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Friday, March 03, 2006

A Personal Theology

It is time to close the circle. I’ve described my early faith and its subsequent erosion. The story does not end there, not at all. As I’ve aged, as I’ve gazed upon the world and contemplated Creation; as I’ve loved and prayed year after year after year, I’ve come to find and feel a personal theology. It’s as deep a faith as any I’ve ever held, but it does not lend itself to words. I cannot point to a specific text for reference. There is no church, no altar. There are no priests…there is just this acolyte of one.

I already know, as I sit down to write this, that I will fail miserably in describing my theology. I have not the art, nor the words, to describe my belief. It is a feeling, a song, and an awe that I know to be true, but that I cannot prove or limn for others. Sigh.

Let me rest my head against a broken marble pillar, some vestige of an ancient Greek temple, and allow my river of thought to flow. Perhaps (if I am lucky), my theology may find crude expression here.

I’ve come to believe that all religions are an expression of awe. We humans struggle endlessly to define the mystery inherent in all of Creation. We have always done this, and we will never stop. I imagine the first proto-human staring at the starlit heaven and experiencing the same awe I felt that one magnificent night on the mountaintop. I imagine that our earliest forbearers heard The Song much more clearly than I. After all, my world is filled with the clanking of machinery, explosions, sirens, the roar of jets, the blasphemies of gunfire and screams, honking horns, curses, the grinding screech of industry and the anguished groans of empire. It was not always so. All was quiet once. The Song was there for all to hear.

Is it any wonder, then, that the ancient Greeks (and Phoenicians, Hittites, Mayans, Incas, Etruscans, Egyptians and many others…countless others) built their temples and prayed to the mysteries of Creation? They gloried in the sun and stars, the sea and the seasons. They were grateful for their sustenance and succor. They sought to find their place in all of this and they knew, just as we know today, that nothing and no one ever dies…all live on, in some form, if only in our hearts. They found words and symbols for all of this. They built their temples and created their gods because they heard The Song, felt the Awe and the Mystery.

We built our societies and came to believe in rulers. It followed naturally that we came to believe in one god…a king of kings, a god of gods, the "one true god". Never mind that different peoples found different names and different descriptions for the "one true God". It was/is all the same. The Song may have been a bit harder to hear. Perhaps we only heard it faintly, or no longer heard it at all, but the echoes remained and we still somehow sensed the Awe and we believed. We strove to define our beliefs. Sadly, our religions came to separate us. We each thought our one true god was the only true god. Some thought he wore a turban, some thought he wore a crown of thorns, some thought he looked, and acted, just like us. We seem to have forgotten there is only One Song, the Song within ourselves and every created thing...every living, breathing, loving, dreaming soul. The Song resonates everywhere, if we but had the ears to hear. The Awe remains, but we reduced the Awe to human terms. We defined it and, in so doing, diminished and demeaned it.

Science played a role in our evolving theology. The more we understood, the less the mystery, seemingly. We came to know the basic workings of Creation. We stopped gazing at the stars. Our eyes fell from Heaven and came to rest on text. Ah, text. Human terms and human words describing human gods and human values. We came so far; but found ourselves so very far removed from The Song and the Awe.

It was science, interestingly enough, that brought me closer to The Song. I came to learn that the marble temple remnant I chose to rest my head upon was metamorphosed calcite. The calcite came from the shells of primordial creatures once found teeming in primordial seas. Billions of creatures lived, loved and died and floated to the ocean bottom. Their remains rested there for millennia until the earth moved to crush and bake their shells into beautiful, malleable marble before heaving the stone to the surface of our lands. Nothing truly dies. All is transformed and born again. Human hands fashioned the stone into statues and pillars and expressions of faith. Millenia transformed beautiful life into beautiful stone into beautiful objects of faith. Awe expressed in stone, ever beautiful, ever changing…The Song contained within.

I’ve only scratched the surface, so to speak. Let’s peer deeper into the marbled stone. Let’s gaze upon an individual atom and contemplate what we find. Once again, there’s Awe. We’ve come to learn that the atom is comprised of amazing things (neutrinos) that both are and are not. Each atom is infinite space and infinite possibility. Its constituent particles come and go (where, I wonder?). They are, then are not, then are once more...the very idea takes my breath away. Nothing real is real. The Awe transubstantiates itself constantly in every atom in every thing, in every heart and every soul. How can I possibly define God when I cannot remotely comprehend the infinity contained within a single atom? Science brought me back to Awe, The Song, The Mystery.

I cannot describe my God. I cannot define Awe. It simply is…and I feel It. My God is song and mystery and awe. My God is infinite and pure. My God demands that I revere all of Creation because all comprise The Song. My morality flows from song, the knowledge that all is sacred and infinite and magnificent.

* * *

As I write this, the Andromeda galaxy is hurtling towards our own Milky Way at approximately 600,000 miles per hour. The collision is inevitable. And when that fated collision comes, approximately 7 billion years from today, all will be transformed into something new, and different and magnificent. I hope that I will have the eyes to see the end of what is and the beginning of what will be. Imagine the night sky a billion years before the inevitable! The heavens will be filled with an infinite number of stars, burning bright, looming large, moving close, then closer still, until we are all enveloped in stars.

Imagine, if you can, The Awe.

* * *


Blogger Ed said...

Wow, you wouldn't believe how closely this echoes some things I experienced on a recent run ... there is a very human need to explain, to quantify, to organize and make sense of it all, and some great works of literature and science have been born out of that need. But ultimately our experience here is really out of reach of any of our words or ideas, isn't it? Which doesn't mean it isn't worth the effort to try explaining -- just don't mistake the explanation for the real thing, that's all. Thanks, Jon.

Mon Mar 06, 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I can't say that I'm surprised you have similar thoughts, Ed. I could tell from your writings that we're kindred spirits. Spirituality doesn't flow from religion. It's the other way around. We are spiritual creatures in search of a religion that approximates what we feel inside. Sadly, though, I find most religions to be societal constructs rather than vehicles for spiritual enlightenment. I'm not lost without a Church structure, though. I just need to gaze upon Creation...

Mon Mar 06, 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger PattiKen said...

Interesting that you introduced this by saying that words fail when attempting to describe it. Words fail me too as I consider my reaction. Perhaps I need to think on it a while.

Mon Mar 28, 09:44:00 AM  

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