looking for god
in my youth my schools were all christian. three mornings a week we would have an assembly, where there would be an element of worship, sometimes prayer, singing hymns or listening to recitations. i was a curious child, and was intrigued by the stories our reverend would tell. the immaculate character of god was alluring and mesmerising, and yet somehow elusive. i wondered how i could discover this character, and harness the powers that he held.
prayer was a frequent occurrence, both in assembly and when saying grace before eating. we were told that god would listen to prayers, and would always answer, although his response might be different to what we would expect or desire. i decided to try praying, to see what happened. my most vivid memory is of a time when i prayer rigorously for some days, once or twice a day. I had a plastic lepricorn that i had been given, being told it was lucky, and placed this on my window sill. in front of the figure i knelt and prayed, at first sheepishly, expressing my desires and my concerns.
eagerly i awaited results from my efforts, a wish granted, information disclosed, or maybe even a denial or punishment, any sign of a contact between myself and an omnipotent being. sometimes there was nothing, which would make me search more, reconsidering the way in which my prayers might be interpreted, wondering how god would reveal himself. evidence to support my praying was rare, and indeed when i found it i had always been looking rigorously for it. after about a week i began to think that if i looked hard enough and made enough excuses i might be able to prove anything to myself. this was a scary thought, and one that troubled me, which i explored briefly and then withdrew from, as it threatened to consume my beliefs of the world.
solemnly my prayer experiment stopped, because i grew disappointed with its results. the experience of praying was somehow releasing and fulfilling, yet without assurance that i was being heeded, it became a hollow pursuit. the lepricorn still sat on the window, as a reminder, and maybe to keep my options open in case things changed in the future. and so ended my most intense experiment into prayer, one of the many ways in which i tried to meet god.
my interest in christianity waned, and i became more critical of the sermons and hymns that filled my ears in the early mornings. yet there was still a yearning hope that i might find something to hold onto, something to believe in, that would change my world and give me faith. one night the local church was burnt to the ground, we were told by an electrical fault. i felt sad about this, as must have others judging by their reactions. the reverend jones, a giant yet ever so soft man, spoke to us one assembly about his feelings on the destruction out sacred space. he said that as he walked through the ruins of the church the following morning, his eye was caught by a page of the bible, burnt beyond recognition but for a few lines. the words on that page were ones foretelling of new birth from ruin, a hope amidst mourning. he implied that god has a plan, and is always watching over, despite outward appearances. this image excited me and kindled my imagination: i was ready to look for that elusive god again.
i was willing to open my self to the possibility of god, so long as i could find a reason. i wanted an event like that the reverend had described, where the sheer coincidence was too great, meaning there must have been a purposeful being creating what is around us. so i opened my mind, wanting dearly to find a clue, to catch a glimpse into the eye of the creator. yet i knew that my patience was limited, and that i would have to stop at some point if my search yielded nothing. for around a month i watched, listened and thought, trying to take in every detail of the world in which god might reveal his existence. every time i found a hint.. my mind always found reason to believe it was my own invention. after an endless hunt, i finally resigned myself. if god was there, which was still possible, he wasn't going to play my games. i was sad, i wanted to be taken in and accepted, but my own convictions forced me to accept the basic belief that i have kept until today.
this memory reveals something about my mind, and the mind of any person who seeks truth beyond their personal convenience. despite my desires and wishes i was committed to the evidence i collected, and i trusted that above the word of any person who would want to sway me. this is a state of mind, it is focused and intentful, taking a step back from your own senses, becoming a passive observer, able to accept whatever is revealed. this objectivity of the mind is essential, and co-exists with the desire to know, it's nemesis. without a drive there is no action, yet the drive itself will taint the senses. it is thus a balance of desire and something else, a zen, which allows for scientific exploration in its purest sense. the art of the critical mind is to nurture both the desire to discover and the ability to understand, yet to separate them such that they are balanced and unified.
this memory also helps me understand something about faith, and how it can come about, and what it requires. being able to accept something without any attempt to certify it as truth, that is faith, just like love. god is love.
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