Spirituality Beyond Religion

Rebel Rebel (A journey into freedom, Donna Vaughan)

REBELLIOUS = Showing a desire to resist authority, control or convention. Not easily controlled or kept in place. RELIGIOUS = A person bound by monastic views, devout, pious, God fearing, dutiful, church going, practicing, faithful, devoted, committed.

Rebel; What does that word mean to me? Probably someone willing to do their own thing, not frightened of being criticised; Probably self confident and strong willed. Anyone who knows me personally will say that I am none of these things; I am easily upset if people get annoyed with me, am willing to be in the background, I’m socially awkward, not self confident and I frequently attempt to keep the peace by being non-confrontational. I have bad days where I may be more likely to question, I may feel really passionate about something and feel empowered to have my say especially if I feel that it harms the people who I love, but I’m sure everyone is the same.

So why do I get called rebellious? I think people need to put labels on everyone that they know. They need to know where they fit into their lives and what they think or know about that person makes them categorise them as far as their ability to relate to that person or want to be acquainted with that person. It’s a form of control, it helps us to manage our surroundings. As a child I remember wanting to have long hair and loving being on the swings feeling the wind blow through it but I was told it was messy and it had to be tied up . As a young child I loved listening to music, I loved seeing Bohemian Rhapsody on Top of the Pops and The Sweet and I remember listening to Jimi Hendrix playing Voodoo Child on the radio in the car, I must have been about 3 . I have never stopped loving music; Not just rock music but all forms, reggae, ska, metal, some pop and some artists like Amy Winehouse or Aretha Franklin move and inspire me. I may think about someone like John Lennon, or Andy Warhol, or Marilyn Monroe, or David Bowie, or even M L King when I think of rebels because they refused to conform to society and behave with decorum; (behaviour in keeping with good taste and propriety, etiquette, protocol, good form, convention, conformity or ritual.)

Many of you would know our involvement in Christian ministry, the building of our kids home in the Philippines and Dave’s public experience on national television etc. You may also be aware how lately our belief patterns and life choices have been radically challenged as we have awakened to a reality and understanding of ourselves and our awareness of there being more to life than the christian religion as it is currently being portrayed and boxed as at this point in history. The lines and the hard and fast rules were something that I felt constrained me, depressed me, confused me and upset me. To be perfectly honest I saw people willing to be called ‘man of god’ yet not fully embracing the image which was publicly conveyed. In reflecting upon the pillars of our collective faith – the stories and the ‘truths’ of the bible I started a quest to un-think and to detox; to find again the person who’m I once was as my personality had become tarnished and dulled by a whole lot of ‘do’s and don’ts.’ From the time that we became ‘christians’ and started to research and follow the ‘path’ which many older believers encouraged us on we were told “do this, don’t do that. Dress like this, don’t listen to that.” The list was endless and varied according to who we engaged with. Finding a message of grace helped us to regain some freedom of personality but even so we still sought others opinions whenever making a decision instead of following what ‘we’ thought to be right.

Sometimes you have to go against the grain, against the flow and sometimes that is stretching and painful as others will often disagree or conflict as they express their misgivings. As a child I knew what I liked, as a teenager I explored music more and I had definite ideas of what I liked and disliked. My sense of dress was frowned upon by my mum who did everything that she could to discourage me as she was extremely offended by my outward expression – Piercings, hair style and clothes. She had a definite picture of what was acceptable in society, being different would cause people to judge and would bring shame on the family? The generation gap and a strong insistence on confirming to the ideology within a family setting is hard for many teens classed as ‘rebellious’ and is a breeding ground for mis-communication and resentment. The problem is that my personality is all for ‘difference’ and individuality. If we all were to bow to popular opinion or were all too scared to move out and to rock the boat then would we ever have had characters who shaped and affected society? Would Rosa Parks have ever felt so’ tired of giving in‘ and ever have felt the courage to refuse to give up her bus seat without a spark of rebellion rising from within her? She became an international symbol of the modern civil rights movement. Martin Luther King would never have received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through non-violent resistance, marches and campaigns. John Lennon was known for his rebellious nature, his criticism of the Vietnam War in 1971 had Nixon trying to deport him whilst some of his songs were adopted as anthems by the anti-war movement and counterculture. Ranked the 5th greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone magazine is surely an indication that his rebellious nature touched many lives.

In our every day lives we face restrictions on what is acceptable and what is an ‘embarrassment!’ Social media is something we have all adopted to connect with others on a mass scale and is a forum to express opinion, share views and make the world a more colourful place. We are all more informed than ever and opinions are reflected quickly en masse by the news , tv shows and anything which holds the publics interest. My personal feelings about the way that we portray ourselves and my own self image was challenged massively by Facebook. Seeing a lovely friend posting an old modeling picture of herself made me think about just how much we judge other women who ‘put themselves out there’ with a profile picture. My reaction was ‘how lovely.’ Then another lady posted some car selfies and she looked lovely and I thought ‘that’s great, good on her.’ I thought about it for a long time and I realised that it takes bravery to attempt that first selfie, to express who you are to the online masses. Yes it has caused people to question my actions in posting pictures of myself on social media – my response is this, ‘I do not judge others for expressing themselves, I actually love seeing their photos, this life is too short, to worry about others opinions is restrictive, depressing smoke screen and we need to shrug it off.’

Without self expression there would be no art, no music, no love songs or expression of our innermost thoughts, no fashion or individuality, no history makers or forerunners in medicine or science. Individuality is vital for the well being of mankind. For me to swear on social media or to post a photo, or to express my opinion is not merely rebellion, it is me expressing who I am – that which makes me an individual – what makes me tick – why I interact and have relationship with the people whom I love – and to deny who I am or what I love would be a sad day for me. I have lived a long time under the shadow of irrational, religious fears and weird restrictions of what is acceptable and what has to be frowned upon. We all have our comfort zones and sometimes it is uncomfortable to put your heart out there; Whether you are an artist, a musician, writer, performer, it all comes at a cost and at risk of rejection.

What is rebellion to you is normal to another. I encourage everyone to rethink and re-examine your pre-conceived ideas as to what is offensive and what is acceptable to you and to challenge yourself to make the most of the rest of your life and not to be afraid of the opinions of others. I personally would love to see women with more confidence and self expression, even to the point that one of my lovely facebook friends has done, where she took up pole dancing and posts beautiful pictures of herself online. It’s not slutty or shameful, it is art, creativity and beauty. I hate conditioned thinking where we can’t think outside of the box and where we instantly react instead of attempting to understand our reactions to certain triggers in our thinking. I want to thank every single person who’s been really generous to me regarding my photos on social media because you are tolerating my self expression and creativity. I felt so embarrassed the first time I put them online, yet it was so liberating and I felt so thankful to everyone for their kind and generous comments. So as far as rebellion goes I think I see it as a positive and not a negative, sometimes the best people are labelled as rebels; (my personal favourite being David Bowie, what an amazing, glorious rebel who left such an awesome mark on this world. I wonder what the teachers wrote on his school report?

Much Love, Donna X