I walk every day in the woods, at the dead end of a road on my route.
I never went further down the trail than it took to discreetly piss until this spring. Then, in the wake of an epic winter, one day I noticed the little green leaves on the underbrush, like a thin veil strung through the woods. I walked further back and found that there was a small stream and a hemlock grove growing on the slope of a small ravine. There is a highway maybe a hundred yards to the east, but when there is a lull in traffic and I can hear the sounds of the wind in the leaves and the soothing lull of the water it is like being in the northern Michigan of my childhood or the Appalachian foothills of my youth.
The other day, shortly after my afternoon break in the woods, I felt something on my neck. It was a tick, and he was bloated with my blood.
I reacted quickly and instinctively, ripping him off my flesh, leaving his head in my skin.
I sort of panicked; ‘Lyme disease’ was the first phrase that came to mind. Then I thought, well, I have been bitten many times by ticks in my youth and nothing ever came of it.
But the dialogist within supplied the information that Lyme disease is apparently a more recent development; that’s why we did not suffer the consequences now attendant to a tick bite.
I began to fret, and almost immediately accepted it: if God -or whatever you call He/She/It/They- wants to afflict me with a debilitating disease I bow to it.
But Dear God, I am the guy arguing that You are not an asshole, not the evil monster so many who say they are Yours claim that You are.
If this is laid on me on top of everything else I might find it hard to defend You. In fact, given all the suffering in this world defending You is already hard enough.
I am praying more.
With fewer words.
Mostly “Dear God”.
I have found those words to be a perfect prayer.
“Dear God” can imply outrage, sadness, bemusement, sarcasm, wonder, disgust, surprise, concern, lack of concern, a groan, turmoil, resignation, irony, good will, horror, and more, all conveyed by subtle nuances in tone.
It could also be, though I never use it like that, a formal greeting: “Dear God; How are You? Wish You were here. Oh, that’s right. Uh, bless You. Much love, Me.”
Also: it is a really good substitute for “WTF?!”
And it is a great alternative to “God damn!”
It is way better than “God damn!” because it is a prayer, not a curse. And one that addresses God as “dear”, as beloved.
But when something is indeed damnable there is no substitute for “God damn!”
As in “God damn capitalism.”
Or “God damn war.”
Or “God damn nationalism.”
The other night, driving home from work, I was listening to talk radio, which I rarely do anymore. William Kristol was on with Hannity, going on about how America should intervene in Iraq, where the Sunni militants are on the march. Mr Kristol, who has been wrong about every single thing his whole career, has the hubris to say such a thing, he who dons his cheerleader uniform and grabs his pom-poms every time a war is brewing, and who led the call for the crusade in Iraq, that killed umpteen innocents, that led directly to the rise of Islamic militancy in the region, the one he now wants to crush, damn the collateral damage. Which creates yet more enemies.
God damn. God damn. God damn.
Know It Alls and the Unknowable
I keep running into arguments about whether Muslims worship ‘the same God’ that Christians do.
Some say that because they do not believe in the Trinity, or the Incarnation, that they do not. But does a flawed understanding of the nature of the holy Being, the incomprehensible Mystery that we call ‘God’, mean that it is not the True God that is worshipped?
Let us hope not.
If Muslims, who claim to worship the One who created all things from nothing, do not in fact worship the One who created all things from nothing because their knowledge falls short of Reality, then what can we say of the Jews, who do not, unlike the Muslims, acknowledge Christ as the Judge of the world, a great prophet, born of an honored Virgin? Or the Calvinists, who believe in a monster god who creates billions of humans to suffer endlessly, a fate that they can neither choose nor reject?
For that matter, Christians, even those who belong to the Apostolic churches, do not ‘know’ God as He Is, despite His revelation of Himself. Indeed, all revelation is also reflected, and if God is revealed to an aggressive asshole, God will be described as an aggressive asshole (see the Book of Joshua).
Every formulation, every structure, every liturgy, every holy book, however lovely, however true, is 99% human. Little gets past the reflective cover on our souls.
Ah, but that 1%, the seed of a new life and a new world and…
But God is unknowable in His essence.
So anyone who acknowledges the One who creates, who shares His Being with contingent beings, worships You Know Who (I almost hate to use the word ‘God’), albeit in darkness. Why are humans so quick to assert their knowledge of the Infinite, by definition beyond us? And so quick to judge the flawed knowledge of others? God deliver us from smug know-it-all Christians, ubiquitous as they are.
And I say this as a former smug know-it-all.
Painting, “Heavy Rain”, by Ohio artist Megan Lightell.