Nurgles and Other Nonsense

Bananas by Charles Roffey on flickr



Back when I was a teen volunteering at a summer camp, I remember a co-worker telling me a funny story from her youth.  She said that for years she had been duped by her older siblings into believing that the hard flower nib at the end of the banana was inedible.  The ‘nurgle’, they told her, was deadly poisonous, and should therefore be avoided at all costs.

Then one day, when my co-worker was in her late teens, she was with a group of friends and saw one of them about to chow down on the last bite of banana.

“Stop!” she shouted in desperation, “DON’T EAT THE NURGLE!!!”

This statement, and her sheepish explanation for it, was received with great hilarity by her friends.  They dissuaded her from the truth of it and reassured her that it was safe to eat the banana in its entirety, but it took her a while to believe that she had been fooled all those years by her mischievous older siblings.

I was thinking about this anecdote recently.  My acquaintance hadn’t eaten ‘the nurgle’, but she had swallowed her siblings’ story – hook, line, and sinker.  And she’s not the only one. I think that all of us are walking around with various beliefs planted there by people we’ve encountered through our lives.  In my co-worker’s case, it was a deliberate (albeit harmless) deception; but many of us have unwittingly taken on casually disseminated untruths or half-truths without questioning their veracity.  As a result, we’re walking around with all kinds of foolish notions in our heads – notions like, ‘I just don’t have what it takes…’, ‘Love shouldn’t be hard work’, and, ‘He who dies with the most toys, wins’.  Some of these notions we’ve adopted are troublesome; some of them are downright dangerous.

Each of us is fed a multitude of ideas every day – by the media, by family, friends and acquaintances, by our own limited experience and through our own biases.  We absorb these ideas about ourselves and about the world around us and those ideas inform our choices.  And, over time, these ideas seep into our psyche and become core beliefs.

In the worst cases, these entrenched beliefs can cause us to hold onto lies that poison our sense of self.  They can challenge our own sense of worth, and they can cause us to devalue others.

I haven’t been immune to this gullibility.  For one thing, I bought into this myth for ages: big girls don’t run.  For years, I thought I just wasn’t physically capable of enjoying running because of my various physical attributes – but after discovering the wonders of good shoes, solid training, and a couple of firm sports bras, I realized that running could actually be fun.  Go figure.

And of course there have been plenty of other lies I’ve swallowed about what perfection or success should look like, and so forth.

The challenge for us is in sorting out truth from fiction and exposing the ‘nurgles’ in our lives.

The next time you’re standing in front of a mirror and despising what you see, tell yourself, Don’t eat the nurgle!  I’m fearfully and wonderfully made… God’s works are wonderful – I know that full well.”

When you meet someone and their outward appearance isn’t to your liking, repeat to yourself, Don’t eat the nurgle!  I’m not going to judge a book by its cover.

If you find yourself feeling angry with someone or judging a group of people by what you know of a few, remind yourself, Don’t eat the nurgle!  Walk a mile in their shoes, be peaceful, sow love…

It might sound bananas (ha!), but maybe a silly story is enough to help us challenge the lies that we’ve swallowed and embrace the wonderful truth and beauty in our lives.

Don’t eat the nurgle!

Life, Parenting, Philosophy


Sale by the justified sinner on flickr

I had this conversation with my kids over the weekend:

“Mum!  Can we get a No-No?”

I have no idea what they’re talking about – they’re watching a show on a station we rarely let them watch, because it has TV commercials, so I ask them what it is they want.

“It removes unwanted hair!” says A.

“No razors or lasers!” adds B.

“It’s PAINLESS” yells C.

“PLEASE can we get one??” they all chorus together…

I try to be the voice of reason, so I point out the obvious:

“But you don’t have any unwanted hair…”

“Yes, I do,” insists C., “My curls are getting a bit long on top!”

“I’ve got armpit hairs!” adds B., “They’re white and tiny, but they’re there!”

“So can we get one, Mummy – please??” implores A.

This is not the first time my boys have tried to sell me on a commercial product.  Another time I got up on a Saturday morning to find that they’d been up for an hour and A. had been considerate enough to record the infomercial they’d been watching, just so that I’d have the details about how to purchase a special mop.  They were totally sold on the thing after hearing all the hype.

Most of the time my boys aren’t exposed to advertising (on TV) for anything except other shows on that particular station – one of the benefits of having cable stations dedicated to children’s programming.  But when they do see commercials, they take the bait – hook, line, and sinker.  And they want whatever it is that’s being marketed at them.  They need it (according to them).

I remember my sister telling me that they’d taken the word gullible out of the dictionary.  It took until I paused for breath in the middle of my tirade about how out-of-control we’d all got about being ‘PC’ before she was able to tell me that she had been joking…

I guess that proved how gullible I was, although I did argue at the time that I only believed my sister’s statement because I had concocted this rational explanation for the removal of the word from the dictionary.

But really, aren’t we all pretty gullible when it comes to one thing or another?

Some of us are totally suckered into doing things for our kids that our kids would be better off doing for themselves.

Some of us completely buy into the hype of ‘celebrity’ and go all fanatical about some person just because that person happens to be famous.

Some of us adopt this worldly vision of ‘success’ involving self-aggrandizement and acquisition, never allowing for the possibility of dumb luck and good fortune but instead believing that we have what we have as some sort of birth-right.

Some of us look to religious figures and ‘gurus’ as infallible deciders-of-doctrine instead of seeking the answers ourselves and understanding the limitations of human judgement.

There’s a lot of marketing that goes into these conclusions; the same goes for how we draw the line between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’.  A lot of ‘word of mouth’ advertising happens, too.  The opinions of those around us inform our opinions on a lot of subjects – our own feelings are determined by the thoughts of those with whom we spend our time.

When I’m with some groups of friends, I readily agree that owning your own home is something I want rather than a necessity in my life.  But when I’m with others, I can feel downright deprived by not being a home-owner; it seems that everyone else has the pleasure of ‘nesting’ and ‘having roots’ except me (more on this subject in a future post).  With some people I am totally convinced that we need a certain income to provide an ‘enriched’ childhood for our kids (paying for extra-curricular classes, music lessons, and other educational experiences); in other groups I feel like having these kinds of expectations is both unrealistic and unhealthy.  In fact, it is particularly when it comes to parenting that I feel myself pulled in every direction by someone who has an idea to sell me, and these opinions are often stated very strongly.

But here’s where it pays to avoid being influenced by others in this way: there is no ‘one way’ to raise your children.  There is no one kind of ‘perfect’ kid or ‘ideal’ upbringing.  There is no one narrow vision of how to be a good parent.

Good Mums stay at home with their kids.  Good Mums work outside the home.  Good kids are eager to please.  Good kids are conscientious objectors.  Good Dads do what it takes to provide for their families.  Good Dads don’t let work be the priority. … You see?  All are true; some are mutually exclusive.

I can be fickle about things; I can make my mind up about something and feel utterly convicted about it, only to have someone present another viewpoint and find myself making a 180-degree turn in my philosophy.  And I think that it’s important to be open to learning from others and to challenge my pre-conceived ideas in this way.

At the same time, though, I try not to be gullible enough to believe that I have to subscribe to someone else’s set of ideas just because they are selling them convincingly.  And I try to use what I know to be Truth – this undeniable, unequivocal absolute – to determine where on the spectrum my ideal should be.

I believe that’s the best I can do.