Friday, May 30, 2014

the poet seeketh: God in an Iceland subway station

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I'm having a crisis of faith.

Ok, maybe "crisis" is a too strong a term.

But it seems the older I get, the more questions I have.

The more things I experience, the more I wonder about the veracity of long-held beliefs.

The more people I encounter, the more I doubt my entrenched opinions.

The more I learn, the more I see that few things in life are as black-and-white or cut-and-dry as I used to think.

And the more I listen instead of talk, the more I realize just how little I actually know.

Maybe it comes from being a late-life mom.

Maybe it comes from re-embracing my art and my artistic friends.

Maybe it's part of evolving as a human being.

Maybe it stems from the realization that I am 50 now, that I don't have as long to tread the earth as I used to, and that life is too short to spend being uptight and tight lipped and giving lip service to things.

I had a conversation about this with my husband earlier this week. We had just finished meeting with a church small group in our home. A small group in which I was atypically silent. Normally I have an opinion or observation about everything. But this night, I felt detached and sat on the couch musing, "Why am I here?"

Not "why am I here" like "why do I exist" - although I could go there, too - but "here" being this church, this group, this denomination, this religion, this god, this demographic, this region, this hemisphere....

"Are you saying you don't believe in God?" my husband queried.

"No, I still believe in God. " I replied. "It's just all the rest of the stuff that has grown up around God that I'm starting to have a problem with."

He asked if I wanted to talk about it.

I didn't, not really, not then. I'm still not sure where this thought process is going, so I don't know how to even start putting it into words. Especially verbal words. I tend to trip over myself when I go verbal. It isn't pretty.

I feel like something inside me is broken. Not broken in a bad way, though. More like an invisible barrier has been broken through, battered irreparably as in the sonnet by one of my dead mentors, the great English poet John Donne:
"Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new."
This is new territory for me. I'm a know-it-all from birth. I've always been the go-to person for people with questions, even when they found me annoying. I've always known how things are, what I've thought, what I've believed, what was true. I've always just KNOWN.

Not knowing, not being sure, not believing what I've always believed, not having life wrapped up in a nice little package is a little scary.

It's also a little exciting.

Because as much as I may be questioning pretty much everything that people have built up around and in the name of god, I still believe God - "God" as in a being that is bigger than all of the scaffolding, all of the buildings, all of the doctrine, all of the documents, all of the stereotypes, all of the hatred, all of the ignorance, all of the pain, all of the religion, all of the questions, all of the doubt, all of the knowledge, all of the genders, all of the races, all of creation, and all of my thoughts.

I can't pretend to think that kind of God fits himself neatly inside a box or a book or a doctrine for my convenience. I can't pretend that my mind can perceive of who/what God is, or of how God might perceive me.

Fortunately one thing I do believe is that there is more to me than just my body and my conscience thinking mind. There is a part of me - a part I don't understand and can't dissect or identify on an anatomical chart, yet I know is real - that connects, that feels, that  EXPERIENCES the supernatural on a regular basis.

Like when I hear music like this, an a capella version of an ancient hymn recorded in a subway station in Iceland:

This is just a cell-phone video. It's loaded onto YouTube. It was taken in a subway located in a remote part of the world. I don't speak or understand Icelandic. I don't know anything about the people singing. I'll doubt I'll ever meet them or go to Iceland or learn to read what looks like a fake language.

So how do I explain being moved to tears and feeling my breast heave with waves of love and adoration? How do I understand the feeling that my heart has been battered by someone very real who wants to open it up? How do I comprehend the feeling of being ravished and enraptured, before I even looked up the English translation of the lyrics? How do I discuss with intelligence something so metaphysical?

I can't. But, as in the verse by the Persian poet Rumi, the gratitude is the same:
"What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest.
What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight...Whatever put eloquence in
language, that’s happening here.
The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,
in love with the one to whom every that belongs!"

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