Search

Spiritual Direction: In Search of the Ineffable G-d




I don't believe in belief, I always tell people. If you experience G-d, something Ineffable, something More, Spirit, Divine, Mystery, by whatever name you call it, great! If you don't, that's also great. I have no stake in getting people to one pole or other, most of the time. However, belief is just not my question.


At the same time, I do search for language to help people understand what I'm talking about and what other people might be talking about when we talk about G-d, with the important caveat that these experiences are greatly diverse. There are some in the Jewish tradition who think of G-d as a grand watch-maker, who set the world to task, turned on Shabbat, and has been resting ever since. This may be our reality, but it's an uninspiring and almost irrelevant one. There is a reality at the other end of the spectrum, for those of us for whom something of the Divine is real, we think of all existence as an expression of God, as the Jewish sages said, "there is no place devoid of G-d" or "There is nothing but G-d" or "God is HaMakom, The Place, where the world occurs."


In response to Freud's rebellion and the questions of modernity, knocking on the door with "how do you know you are not projecting?" The answer is simple, I don't know. I assume I am projecting, at least in part, all of the time. This is true of all of my interactions, with each person and object during each and every day. Nonetheless, that fact does not make the world not real. My neighbor does not cease to exist just because I can't say hello to her without projecting a bit of my grandmother's beloved presence onto her. The same is true for G-d. I assume I've never had an unfiltered experience of The Presence. I probably don't believe that's even possible. However, my subjective filter does not mean that my experience has no reality, not for my neighbor, nor for G-d.


So, I just want to clarify, when I say that I felt G-d or am inviting you dear reader into that Presence, I am not talking about any kind of objective, ultimate, final reality or authority. I am just talking about moments when we notice something a little bit "extra," when something shines through the brokenness or banality of life's exhaustion of humdrum. We all have those in one form of another, from the smile of a child or a busdriver, the glistening of light on the grass or the start of a thunderstorm, when grief breaks through our defense and we allow ourselves to scream, or when we're finally able to let go of enough tension to fall asleep at night, while giving birth, or while with a loved one who is passing. I'm not saying that G-d is more present in those moments than any others, only that it's possible that we were the ones who were more present for that Presence.


When people ask me what difference any of this makes, my answer is also simple. First, it doesn't have to make any difference, it's your call. The opportunity for difference seems to lie inside of us. I know that I am more alive in the moments I notice this Presence, when time slows and feels sweet, when I breath deeper, in moments of awe and wonder, what Buber called the "I-Thou."


The Hebrew word for miracle "nes" does not mean something scientifically assessed to be supernatural, it just means something like a lightning strike (or a soft quiet whisper in the heart). In this moment, if we're able and blessed enough to be paying soft enough attention, we're able to see and appreciate something.... perhaps a sign, or just something, fuller, something more, something "+1." If we're not, then it's just light and noise. That's alright too. However, isn't the world better with "+1" ?