My thoughts are a little scattered today, but there are a few common threads among them as I have been thinking about my project these last couple days.
Another member of the field studies program, whose blog you can find here, made a wonderful and truthful comment that made me realize my lack of open-mindedness when it comes to religion in society. I do have a bias, and recognizing that is good, but her comment was important because I really haven't been doing much in my research aimed at understanding secular points of view. I believe that I understand secular arguments on the surface, but perhaps I have an underlying tendency to demonize those contrary to religious activity, and that tendency is out of place. After all, there are a great number of principled people in the world, and to characterize all those without religion as unprincipled is extremely unfair and untrue. So, I've made it a goal to understand secular viewpoints more thoroughly. Just as living in Brasil made me aware of many unfortunate and uncomfortable realities about the country, in two years living there I was able to look beyond those deficiencies and appreciate the heart of a people that I find very loving, spirited, and creative. In only ninety days in London, I will have to move quickly to understand the English as a people--much faster than I did as a missionary. When I was in Brasil, it took six months to a year just to begin to understand and appreciate the brazilian people with any real depth, although that time was compounded by the fact that I also had to learn the language. In England, I won't have to learn the language entirely, but in part there will still be so much to learn about the people, the customs, habits, and mindsets that I may find myself hard-pressed to comprehend it in just ninety days. And just as living in Brasil meant coming to accept (if not agree) with the drug dealers that lived in the favelas down the road, the less-than-trustworthy policeman driving the streets, and the blasting of "funk" music on the next block that continued ceaselessly all night during weekends; living in London will mean living with realities far different than what I've gotten used to here at BYU for a few months. I hope I can look beyond that though, and see the heart of the people behind some aspects that might be easily visible in the streets, on billboards, or on "the tube". In the same way, I hope I can see beyond the opinions of people that might make them openly unreligious or anti-religion to their human hearts and lives that are much more than a statistic. I don't want to misunderstand the people I'll be studying about, and I do want to produce useful results from my study there. To be sure, I'm learning a methodology, a pattern, and a skill that will be useful later in life as I go into business or social research later on. But whatever I end up doing, I hope I don't do it to the detriment of the people about whom I do research, or with whom I do business.