I would be happy if there remained many names of God, but I affirm the underlying hope for a world in which all peoples, however diverse, would feel sufficiently united to care about one another, to build peace and end war, to do the difficult work of cultivating empathy for the other, to do without some of their own discretionary pleasures to help others acquire some of their necessities.
The play raises profound questions about what it means to survive. If the cost of survival is abandoning one’s lover and denying one’s own identity, is that really survival? If being murdered is the price of affirming one’s identity, what is survival worth? There are no correct answers to these questions. When camp inmates were able to make choices (and they were rarely able to do so), it is not for us to judge choices made in unspeakable circumstances.
The God I believe in permeates the universe as the ground of all being. God is beyond human conception, so all our images and metaphors for God are a reflection of our human glimpses of that which is unfathomable. Unfathomable, but not undetectable, and definitely not irrelevant. How do I know that there is a God? I don’t. I can’t know what is beyond my ability to conceive. It’s a matter of faith. I have faith that there is more to reality than can be measured in a laboratory.
Most of all, in uttering the words, “I need help,” a veil was lifted from over my eyes, and I saw again that I am part of a larger story, that I am not the author of the narrative of my life.
I do believe, however, that not everything that is factually accurate ought to be spoken. It depends, I think, on my motivation, on my careful consideration of why I am saying what I am saying and of what the consequences will be. And in the end, the negative effects on my psyche of criticizing or disparaging another person also count in the calculation of what to do.
You don’t have to bring God in as an extra ingredient. Think of God as already here, as always present. The process of discerning God’s presence is about learning to see what is already there, already everywhere.
Often enough, people look for certainty in their religious beliefs. For some of us, however, faith is reliance on that which is beyond our ability to conceive or understand, on the sacred mystery that we glimpse or discern through practice. We do the best we can as we negotiate social convention, but we understand that the underlying ultimate reality is never as clear as our conceptions and convictions. We try to remain open and steady as the stability of our bedrock beliefs is shaken.
If you believe that God is aware of all the details of our lives and rewards or punishes us for our behavior, then you are forced to justify God for everything that happens. But if you believe that God is not the cause of everything but that God is present in everything—supporting, offering compassion and insight, empathizing with us, inspiring us—then you can try to discern the invitation, the opportunity to connect with the divine in every situation, even the saddest and most horrible.
I conclude that everything I do comes from God, but not purely. The spirit is filtered through my ideas, my feelings, my cultural presuppositions, my woundedness. How the divine spirit is expressed through me reveals as much or more about me than about God. It’s never just one or the other.
I don’t know why, but I felt buoyed by the flood of wishes that began a day or two before my actual birthday. Yes, there were wishes from people whose names and photos I did not recognize, but I took them in nevertheless, assuming they were the equivalents of smiles or hellos from people passing on the street.