Caged animals trouble me even if there are acres of natural habitat within their enclosures. The prowling and howling unsettle my claustrophobic soul. And the barriers give visitors a false sense of security. Some time ago, instead of eating the raw meat offered, a grizzly bear ate its handler. We’ve not yet domesticated grizzlies, but if photos of human hubris in Yellowstone Park are any indication, people think befriending wild animals is easy. Just walk right up and pet the bison. In gratitude, it will lower its massive head and lick your hand.
Over the eons, animals willing to be domesticated have provided humans with companionship, labor, and food. Various theologies claim to have domesticated God for similar reasons, but in truth, there is no such thing as a tame or definable God.
“You’ve got that right,” God bellows, sitting large in the hayfield, posing as a woolly mammoth while celestial beings take selfies with her.
I wave but keep my distance. “You know you’re extinct, right?” I’m joking but I’m also afraid of the answer.
God’s tusks circle back to her ancient head. She roars, and the celestial beings roll away like geodes. Their fall from grace cracks them open revealing the phantastic crystal formations of their inner lives. I long to touch the cold brilliance of the fractured geodes, feed God fresh-cut hay, build a nice barn, and corral them all.
“Are you imagining what kind of fencing you’d need?” God asks.
“Yes,” I admit. “But I don’t really want you contained.”
God looked at me long and hard. I looked at myself long and hard. “Ok. I guess I do want you a little bit contained. Otherwise, you’re terrifying.”
As if to prove my point, Woolly Mammoth bellows again. “You terrify yourselves. I’m the source of comfort.”
I bravely push back. “Well. Maybe. But you’re also the reason we need comfort. The conditions we’re born into…consciousness, love, loss, sacrifice, floods, fires, starvation, war…”
“What makes you think your species isn’t going the way of the woolly mammoth?” God interrupts.
“Um, well. We’re amazingly adaptable. And no one’s hunting us.” I stop abruptly as I realize we actually hunt each other. And our ability to adapt has limits. God’s silence is not reassuring.
I try a slight change of subject. “Did you know scientists are working on cloning woollies back into existence?”
“You don’t say!” Woolly Mammoth exclaims facetiously as she turns and becomes first light. I see that the truth, such as it is, has shaped itself into shelter. It looks dicey, but I think well, if God lives anywhere, it’s here, so I crawl in. At least it’s not a cage.