Yesterday I received a phone call from a woman who offered to help me understand the complexities of the bible! I was relieved that I hadn't actually answered the phone and that the voice I was hearing was a message on my voice mail! At the very end she included that if I was indeed interested in this help that I should answer the door when a Jehovah's Witness called on me. My Goal is not to be judgemental of anyone's faith (although I think most of us judge in some way), but I know that this help being offered was not help to assist me in interpreting the bible for me. The help was to get me to see a particular and specific way. Jehovah Witnesses are not alone in this way of helping. Many people proclaim to KNOW the way and the truth and I have been guilty here and there myself. I struggle with terms we throw around, like GOD! Is he (or she) in the sky orchestrating our lives...God is simply love...what is GOD...is God in me or around me....what is the right way...should I do this or that.....why are there so many religions? Questions..questions ..questions!
The most profound words I have read to date about God is from The Soul's Religion by Thomas Moore. Yes, more Moore...my blog name is inspired by one of his books! So I feel compelled to include it here. It is a paradox! It is an answer that creates a question. It is knowledge that needs to not know! I find it amazing! Let me know what you think!
The presence of God is more real to me now than it ever was, and yet it is also emptier of ideas and certainties. I feel that my notion of God has matured year by year, and yet I know less about God, not more. The old paradoxes express God's nature better than any plain statements. God is greater than great, smaller than small. God is the most transcendent being and yet the most intimate. God is beyond any image I might have and yet requires the best of images. Anything I say about God I must undo at the very moment I say it, and yet I don't need to stop talking.
The name of God can be used to freeze our wonder, to make a comforting and useful idol, or it can be the opposite: a name that opens into continuing mystery. I learn from Islam to use the name carefully, from Judaism to use it rarely, and from my own experience to use it almost not at all. It makes sense to light a candle every time I call on God, just to remember that the name is holy and never means what I think it means. For those reasons I use it much more in the privacy of my thoughts and devotions that in public.
My reluctance to speak of God apparently leads some people to question my religiousness and my faith. Maybe that is a good thing because when people see your piety, it has probably already passed too far into form. It is better to be on the cusp between religion and secularity than to fall into either category. For there is another paradox at work: the appearance of religiosity is often in inverse proportion to the quality of religious practice.
There are those who for many different reasons don't use the word God. I can't presume to know what anyone believes or disbelieves, but my guess is that emphasizing the ancient theological "negative way," or the way of emptiness, at least brings my approach to God close to that of Buddhism and other religions. I am not suggesting that everyone means the same thing when using different languages but that we can all explore these difficult matters of spirit with some commonality of understanding. Even within particular communities, understanding and belief will differ from person to person.
So I speak of God in order to stop speaking of God. Usually I avoid the name in order to evoke the reality or, better, the mystery. As long as these contradictions and paradoxes are in place, I don't worry. But if some truth or some firm position sneaks in, I have to go back and read the mystics once again to cleanse my thoughts and restore emptiness that gives God reality.
I am sure I can add nothing to this at the moment. For those who are certain this will probably cause a disturbance. But the more certain I seem to be, the further from truth I feel. For as Thomas Moore says, "We advance holiness as much by losing religion as by gaining it. The two impulses become the breathing in and breathing out of belief. Not defending against loss we find the gift of new life."
Credits for pictures:
After finishing this blog entry and walking away and finally eating a healthy breakfast, a song lyric kept running through my head, specifically the line, "The more I know , the less I understand." and I couldn't remember what song the words came from. Of course the harder I tried to remember the more frustrated I became, since those words fit this blog entry nicely. So, using google and the miracle called the Internet, I found them and yes it is a Don Henley song, The Heart of the Matter. I like the Eagles version from the Hell Freezes Over tour. Don Henley writes great meaningful lyrics about life, the environment, and politics. In fact, in an issue of Rolling Stone Glenn Frey said that without Don Henley The Eagles would be Air Supply. Of course lines like, "I'm learning to live without you now.) touch a deep emotion for me as well! The song goes nicely here and I love it.....please listen!
OK, one thing leads to another and I have to post the next song, which is pure Don Henley about the environment and religion run amok. This performance always sends chills down my spine. The things we do in the name of GOD! Fits here nicely too! The Last Resort!