A few weeks ago a friend, Brett Fish shared this story with our students. I've been sick in bed for the past week - unable to do anything, but this story kept coming back to me. It's a sober reminder of how conviction must feel... Then Granny said, ‘It’s no good you trying to make me believe in Om, though.’
‘Om forbid that I should try, Mistress Weatherwax. I haven’t even given you a pamphlet, have I?’
‘No, but you’re trying to make me think, “Oo, what a nice young man, his god must be something special if nice young men like him helps old ladies like me,” aren’t you?’
‘Really? Well, it’s no working. People you can believe in, sometimes, but not gods. And I’ll tell you this, Mister Oats…’
He sighed. ‘Yes?’
She turned to face him, suddenly alive. ‘It’d be as well for you if I didn’t believe,’ she said, prodding him with a sharp finger. ‘This Om… anyone seen him?'
‘It is said three thousand people witnessed his manifestation at the Great Temple when he made the Covenant with the prophet Brutha and saved him from death by torture on the iron turtle –‘
‘But I bet that now they’re arguing about what they actually saw, eh?’
‘Well, indeed, yes, there are many opinions–’
‘Right, Right. That’s people for you. Now if I’d seen him, really there, really alive, it’d be in me like a fever. If I though there was some god who really did care two hoots about people, who watched ‘em like a father and cared for ‘em like a mother… well, you wouldn’t catch me saying’ things like “There are two sides to every question,” and “we must respect other people’s beliefs.” You wouldn’t find me just being generally nice in the hope that it’d all turn out right in the end, not if that flame was burning in me like an unforgiven’ sword. And did I say burnin’, Mister Oats, ‘cos that’s what it’d be. You say that you people don’t burn folk and sacrifice people any more, but that’s what true faith would mean, y’see? Sacrificin’ your own life, one day at a time, to the flame, declarin’ the truth of it, working’ for it, breathin’ the soul of it. That’s religion. Anything else is just … is just bein’ nice. And a way of keepin’ in touch with the neighbours.’
She relaxed slightly, and wont on in a quieter voice: ‘Anyway, that’s what I’d be, if I really believed. And don’t think that’s fashionable right now, ‘cos it seems that if you sees evil now you have to wring your hands and say, “Oh deary me, we must debate this.” That’s my two penn’orth, Mister Oats. You be happy to let things lie. Don’t chase faith, ‘cos you’ll never catch it.’ She added, almost as an aside, ‘But perhaps you can live faithfully.’
Her teeth chattered as a gust of icy wind flapped her wet dress around her legs. ‘You got another book of holy words on you?’ she added.
‘No,’ said Oats, still shocked. He thought: my god, if she ever finds a religion, what would come out of these mountains and sweep across the plains? My god… I just said, ‘My god’… Jesus said: Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all else will be added unto you.