Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Meaning of Life, Part 72

Some people live on top of mountains in glass houses watching over forests, looking for smoke. One man has spent more than twenty summers in a fourteen-square-foot cabin on top of Saddleback Mountain in California minding a piece of the Tahoe National Forest. His version of paradise. He has four pairs of binoculars, cameras. He knows the landscape so well, he says, that it's easy to see when something's amiss.

That is how I used to imagine God: high in the sky looking after me, making sure I didn't burn up or disappear or feel too alone. What comfort came with this belief. And what loss when I decided God was not in that house with the 360-degree view.

I thought that meant no one was in the house.

In most of the gospel stories, Jesus keeps saying beautiful, poetic, profound things to his disciples, and they keep not getting it. They don't even spend time reflecting. They just ask the same questions over and over again. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus tells his disciples that they have come from light, that they are children of light, that God is in them. He says, If they ask you 'What is the evidence of your God in you?'; say to them 'It is motion and rest,' and you can almost hear the disciples' disappointment. They are not satisfied being divine children of light. They want to know what will happen when they die. When the world will be better than it is. What to stake their lives on. Enough with grapevines and wineskins and treasure buried in fields. Enough with mustard seeds and yeast and nets thrown into the sea. Tell us the truth.

So they ask again: When will the new world come?
What you look for has come, but you do not know it.
And again: When will the new world come?
It will not come by watching for it.
And again: When will anything be different?
It already is.
When will there be no pain?
Fill the jars with water.
When will we have new life?
Your lamp is under a basket. Your lamp is under your bed.
Do you not care that we are perishing?
Let anyone with ears to hear listen.
Who are you to say these things?
Show me the stone the builders rejected. It is the cornerstone.
How should we pray?
Split a piece of wood. I am there.
Who can be saved?
Find a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it.
By what authority do you do these things?
You are not far from it.
Are you the Messiah?
As the branches become tender, you know summer is near.
Have you no answer?
Keep awake.
Again they ask: When will the new world come?
An again he answers: It is spread out on the earth. You do not see it.

Someone is on top of that mountain in that glass house watching over the world. Sometimes it's you, and sometimes it's me. The only ones watching for smoke, the only ones ready to sound the alarm, the only ones who will bring water, are the people down here with us. Just us, looking after each other.

--Sarah Sentilles, Breaking Up With God: A Love Story, pp. 226-8

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