Is anyone out there?

April 14, 2013 § 11 Comments

I send my query into the unknown, reaching out with both hands, seeking.

Sunrise on Cadillac MountainThe religious call the act of seeking, prayer.

Religious or not, we all share a curiosity, a yearning to know something larger than ourselves.

My own seeking has taken many forms, but at first the answers were delivered to me, unsought, as big and heavy as the Sunday New York Times; the other tradition that weighted my family’s Sunday mornings.

The God of my childhood, God the Great and Good, could give me anything, which encouraged me to sit on his knee, as if he were a department store Santa, and recite my gimme list: a diary, a dog, a canopy bed.

This God was also temperamental, given to occasional smiting. Often I felt like Dorothy with my knees knocking in the presence of the Great and Powerful Oz.

But my overwhelming memory of being in the presence of God was that He made me sleepy. The faith of my childhood in its hushed black robes demanded a drowsy mumble, “Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…,” and the shift of a bead between my fingers. God could be pleased by a collection of routines so I practiced them, doing the steps in order, a hokey-pokey of the soul.

I understand now that these were acts of deference. They were probably also intended to quiet our minds and make us receptive.

Still, I gradually came to believe that this was too small a picture. That this description of God made him too much like us.

Whatever is there has no face. It is more like a light I involuntarily turn toward.

That light is constant. I am not.  So my perception of it depends on what is happening to me in this ephemeral life.

In times of loneliness my seeking is a shout that begs an echo. Is there anything out there to bounce my cries back, or is the emptiness as vast as it appears?

Sometimes, when the light is strong, I lift those I love, gently reminding that greater force that there is a need. Hey, when you get a chance…

Sometimes I plead for help accepting what is, at other times I demand an explanation.

Always, I am the blind man, reaching out and hoping, by touch, to determine the nature of the elephant. I want to know the unknowable, understand more than my limited mind can grasp–sometimes I feel as if I almost do. Almost.

As I grow older the question I send out is not always to a higher power, but to those who are gone; are you still there? Please, reach across the gulf if you can. I miss you so much.

Sometimes, momentarily aware of how good I have it, I send a thank you note.

Sometimes I just want to get in good with the most popular kid in school.

Sometimes I wonder, is this conversation I am having with some inner, better self? Or worse, am I walking with an invisible imaginary rabbit named Harvey?

At times the greater force seems impersonal, a river into which I toss a pebble. And the pebble doesn’t matter, only the onward rush of the river. This scares me, until I realize I am of the river; the boundaries of self are arbitrary and meaningless.

Longleaf pines.I also accept that, while I inhabit this body, those boundaries remain real. They limit what I am capable of understanding.

That doesn’t keep me from leaning over the front seat and asking, “Are we there yet?” when I don’t even know where it is we are going, and won’t, until we get there.

Judging by all the churches, all the books, all the heated conversations, we are a great conspiracy of seekers all asking, is anyone out there?

Once in a great while, or so the story goes, the answer that comes back sets a bush on fire or parts the waters.

I’ve never seen that kind of drama, but sometimes, out walking, I look up through tangled branches and suddenly discover the sky, and the grace that is always there pours down like sunlight. In those moments I know that the whole is good and that I am part of that whole.

Encouraged, I go on.

Note: Even for me this post is metaphor-heavy. I apologize, but there is no other way I know of to talk about God.

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§ 11 Responses to Is anyone out there?

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