The topic of secularism and kids literature is one that is near and dear to me, so this is another area I’ll be delving into…
TL;DR [too long; didn’t read]: The secret to what kids’ fights, YA literature, and the Big Questions of Life have in common (this is not really a fair tl;dr because I’m not going to give you the spoiler)
My kids AB and Z get into awful fights over the stupidest things.
AB will insist that Z has done something, she will roundly declare she hasn’t, and eventually she comes sobbing to me, saying, “He says I did this but I didn’t!” Or vice versa. Or perhaps they are dickering over the exact nature of what went down. You would think they were members of the British Parliament brawling, the way they go at it.
Invariably, I repeat a mantra over and over again: “It doesn’t matter who says what—You can’t change reality.”
I try to get Z to understand that if she really didn’t say “AB is a stupid piece of poop,” it doesn’t matter how much her brother claims she did it. “His saying so doesn’t change the reality,” I tell her.
There’s a common thread you see in children’s and young adult novels as well as movies, and that is a certain level of existential wondering. “Do you ever think about what’s out there?” characters will muse. Angsty lovelorn teenagers will theorize over what happens after death (before one of them tragically dies). The authors will somehow remind us of the mystery of it all, the randomness, often with a nihilistic and/or secular humanistic underpinning.
This thread continues into adult literature– “When Breath Becomes Air” is a bestselling book by the late Paul Kalanthi. In it, he grapples with the big questions of life and death in the face of his impending death due to cancer.
To this I say the same thing, and I endeavor to pass this message on to my children in every aspect of life: It doesn’t matter what people say, the reality does not change.
It sounds nice to pontificate over the deep, dark, existential questions (preferably lying under the stars with your crush, Young Adult novel-style). Uncertainty is sexy, whereas conviction is passe.
Except—those discussions are just words. And remember: words don’t make reality. The world will keep on turning according to a predetermined plan no matter what we say about it.
To the wanderers and questioners, I say: there is a reality out there, so look for it. Pray for it.
Because when that Day comes when the reality (al-Haaqah) arrives, all the words will cease. All the wondering and theorizing will have been for naught, because the answer and the accountability will have arrived.
Skeptics have a cartoon that they are quite proud of, because they believe that all the universe’s questions can be answered by science alone. They despise the idea of religious ideas that have no proof in the physical world. The cartoon has a beaker from a lab with legs and arms. One hand is held up, giving the middle finger. The caption reads: “Science doesn’t give a sh*t about your beliefs.”
To this I say: “Reality doesn’t give a care about your words.”
Let me close with a verse from the Qur’an that puts words and reality into context:
“His speech is the Haqq.”
Haqq is truth and reality all rolled up into one. And it is HIS speech that is the ultimate truth. Our words will be dust in the wind, but when He speaks, He creates the true reality. And it is one which we can never escape, no matter how many words and tales we weave.