In what concerns divine things, belief is not appropriate.Only certainty will do.Anything less than certainty is unworthy of God.--Simone Weil
I found this quote when I opened this book I nicked (and subsequently asked permission to take) from my aunt's house. The book is How to know God, (subtitled: The soul's journey into the mystery of mysteries) by Deepak Chopra.
Now I have heard a ton of good stuff about Deepak Chopra, and a friend even recently sent me a link to his blog page. Now I have this book, and it seems like something I should take a look at, and I get hit with this quote.
That's the thing I am struggling with. I do not have certainty. I'm pretty sure I have faith some days, but I am not at all certain that I can define, or even describe in the vaguest of terms, my understanding of my higher power.
I am sitting here at my table this morning and the sun has just peeked up over the horizon and is shining on my face. It is not strong enough yet to warm me physically, but it warms me internally. Perhaps that is my understanding of my higher power.
On the other hand, I also have a cup of coffee with me at the table, and it warms my physically. I love the warmth on my hands as I wrap them around the ceramic orb, I love the aroma of fresh brewed coffee, and the taste is wonderful. I can feel the hot liquid warm me from the inside out as I drink it down.
Is not that what I am seeking in a god? Something that I can grasp, that I can feel its form and warmth, and that I can put to my mouth and drink in to nurture my body and soul?
Somehow, I had always imagined god to be something more than my first cup of coffee of the day.
But honestly, that seems to be what I am seeking.
I know that the recent upheaval in my life is probably what is prompting me to crave something solid, something reliable, something that I can hold onto and define and understand, and ideally, physically grasp so that I can feel secure. The rational part of my brain knows that this simply is not going to happen. I am not going to find a walking, talking physical representation of god here on earth.
Now there are some (Quakers, perhaps?) who would argue that the divine exists in all of us, and therefore we are all manifestations of god here on earth. But I don't think it would be cool to just begin praying to the guy across the coffee shop from me. It might make people nervous.
The sun is up beyond the filter of the bare January trees at the edge of the back field now. It is stronger, glinting off my glasses and my eyelashes, affecting my ability to see the screen of my laptop. I am beginning to feel its warmth on my face, even as it obscures my vision.
Is that what god is? A warming force that is overwhelming in its power and scope, making its presence known through both comfort and discomfort? Warming and nurturing, yet so large that it demands attention and drowns out all that would compete with it?
That seems to fall short of my understanding as well. Although I am inclined to put my chin in my hand, close my eyes and feel the sun on my face for a few minutes. The cat is doing his own version of this exercise too, perched blinking on the windowsill.
I have fetched a second cup of coffee. The cat is now lieing down on the sill, soaking in sunlight like a solar panel, his long yellow fur glinting in the light.
He lives an uncomplicated life, this cat of mine. He eats, he uses his litter box, he plays with his catnip mouse, occasionally battles the small bouncy dog, and he lies in the sun. Aside from the intermittent soggy chewings administered by Quinn, it seems like a pretty ideal life. He seems content. We both sit here in the sun this morning, him enjoying the sensation and me trying to understand god.
Silly humans, to think we consider ourselves superior to animals. I'm the only one in the room who is struggling with anything. He's enjoying the sunshine.
The snow in the yard is sparkling like so many diamonds. I have seen that phrase, that cliche, used over and over, but honestly, that's what the snow looks like this morning. It is blue and gray and white and sparkles and textures that look like a fine, fine paintbrush brushed the surface, partly to smooth, and partly to give texture. The empty footprints of a feral cat cut across the yard from the corner of this house to the thicket in the southern corner by the brook.
The snow makes rolling hills and dales, gentle dunes of sparkling white, striped and speckled with the bluish shadows of the naked maple across the yard and the alders o on the other side of the brook. Spikes of tall summer grasses long dead stick up through the drifts, their seed pods now brittle shells that rattle in the wind. Mice burrow at their base, searching for a winter's meal beneath the blanket of snow.
The sun is blinding now, and very warm on my forehead. I write with my eyes nearly closed, feeling the warmth and brightness in its full force. The cat has moved a few inches forward on the sill to improve his view of the yard. He blinks in the sunlight, yellow eyes soaking in the rays, their centers the thinnest of dark vertical slits. He blinks lazily. I envy him his ease. He is content. He does not struggle with the great mysteries and elusive truths of the universe. If he does, he does not mention it to me. His whiskers glow like fiber-optic cable, backlit by the sun. The make a glowing halo as they sprout from his eyebrows and the sides of his muzzle. He gives an enormous yawn, showing all who would look each of his sharp and jagged teeth as if to say "I am the king lion of this window sill! Trespass at your peril!" I heed his warning and stay at my computer.
He is sitting up now, and purring his sun-soaked pleasure so strongly that it rocks his body gently. I can see his sides move as he breathes. We have been together so long, he and I, that I can tell by watching his sides what kind of breathing he is doing: the nearly stop-action in, rest, out, rest when he sleeps; the short in length, but deep in volume breaths that he uses to boost his oxygen and energy levels when playing rough with the dog, the silly little hiccup breaths he gets after supper sometimes, and the distinct breaths that happen only when he purrs.
He is happy, sitting on his windowsill, surveying the outdoors he never visits. I fancy him content in his warm, dry, pampered isolation, but I wonder. He has never been an outdoor cat. He does not know the freedom and dangers of the greater world. He sees members of the feral cat colony that lives in the barn next door, and he watches them keenly, occasionally growling if one gets too close to the house for his comfort, but otherwise he has little comment on their comings and goings. He has already lived longer than the three generations of cats we have seen come and go in the yard, and he will likely outlive many more.
Aha. contemplation is over. Batteries charged, the cat has jumped down from his perch and gone in search of kibble.
I cease and go in search of my own breakfast. I do not know if I am any closer to knowing god than I was an hour ago, but I think both the cat and I got what we needed from the sunrise. This morning's worship is concluded.