-Sunrise at the Desert Retreat House-
I have been writing this blog for well over a year now - a daily post on the broad topic of "spirituality." Yesterday I took a look at some of my earlier posts and I was struck by the fact that nowadays I rarely if ever use the word "God" in my writing. While I talk about "God" almost every day, I rarely use the word "God"because the word gets in the way of what I want to say.
Atheists and agnostics see the word "God" and it provokes images of some sort of superman deity up in the sky controlling the fate of the world. This triggers an immediate and usually a vitriolic response. Many times I have received some pretty strident online comments: "How can you be so naive as to believe in such a fantasy?"
If I use the word "God" with churchgoers or believers of various sorts, they often think I am talking about a "person" out there or up there apart from "me" down here - An "Almighty King, Eternal Father," and this is not at all what I mean when I talk about "God."
So that's why I rarely ever use the word anymore.
Yesterday I came across a fascinating and thought provoking observation in the social media that really spoke to me. Someone suggested that, in dialogue with atheists, agnostics, or with people who have rejected religion we might do far better to use the word "Beauty" rather than the word "God" (a word that comes with so much baggage).
I've been thinking a lot about that little "tweet" I read yesterday - I think there is a great deal of truth in it. When we come face to face with true "Beauty," we encounter the transcendent - we enter into the experience of "God."
A "Beautiful" work of art, music, or a "Beautiful" poem pulls "me" out of myself - it transports me into relationship - into the transcendent. When I encounter "Beauty" in the natural world, a thundering ocean, a mountain's majesty, I am pulled out of "me" - pulled into an experience of "Oneness." Likewise, I find "Beauty" in my relationships - the love of my spouse or my children is an encounter with a "Beauty" that transforms "me" into "us."
In essence "Beauty" is another name for "God."
Actually, the more I think about it, referring to "God" as "Beauty" is hardly a new innovation. Way back in the 4th century, Saint Augustine wrote a love song about "God," only he never used the word "God" in his poem, instead he called "God," Beauty!
Late have I loved You, O Beauty ever ancient ever new.
I have tasted You and now I hunger and thirst for more.
You touched me and now I burn for Your embrace.
The desert where I live is a truly Beautiful place. I am immersed in "Beauty." I live and move and exist in the midst of "Beauty" every day.
Every morning I sit in my garden and watch the sun rise and when it comes up over those stone mountains that have been there over the ages, it's as if I am experiencing it all for the first time - new every morning, ever ancient and ever new.
I sit in my garden and bask in the glowing orange light of the dawning day as my senses are filled with the fragrant smells of flowers and citrus, lavender and lime, the sound of the wind in the palms, the cooing doves and fluttering hummingbirds, water flowing in the fountain. Every morning it pulls me out of "me"
It is "Beautiful." It is "God."