Another Post About God
I know some of my readers don’t care for the God stuff, so, ample warning: this is another post about God. Skip away.
I get a little weirded out when I see trackbacks that say, “Harriet J is talking about religion,” because in my mind, I’m not. I mean, yes, obviously, I am, but my god is a very personal god: she is not for you. It feels like I’m blogging about a conversation I had with my boss, and I get trackbacks that say, “Harriet J is talking about economics.” If I felt like I was talking about religion, I really wouldn’t be putting it on my blog, because I tend to view religion as a very personal thing. Instead, I feel like I’m talking about self-discovery and renewed perspectives on how I connect with the world. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there – I just needed to put out there that I am feeling this weird conflict about the idea of religion vs. me and my God.
The other day, my bear was asking me to explain my whole new God thing lately in a little more detail. Because, the thing is, this isn’t a really big part of my life, yet. Rather, it’s just a new way of looking at some things I’ve always felt and believed, so it’s felt more like something that just slides right in than a new revelation or movement. Which means it wasn’t really something the bear realized was a big thing for me. But suddenly there are people on my blog going, “Yeah, Harriet J and religion!” and bear is like, “You found God now? When did that happen?” And I’m like, “Oh shit I don’t know. Did I do that? I don’t remember doing that.”
Talking to my bear helped me put my beliefs in a little more perspective. Years and years ago, I had to take a biology course to get my college degree. I found out that I really got certain aspects of biology. When talking about a single subject, I really could not understand, not even a little. But when that subject was related to an organism as a whole – when I could see how all the gears worked together – suddenly I could understand it perfectly. One thing flowed naturally into another. I barely had to work to memorize anything, because it all seemed so perfectly obvious. I ended up using this to help me understand other subjects. When I took astronomy, and had serious difficulty understanding stars and gasses and suns and gravity, I tried imagining the universe as one big organism. Within that framework, all the individual parts made sense; they each had context, and I could see why they worked the way they did, how there was really no other way for them to work.
This is sort of how I view my personal interpretation of God. I look at the universe, and by this, I mean the entirety of “stuff” in the vast reaches of infinity and the ether, the known and unknown, the seen and unseen, the living and dead and stuff that doesn’t truck with that binary. I just don’t know a bigger more encompassing word than universe, but that’s what I mean when I use that word. Anyway, I look at the universe as one big organism. Everything is connected, everything has a context, everything is working as part of this larger machine. And sometimes, the different parts communicate with each other. Sometimes that communication is very direct, and sometimes it requires intermediaries and interpretation.
For example: Say I am asleep, and I roll over on my arm. I start to lose blood. My arm panics. It hurts! It needs blood! It needs me to move! My arm can’t communicate this to my ribcage directly, because it does not speak to my ribcage. It’s got no mouth, and my ribcage hasn’t got any ears. My arm can’t communicate with “me” directly, because I am not a single, individual entity – I am made of many parts. My arm must find a way to communicate with enough of my parts to reach “me”, to make the organism that is “me” do something.
My arm communicates this to my brain, which serves as the intermediary — the representative — of most of the things that are “me.” My brain tries to find a way to communicate this pain to me. I am asleep, so it can’t just say “PAIN, HEY, PAIN HEY HEY HEY.” Since I am sleeping, my brain starts trying to shout loud enough to get the message through to this other part of my brain, which is creating a dream landscape. Suddenly, I am speaking to my 10th grade English teacher. I am having an anxiety dream in which I am back in school and need to finish this final credit. I am reading a paper in front of the class. I’m doing it poorly. My teacher shakes her head and says, “The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.” I am like, what the fuck is that about? I try to go sit down, but I feel sluggish. My arm pulses in my dream. My dream is weird and I don’t like it. I start to get restless, fleeing from the dream, and as I wake a little, my brain is able to just start shouting “PAIN PAIN PAIN.” I wake up fully, massage my arm, and roll over to my other side. My arm has successfully communicated with the larger entity of “me”, but because there is no single thing that is “me”, and because the various parts that make “me” speak different languages, the message wasn’t clear or direct. It had to be interpreted and shouted in several different ways until I heard it and was able to properly respond.
This is how I view my personal interpretation of God. The universe is one big organism, and I am one very small part of it. Sometimes, for reasons I might never fathom, or reasons I may only get a glimpse of, the universe needs me to fucking move already. I’m lying on the wrong thing. I need to be in the other place. I have to open the thing and let the other thing through. The universe needs to communicate with me, and I need to communicate with it, but we do not speak the same language at all, and really only have access to some of the parts that make up each of our identified entities. So, sometimes the universe takes some other part of its body – some intermediary – and jury-rigs it to pass on its message to me. Sometimes that intermediary is a sign on the freeway. Sometimes it is a coincidence that just seems to keep happening. Sometimes it is a day that goes continually wrong, forcing me to retreat to my house and conclude that I was not meant to go out today, christ.
Only lately I have begun to feel like there is an intermediary that I can personally call God that sometimes tries to pass the message on. This intermediary is the universe dressed up in a human suit, speaking more directly than I have allowed anything else to speak to me. This intermediary even looks like me – the version of God I have in my mind, I realized, looks like the person I think I would look like if I was 45, competent, confident, and a social worker. I find it easier to understand this intermediary than all the other ones that came before, that I ignored during crucial times when I should have rolled over and gotten off the universe’s arm.
