Humans are natural believers but the things we choose to believe in vary radically: Exercise, Love, Money, Science, B vitamins, Power, God, Not-God, Red Meat, Medicine, Herbs, Famous People, even Wishes made on Falling Stars. The propensity to believe makes us vulnerable to being duped. And often, instead of being open or skeptical, we act as if loyalty to a belief is a virtue. It’s humiliating and painful to be wrong, so we ferociously defend what we believe in.
“And yet…” The Creative Force woven into all things seen and unseen jigs into view decked out as a troupe of Finnish dancers raising money for the war.
“Hello, God,” I say, waving. I clap to the beat as The Troupe does synchronous high kicks and fancy footwork. At intermission, they link elbows, pass the hat, and fly away. I assumed they were Finnish, but there’s an Irish feel in the remaining air.
What makes something Finnish or Irish or Nigerian? Who’s in? Who’s out? No matter how glittery or damning, all the fine distinctions are temporary. Driven by beliefs, such dichotomous thinking can cause great suffering. It’s deadly to believe rather than inquire. We overlook the still, small path that leads us alongside the unknown and unknowable.
“That path is narrow and dangerous,” God warns in the strained voices of those who’ve fallen away. “Unknowing isn’t safe.”
“It’s safer than pretending,” I say. “Safer than being certain something is true when it might not be.”
“And are you certain of that?” God teases in a thousand laughing voices. I laugh, too. I admire these courageous, vague expressions of the God Who’s Fallen Away. They don’t name themselves God, but I do.
“This may seem obvious,” God says. “But I need neither definition nor defense.”
“I beg to differ,” I argue. “What about the least of you?”
There’s a tall woman in a Russian prison, a short man beaten senseless, a desperate woman forced to be a mother, flood and fire victims, prisons burgeoning, the rich getting richer as the poor sink further into despair.
“Ah, I see what you mean,” God agrees. “But definition? Defenses? These won’t help. Justice. Mercy. Lives laid down, not weapons raised up. Wealth distributed, not hoarded.”
“Much harder,” I say in a sad voice. “Nearly impossible.”
And again, God agrees and without further ado, fades into the nightly news.
Why not admit I know nothing but do something outlandishly braver regardless? I ask myself as I get ready for bed. May as well take a few risks. You’re going to die either way.
This may not be the best way to fall asleep, but it’s an excellent way to wake up.