Hal: Nana, what’s God?
Nana: He can’t be seen but is everywhere; it’s really hard to explain exactly.
At the age of four or five, this was rather confusing. I guess I never really took my grandmother very seriously.
When I was older, God and religion were hating to go to Hebrew school, keeping kosher, and being the youngest person in the temple choir. I guess I will never forget my solo lines in Shalom Secunda’s “Ahavas Olom” and my relationship with Cantor Ben Kestenbaum. (He was the talk of Green Acres years later when Judith — his wife and a nice Jewish girl from a nice section of Brooklyn no less — found him in bed with the maid; she married an Irishman a few years later.)
Then there were the Passover seders at my grandparents’ house. A lot of warm memories — boy, was I ever a little tyrant about the whole thing. When I go on my contemplated ten-day fast, I will no doubt find that a matzoh ball from one of these feasts has been lodged in my large intestine all these years.
After my bar-mitzvah, the warm feeling of being part of something special at temple ended; anyway, all the guys thought I was really strange for going to services on Saturday morning. When I joined the marching band (which played a lot on Saturdays), well, that was that.
I didn’t think about god or religion until I went to college. When I was a freshman, Hayden White (the “great god White” they called him) said that it was silly to believe in god; he was a very famous historian, dynamic, and handsome to boot, so who was I to argue? Anyway, didn’t Merceau fuck right after his mother’s funeral and do other iconoclastic things because he (or more correctly Camus) saw no sense of cosmos or order in the universe?
A year or two later I took a course from Rev. William Hamilton right at the time his “death of god” article was being published by Playboy. The readings were excellent — The Heart of Darkness, Billy Budd, Murder in the Cathedral, J.B. — and I will never forget the passion in his eyes. I wrote a very cosmic paper comparing The Man Who Died with The Stranger, but I never really connected any of this with my inner feelings and experiences.
Quite frankly, I never really gave a second thought to any of this “spiritual” stuff until I was studying for my writtens and read some of the philosophy of quantum physics — it was very high and caused my third eye to open up for the first time. Was science really all that different from religion? Was there something a little deeper and a little more subtle to the universe than what is usually passed off as “scientific” explanation by people whose lives are often based on fear of the unknown and themselves (the deepest of the unknowns)? I really started to question ideas such as objective knowledge, the distinctions between science, religion, and art, as well as other cognitive distinctions for hiding the simplistic complexity of the universe.
But still, all this was very intellectual and academic; it is only when I started to do kundalini yoga, japa yoga (chanting), and meditation that I started to experience some very strange and different things. These “things” did not fit into my conceptual framework and I had to (and still do) question many of these tools — the concepts, ideas, and labels — that I use to make sense out of the world.
[The biggest problem many of us confront is that these “tools” never allow us to be in the world but force us to peck around it by recalling the past or anticipating the future. Something is always missed.
Jnana yoga is very instructive in this way because you use your own thoughts to show yourself how limited thought and structure really are for capturing the wildness of life. (Mary Sue appropriately describes jnana yoga as letting your mind fuck itself.)]
My appetite for women, friends, status have changed; so has the way I try to experience loneliness, love, anger, my work. These changes are slow and subtle, but they are there and changing all the time. I don’t really understand them but my heart song says they are right for me, at least now.
I am aware of energy and vibrations which connect me with others — vibrations which are very calm, very quiet, and very lasting. The apparent confusion in the world — Samsara — is humorous and very sad at the same time. The thought (or fear) that life is really nothing but a flickering candle of emotions and thoughts annoys me. So does the idea that reality is nothing but a handcount of people who can somehow muster respect.
I guess I live with the hope that there is something very quiet and constant which binds everything together — OM. I also live with the hope that our souls are so deep and rich that we can create the type of karma that people like Ram Dass talk about and which we attempt to allow ourselves to experience. But what else is there to do?