Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chameleon

The van pulls up, nondescript except for a lack of windows – a Hudderite van, we call them around here, because the Hudderites use them so much. A bunch of people pile out, not Hudderites, and before I know it the day that promised to be slow has a group of 23 people. They have a lot of children – two families of 7 each to start – and they aren’t European. That leaves only one option.

“Are you home schoolers?” I ask.

The leader, a short man with glasses and an earnest expression, answers in the affirmative.

“I was home schooled,” I say. Just friendly small talk with the tourists. I do it all the time.

All the adults make pleased murmuring noises and then the leader launches into what they’ve done so far on their trip. I’m not surprised. Home schoolers, I’ve noticed, are the champions of unloading too much information on strangers. I listen politely. They’ve gone to the Hoodoos, as well as a visit to a Creationism museum…uh oh. These people are those kind of home schoolers.

“Are you a Christian?” the leader asks abruptly.

“Yes,” I answer. I know where this is heading and I’m regretting ever letting him know I was home schooled but it’s too late now.

“What do you think of the Tyrell and all of that here?”

The silence in my ears is eternal while I consider the options. You see, I personally have no problem believing the world was both created by God and is billions of years old. I think the Tyrell is an interesting museum and I actually don’t care enough about this aspect of science to involve my theology in it. Unlike the vibes I’m getting from Earnest in front of me. I don’t want to argue. I don’t care enough.

“Well, I’m an artist so I kind of approach it from that perspective and the displays are very beautiful,” I finally answer. I feel guilty and lame for copping out but it was the right tack; Earnest doesn’t really care what I say as long as it doesn’t contradict his notion of what and who I am. He goes off about the errors of carbon dating and the living dinosaurs in the rain forest today. I’ve read just enough about his viewpoint to smile and nod and throw in the occasional intelligent yet ambiguous statement.

The chameleon hiding her true colours yet again.

After the tour one of the older men in the group questioned me about my home town and the theatre there (I’d let slip where I was from). I got the distinct sense he was judging me and my life path. I guess the answers I gave were acceptable (or really wrong) because after all that he invited me to their church in Lacombe “if you’re ever up that way”.

I’m not going to lie. I feel like I’m struggling with faith right now, with knowing if what I believe is true, is good enough, is even worth believing. On top of that I want God to be a father in the sky giving me what I want and it’s not happening, so I’m frustrated. All that to say I read his pamphlet before tucking off to the side. I can see it as I write – “Your Personal Invitation: Preaching the Old Book, the New Birth, the Precious Blood, and the Blessed Hope”. Truthfully, when I read “Precious Blood” I snorted and got jolted out of the maudlin and back into my normal, more mocking headspace. It was worth reading it just for that.

This whole experience did make me think about the big things: my life, religion, the world, my family. My mom chose to home school me and my brothers for a few reasons – the system wasn’t meeting my needs, and she didn’t like the effect the peer influence was having on me. At some point, I don’t think it was from the beginning, she became “one of those home schoolers” which is why I knew enough about Earnest’s beliefs to meld into his world view without shaking it apart, and why I really wanted to shake it apart in the first place. I feel I can mock it. I’ve been there even if I didn’t stay there for long.

And yet I didn’t challenge his worldview. Why? Am I like my cousin, who apparently takes on the colours, beliefs, and attitudes of whatever group of friends she’s hanging out with? Am I weak and cowardly? Or did I just do the professional thing?

I don’t know the answer. I know I want it to be the last option. I know I’m not certain it is.

I guess a chameleon doesn’t get to choose the colours it wears.

And I think I’m getting tired of being a chameleon.

1 comment:

wilsonian said...

My guess is that you read people well. Most people want to talk about themselves. "Tourists" love to talk about themselves. They aren't particularly interested in hearing about you. This guy fits the mold... he was really only looking for reinforcement. He would have won either way. If you agreed... he's right. If you disagreed... he's still right, and even more right for keeping his family apart from the world.

You exercised a little self-preservation.
And yes, it was the professional thing to do :) I've worked at a museum for 15 years... it doesn't get easier with time lol.

ps. I have a feeling you won't find the answers you need in that tract ;)