The Afro-American actor Morgan Freeman has made a TV series called The Story of God. It is a documentary series that has been running for two seasons so far, and it is made by the National Geographic channel.
In this series Morgan Freeman explores various cultures and religions all over the world. He speaks to representatives for these cultures and religions, common people, scholars, priests, imams and monks. They speak about various topics, connected to their beliefs, but mainly their belief in a God or a higher power.
Morgan Freeman is an amazing actor, a producer and a narrator. If you are not familiar with the term narrator (which I wasn’t either) it is a person who tells stories in TV programme. Morgan Freeman has a distinctive voice, and if you have seen a couple of movies with him you will easily recognise him. He has acted in several movies and has won awards for his acting.
Morgan Freeman was born in 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee USA. He began his career as an actor at the age of 9 and worked as a dancer when he was in his twenties.
In the mid-1980s, he began to have prominent roles as a supporting actor. His personality type gave him roles of a fatherly character. These roles lead him to larger roles, like Sergeant Major Rawlins in the movie Glory. That was a little background of Morgan Freeman, an actor I can highly recommend.
What is so interesting about Mr Freeman is his genuine interest in learning about other cultures and religions. He says about himself that he doesn’t believe in God in any traditional way, and even though he has been working for so long making the TV series, it hasn’t changed his opinion about religious matters.
He has the deepest respect for cultures and religions and he travels around the world to explore things that many times are new to him. For example, he went to India where the main religion is Hinduism with its many gods. They don’t have only one God, like Islam which is a monotheistic religion. In Hinduism, they have different gods depending on the purpose of the prayers.
If you are a woman and you suffer from infertility you pray to a certain god. A man who is a farmer and wishes to have a good crop will pray to another god.
You choose which god you pray to, depending on the purpose of your prayer, but which gods you pray to also go with the family. There are a lot of images and statues of the gods everywhere in the villages and streets but also along the roads.
People stop to pray for a while and sacrifice flowers and food.
They sing to the gods and for some they also dance as a way of worshipping.
Morgan Freeman visited representatives for both small and large religions. In one of the programs he visited a large, beautiful mosque. He spoke to an imam there and one of the topics of their conversation was the Muslim call to prayer.
This call is a very important part of our worshipping and it is important to find the right voice for it.
Mr Freeman got the opportunity to see an audition where the man with the best voice was picked out to become a new caller.
A lot of people that are non-Muslims feel that the sound of a call to prayer is one of the most beautiful sounds in the world.
I agree whole-heartedly and I miss that sound so much when I am here in Sweden.
You, dear reader, who always hear that sound around you might not enjoy it as much as we do who live far away from a mosque. I spoke to a Muslim girl who comes from Syria, that when she called home to her mother she asked the mother to go out at prayer time so the girl could hear the sound of the calling.
In another part of the TV series, Morgan Freeman visited a huge Christian church in a big town in the US. This church had space for several thousand visitors, it was like a big sports arena.
At the front of the church was a large stage with a band playing to the songs of worship, a choir singing along with the congregation and a platform for the priest and his wife who also spoke at the service. Even if I have been a Christian most of my life I must say that this kind of worship was the strangest one for me.
It was more like a pop concert with the crowd standing up, singing, praising God, holding their hands up high, some were crying openly and others were ecstatic.
The priest and his wife were both very beautiful and wore expensive clothes.
It was like a cult more than a church service. It was hard to see what Morgan Freeman thought about this church service, he was very discrete and didn’t say much.
The different kinds of temples, the places for the worship of God or gods has in all times differed a lot. As people are different, the temples vary a lot because we focus on different things. Some believe that the gods need to be dressed and fed, others are forbidden to keep images of their gods. No one can say that one thing is wrong and the other is right, it is different because the world is a large place and it is impossible to worship in the same way everywhere.
In the TV series, Mr Freeman never spoke about the animosity between different religions, or even between different interpretations of the same religion.
