So I'm reading this Anne Lamott book and I just do not get this whole thing where everything, every thing in the world, is viewed through the lens of god. Or, okay, God.
Here's what I really don't get- if you don't follow a holy book exactly like some of the more evangelical branches of religions do, there is just so much room for interpretation. There is so much chewiness to the whole thing. What would God think about this situation? Where is God in this situation? What would God want me to DO about this? And Lamott does ask herself these questions.
Over and over and over again.
To the point of ridiculousness, it often seems to me. She not only asks herself these questions but she asks her many spiritual advisors the same questions. And thus, the interpretations become even more confusing to me. Why does Sister Veronica get to be the one who knows what God wants here and Father Tim get to be the one who knows what God wants there? Does she just instinctively know which person to go to for advice and discussion at the proper time? Is EVERYTHING a call from God?
She goes on for pages about the baptism of her grandson. She, of course, wants the child to be baptized in the church which she attends and loves with all of her heart. She raised her son in that church and the members of it have uplifted and lifted and sustained her for decades. But the child's mother wants the child to be baptized in the church her family attends or attended back in North Carolina and this is a disturbing situation for Anne. I find this all so petty. Why can't they just baptize the child in both churches? Wouldn't that be doubling the number of people who are charged with the spiritual guidance of him? What is the downside there?
I haven't gotten to the end so maybe that is what happens. I don't know.
It just seems to me that all of this questioning of what God wants or doesn't want or requires or asks of us or whatever is such a vast waste of time. Who can really know? And yet, the way Lamott talks about her god, it would appear that she DOES know, at least after a great deal of soul-searching and research in the matter. Sometimes. And what is the purpose of all of this? She herself admits that she can't even begin to understand a god who allows children to have horrible illnesses and be afraid and die. Not allowing that to happen is, as she says, the number one rule we should all be able to agree on. And yet, of course, her god does allow this to happen all of the time and so this realization and reality leads to much praying to that same god for understanding and if there can be no real understanding of such a circumstance, then that is only proof of the Great Mystery of God and His or Her Way.
As I said, chewy. And confusing.
I would, as I have said before, rather just cut out the middleman. I can't begin to believe from my own observation that there is any plan to any of it. This is not to say that I think we are all lost and doomed. Maybe we are, but if we are to live a halfway decent life, we have to believe that if we just keep on putting one foot in front of the other and doing what we know in our hearts is the right thing to do, we will at least have a few incredible moments. I believe that the people in Anne Lamott's church have indeed saved her from a life of alcoholism and addiction and despair but note what I said- the PEOPLE in her church have done that. The people who enfolded her and took her in, as imperfect as she says she was because they too are imperfect and yet know that we are all deserving of love and second (and third and fourth and who knows how many?) chances. It seems to me that the things Lamott attaches the most holy and grace-full meanings to are those which are the most humanly basic. I will never forget how much she loved and appreciated the man who scrubbed her toilet when she was a brand new mother. Did God tell the man to scrub her toilet or did he just know, as a human being, that toilets do indeed need scrubbing and that an exhausted new mother perhaps needed a clean toilet more than she needed a bouquet of flowers? Would it have been any less of a holy act if I had scrubbed her toilet, knowing that I do not give all glory to God? In a way, it seems to me, it is more of a genuine act of love and caring if a human tends to another's needs out of simply that- love and caring- rather than in a belief that such tending is done because that is what a god would want. And of course, in some beliefs, another ticket to heaven and eternal life.
I am not disdaining religion here, or even faith. I am quite frankly completely confused by the whole situation. So much of it seems to me to be counting the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin. Why even bother to ask? There is never going to be a definitive answer to that question or to most of the other questions which are asked in relation to religion and yet so much time and so many human resources are wasted on them.
And right now, I should be cleaning out my henhouse and doing something to salvage my winter garden. I can and probably will think about these things, even as I am dealing with chickenshit and dirt. I think that Anne Lamott is a beloved writer and many love the fact that she is a self-proclaimed Christian whose faith is extremely important to her but who is also a firm believer in a woman's right to abortion and who helped a man who was dying to cross over in very specific and concrete ways. She is a sort of new-age believer, I guess, who struggles, as we all do, with the big questions and always ends up with the answer that if she just keeps believing and stays out of the way, her god will take care of it.
I don't know. I do know that all situations resolve themselves eventually either with or without our help. Not, perhaps, in the way in which WE think they should be resolved but just in the way they get resolved. Anne Lamott would say that this is God's way and that her prayer would be for understanding. I say that in some cases there is no understanding and fuck it, some resolutions just suck and people die and/or suffer mightily and that this may or may not be holy but whatever it is, I can't change that.
I can, however, clean out the henhouse and I can love my grandchildren with a power that goes way beyond my understanding, just as Lamott loves her grandson. Frankly, I think that has a lot more to do with evolution and the survival of the species than anything else but that's just me. That belief does not in the least lessen my love but it does amuse me. I am Mother Nature's bitch!
Not that I think there is an entity to whom I can pin the title Mother Nature but you know what I mean. Hopefully.
Maybe it's all just being able to ask others for help which is one of the hardest things for most of us and that in a community which is about faith and love, it is just easier to ask for and receive help, believing that the people there are there specifically because that is what they believe is the right thing to do and ultimately, they are all there to ask their god for help or at least understanding in this life which can be so very difficult that we all need assistance at one point or another and that it is only right for us to help others. We take turns giving and receiving, as hard as that is. And maybe inserting god in there makes it all more tolerable.
I don't know.
I do know it's an incredibly beautiful day and I am glad to be here in it and that writing about it and going out and working in it are things that bring me joy. I'm sure that Anne Lamott and I could agree on that among many other things and I doubt she would fault me for being a non-believer and I cannot fault her for believing. We are humans, we are the same, we are different.
That is just all right with me.
But. That doesn't mean I understand. And I sincerely doubt I ever will.