.

I was disappointed that there were so few tweets about a group of Christians who succeeded in getting a major retailer to remove hot cross buns from its shelves because they bore halaal stickers.

Black Twitter was strangely quiet. Why? Because the same people who are constantly lambasting neocolonialism and white people have a meaningful and significant relationship with the Christian faith that colonialism and white people brought. Religion is a sensitive (big) business that even the most opinionated seem willingly to opt out of condemning.

I got to understand why over Easter. Most of the things that people do religiously in a religious ­setting have little to do with their deep desire for something to believe in.

I do not belong to any particular religious sect, so my options for things to do on religious holidays are always abundant. On Friday night I attended a Pesach seder at the house of a friend’s mother.

There were two goys (non-Jews) and two not-really-religious Jews. Whereas the rest of the table could not wait to get to the latter pages of the Pick n Pay Herzlia Haggadah so that we could eat, I, with respect, wanted to discuss the contents of those pages. Fortunately, I was seated with a willing group, but we were equally unschooled in the basic characters of the Old Testament and the roles they played.

But it did lead to other discoveries, such as the correlation between the word “Pesach” and the isiXhosa word for Easter, iPasika. None of us really took the formal stuff to heart — we enjoyed the food and one another’s company and promised to make the seder and its rituals an annual affair.

On Tuesday, I spent my evening at a Buddhist meditation centre. I am learning how to meditate. Despite the dogmatic singing and chanting, I left there feeling really good.

The cynic in me will never cease to see all religion as a construct bent on preventing humans from truly ­thinking for themselves. But I am beginning to get it. At the end of the day, we are ignorant, guilt-ridden beings who mostly live in fear. There is comfort in knowing that there are times dedicated to acknowledging that fact collectively, despite the irrelevant practices associated with the acknowledgment.

And afterwards we continue our fumble in the dark, hoping that it will eventually lead to the light of a better place, be it heaven, Nirvana or, as it says in the Haggadah, “next year in Jerusalem”.

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Milisuthando Bongela
Milisuthando Bongela is the Mail & Guardians arts and culture editor. She is a multi award-winning writer, blogger and collaborator. She has experience in the arts having worked in fashion, music, art and film as well as a decade-long career in consulting, entrepreneurship, blogging and cultural activism. She is also directing a documentary about hair and black identity, a film she calls the report card on the rainbow nation project.

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