Saturday, December 17, 2016
Did God create the cosmos? Many, including you, David, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan (all of whom I deeply admire) say NO! Yet you give credence to the Big Bang theory — a minuscule dot of energy that contained the seeds of every existent, every form of life, and every function of every form of energy found in billions upon billions of galaxies. Astounding! Doesn’t that sound remarkably like the six days (equal to billions of years) of “creation”? There is strong evidence that the Big Bang occurred; but did it come out of “nowhere,” out of “nothing” ??? ex nihilo ???? That sounds like theology.
I’m reading the book you sent —The Faith I Left Behind. People on the same spiritual journey on which I find myself.
When people make thoughtful decisions that enable them to live with integrity, I certainly can’t fault them if their choices are different than mine. I wonder, sometimes, what someone on Skid Row would think about my life choices? Whether a prostitute in Los Angeles or Chicago (or even Sheboygan) would think my life has more integrity than their own? If those living in bombed-out Aleppo think I am serious enough about life.
Did you note the chapter in your book by Mark Cagnetta whose son was born with lissencephaly? That one irritated me. This man was thrown by the illness of his son. His mother believed in miracles and told him of miracles other people had experienced, so he was angry that this God would not save his son. Where did Mark grow up? Had he never heard of the Holocaust? Did he not know that millions of Africans were kidnapped and sold around the world into slavery? Did he know nothing of the World Wars or of the Roman Empire or the eruption of Mt. Visuvius? Did he not realize that children around the world, even in his own city, were being abused, tortured, suffering a myriad of illnesses? Why is it that people don’t acknowledge the world they live in until something happens to them?
That one irritated me.
My own journey has taught me that my search for God was really my search for my mother. She died when I was four; she was ill for at least two years before that; whatever atmosphere haunted my home during those years could not have been conducive to children’s well-being. Dad was a hard worker, but he did not know how to nurture children. He was angry at life and at God. I can see the scars of our childhood in each of the five siblings. My inability to trust stems from that; I saw that in myself very early in life. Anyone who thinks to love me, quickly runs into my four-year-old needy self. And yet that four-year-old knows abandonment and will never allow me to be truly vulnerable. I have learned that I seem unable to be fully open or available or receptive to another person. If it’s a choice, it’s also something I have no idea how to overcome. It even applies to trust in God.
When I was ending third grade, we moved to within a half block of a Catholic school; I entered its fourth grade. There I learned that God loved me. And I desperately needed love. I thought that if I lived like the young saints in our Catholic comic books, God would make my life happen. I desperately wanted to stop the sadness of the world. I remember praying at age ten that God would let me become a wall, a barricade, against sadness so the world could be a happy place.
I became devout, attended daily Mass, waited for God to work miracles through me (as with those comic-book young saints). In eighth grade I was voted the one “most likely to enter the convent.” My eighth-grade teacher even arranged for me to visit a Carmelite convent in Milwaukee. I’ve no doubt she could see how much I was in need of protection.
In my late teens, I remember thinking that I was born without arms. That means to me that I could not reach out to people. I was never shy, but I was very withdrawn. I also used to envision a thick tower that protected me from the world outside. Those images tell me I was intelligently aware of my “condition,” but had no clue what to do about it. Years later I did enter the convent. It was a life-saver for me. I would have been eaten alive if I’d just ventured out into the world on my own. Over the next seven years of training I received a college education, took first vows, second vows, then final vows for life. Two years later, I walked out with never a qualm or question. That’s how emotionally disconnected and removed I was.
That was 1970. In 1973 I left for California to earn a doctoral degree in theology and psychology. I wanted to confront the Catholic Church about its errors in dealing with human nature. Well, I received a great education, but failed to get the PhD. With no idea what to do with my life, I set to work to pay off my student loans and earn a living. I was a good person; did good things here and there. Much later, the Wild Iris Bookstore fell into my lap. I bought it. It gave me a place to do good and a way to interact with people. (When I have my own space, I come out of my shell and I loved the store and I WAS good at that.) However, that failed financially when the chain stores moved in. So I drew on my teaching skills (from my convent education) and went into substitute teaching and being a tutor at the Sylvan Learning Center.
I also took a chance and invited several people I’d met at my store and in WomenChurch to meet once a month at my home. What a great idea that was. You, my friends, also saved my life.
But back to God. I know it’s a choice. To believe in a “higher power” or a “divine being” who “created” the universe. You can prove to your own satisfaction that I’m wrong. But — perhaps because since early childhood I have wanted nothing more than to “end the sadness of life” — it makes no sense to me to say that all of this wonder and intelligence and potential are here solely by chance with no ultimate purpose or conclusion. That what we long for most is forever unavailable. There is “more.” That “more” lies within me. And I am but a small, limited example of that possibility. We humans are capable of more; we want more; humans have potential that never gets tapped. That’s not right. That’s not enough.
On the other hand, I am incredibly upset by humans. We have big brains, but we are not intelligent. Intelligent beings don’t destroy their planet; don’t kill billions of their own species; don’t abuse their children so they grow into greedy, power-hungry, addicted, crippled beings. We humans do all that. I think whales and elephants and perhaps some primates…maybe even dogs and cats… are “more intelligent” than humans. They honor their species and their environment. But we do have big brains and can do things other species cannot. I think of our music as wending a pathway through the stars. I don’t expect our species to endure for long. Unless a small number survive whatever plague or catastrophe we’ve already set in motion. Neil deGrasse Tyson in the series “Cosmos” showed the site of the five great extinctions. We’ll be the sixth. Perhaps our story is the biblical sixth day of creation, after which God and the planet will rest. Maybe those biblical writers were inspired by some truth beyond their understanding.
Your always friend,