My dear young philosopher, seeker of truth, lover of the spiritual, emblem of the divine:
I don’t have all the answers. Only some of them. Very few, if I’m being honest. I can’t say for certain if G-d is, what G-d is, whether (S)He likes the name “G-d” or whether (S)He prefers to be called something else. Like, say, HaShem, Allah, Jesus or, your personal favorite – the Princess of Power herself! – She-ra.
Yet I was a journalism student once, so I recognize a good question when I hear one. You’re full of those.
We were in the car last weekend en route to the shoe store or the mall, I can’t remember. Daddy and I were listening to talk radio, and you were watching the scenery out the window. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, you wondered out loud: “Where did all of this come from? I mean, like, the trees and stuff?”
They were of the sort that line many a major thoroughfare in the northeast corridor, a natural buffer between the sights and sounds of highway traffic and the residential traffic just beyond, artifacts from the olden days before overpopulation and global warming. Probably nobody planted those trees, and we told you so.
But one thing led to another. You wondered where the first seeds came from (the evolution of ocean plants approximately 450 million years ago), whether the dirt beneath those trees was naturally occurring or manufactured (probably mostly naturally occurring), whether people always lived in our town (no), whether people always lived on earth (no), how the earth came to be (a byproduct of the Big Bang occurring about 13.7 billion years ago), how that happened (from this thing called a “singularity”), and, hey, where’d that come from (*crickets*).
Because we, your parents, didn’t have a single clue. And it’s not just us. I mean, sure, an astrophysicist would have had an easier time with the question, but even the best of them don’t know really. Because here’s the thing: Nobody does.
So like every smart parent/politician on the planet, we dodged the question: What do you think?
And what you thought was this: Somewhere out there, wherever “there” is, a long time ago, there was an idea to grow a place where there wasn’t a place before. Lots of people would agree with you. Some folks call that Great Cosmic Idea-Generator, G-d.
“Oh,” you said. “Like at Passover.” Bingo. Satisfied yet? No? Didn’t think so.
“Is G-d real? Does G-d live in the bushes like the G-d in the Moses story? And does G-d even like to be called G-d?”
And the answer is…how the hell should we know?! Times three.
What do you think?
No, you said. “‘G-d’s’ boring.” But sometimes, you informed us, when you’re “thinking really hard,” you call G-d something better! You call G-d “She-ra.” The ultimate honorific. She-ra, you explained, is a total badass. She’s super strong and in charge, and often uses her powerful brain to get out of a jam. Plus, you think G-d is “kind of more like a girl,” but, oh, by the way, if we thought G-d was different than all that or we preferred to call G-d something else (in other words, not She-ra), that’d be just fine. “G-d’s whatever you think.”
And that was that. Until tonight. When, again out of nowhere, you asked me if I thought G-d was real.
What do you think?
“I asked you first.”
Pony up, Ma!
If what you said is true, if G-d is whatever I think, then there are no wrong answers, right? Good.
So do I believe in the traditional construct of the old white man in the sky? The one who grants wishes like the genie in Aladdin’s lamp while we stand around avoiding the hard work of actually providing for our own families, seeking our own cures, helping our neighbors when they’re struggling? No. I don’t believe that. Not for a second, actually.
I don’t really believe in an afterlife where the ghosts of our loved ones wear white robes and dance on clouds, either. I just don’t. Try as I might, I can’t imagine a single dead friend or relation appreciating the formless white robes.
But here’s what I do believe.
I believe that G-d is the thing that bigger’s than myself: the profound, the unexplained, the little voice that makes one wonder out of nowhere how it all worked out like this. “G-d” is what I wonder to when I wonder how come you took so long to get here, that which I hope to when I hope your little cousin recovers from cancer, the recipient of my gratitude for a family that’s just right for me, a depository for my anger when there’s just no one else to blame. G-d is the completely unfounded peace in those situations when it’s actually only logical to be anxious. G-d is the string of beautiful words we weave together into sentences, into stories, into memories we share with others who share them with others who make it so we and our memories live on and on and on. The afterlife. G-d is the question that just has to be answered. G-d is science. G-d is math. G-d is, indeed, a hell of an idea generator. And then? Then the rest is up to us, Kid.
So here’s how I answered your question, really: I said yes.
“Good,” you said. “Me, too. Except I call my G-d ‘She-ra.'”
Dear She-ra. It’s me…Mama. This little girl is my favorite. I feel pretty lucky she’s mine. Thanks a lot. Amen.