Sunday, September 8, 2019

I Think God Can Explain

"It's alright,
I'm okay,
I think God can explain..."

Ever been bowled over by impermanence?

Yeah, I actually just said that. Bowled over by impermanence. Doesn't that sound bizarre?

But have you?

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by the knowledge that nothing here on earth lasts? 

Before Mass this morning, talking to God and drinking in the beauty around me, I was struck by the need to appreciate everything that was there, right then, because... it's all impermanent.

Sometimes this really gets to me. Deeply. Today is one of those days.

We don't know how long things will last in our lives. These beautiful places, wonderful people... how long will it be before the places aren't as beautiful, those people are gone, whether only gone from us, or gone from this life? Particularly when we think of the people in our lives, those we love - we don't know how long they will be near to us - even though we will be with them again in eternity someday, eternity seems... kind of a long way off.

I know. Painful thoughts. That pain impressed itself on my heart over the last several years, as I've lost people to death, and also lost a friendship or two I thought would endure, and lost a place I'd loved because I felt I had no choice but to leave. For whatever reason, it reminds me of Pink Floyd's question, "Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?"

And yes, I felt caged. Caged, because when things you thought would last don't, sometimes you keep that to yourself. Am I right? Because admitting that you loved some place or some thing or some one in your life, admitting that vulnerability - and that you suffered because of it - acknowledging that whatever emotional and spiritual investment you made yielded pain - somehow makes you weak, or means you should've known better - or worse, that you deserved it. We've all been told one of these things, maybe all of them. They're all lies. Vulnerability does not make us weak, loving those who hurt us deeply, or loving someone and losing them (in any sense) does not mean we should've known better, and as for "deserving it," I don't ascribe karmic attributes to God.

Not-so-random sidebar for those who like to think about these things: These losses are a form of death for us. So choosing to loving again after loss is a kind of resurrection, isn't it?
Okay, that's another post for another time.

If you listened to alt-rock in the late '90s, you might remember a song called "I Think God Can Explain" by Splender. It resonated with me then, and it resonates with me when it shows up on a playlist now - as it did earlier this afternoon as I was starting to write this. It opens with these words: 

"There's a lot of things I understand
And there's a lot of things that I don't want to know
But you're the only face I recognize
It's so damn sweet of you to look me in the eyes

It's alright,
I'm okay
I think God can explain..."

If you're reading this and you don't believe in God, I'm sure this seems ridiculous, but you've made it this far and you're still reading, so why stop now?

I'm a scientist - I like to explain things, and I like facts, but loss, and pain, and impermanence, have taught me (among other things) that there are questions I can't answer, and that I ultimately don't need answered now.

And, yes, I do think God can explain, but I don't necessarily think he's sharing those explanations. In fact, I'm not sure the explanations are all that important. And if I'm headed for brute-force honesty, I wish we wouldn't try to explain things for God, because we don't do it well. Yes, it's human nature and all of that, but we do not truly know the mind of God - "we see through a glass, darkly".

Fact of life: 
If you love, you will suffer. The important thing is what we do as a result.

Do we become callused, hard, unreachable? Or do we learn compassion, deeper love, empathy - the value of vulnerability? Will our world shrink, as we seek to avoid pain? Or will our world expand, embracing others while accepting that the risk of love is pain, but that love is not an option - love is a must - that we need others, and they need us? The vulnerability and gift of self that allows us to form relationships is indeed one of the very graces that sustains us through loss and change. We are not islands, and ours need to be the faces that others recognize. Love is not an option.

Yes, I know the wonderful "nouns"... people, places, and things... in my life are impermanent (even if they are eternal) - and that hurts because I love them all. But though I am not in control of the unfolding of time, I also cannot not love them, so I know - and I accept - in some measure I choose pain by choosing them.

I think God can explain.