Oh My God

Dearest Readers,

One of the things I enjoy most is having meaningful discussions. Small talk is okay but I’d much rather have Deep Talk. Why chit-chat about the weather when we could be talking about the Meaning of Life?

My all-time favourite subject is God. Whether we talk about ‘God’ as a word that soothes or rankles or ‘God’ as a deity who exists or doesn’t, everybody is going to have something interesting to say on the topic.

On a recent outing with a friend, he mentioned a phone call he’d had with his mother, a spiritual person who relies on God for guidance.

“She’s always talking about God and I’m like, Mom, I don’t believe in God.”

I’d previously had all kinds of spiritual conversations with this person so I was curious as to what he really meant. Did he mean he didn’t believe in a man with a beard directing human activity? Did he mean he didn’t believe in religion? As I’ve written here before, language is key, and finding the right language can open the door.

“You don’t believe in God and yet I’m wondering if you experience the Universe as participatory,” I asked him.

He thought about it for a while and then said, “It’s my experience that sometimes it feels like I’m getting kicked around and other times I feel like I might be being guided.”

At that moment we passed a church with a banner that read, “What about God and Science?”

“I think it’s worth noting the appearance of that banner right now,” I said, pointing up at the oracular question looming above us. Hmmm…

Another conversation with a friend who identified as a ‘militant atheist’ in one breath and a ‘very spiritual person’ in the next prompted me to interview him to ask him more about his dichotomous stance. During the interview he ended up saying, “I am God. You’re God.”

I knew what he meant. He didn’t mean that he’d made the world or that I had but rather Whatever Made The World was currently operating in us, present in us. We aren’t It, per se, but we are of It. The Quakers have an apt way of putting it: “There is that of God in Everyone.”

Later, the friend who’d said he didn’t believe in God but did feel, to some extent, that the Universe is participatory, texted me his appreciation for our conversation.

“I think it’s cool that you are constantly expanding your definition for the human journey beyond any spiritual/religious lexicon,” he wrote.

He’s right about my ‘constantly expanding’. There was a time when I was positively evangelical in my views, which made having any kind of meaningful spiritual dialogue near impossible. Coming up against my own rigidity has forced me to move beyond language and labels because I’ve learned the hard way that the more I cling to my own beliefs as ‘right’ and my own labels as ‘true’ then the less any kind of real connection can take place.

And that is what I am looking for. Real Connection. Yes, it is much easier to dis-connect. To hide away and disengage. Even when I’m in the presence of others I can cut myself off. Because it takes real effort to make a Real Connection. Being Present requires a certain amount of letting go and a certain amount of waking up. Either way, it’s work. And sometimes I don’t want to do the work.

But I do it anyway. And I keep on doing it. Because if the Universe is participating in my life then I’d like to participate right back. We are still evolving here. Our current experience is just a blip in the Evolutionary Time Span. If the God conversation lands us in a debate about religion or embroiled in a dogmatic argument then we have missed out on an opportunity to find our Common Ground.

What is our Common Ground? It’s pretty simple. We all belong to one species: Homo sapiens and we are all made up of trillions of atoms. All of us. We are all made of the same stuff: Energy.

What is Energy? Why does it exist? We don’t know. But we all get to decide our own answer. We all get to interpret Energy or God or That Which is Beyond the Intellect however we darn please. And as long as we don’t get caught up in thinking we have the right answer or the best interpretation, then we should be able to unite in our Common Ground and move forward together. I can think of nothing more pressing in today’s world.

From the fires of love,

Celia

Sticks and Stones

Dearest Readers,

A couple of years ago I posted a video on YouTube of a speech I did at a Toastmasters Conference. The speech won first prize. Recently I received notice in the ol’ inbox that a new comment had been posted on the video’s page. I’d like to share this comment with you now.

Here it is:

“You do realise it’s EXACTLY the very people claiming to have relationships with supernatural beings who are materialists and killing people over it !?? Depravity in the name of spirituality, that’s all it is, that turkey day is not celebrated by a majority free thinkers, that convicted criminals in jails are disproportionately followers of “higher powers”. Stop lying will you. Just say openly you’re a blind god follower, blind to the harms religion and “higher callings” cause humanity!”

Naturally, I was shocked. I’m not used to getting comments like this. Immediately I began to think about how I might reply, defend my position, stand up for myself. This turned into a mild obsession and so I decided to let it go until I had more clarity. It’s now been a week since I got the email and still I’ve not responded.

What strikes me most about this person’s message (who, by the way, calls herself tallard666) is that it is so angry. Though I didn’t respond to the comment on the YouTube page I did share a post on Facebook that day saying, “Some people are very angry. I understand. I know what it means to be angry.”

And I do. I’m dealing with the release of some old anger issues right now, as a matter of fact. And I, too, get rageful at the idea of people killing in the name of God. Whenever I hear someone like George W. Bush mention the war in Iraq and God in the same sentence I feel steam start to blow out of my ears. Or if I read something about terrorists blowing people up for God’s glory I experience great despair.

In this sense I suppose I agree with tallard666. People who do violence and simultaneously claim to do be doing God’s will scare me. The God (or Universe or Higher Power or Creator or Spirit of Unity Back of All Things) I believe in is one of Love, of Peace and of Justice. And by Justice I mean Equality, not vengeance.

I’m not sure where tallard666 has gotten her statistic about convicted criminals. I’ve done volunteer work in prisons and jails on and off for the last almost 12 years. My experience is that convicted criminals are most often deeply wounded people who have been terribly abused by poverty, addiction and mental illness. Some, but not all, have found healing through some kind of a Higher Power and have changed their lives for the better as a result.

Let us all be allowed to believe what we would like to believe. Let us not hate other people for believing something that we do not. Let us learn to express our anger in useful and just ways. Let us accept one another without judgment. This is Higher Power at work: Love and Tolerance.

As for being “blind to the harms religion and “higher callings” cause humanity,” I can only say that the opposite is true. Religious abuse makes me feel sick. But Religion is not God. It is a way to worship God and so religion is neither good nor bad. It is a path. Some religious people are wounded and so they wound others. Other religious people have helped to make the world a better place. Mother Teresa. Martin Luther King Jr. Saint Francis of Assisi.

Am I a “blind god follower”? Au contraire. I once was blind. But now I see.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Today I will continue to do the work of Love. I will respond with compassion to those who have little or feel none.