Monday, February 28, 2011

Describing the Unknowable

God does not equal "acts of nature".

God does not equal "the Church".

God does not equal "the Authority".

I can't tell you what God is but I'm sure that if your concept of God evokes fear not inspired by awe, guilt, a lot of sorrow or anger, I'm certain it's not really God you're thinking about. My guess is that if your understanding of God inspires any of the preceding emotions, you're dealing with familial, cultural and religious indoctrination rather than a direct experience of God. God is God and thus, unknowable and indescribable but my understanding is based on my experience with God and I can say that God may be many other things (or every other thing) but most of all God is Love.

What seems weird to me is how many of us completely reject all the "thou shall not" religious beliefs we were given but continue to accept the idea of God as "judge, jury and executioner" that went along with the religion. We reject the Old Testament harshness of religion as misguided at best but also manipulative and wrong and then, rather than examining those messages and trying to figure out what, if anything, is still meaningful to us, we spurn all of it. I don't think God should be blamed because some people use God's name as a way to control others. If you don't like the message you've been given, reject the message but then figure out for yourself what message would be OK with you. If God seems like an arbitrary, temperamental Zeus-like diety, spend some time thinking about if that really is God or if it's just an idea you've been given.

I find people who claim to be atheists based on their rejection of God as "The Authority of the Church" to be as deluded as people who are religious fundamentalists. Both seem to me to be immature and simplistic belief systems. If the choice was between God as The Authority or no God, I'd claim atheism, too. What this type of atheist doesn't get is that this is a false choice. I suspect there are as many ways of approaching and conceptualizing God as there are people so I think it's OK to deny the narrow and negative ideas as long as you don't get stuck there. Open your mind and your heart and try out some other ideas of what God may be for you.

I try to avoid projecting human emotion or motivations onto God. I don't believe that God punishes some and rewards others; I think things happen and God is to be found in how we respond. Yes, God created the world and set everything in motion in some metaphorical 7 days way. God is recorded as knowing when a sparrow dies but nowhere does it say God made the sparrow die at that moment. I reckon God must have created entropy but I don't think God uses catastrophe as a weapon against us. Things happen. Nature happens. We humans do things that cause harm. There is evil in the world. God allows it but I don't think God wills it. We find God in what we do with what we have. When bad things happen to us we can respond by becoming bitter or we can respond with love. God is in the love.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Varicose Vain (not a misspelling. no really--look it up)

The divorce is moving forward and what I'm learning is that going through divorce has the potential to make one incredibly, amazingly vain. Naturally, when one separates one's life from the intertwinedness of having been married to another person, one must spend a great amount of time imagining, thinking about and planning for single life. One has the opportunity to rediscover one's preferences in everything from brands of soap to mattress firmness. Without compromise necessitated by the taste or desire of another, one can freely say, "I like this neighborhood. I want to paint my kitchen red. I would like a platform bed." and etc--within the bounds of finances and practicality, anyway.

I read every day. There is a whole section on the site dedicated to divorce with articles about everything from whether to stay or to leave to finances to celebrity splits to how to get one's groove back post-marriage. There often are articles about plastic surgery as a way to appear younger or more like the age one actually feels rather than the age one's crows feet and eyelids say one is. Many of the articles I simply ignore--they seem to be written to appeal to our most base urges. A few of the articles are informative and helpful with information about co-parenting, budgeting or practical suggestions for moving into a new home (best advice so far: Don't go to Ikea post-divorce alone. Take a friend to provide moral support and physical help as you wander the isles among all the happy young couples). Some articles start out good but then throw in some piece of information about common modern dating worries that make my head spin. Sure, after a two decade marriage, most people feel somewhat insecure about the idea of navigating the world as a single person but I'm utterly dumbfounded at the amount of energy that seems to go into how women should groom their lady parts.

Dang. Like I didn't have enough to think about without having to add personal deforestation to my to-do list. (I know I just crossed the line into TMI. Sorry.)

Which leads me back to vanity. I'm not quite divorced but circumstances are conspiring to make me have to think about dating. I wasn't planning on thinking about dating at all for a long time. I was married for 20 years. Hammy and I are not splitting up because we were bored with one another or because we perceived the grass to be greener elsewhere. No mid-life crises here. I was imagining that I'd take a good long time to figure out who I am, get my new life in place, hang out with friends, learn about things and just chill for a while before I started thinking about becoming romantically and/or sexually involved with anyone new. I'm 45 years old and I look 45 years old even if I don't necessarily act 45 years old. Before kids I was kinda cute and sorta nicely built. Now, I look like what I am. In a lot of situations, I've become invisible, as women do in middle age, so I haven't much thought of myself as sexually available nor desirable to anyone but my dear soon-to-be ex in a long, long time.

So it is with much surprise that I find myself the confused, flattered and dazed subject of the romantic attention of two treasured friends. The first one is an old friend who was, thankfully, very direct with me and with whom I could be equally direct in my assertion that I value our friendship in its current state and do not want it to change. The other friend's actions were subtle enough, or perhaps it is more the fact that I am naive, that it has taken me a while to figure out that what he seems to want from our time together is more intense than what I want or am ready for. The thing that made me really realize is reflecting on my behavior during the dinner we had together a few nights ago. The most accurate word I can use about my behavior is that I chattered. He would ask me a question about my life and I would go on and on and on (and on and on and on) and he would politely listen. The fact that he never yawned is the thing that, in retrospect, lighted the bulb. How could he not have been bored by my self-absorbed me, me, me! talk? And why did he mention my freckles? Hmmm...

See, this is all so flattering to my ego but by-golly, the last thing I need is for my ego to be flattered when it's pretty darned puffy already. And this is exactly why I'm not ready to begin thinking about dating, yet. I need to discover God as my center in my new life. I need to find balance between who I am as a single person and a mother and friend and how I reflect God in all those roles. Once I feel I know kinda who I am, and feel sorta secure, maybe then I'll be ready to think about becoming romantically involved with others.

This is all complicated by the fact that I'm ovulating right now and so my libido is doing everything it can to convince me that a sexual partner is just what I need. Thankfully at Quaker meeting today, I was given the insight to clearly see just how far from ready I am from becoming involved with anyone.