There was a time when ….
We were limited to our interactions with just a handful of friends.
When the sum of what we “knew for sure!” consisted of what our teachers said at school, and what our parents said at home, and what our priests said at church.
We unknowingly carried prejudices, and assumptions. We were arrogant and obstinate in our ignorance, and we were sure we knew it all.
The fact that our immediate circle of friends and acquaintances shared so many of the same beliefs reinforced our assurance of exhaustive knowledge. The passion of our parents and teachers put an exclamation point on our dogma. And we were fine with it.
“Catholics go to heaven. If they confess before they die. All others probably go to Purgatory if they’re lucky”
“Eat fish only on Fridays. Go to Mass every Sunday. Confess your sins on Saturday. Take communion on Sunday”. These were the building blocks for salvation.
There were variations on that theme in other churches, involving the “Four Spiritual Laws” et al.
Not to worry though: I have no intention of wandering down those paths. There is no intention to complain about them or brag. This is all just background.
The internet did not yet exist. We had no reason to even imagine there was more. We played outside until it was dark, and our mothers called us in for bed. We laughed, and played and we felt comfortable.
It’s an amazing thing – how this paucity of awareness seems so real and true. It was innocent too: how can you know that you’re missing anything, when you have no point of reference? When the gas gauge always reads FULL, only because the gauge doesn’t know the capacity of the tank itself?
Then, to coincide with college and university courses, the internet came along. We were shocked. Appalled. Amazed.
Some of us realized we had a wick, and a limitless well of kerosene that looked suspiciously like curiosity. And we had a match.
We struck the match – and like THAT – Pandora’s box was opened. Eve bit deeply into the apple. New thoughts flooded in – and we discovered we could never go back to our innocent ignorance.
But then, we didn’t want to, did we?
We looked up into the sky of knowledge and found we couldn’t see the end of it. Just when we thought we saw the boundary - marked by a flicker of light that we assumed was the northern star – we realized that *just beyond it* was another star. No, a bunch of stars.
Like many of you reading this, I really and truly believed that movies and television were mostly there just for entertainment. I would never in a million years imagine that any TV program or movie would have an element of the spiritual to it. A meaningfulness that went beyond ratings. I guess that was part of my prejudice, which was born of cynicism. TV shows – like major corporations – existed solely to make money.
I remember being in a meeting in a car factory. I remember when the general foreman – who was probably the biggest bigwig the factory grunts would ever see – stood at the front of the room and asked “why is our company in business? What’s our purpose?”
Several hands shot up, and one guy proclaimed “to make cars!”
The general foreman shook his head. Then said “no! We’re not here to make cars.”
He waited while we looked at each other. Then he added “we’re here to MAKE MONEY”. He shouted that last part, just to be sure we got it.
I have long assumed that was true for the entertainment industry too.
Until one day when I saw a completely irreverent film, by Kevin Smith, called “Dogma”
Up until the film came out, various religious groups campaigned and complained about it. They thought that he – Kevin Smith - was being sacrilegious and disrespectful. And they had come to that conclusion long before the film even played in a single theatre. I went anyway – I was a bit of a film nut. Plus I wanted to see what the fuss was about.
I *never* expected to get blown away by it.
The film was crass, and it was filled with swearing and adult situations and ……
God was in it. God had several forms though. In one scene, God was an old man. In other, He was Alanis Morissette.
I squirmed, a little uncomfortable with the idea of God as a woman.
But then she – God – noticed a bunch of flowers near a tree. And She went over and sniffed them. And then she got down and balanced Herself into a handstand, feet up against a tree.
And I fell apart. Completely overwhelmed and done in. I sat in the theatre, tears streaming down.
Kevin Smith (the guy who wrote this film), in my opinion, had been touched by God. He freaking *knew*.
God is not a construct of dogma (despite the film’s name), nor is He/She limited by what our pastors had to say. He/She is beyond our imagination. Yet He/She is right there, mixed up in the little things that make our lives so joyful. He/She is inextricable from those things that bring us joy. He/She defines our tears and laughter.
I realized that we don’t have to go to astounding lengths to get His/Her notice. The things that bring us laughter do the same to Him.
It took me years to figure out that the DNA that comprises our makeup is the same as His/Hers. “We are wonderfully and fearfully made” goes the verse. “We are made in His image” goes another.
It takes time, energy and effort to throw off the chains of our ignorant assumptions about Him/Her. (Let’s just leave it at Him for now, shall we? It’s easier, and traditional and I don’t want to distract from the thoughts here)
If we throw out everything we thought we knew about God and started with just the basics – that we are made in His image – where does that take us?
When we throw a baseball and our son hits it – or doesn’t – is that Him? Sure it is. I think He laughs when we swing and miss. And I think He sorrows when our beloved cat dies. And I think He sits there with us, when we struggle over a science problem.
And I fucking well KNOW He sits and closes His eyes and drinks in the notes we play when we soulfully strum our guitars or play our piano. I think He smiles when we dance, all alone in our living room, when an awesome, driving song comes up on the playlist. I think He covers his ears, laughing, when we hit a wrong note while singing as we drive down the freeway.
He’s not offended when we have sex. Alone or with someone else. He’s not shocked. And He shakes his head ruefully when we tell jokes. I imagine Him chuckling when we bite our lips to keep from laughing when something awkward happens at a funeral.
That’s the God I know and love.
I think that questions of sexual preference (gay or straight) or politics, or a host of other things doesn’t matter at all to Him. I think He looks deeply at our souls. When we decide to live life instead of just enduring it, putting in time until we die, I think He pumps His fist in the air. He knows we GOT IT. We freaking well GOT IT.