That wasn’t the purpose of his programmes; his purpose was to ask questions and to spread knowledge. The world is large but at the same time small, thanks to the Internet, the distances between people are only one Internet connection away. We can easily learn more about each other but it is also very easy to spread prejudice.
What we don’t know is scary until we know more about it. With a deeper knowledge we can choose to become a follower of a belief system or not.
Those of you who have read my article about the human brain know that I speak about the ”fight or flight reflex”. I will come back to that reflex from time to time because it is a main part of us as human beings. It rules our spontaneous reactions. The centre for this is in the oldest and smallest part of the human brain.
This reflex is applicable on so many parts of the human life and right now I am going to refer to the topic of today’s article: worship.
If you have been living somewhere in a small rural place where life has looked almost the same for generations, it might feel a bit threatening when you are suddenly exposed to a very different kind of life.
The town has come closer as people around you are getting influenced by TV and social media. You feel that the old traditions, customs and the ways of worshipping have become old fashioned and you don’t feel comfortable about that at all. You are stuck in your village, you can’t afford to move anywhere and you actually don’t want to move either.
This is when the ”fight” part of the ”fight or flight reflex” kicks in.
Your need of status quo is larger than ever; you want everything to remain the same as it has been – no matter the cost.
You fight against everything that feels unusual because it is making you uncomfortable and scared (even if you don’t want to admit that).
So what do you do? You speak to others who feel the same; you accuse the younger ones of deserting the good old ways of living. You gather your alikes and keep animated discussions about how bad everything is today and how good it was before.
This is a normal reaction. The human brain is created that way because we need to interpret the world around us to see if it is dangerous or not. At the beginning of humanity, this reflex was the difference between life and death. If we were not able to interpret our world quickly we could end up as the enemy’s lunch.
If we were not eaten by a wild animal or killed by a foreigner, we needed to understand the purpose for this new phenomenon. The only way of getting from one place to another was by foot. People tend to stay not too far away from home so foreigners were always treated with suspicion at first.
Do you know why we raise our hand and wave to someone we meet at a distance? It is because we show that our hand is empty; there is no weapon in it like a spear or a rock. This way of greeting each other is a reflex and we do it without thinking.
The world can be a bit scary but the more we learn to know it, the more we learn to know about other human beings, we will find that we have more in common than we first believed.
All human beings need to have some kind of belief in something higher than themselves. We need to believe in something good no matter what we prefer to call it. Can’t we just accept that and move on from there?
Why argue or even kill each other for an interpretation of a belief system no one knows is the ”right” system or not. Who decides what is right and what is wrong?
Is it that easy that there can only be one system that is right and all others are wrong? Of course not! The world is crowded with individuals and that is what makes it so amazing!
If we open our minds and speak to each other, we will learn from each other and find that we share a lot. God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we are supposed to listen twice as much as we speak.
Can we say that we are wiser than God? Can we say that we don’t need to bother about that detail of the creation? Every little part of our body has a purpose; nothing is there by coincidence. The purpose can be both physical as well as mental. Those of you who have a more scientific mind say that we have two ears so we can hear from which side the sound comes from. That is true but as well as we can listen to sounds of laughter, speech or warning, we can listen to what people say and let that stay in our minds.
We have only one mouth, and thank God for that because otherwise I would eat much more chocolate than I do currently. We use our mouth for communication and for feeding ourselves, but the words we say affect others so we need to choose them wisely.
Are we prepared to listen twice as much as we speak? That is a question only you can answer for yourself. It might depend on the occasion but it also depends on your personality type.
I know I talk a lot. I explain things and my children sigh when I begin to explain something I am passionate about. This is a teacher’s habit. We have a lot to teach our pupils and we need to find various ways of explaining things until we are sure everyone has understood.
This is why my articles always get so long and my editor sighs when he reads them… That is why I will finish this one by quoting Morgan Freeman: ”God in me is the one I am meant to be, the best version of me.”