As I am working on the first book in my Homeless Myths series, The Star Warriors and the Secret of the Red Key, the topic of belief systems is present all the time. With Myths in the series name, those things are running through my head. Why do we believe the things we do. What do these kids believe? How passionately do they believe it? Are their beliefs any less credible simply because they are children? Or is it adults who have twisted those belief systems based on what can or cannot be “proven”?
When I read, I fully invest in the story. I enter the world of the characters and live the story with them. I did the same as a child whether reading it or listening to my mother read bedtime stories. I remember reaching the moment in Peter Pan when Tinkerbell has drunk the poison meant for Peter and was dying. I cried, not so much because I liked Tinkerbell because I didn’t, but because she was Peter’s friend and he would miss her, and even though she was mean to Wendy, I didn’t want her to die. So when Peter asked everyone who believed in fairies to clap their hands, I clapped as loud and hard as I could, because I knew if Tinkerbell heard she would be saved.
Fast forward a year or two. I would listen to Peter Pan on an album we had and would always clap at the important moment. Not quite so loud and hard as I did in the beginning, but I clapped because I believed. But then things subtly changed. I’d listen to the record or read the story and would think, “But not everyone is reading or listening to the story at the same time as me, so how do I know whether Tinkerbell is dying?” Would my lone claps save her? I clapped. Not because I believed it would save her, but because I didn’t know it wouldn’t. Notice, it wasn’t my belief in fairies that had waned, but my belief that clapping could save a fairy in a far distant land.
Before, I had believed without question. Now, logic played a part and altered my beliefs based on concepts I better understood, like not everyone reading the same story at the same time. And slowly, I stopped clapping … and felt sad because it was no longer in my power to help Tinkerbell live or die. I first believed I had the ability to sway Tinkerbell’s fate because Peter, the hero of the story, had told me so. Later I believed because I had proven it to be true … I had clapped and she lived. Later still, my belief slipped because I had greater knowledge and that knowledge cast doubts on the beliefs I had previously held.
I find the same to be true with all beliefs. We might first believe something because we hear it from an authority figure. Someone we like/revere/trust. As we grow/mature in our knowledge surrounding the belief, there might be some subtle shifts in what we believe and how strongly we believe it. Sometimes we reach a point where we discard a belief previously held. And sometimes the hole, where we once held the belief, is filled with sorrow or even anger.
Back to the kids in the Homeless Myths series. They believe many things adults would say were wrong. But they hold on to their beliefs because they need them. The beliefs help explain the world they live in. A world so chaotic it otherwise does not make sense. And who is to say they are wrong? Because we cannot prove them right doesn’t mean they are wrong.
Yes, I have given up the belief that clapping because I believe in fairies can save one from dying, but who is to say I don’t believe it fairies?