Showing posts with label God. Show all posts
Showing posts with label God. Show all posts

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hey, My Buddy!

I must be getting blase about this journal.  We went to see Godspell last night.  I had been feeling "strange" all afternoon, probably because of my erratic sleep the night before, so when we got home -- I don't even know what time it was, but probably before 11 p.m. -- I went straight to the couch, without passing GO or my computer and went right to sleep.  Other than waking up a couple of times, at which point I just covered up and went back to sleep again, I slept all night.

It was about 5 when I got up for good, having had what was, for me, a good night's sleep.  I snickered a bit when I thought about my friend Gilbert.   He was 55 when he died and in the years when we were friends, we spoke on the phone several times a week, and worked together at least once a week.  Our visits always started with a report on how many hours he had slept the night before.  He, too, suffered from insomnia.

When we went with the Neptune Society to scatter his ashes on San Francisco Bay, the people on the ship handed us a card with this verse on it:

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.


mary elizabeth frye - 1932

We laughed because here we thought that finally, in death, Gilbert would get a chance to sleep and this poem seemed to indicate that he was going to be too busy even in the afterlife to rest.

However that's just an aside.  What I was thinking about as I was going to sleep, after seeing Godspell (which is an odd musical which brings the proverbs of the Book of Matthew to life in an often humorous, yet (in this production) respectful way) is my own relationship with God over the years.

When you grow up and go to Catholic school, your vision of God is the old man in the long grey beard sitting on a throne somewhere in the clouds, surrounded by angels.  I don't remember, but I think there may have been a ceiling painting like that in a church I attended.  The picture is very clear in my memory.  Definitely not the benevolent grandfather we would like to imagine, but more the avenging being who will smite you for the least infraction (maybe like lying in the confessional!).  You don't think much about "God" per se, unless it's to cringe in fear if you do something wrong.

sacred-heart-of-jesus.jpg (25562 bytes)My feeling had changed by the time I was in high school.   I don't know why I became so interested in the Sacred Heart. 

We had a full size statue in the school chapel, on the altar, right beyond the communion rail (because I was a girl, I wasn't allowed on the altar itself--only priests and nuns could go there).  I spent a lot of time kneeling at that rail having conversations with Jesus.  Jesus and I were buds.  Whenever I had a problem or a question, I headed to the chapel to talk it over with my buddy.  

I don't ever remember going the formal prayer route, except maybe in group settings.  It was just me and Jesus, when we were alone, and he was much more approachable than his scary Dad.

When I got to college, and became involved with the Newman Club, my whole life, it seemed, revolved around the Newman Club (the Catholic club on campus) but somehow I don't remember the level of intimacy with my buddy continuing.  We did group religious stuff together and we went to Mass and we went on Retreats -- weekends where we would go somewhere, usually to one of the California missions -- with a priest, to camp and pray, meditate and have fun.

I seem to have gotten further and further away from the "Jesus my buddy" part of my life the more I became angry with the guys who were running the Catholic church.  By the time I officially left the Catholic Church, I had divorced "Jesus" from the "Catholic church" entirely.  Oh yes, of course he is still at the heart of it, but so is he at the heart of every other religion, whether in the exclusive manner that the Catholics think of him, or in a tradition which has no concept of "Jesus" at all.  We could still be buds.  It just wasn't important that it be within the confines of a specific religion.

When Gilbert died in 1986, I was in charge of taking his cousin and niece, who came out for the memorial service, around to see the sights of San Francisco and we stopped for lunch in Chinatown, directly opposite my favorite church, Old St. Mary's (OSM) on California Street.  My mother was baptized there.  It is a beautiful church, unlike the cold mausoleum that is St. Mary's Cathedral which was built on the site of my old high school.
I dropped Susie and Jerry off and parked the car, but before I returned to the restaurant, I was compelled to pop into OSM to have a quick visit with my buddy.  I didn't really know what to say, other than "take care of him, please" but it felt comforting to have that brief renewed relationship.

In these busy days, or even in the lazy days that are filled with TV and web surfing, I don't often think of my old buddy, but I know he's always there when I need him.  We had a chat last night, in fact.  He doesn't keep track of how long it's been since we last talked.  He's just glad that I decided to talk again, however briefly -- and that's nice.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Oh God

If I keep up with this "sending letters" thing, I can see I'm going to be spending a lot more time at the post office. Today I had a Swap-Bot package to mail to Brasil and another package to mail to the Compassion offices in Colorado and so off I went sometime around noon.

P1170578sm.jpg (39300 bytes)

(This was the stack of outgoing mail today. I print the picture to show the dumb thing I did. I was sending a letter to a new penpal in Arkansas and decided to put a little butterfly sticker on the back of the envelope...and then proceeded to also put the stamp and the return address label n the back of the envelope too. I had to re-address it to her on the back of the envelope, and what it says up there in the left hand corner is "from her dumb friend who can't tell the front from the back of an envelope")

But anyway, the point of this is that I had the radio on tuned to a talk show from KGO in San Francisco. I was coming into the conversation quite late but I gather that a guy had written a book about God -- pro God, I think -- and he was fielding questions and comments from athiests and agnostics.

Now, I'm really the last person to claim to be an expert on God and there are those who would poopoo my observations, but what the heck.

One woman was angry because he always used a male pronoun when discussing God...and how did he know that God was male? He kind of brushed her off with essentially "because it's always been thought so" comments.

Which of course made me wonder the blasphemous thought--if God is a man ... or a human at all ... where does he pee? I mean, really. If you make God human, and if we are all made in "his" likeness, then that means that God pees. And poops. (I'll bet Ned would like to get some of that God poop). It means he has sexual urges and dandruff and halitosis and, if he has, as is usually pictured, white skin, does he also have heavenly sun block? Does God sleep? If so, which hemisphere's nighttime does he choose to sleep during?

Another guy talked about the big bang theory and kind of got all metaphysical, talking about theories that God was some sort of an amorphous blob that somehow set off the big bang and said that it has been proven that without various body parts to make manipulating the amorphous blob into banging, it could not happen. He then said that there were powerful telescopes which show this tiny little rock-like thing and could prove that this was the start of the big bang.

Which, of course, brings up the question--where did the little tiny rock-like thing come from?

I guess my thoughts about "God" come from the combination of 12 years of Catholic School instruction ... and Star Trek (either of which probably has the same percentage of truth and fantasy!)

But it seems to me that our problem is that we are applying the laws of physics as we know them. We are applying rules that apply to human beings ... and as we all know from Star Trek, once we discover warp drive, we are going to discover that in this entire vast universe we are not the only ones here.

We figure God is an old white man dressed in robes with a long white beard because we can't imagine something looking un-human like being the cause of our existence. Maybe our solar system did come into being as the result of a big bang...but maybe that big bang came from another galaxy's death.

I think human beings have to create meaning based on our own knowledge, but we don't know what is normal on Alfa Centauri...or the planet Malcor.

So these intellectual arguments about the existence, appearance, and actions of God are really pointless. I believe there is "something" greater than ourselves. I believe that there is "something" after this life. But I don't believe that we really know anything about what it is, because all the people who supposedly "know" are...human beings.

But it makes for great radio audience participation, of course, because everybody is so sure he or she "knows" the real answer.

(Of course it's silly to argue about the appearnace of God...Everybody knows he looks like George Burns.)