"A Picture of God"
Another weekend has arrived- a time for people from all over the world to gather together in various temples or houses of worship. They will all be using the "same" words, and in doing so imagine that they are "speaking the same language."
"God," "soul," "faith," "prayer, "love," "peace," "spirituality" - the kind of words that are spoken on any given weekend. Everyone using the same words, but very often not speaking the same language or sharing a common understanding of what these words mean.
For many years I spent every Sunday delivering sermons. When I was younger, after a sermon I would wonder if the congregation "got my meaning?" Was I able to clearly transfer my ideas (what was inside of my head) into their heads." However, I soon realized that this isn't how it all works.
People may share a common vocabulary but each and every one of us brings different meanings to the words we use. I can never box up my meaning, put it into words and dump them into another's brain so that they might "get my meaning."
A word like "love" is spoken and everyone who speaks or hears the word brings their own "baggage to that word- their own life experiences, gender, culture, education, all go into what that word means. Sometimes the word might be understood similarly, sometimes very differently. We may indeed all use the same words but we may also be very far from speaking the same language.
I often follow conversations on Facebook or Twitter in which religious people (people who belong to the same church as I do) talk about the church, or they talk about their prayers ascending up into heaven, or they talk about their faith in God. Very often I will stop and think to myself, "wait a minute- the way you are using those words is almost exactly the opposite of the way I use them."
When I use the word "God," I am not referring to some personal superpower living in a heavenly mansion up there and out there who controls the world or is even remotely influenced by how much I pray or don't pray. We may be using the same words but we are certainly not speaking the same language.
When I write my daily blog posts, I am always very careful about using the word "God" and I always put the word into quotation marks because this word alone will trigger a host of volatile attacks from atheists and agnostic types who think I am talking about the "man in the sky" who they have rejected as a silly fairy tale told to children.
I explain that I don't use the word "God" in this way. Sometimes after lengthy conversation, we can come to a redefinition of what I mean when I talk about "God," but at the very least, it always teaches me that we can use the same words but speak very different languages.
I have come to the point where, on my own spiritual journey, I have basically just stopped using any theological words like "faith" or "prayer" or "church" or even "God."
Camera in hand, I walk along a wilderness trail and I encounter a desert tree blossoming in the springtime sunlight. I stop and wonder at it's mystery and I take a picture of "God" -the all abiding energy of universal love flowing in all that "is"- the Holy Presence that has no name and is always limited by language.
I have no words for it all and the only language is silence and awe.