i heard george harrison in the car today and i had an epiphany. go figure.
tragedy has struck again in boston. strangely, there were people attending the marathon who had experienced a recent tragedy in newtown, connecticut. tragedy strikes at an alarming rate these days; i’m not entirely certain whether there are more tragedies actually occurring or whether the 24-hour news cycle is just better at bringing them into our lives, up close and personal.
and while some may become impervious over time to nonstop horror, i fear i may never achieve that. it tears me up inside thinking that there are people so disturbed in the world who would take others’ lives, who might even take their own lives, maybe for a cause — or maybe for madness alone. services to help the disaffected, the mentally ill, are not easily obtained. the weapons to create mass destruction are readily available. it was patriot’s day in massachusetts, the boston marathon, and even tax day in america. was some sick individual or group trying to make a statement? time will tell, and while we armchair crime scene specialists ponder the few shreds of clues we have, we can’t jump to conclusions. we must wait for the professionals to do their important work.
so back to george harrison. at times like these, when i know i can’t jump to conclusions, i want to know how to find peace somehow in all of this. i struggle to make some sense out of the senseless. and this, of course, brings me to thinking about G-d.
see, G-d and me, we have a strange relationship. i wish with all my heart i could believe in G-d, unfailingly, the way my son believes in the tooth fairy or even in me. but whereas my son sees a coin under his pillow or clean clothes unfailingly piled on his chair every few days, i don’t see anything tangible that cannot be explained. my heart has always wanted to believe, but the analyst in me has struggled. after all, there is a lot of scientific evidence which, for me, makes it pretty clear. personally, i don’t believe in the bible as the word of G-d; i believe it is a wonderful recounting of how the world happened, according to the people who wrote it, full of their attempts to make sense of what was happening, complete with deus ex machina moments galore. (i have loved reading it, as literature, since i was a child. when i think about it, english major that i am, it isn’t very different from the way the greeks and romans wrote their mythologies.) and yet, i find myself praying to G-d at services, talking to G-d when things make no sense. and then, i am left wondering: with Whom am i actually talking? am i talking to myself?
and these awful things that happen. if there really was a Being who loved us, why would He/She let this stuff go down? who lives and who dies — it is all so capricious. maybe i’m still bitter. see, in high school, my mom ended up with cancer. at the same time, my friend’s mom did, too. my mom survived two bouts. his mom didn’t. grateful as i have always been that my mom is still a pain in my ass to this very day, i never, ever forgot what a heart-wrenching, horrific shock it was for my friend and his family, all good people who didn’t deserve such pain. so, in short, i have read what theologians have had to say about this — why bad things happen to good people, yada yada — and yet, for me, it doesn’t compute. it doesn’t work. it simply doesn’t add up.
but today, as i was singing along with george in the car, i realized: maybe it will never make sense. and maybe by not understanding why horrible things happen grinds home the idea that yes, i am just human. i need to accept that. but maybe, just maybe, i need to appeal to something bigger than me. maybe i am talking to a spirit of goodness. (no, i’m not a hippie here. just a mom.) yeah, other people can call that spirit G-d or whatever, but to me, i want to believe that there is some spark in the universe, a flash of goodness that can be inside all of us if we let it. no, it probably didn’t create the universe or hear my prayers to save my cat (he died though i prayed and prayed he wouldn’t) or outline one specific way that all people must live their lives. but that spark is the infinite possibility that there can be and there always must be something good in all of us — and that all of us can use that good for the world. clearly, on dark days like this, i realize that not everyone is possessed by that positive, and it saddens me. and in prayer, or in my conversations, maybe i am reaching out to the universe, hopeful for a better day, for strength, and for peace.
all of which i might find within myself, if i just look carefully.
you don’t have to be jewish or christian or muslim or buddhist or a subscriber to any particular organized religion to feel this way, i think. (and if your religion gives you the comfort that i was lacking, more power to you. just use that power to bring about peace.) george sings about really wanting to know his lord, really being a part of his lord. and on days like this one, i don’t know about knowing G-d. but i do know that i want to believe — and i have to believe — that good does start out inside each and every one of us. some of us ignore it; some of us are ill and can’t find it. but it is there.
and believing that buoys me.