A mother of five whose children were attending Catholic schools in Toronto told me this true story at a recent meeting of school officials.
A teacher in the gifted program one day had the grade eight class sit in a circle on the floor and had them pass a small rock from hand to hand, telling the rock how they felt. They were to speak and relate their spirit to the spirit of the rock. Her daughter who was in attendance knew that talking to a rock was a dumb idea but went along with it. After all, the teacher is a figure of authority in the classroom.
I decided, as your faithful reporter, to interview this teacher who I will call Miss Dunderhead. When I called on her for the interview she was sitting in her front room in semi-darkness with a strong smell of incense in the air and a small statue of Buddha off in the corner.
Miss Dunderhead, who was wearing a t-shirt reading “I believe in rainbows,” was sitting cross-legged on the floor with a Hindu hat perched on her head and was staring at me through her fingers. There was an Indian headdress on the wall alongside a picture of Margaret and Pierre Trudeau hugging Fidel Castro.
She asked me to sit down. Not seeing any furniture in the room I asked “Where?”
“On the floor—where do you think? It’s Western civilization that thinks everybody should have to sit on a chair or sofa.”
I sat down opposite her and crossed my legs. She announced, “As a first time visitor, I’m going to call down a blessing from heaven on you. ‘May the Creator God, Jesus Christ and Gaia, the ancient Roman goddess of earth bless you.’” I wondered what had happened to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Miss Dunderhead asked me if I wanted some elderberry wine. I remembered an old play which I had seen where everybody who drank elderberry wine was poisoned and died painfully slow deaths and haven’t been able to drink the stuff since.
I got to the point of my visit telling her I’d heard that she had prayed to a rock and urged her students to pray to it as well.
She held up the rock and complained. “Stubborn little bigots. Don’t they know that God is everywhere? Couldn’t He be in this rock?”
“Yes,” I replied, “but couldn’t He be in this floor as well?”
“Don’t be frivolous. All religions have as their goal to lead people to God. We must never ignore that fact.”
“Yes, but you teach religion in a Catholic school,” I countered. “Shouldn’t Catholicism be foremost in your mind?”
“Foremost? Yes, but not exclusively. I feel that all religions should be given a chance to shine in the sun. Why should we give Catholics preferential treatment? After all, our own native people worshipped the earth, air, water and fire long before we came to North America. We don’t want to be narrow-minded, do we? Take homosexuality for example. It’s an option which most people don’t accept but we have to be charitable. And isn’t forcing women to undergo pregnancy a denial of their free will?”
I told her she was way off base. “Where is your sense of tolerance,” she retorted.
“We’re not talking tolerance, lady, we’re talking confusion,” I thought as I read her version of the Lord’s prayer.
O thou, the Breath, the Light of All,
Let this Light create a heart-shrine within.
Let your counsel rule til oneness guides all,
Your One Desire then acts with ours,
As in all Light, so in all Forms.
“Who wrote this—Bugs Bunny?” I yelped.
At this, she grabbed a large broom and began to chase me out of the house, hitting me with it. I was able to escape and, running from the house, I looked back.
Miss Dunderhead had mounted the broom and was riding after me.
It was then that I woke from my dream with the realization that who gets elected mayor of Toronto is not half as important as who gets elected as your local school trustee.