I used to think God was "up there" somewhere or "out there" somewhere. But then, when I was young, I had no idea how impossible it is to wrap my head around "out there," knowing, as I do today, that "out there" is endless. I suppose that, in my youth, I just thought of God as somewhere slightly beyond the clouds -- not unlike the way virtually everyone believed at one time, so strongly in fact that, if you questioned such a belief, they felt justified in killing you. Some still do, if your reputation only.
Now that we know the "heavens" are ever-expanding, the mind -- my mind, anyway -- is incapable of wrapping itself around the infinity that is beyond us. So, where is God? Does she live on a planet somewhere? If so, where? And how long would it take to get there? Even if you were traveling at the speed of light? Or even faster?
There are other questions for which there are no answers, as in, "Which religion is right? How could anyone really know?"
So, is it possible that I (we) can be sure of anything?
There was a time when I pretended I was sure. I boasted, for example, that my God was the "real" God -- that my religion was the "right" one. That mine was one of relationship, making it, not a religion at all, at least not like all the others that were based on something other than a relationship. I strutted and shouted about as if I was certain I was right in my beliefs and, if you did not agree, you were the one who was wrong. Not I.
I am so beyond that nonsense, that narrow-mindedness today. I now know, however, that during those pretentious days of mine, which were really more like years, rather than being certain of anything, much less my God or my religion, it was I who was of all people the most uncertain -- even the most frightened and delusional, as well as lost. It is likely true, is it not, that those who pretend to know really don't? And that those who do have no need to pretend.
Here's what I know today. And here's all I may EVER know. I have experienced something in my life that I have chosen to call God. "So," you might ask, "how can you be certain that what you have experienced is really God?"
I don't know. But then, neither does anyone else. About the most I can say is that what I have experienced has been so incredible -- so mystical, as well as transformative, that I could no more deny it than I am able to describe it. Instead, it is personal, deeply moving to me, and absolutely inexplicable. This knowing IS making me a better person. At least, I think so. I am, for instance, more aware of myself and infinitely more aware of the needs of others and concerned about them. More and more, I am losing interest in just living for myself -- just being concerned about and wrapped up in myself. I have this longing to make sure you are doing well in your life, too. In addition to this, I am far more at peace within than I've ever been at any other time in my life. I could go on and on, but I trust you see what I'm saying.
My point is this: Is this that I am experiencing, God? Or is it just a figment of my imagination? Or just a neurotic projection of my own unmet needs?
I do not know. But it no longer matters to me to try and explain or prove anything. What matters to me instead is that life -- what poets call an indecipherable riddle -- is more meaningful to me, more peaceful and loving, and an infinitely more enjoyable experience, knowing or experiencing what I have.
Is this everyone else's experience? I doubt it.
Does everyone else have to believe as I believe? I hope not.
For me, however, I cannot deny what I've experienced. I could not, even if I tried. As Mark Nepo so beautifully put it, "Though my lids be closed, I still feel the warmth of the sun." Though I live with questions -- even doubts -- I cannot disregard what I feel inside, what I think I know but know I do not know, too.
"I'm like a bird," wrote Nepo, "gliding on a current of air it cannot see, or a fish swimming with the tide of deep it cannot see, or a note being sung as part of a song it cannot see..."
So today, as every day, I live in the peace of not knowing anything for certain. This is what they describe in the east as the "wisdom of uncertainty"! I'm pretty sure, at least I think I am, that this is the secret to happiness.
If it isn't, I am content to never know the difference.