God is a difficult word…
It is loaded with so much cultural baggage, so much heaviness of meaning, so much poe-faced seriousness – both from those who love the word and those who hate it. God has become this figure of judgement, marker of seriousness, and symbol of patriarchal oppression.
I feel sad about that.
I have a relationship with the divine that I really enjoy and because I grew up with a Christian mum, God is the word I most comfortably use for that divine presence. When I talk to myself, I say God. But… I sometimes feel uncomfortable using it even with my friends because it is so weighted with meanings I don’t agree with, and don’t want. My sense of it is that I’m not the only one.
I read this poem today from Daniel Ladinsky’s ‘Love Poems from God’ (a beautiful book of translations and transliterations of devotional poetry from many traditions, although Ladinsky is best known for his Sufi poetry) and it inspired me.
First He looked Confused – by Tukaram
I could not lie anymore so I started to call my dog “God.”
First he looked
Then he started smiling, then he even
I kept at it: now he doesn’t even
I am wondering if this
might work on
It feels to me like many of us have abandoned the word God, but what if we didn’t? What if we reclaimed it instead and used it for our own purposes?
What if it became once more the most beautiful thing you could say to someone, a gift so great it even stops dogs biting?
What if, like the Sufi’s, God became for us the name of our beloved?
What if the word God could drip from our mouths like sweet nectar from exotic flowers overflowing with sticky abundance?
What if there was no confusion in our minds about God and we each lived in a personal and glorious relationship with a sense of wonderous un-knowing-ness and love of the great and mysterious nothing-that-is-everything?
What if, when making love, we cried out “Oh God” and really meant it because sex felt divine and the divine felt so tantalisingly, viscerally sumptuous?
What if in prayer, we spoke to God like one of our best friends who can’t always change the situation for us, but it feels great to talk to them about it anyway?
What if no book could tell us what God thinks because it’s so sublime and subtle?
What if, once in a while, a piece of poetry, or art, or something in nature seemed to nudge us towards an understanding of how God feels about the world?
What if speaking of God wasn’t controversial but was joyful?
What if God wasn’t masculine or feminine?
What if God was common ground where we could all connect rather than where we come into conflict?
What if loving-ness was the closest thing to Godliness?
What if we could build a bridge of my “What if’s” and dance out across it together with joyous, clamorous shouting that comes right up from our bellies and out through our hearts?