'Faith' by Stephen House
As I divide the hand of eight bananas in half, and add four of them to my shopping bag, a woman with a wicker basket moves towards me and smiles. “Have you heard the word of Jesus Christ,” she says as she gets to me, face now close to mine.
“Yes I have, and it’s an interesting word, but I have my own beliefs, although I respect everyone else’s,” I say.
There is a pause from her, and she responds, “Well what do you believe in?”
“I suppose it’s my own version; a blend of a few faiths; and while it’s a bit of a mix of Hindu and Buddhism, I do have room for Christianity and others to slide in amongst it also. I identify as a queer, nomad, artist, vegetarian, yogi. I pray to Shiva, Buddha and Lord Ganesh each morning as my chosen deities, but I do say a prayer to Jesus and Lord Krishna at times too; and often an over-riding one to the Supreme, whatever – whoever that is, which I direct to the Sun with gratitude for another day of life,” I say to her, who looks at me like I’m some kind of dangerous crazy man. Then I add, “How can any of us know? But I’ve always been drawn to the total meaning of Om Namah Shivaya; the chant to Lord Shiva: Universal Consciousness is one. For me it kind of sums up life; we are one, no matter what our faith; and also our race, colour, sexuality, gender identity… and so on.”
“But your religion and way of thinking is wrong,” she says. “The only truth is the Bible. Every answer is in it,” she adds.
“Well, I entirely respect your belief, but it’s not where I’m at. I’m happy with my spiritual practise and my life; but thank you for chatting and sharing.”
I pick up my bag of fruit and vegetables and line up at the counter to pay. She shakes her head at me in disappointment or disgust. I pay for my shopping and begin to walk away. She glares at me as I pass her.
An Indian woman stacking sweet potatoes at the stall, who has been glancing at us talking, looks at me, smiles, and quietly says, “Om Namah Shivaya.”
“Om Namah Shivaya,” I say back to her, smile, and move off into the early morning market crowd.
A group of Hare Krishna’s are dancing and chanting, and not far from them, a man is preaching something and handing out flyers.
I have only gone a few metres when the Christian woman appears beside me, “Can you please make a small donation to my church?” she asks.
I give her five dollars and walk away.
Outside the market there appears to be a march of some kind. I see a rainbow flag, and decide to go and investigate, so make my way towards the noisy crowd moving slowly along the road.
Copyright. Stephen House.
Stephen House is an award winning Australian playwright, poet and actor. He’s won two Awgie Awards (Australian Writer’s Guild) , Adelaide Fringe Award, Rhonda Jancovich Poetry Award for Social Justice, Goolwa Poetry Cup, Feast Short Story Prize and more. He’s been shortlisted for Lane Cove Literary Award, Overland’s Fair Australia Fiction Prize, Patrick White Playwright and Queensland Premier Drama Awards, Greenroom best actor Award and more. He’s received Australia Council literature residencies to Ireland and Canada, and an India Asialink. His chapbook “real and unreal” was published by ICOE Press Australia. He is published often and performs his work widely.