I’m becoming suspicious that my second-born son is a little mini-me. I’ve taken to calling him Preacher, because he is fascinated with anything related to God, as I was at the same age. He is definitely latching on to the evangelical Christian story, and feels the need to defend God at every turn. At Christmas he was offended when the local drive-through Christmas light event only paid homage to Jesus through one small display.
Part of me is thrilled that he has a spiritual side to him, a side that sees and is enthralled with more than can just be seen with the naked eye. But part of me is afraid for him. I fear the unlearning that he may have to endure as I did in my twenties and early thirties. I want to control the growth and evolving of his understanding of God and the divine: to protect him, to keep him from latching onto unhelpful dogma, to keep him from being the me of my own youth.
Inevitable in discussions with my son are conversations about the beginning of life. Just this week were visiting the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, one of our favorite places. In one exhibit, overhead were posted these words by Carl Sagan: “If we must worship a power greater than ourselves, does it not make sense to revere the sun and the stars?”
Preacher was quite upset by this, and told me that we shouldn’t be worshipping the sun or stars, but only God. This led into a discussion about the Big Bang, and I told him that when we are awestruck by what exists and has been created, we are worshipping God. Besides, I told him, we are all stardust. We should honor that from whence we came. This further vexed him, as he is still more well read in Genesis than he is astronomy.
My conversations with Preacher brought me back to questions I have been grappling with in my own spiritual introspection. The primary one I have dealt with of late is the struggle to accept reality as it is and then try to reconcile that with the understanding of a good Creator. I’m more of an atheist these days…I believe in a force that is holding all things together and is the essence of life, but I can’t swallow a truly theistic notion of God anymore. But despite this, something in me insists that this Ground of Being has to ultimately be good. I really have no clear, succinct arguments or empirical evidence for this…I just believe it in my bones.
Which brings the age old dilemma that millions before me have faced….how can bad things and evil be part of or come from something that is good? I don’t know. But I think maybe the Big Bang idea speaks of the goodness of this Ground of Being. I’m calling it the Great Allowing. My very limited understanding is that before the Big Bang, all the stuff that would soon explode outward was compressed into an immensely dense state….a state of extreme potential energy. And then boom…the universe burst forth and began its outward expansion and fusion created new elements and somehow over billions of years the right elements joined up at the right place in the right environment and life began. Freaking amazing when you think about it.
And then, it seems to me, God, the Ground of Being, let the universe take its course. Seemingly limitless possibilities were allowed. Maybe this galaxy would form over here. Maybe this would form over there. Maybe in this tiny corner of the galaxy the right circumstances would line up for a place called Earth to grow people. And those people will be subject to countless factors that will influence their lives and interactions with each other. And they will do horrible things to each other and the places they live, but they will also love dangerously and beautifully and sacrifice themselves for the good of others and those same places that they live.
What I’m trying to say is that it seemed like God sure took a huge chance when he decided to open Pandora’s Box of Big Bangs. The outcomes could be wonderful, or they could be disastrous. But he was willing that it happened. The Great Allowing commenced.
We all tend to think that we are dancers dancing life. But I like the way I recently heard Byron Katie put it, that we are the dance and Life is dancing us. Life is the dancer. Or what if, life is the Ground of Being, God, and he (sorry, English is lacking in good neutral pronouns) is dancing us.
I tend to be afraid to allow alot of things in my life. Control has been a great hallmark of all that is Julie, I just never recognized it until a couple of years ago. But….2017 was the most courageous year of my life. Some days I look back and am like, “Damn, girl! You ALLOWED a whole lot of stuff over the last year!” I allowed myself to face some of my biggest fears. I allowed myself to try hard things and dream big dreams. I allowed myself to love quickly, wildly, with abandon, when in the past I would have shrunk back into the shadows, afraid of being hurt. I allowed myself to say no, and I allowed myself to say yes. I allowed myself to dig deep inside myself to uncover more of who I really am…the things that I love about myself and the things I despise. I allowed myself to sit long with hard emotions, and I allowed myself to “Fuck it all!” on some of my really dark days. I opened my hands and allowed many things to land, and many to freely fly away.
This is what I learned from my own year of Great Allowing: I felt more alive than I’ve ever felt in my entire 37 years. I felt real, authentic, genuine…even if I didn’t always like certain aspects of myself. Everything seemed more meaningful, even though I had fewer answers about everything than ever. There were days I felt like a really great human, and days I felt like I probably sucked worse than any human that has ever lived, but at the same time, I felt like I could accept it because this is what being human is like, and this is what the dance looks like when life is dancing in a temporarily crummy person.
I do revere the stars, and the sun, because they remind me that whatever is behind life, Ground of Being or God or some clockmaker in the sky…it is not scared of letting go of all control, is not afraid of allowing whatever will happen to happen. If that same dancer, who wound up the tune of the universe and danced as the music box opened with delight, then somehow I believe I can trust life to dance me well, this tiny, insignificant little waltz in the corner of a spiral galaxy.