So, that’s kind of how I view “God,” such as she is. Not as a separate entity, but as an intermediary, a neurotransmitter of the universe. During that dream, I felt strongly compelled to do as the intermediary told me. I felt like this was the course of action that was best, that was prepared for me. I haven’t felt that since. Which sucks. It’s nice when things are so clear. But I’ve found the communication to be both ways. The universe tells me, a small part of its organism, to do a thing. And I am now finding ways to tell the universe, okay, but you need to roll over, because you are crushing me, too. I look at this as an extrapolation of what I try to do on a different scale already: I am trying to live out loud. I am trying not to keep my mouth shut as much as I once did. And so this is me now yammering on a different frequency: God, you go tell the universe, here is the thing I need. Can you get me this thing? Here’s my report from the ground. I need help on this one. I need comfort. I need. And I think you’re safe to need something from, because you are me, and I am you, so I can ask for things from you.
I’m finding that running things through a God filter has helped me get a better grip on myself sometimes. Today, for example. Today, I am having a bad day. Nothing spectacular or evil or wrong. Just a tough day at work. I’m cranky. My coworkers are cranky. We have a project going that is total fucknuttery. Nobody is happy. I can feel myself edging up to this deep yawning pit of unreasonableness. I want to start treating people badly because, hey, my day is bad, so now yours is, ha ha ha ohhh fuck I feel worse. I can tell that I’ll be dragging this home, that I’ll be shooting the rest of my night in the foot because I’ll be so busy not letting this go. I don’t want that. So I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do. I take more breaks than usual. I read a Rumi poem, which forces me to really stop and engage my brain in something else. I read Al-Anon slogans. And I stumble across an Al-Anon slogan about God. Okay, I think. I should try that, too.
So I sit back and spend a minute sort of fake-praying. Okay, God, come fix this. Come take away my defects of character. Heal my anger. Give me peace. Change things. You know, like magic. And nothing happens.
I try to conjure up my image of God, or my feeling of God, and I get nothing. I get more angry and confused briefly. I think to myself, “See? There you go. God knows you don’t really mean it. God knows you’re just lazy and want somebody to take care of you. God knows you’re selfish, and until you stop being selfish, God isn’t going to help you. God isn’t listening. God doesn’t care.”
So I use the old trick my therapist taught me a long time ago. Whatever I tell myself “other people” think or believe about me, what I’m actually doing is revealing what I think about myself. When I say, “I can’t do things this way – people will think I’m cruel,” what I’m actually saying is that I think I’m cruel, and I think that’s bad and punishable. So when I say that God isn’t listening, what I’m saying is that I’m not listening. When I say God doesn’t care, it’s because I don’t care. My God is a personal God. I don’t think of her as a deity in the sky with an agenda for every human. She’s here for me. She’s mine. Sure, okay, maybe she’s an aspect of a larger God, but I don’t give a shit about that; my aspect is all I care about, all I like or want or need. So, if my God is what I need or want her to be, if I create her and make her what I need, and if she’s not listening, that’s my fucking problem.
I’ve realized that this rarely fails me (though I just as rarely think to try it — this spirituality thing is very new to me). However I feel about God, however I think God is treating me, that’s actually how I’m treating myself. Just like anybody else, God will never treat me better than I treat myself. Whatever I want God to be, that’s what she’ll be for me. But because she’s so much a part of me – inside and out – I’m getting a much clearer picture of what I want than I normally like. I may think I want comfort, but when I turn to God and God’s not there, I see what I really wanted was to have it all disappear, go away, be ignored. I may tell myself I want forgiveness, but when I ask God to grant me that and I feel nothing, I see what I really wanted was to wallow for a while more in my desperation and pity. When I want my anger to end today, and I ask God for help and God’s not there, I see that what I really wanted was something else to go wrong to justify staying angry. I grasp all the things I tell myself I want to be rid of. I don’t want to be lonely, but I won’t let go of the pain others cause or have caused or could cause me. I don’t want to be angry, but I won’t let go of my hurt – I nurse it, poke it, make it worse. I want to be successful, but I don’t want to let go of self-pity.
There are other ways I’ve been able to recognize this about me in the past. Sometimes it comes to me in this blinding flash of insight. Sometimes I go to therapy. Sometimes I write about it. But this God thing has given me another option. I ask, “God, why aren’t you there?” and the answer is so obviously, “Harriet, why the fuck aren’t you there? God’ll only give as good as she gets, man. So would you.” It’s no surprise that the universe can’t communicate any kind of comfort to me if I have actively closed off all my desire to receive comfort; the neurotransmitter can’t get in if I shut off the receptor. God is whatever I want her to be; so if she’s something I don’t like, now I have to figure out why I surround myself with things that pain me, why I want to keep suffering. Because, the truth is, I am forever finding new ways to suffer. I am forever getting wounded, and staring at the wound instead of the knife, the finger instead of the moon. And it always seems like the smart thing to do at the time; how can I possibly focus on being happy when there’s all this badness around me? I must focus on the badness. THAT IS THE WAY TO BE HAPPY. It seems so reasonable, until I ask God for help, and God has up and fucking disappeared, because despite what I say, I don’t actually want help. God gives me what I want, and as often as not, I find what I want is more anger, more hatred, more sadness, more pity, more ugliness to sustain the emotional tide I’m working until it can tsunami apocalyptically, which is going to help somehow?
Having a personal vision of God has helped me have a personal vision of myself. It’s the biggest, clearest mirror I’ve ever had. I did not realize quite how incapable I am of compassion and peace until I asked one part of me to give it to the other part, and the two parts broke down and refused to fucking talk to each other. I’ve got to build a better bridge between myself and my part in the universe, between what I say and what I mean, what I ask for and what I want. Having a personal version of a power higher than myself has been one very important tool.
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