I’ve been thinking a lot about God lately. We grew up in a pretty religious house. My mom was heavily involved with the Catholic church, and we were raised to be devout little versions of her. We prayed a lot. I remember praying for all sorts of things: clear skin, more confidence, for my parents to finally give in and let me go to the MC Hammer concert with my fourth grade best friend. It was delightful, in retrospect, to sing in the choir and to go on the annual retreats to the Powell House (a Quaker meeting house at the bird sanctuary in Chatham. Have you ever been there? It’s one of my favorite places on earth. They have a sunken library. ‘Nuf said.)
Even when I went away to college I continued going to mass, every so often. My very first boyfriend once said to me, “I’ve never met anyone as into Catholicism as you are.” It was right at that moment that I realized I’d only been going through the motions; standing, kneeling, singing on command. I thought back to all of the things I’d prayed for (which I saw as being mostly superficial, honestly) and never received and it upset me. I recognized that, for all the ways I was being a good little Catholic, I didn’t actually have faith. I didn’t believe any of it.
It’s interesting to me how, as society develops and evolves, we move from the polytheistic beliefs of ancient cultures, to modern monotheism and the (inevitable?) next step, atheism. I can’t call myself a true atheist, because all possibilities are equally likely, so I suppose now I’m agnostic. I’ve been re-reading Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where Pirsig explores the concepts of quality and goodness (or, “godness,” if you look at the original root of the word) and he acknowledges that as the, higher power. See, that rings true with me. It makes more sense that there isn’t so much a human-shaped all-powerful god-person hanging out up in heaven, but more an overarching force of good and love. We personify that because it is comfortable to us, but as we as a species learn more about the world around us, we need that crutch less and less.
These days, instead of praying and asking for things, I meditate and wait for what I truly need to come to me. Prayer and meditation may seem cultures apart but they are really just different ways of connecting with something larger than oneself, whether that’s, “God,” or the Universe or nature or whatever. Is there a Biblical God like the one I grew up with? I don’t know. All I know is that, twenty years later, I still have bad skin, I’m still hopelessly self-conscious, and I’ve still never seen MC Hammer in concert.