Had an interesting chat with my first officer on the way out to San Diego today. He's a recovering Mormon. Wanted to talk about politics and God. I wasn't sure where he was coming from, so I introduced him to Crossing the Gore. That opened the conversation right up.
But that's not really the story I want to tell today. I think I want to talk about God too.
I should start with my dream, since that's where it started for me. About a million years ago, when I was in my early 20's, I had a dream that I died. That was around the time the book 'Life After Life' came out, so, of course, I dreamed of the dark tunnel with the brilliant light at the end. Here's an important detail: The light wasn't brilliant like the sun. It was brilliant like the essence of love. Like the light was perfect love.
Because I was clearly the new guy there, the light started the conversation. The light welcomed me; an amazing, safe, warm feeling. It said that I could join it, if I wanted to. So I look a little closer and I see the the light isn't just a big ball of light, but a seething mass of many independent lights, flitting in, out, and all around the thing. Then I look at me and discover that - I'll be damned - I'm a little light too! There's some other stuff that happens in the dream, but this is the crux of it.
Now, at that period of my life, I was a self-centered, upwardly mobile, American boy. Naturally I viewed the experience as a young man would. I was aware that this dream would shape who I was to become, but I took it only at face value. Here I am, a million years later, and I have a somewhat more nuanced take on the whole thing.
Knowing what I knew, and basing my interpretation on what I knew, I determined that those little lights were human souls, and that the light was made up of humanity. I'm old now, and I have a slightly different take. That light is made up of everything. Living things, dead things, animate things, inanimate things, planets, stars, atoms, everything.
If that light is made up of everything, that means that everything is a part of everything - completely interconnected. Yeah, this isn't exactly groundbreaking thought, but it ties the concept to an image that makes it make sense (at least to me...). I'm not talking dogma here, or trying to promote religion. Rather, I'm providing a connection between the basic tenets of all religions: Treat me with respect and dignity, not because I am me, but because I am you.
I'm gonna take an oddball turn in the conversation and start talking about the devil for a minute. Lucifer was the most beautiful and faithful of God's angels. Then he and God had their famous falling-out, and Lucifer got punished. What was Lucifer's punishment? Do you know? I'll make this easy on you. Lucifer's punishment was to be removed from the presence of God. That was it. Seems pretty benign, doesn't it? I mean, how tough could that be? Just to be removed from God's presence?
Here's the thing: God's presence was the only the Lucifer ever cared about. Ever wanted. That's how powerful that big, wonderful ball of light and love is; that the worst punishment the most beautiful and faithful angel could receive is to be removed from the light and the love. All of a sudden, what seemed to be a benign punishment becomes the worst punishment imaginable.
So who is God? Is he the bearded, vengeful, Jewish grandfather of the old testament? Is he the round-bellied Buddha reclining beneath the Bodhi tree? Is he an orange-robed Krishna handing out leaflets in the airport? Perhaps he is the fair-skinned son of a carpenter, treading the hills of the western Mediterranean?
We already know the answer. The answer is yes. God is all of those things. God is all of those things and more. God is the unity and love that those images embody without the limitations they are constrained by. God is Yahweh and Allah and Buddha and the Krishna and Jesus of Nazareth. God is you. God is me. God is that rock over there, and the houseplant and the houseboat and the housekeeper. God is the sky, and the ground, and the birds and the worms. God is what we live, who we love, who we know and what we don't know. God is light, pure and beautiful. God is love, unsullied and honest. We can never know God, but we can approach that which is God in the first cry of our own baby. In the touch of a lover. In the breathtaking vista of a mountain pass on a clear day. In the wonder of the aurora borealis in the night sky. In the magic of a child holding your hand, just because you are there.
God is the carbon atom in your left hand that was created in the supernova of a star that died sixteen billion years ago. That atom retains the vestiges of a memory of life in that star, and it brings it to your left hand. Your left hand remembers its former
life and will give those memories to its atomic recipients after your death. You are me. Literally. God is you. God is us. God is all things, remembers all things. Gives all things to everything, has been and will be all things. God is that atom in your left hand. God is your left hand. God was that star. You were that star. You ARE that star. You were God. You ARE God. As am I. As I am you.
So the test will be on Thursday. This lecture will be covered as well as the Bible, the Q'ran, the four Vedas of Hindu, and the Buddhavacana. Study hard, pray a little, and grades will be out as soon as the Good Lord can take a look at your essays.