"There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus."
- Blaise Pascal
Thanksgiving is over and simultaneously the most stressful, and most wonderful of seasons begins.
I have not been sleeping well; waking up at around 4 a.m. For the past couple of early morning periods of sleeplessness I pulled out my rosary beads and prayed my own version of the “Hail Mary.” Mixing it with the "Jesus Prayer” and extemporaneous thoughts and wishes. I’m mystified by this apparent gut reaction to sleeplessness. Resorting to prayer at times of despondency or distress seems to be a reaction like putting out my hands when falling.
At this time of year my thoughts become intensified around the spirituality that I have always sought and never really found. The problem is that during the Christmas season - religion becomes extremely superficial and schmaltzy. Nativity scenes pop up in strange places and platitudes about sharing the “christmas spirit” are mouthed without, I believe, much good intention.
The story of the nativity has become such a folk legend that it is hard to see any real meaning behind it - it is legend undoubtedly, but the idea of a divine being coming to earth in humble circumstances to the poorest of people living in exile carries a lot of weight in interpreting the human condition. The allegories that can be drawn from the story are endless and rich in teaching. But, unfortunately, they are lost by so many Christians who spend tremendous amounts of energy clinging and “protecting” the literalness of the events.
If God exists he has made himself very elusive to me and it makes no sense. I have sought to encounter God in so many different ways - praying for guidance, a word, a sign, and perceiving nothing except a little self-motivated emotion. I have always believed in God; or so I thought. But how long can you look for something that you’ve never seen before you realize that perhaps it’s imagination?
Is there a God shaped hole in the human psyche? Or is it just a delusion that we experience as a desire to be more than we are?
It seems that the more I question the reality of God and consider the ways that God can possible exist outside of my limited awareness and experience - I keep coming back to a potential answer that says that God is life itself. The very nature of reality appears to be a boundless ocean of experience that "bubbles up” into waves of infinite variety with the sole purpose of experiencing itself in all its endless forms. I keep coming back to the same beliefs that Alan Watts speculated and wrote about in the mid 70’s.
But, that being said, I see a lot of Alan Watts in me - not as intelligent or gifted in the wisdom that seemed to pour from his mind almost endlessly, but the spiritual restlessness and the desire for aloneness rings true.
I’ve sought to fill the perceived “God-Shaped hole” with religious practice - as if by obeying the rules I could calm or control the wanderlust that pulls me in all directions. But, time after time, the shallow thinking and more bitter aspects of the teachings get to me. In Buddhism it doesn’t take long for the mythology of Shakyamuni to become front and center. The founder of Buddhism, known for teaching that discussions about the meaning of the universe and the speculation about the nature of God, quickly becomes a God (or divine being) that makes him special and somehow an unobtainable role model.
Jesus, the perfect exemplar, becomes someone to be worshipped, rather than someone we should follow and emulate.
Religion has a way of disarming the reality of being. It devalues our potential by claiming that “through grace,” or through “grace plus works,” we too can become “special.”
We are a focus point of the universe. What can be more special than that?
We do not have a God-shaped hole anywhere but in our minds. If we live life believing that we’re lacking the presence of God we are devaluing ourselves - the hole that we seem to have is our own creation - a figment of our delusion of inferiority.
We are not sinners in the hands of an angry God - we are gods in the hands of ignorance. We have built cages to our own design, and limited our freedom to the shape of our own imagined restrictions.
It is scary to be outside the cage - but it is where life is.