Thursday, January 10, 2008

God talk and nailing Jell-O to the wall

I’ve just returned from a Worship and Ministry meeting at our Quaker Meeting House on Stark Street.

Sorry to pitch you into Quaker business but it’s on my mind, and besides, you might find it interesting.

And to think that I had originally planned to write a post tonight about the late, prodigiously talented Oscar Peterson or the precious fragility of Costa Rica.

Another time.

Our Worship and Ministry meeting had a fair share of “God Talk.” I always find Quaker “God Talk” fascinating, in part because we worship in silence. “Words do not describe….”

I worship in silence because silence is where I find an ineffable God. A God beyond words.

To me, talking of “God” is a like nailing Jell-O to the wall. Ultimately it doesn’t work, although the futility of it all can be enlightening, even as the divinity blobs and then pools around your feet.

A major problem with “God Talk” is that no two of us, if we are honest, have the same conception of God when we say “God.” Yet because we use the same word, “God,” we give the false impression that we are in agreement — until we get down to cases.

When we do get down to cases, we are surprised (shocked, offended, outraged) to learn that we don’t have the same conception at all. (Whole wars have been fought because of varying conceptions and beliefs about “God” and his "true will" etc.).

God the father, God the creator, God the judge, God “our hope in ages past, our hope for years to come,” God Almighty, Deus ex machina, God “A Mighty Fortress!” etc.

Did someone say "Amen"?

I don’t like to use the word or name or whatever it is for just this reason. I’ve suggested using [ ] or ••• or some such to indicate….what? It is ineffable. “Ineffable” is word worthy of its existence if only to explain [ ] and the need for its word-less-ness.

Driving home in the rain after the Worship and Ministry meeting full of “God Talk,” I thought of John 1.1.

"In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God."

Not so fast, John, I thought. That may be the way you saw it, but for me, in the beginning there most certainly wasn’t the “word.” Instead there was [ ], a "no-word."

Also, while we are at it, John, what’s all this about “beginning”?

If we are part of an eternity that has no end, isn’t it equally conceivable there was no “beginning”? Even if we accept there was a beginning — just to get things started — what came before it? Nothing? Isn’t “nothing” something — [ ].

In Asia millions are much closer to this realization, even though they have hardly avoided fighting about belief. I'm with those for whom all of this becomes the un-nailable, ineffable "way" — the Tao without a name.

Here is how Lau-tsu describes it:

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Lisa (Galowar) said...

I'm bookmarking your Tao Te Ching link. Thanks for that. Now I have to find a moment in between doing homework and doing mom stuff to ponder eternity.

When I try to ponder eternity my brain twists into a spasm. Maybe Lau-tsu can help relax that a little.

1:21 AM  

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