Wednesday, March 05, 2014

No way!

Amusing sequence of revelations in the East Asian religions class today. The instructor N had laid out the structure of the Daoist celestial bureaucracy, including the discomfiting discovery that there were gods in your innards who would report infractions against the precepts of the  Orthodox and Unified Covenant with the Supernatural Powers 正益盟威 (zhengyi mengwei) to the appropriate authorities in the bureaucracy, who would in turn take the due number of years off your life.

As often happens at Lang, students accepted a loopy occult system at face value and then tried to game it.
S1: "What if you did something wrong but were sincerely sorry, what would you do?
N: "Well, I'm not a Daoist, but-" started N, but was interrupted.
S2: "You're not a Daoist?"
N: "Did I say I was?"
(Confusion)
S3: "We've all been thinking we were following this great sage."
N: "Did you think I was a Confucian when we were doing Confucianism?"
(Stunned silence)

I might add that N is a white guy like me, with a conspicuously Scottish surname. Then things got even better.
S2: "If you're not a Daoist, then what are you?"
N: "I think of myself as a Christian. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are the precepts I try to live by."
(Shocked silence)
S3: "You're a Christian?"
N: "I don't go to church, but yes."
(Pregnant pause)
S3: "I'm astonished."

And, the cherry on top, as N tries to get back to the discussion.
N: "Just to be clear: I'm not a Daoist. I study Daoism."
(Bemused silence)
N: "I'm an academic."
(Bafflement)

Why is religious studies so very hard for people to get? 

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