Nothing cuts to the chase quicker than evil and suffering when it comes to the question of where or what is God. Or for that matter, “Is God?”
Inevitably, the Holocaust comes up in the discussion. Are you Frankl or Wiesel? And terrorist attacks, with responses that range from “We will not be afraid. Our love will conquer all,” to the Donald Trump trample. And the potpourri of painful ways that life comes to an end.
The answers seem glib. We point to various interpretations of the Book of Job. We give up the concept of omnipotence, because a loving God cannot possibly be an all-powerful God and let this stuff happen. We say that God is standing by – or with us – in the thick of it – or that God is judging and blessing in turn, based on our behavior.
Buddhism has the slickest answers in nonjudgment and the nature of life being suffering. But those seem too easy. They ring hollow in the face of our yearning for meaning.
Inevitably our answers, whether hardline zingers or thoughtful stories, fall short. They are too empty or too full. One answer undermines another. And still, the suffering continues.
God, ultimately, is the thoughts we project on Big Mystery. And Big Mystery is really big – or small, depending on our frame of reference and where we look. For all we know there are an infinite number of universes in every Higgs Boson.
We throw our concepts and stories at it to see what sticks. It all falls short. We fall short. Our consciousness is just not yet that well developed, if our consciousness is even anything at all.
We are left with speculation and choices. Do we choose faith? If so, faith in what? Go ahead and try to answer – you, me, Job, the kid next door. We slam our books on the table with condemnations to hell and a gunshot to send us there.
To what end? We don’t know. We just seek meaning and relevance. Some little path forward. Who can blame us for that?
As for me, I choose to believe that there is, indeed, a balm in Gilead. I just want to. Isn’t that enough?
I believe that when my wife and I dream the very same dream in a given night, that when we show up at the same time at a favorite haunt, from different points of origin and not a word spoken in advance, that there is more – that it is good, that there is healing, that the ultimate word written on our hearts is love.
And from there, all our choices unfold, and they all matter. Not because there is anything certain that can be pinned down under them, but because something completely ineffable has spoken in our mitochondria – deeper, even, in the empty spaces between whatever particles form us, if those things are particles at all. And that ineffable something has found its ways through our synapses and into our muscles, our visions and the words we speak to each other, the touch we share and the kindnesses exchanged.
Somehow it is better that way. And so I believe. I believe that we are the awakening of consciousness in its steady progression into the void, that we ride the very curl of the wave of creation. I believe we shape that wave in all our intentions and connections, just like we shape our images of God. And I choose together and not alone. Where is the separation? Can you find it? Can you see any reality in it at all?
Somehow that awakening contains the full spectrum, insofar as we know it, of pain and beauty, of suffering and healing, of bloom and demise. Our choice is to embrace or reject. We cannot change it.
Let’s join in the embrace. Please! Come with me, will you? Let’s sit together, under the Tree of Life.
© Jerry S Kennell, Two Trees in the Garden. Feel free to quote, as useful, with proper reference.
Jerry Kennell provides spiritual direction in person and by Skype at Two Trees Center for Spiritual Development. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone or text to (970) 217-6078. Click FOLLOW in the upper left menu bar to be notified of future posts.
A brilliant essay, Jerry. I choose no longer to ask the question because all answers are false. We do not know from where we came or where we are going. So why keep asking? I neither believe or disbelieve. What is unknowable cannot be known. Our meaning can be found in the living we do — in the silent spaces of our lives. Our hope is in the gift of love we share. Our blessing is the dance of life.
Thanks, Harley. I love your last two sentences.
Thank you for these words Jerry! And thank you Harley. Yes, I too choose a balm in Gilead; it is better that way. Beautiful, moving words that sum up so much of what we all think and feel so intimately and that we yearn for in our lives. Our biology moves us, an evolutionary curl on the wave of creation, and we embrace hope and the heart’s intelligence in the unknowable vastness and void of the Big Mystery… we seek meaning, relevance, authenticity, integrity…we are the gift, sharing under the Tree of Life.