I drive an hour to work every day. I like to drive; it’s a long road with six or seven curves and between analyzing work issues my mood often stands front and center and says “Here. Right Now. Is How I Feel.” That’s a puzzle too, because it is so biochemical and strong I don’t often know why I feel what I feel. Last week many times I felt elation. It is kind of like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle in the wind. Every time I analyze a piece that might help define the picture the wind kicks up and the puzzle lands in the yard. I’m left thinking, “mmm-kay, I feel elated because orange.”
A friend asked me if I “feel” the presence of God, and how to increase it. She expected I would say yes and give her the directions to feel that presence too. I don’t. I have a faith experience, but it is like the earthquake I experienced in Albany a couple of years ago. I didn’t have a language for what I was seeing (the table jogged along the floor) and I misconstrued it at first. I used my already-known experience to explain it: thought, there must be a work crew drilling outside in the blacktop. I was wrong in my explanation; although I had of course heard of earthquakes, they were far away events that had nothing to do with me. When I heard on the news, realization stole over me like a very soft familiar shawl: oh: earthquake. God’s like that for me too. I have heard of miracles, but even when they happen to me, I use what I know to describe them. Other people point out their Otherness, the lack of true coincidence in nature, the patterns all around me, and the part my little life has in these mysterious mathematically exact happenings, keyed for a moment to the number of my soul, amongst all the life in the world. I don’t like always, the word “God” for these serendipitous occurrences. But I have thought: oh: Creator.
As an example, when I was pregnant, I broke up with my daughter’s father. I was wary as hell, a mama bear who had not yet met her cub, and he struck me as too protective, too jealous, too strong, and too vivid. Our relationship continued since he wanted to be in his daughter’s life even if not mine. He insisted on driving me to medical checkups. I told him one day, “Our daughter’s name will be Evelyn.” He frowned. I repeated “Her name will be Evelyn, and we will call her Evie.”
He agreed immediately. We didn’t agree on anything by then. Our relationship was so brittle that I once got out of his car on the way home from the doctor and walked home. I was shocked we didn’t fight about her name.
When Evie was born, her dad’s mom came to the hospital and said, “I can’t believe you decided to honor her Dad with her name.”
I was quizzical. “She has my last name.”
She replied, “No, her first name. Gordy’s middle name is Everrette. He’s named after his grandfather Everrette. Everyone called him Evie.”
I didn’t know then that her Dad and I would mend the breech of terror and misgiving, and later marry. I did know, instantly, that this was Creator’s doing: a Power, and Love, so fiercely leading me to a core truth: like it or not, this child had two parents, and her Creator would give Evie the sense from birth that she was connected to both of us.
Yet despite this “earthquake” I don’t feel the presence with shivery hairs standing up on my arms, or a flush of warmth, or chill, or any other organic experience. I don’t know why. This may explain why my children are very young agnostics: it is in their blood not to “feel” God, and we don’t teach Existence of Creator with a heavy hand. They both say, “There’s no such thing as God.”
It makes me laugh and worry all at once. They are so truly ours: dismissive of the untouchable, the unseeable, and the thing that lacks feeling. They are rigorously aware and perceptive. I think the dismissiveness of a Named Unknown Power Not Theirs can lead to unhealthy dependence on other forces, perhaps, so I fear for them. Will they be driven by love relationships, status, prideful acquisition or accolades? Will they lack the peace that comes from believing they are only a tiny star in a field of radiant ones in every direction, all connected by the same Power, guided in their dance by the same Law, a Loving one? Will they only possess a pragmatic empathy?
On the other hand, I am touched that they are willing to steer their own boats while their arms are still too weak to row long. I am dazzled by their fearlessness and ownership of their destiny.
What is this feeling of Creator? I suspect that I could come to experience it the way my definition of Love was drastically revised after having a baby, and then again, how tenderness became more than a word after having a second child.
Yet if I don’t ever feel God, perhaps that is the hard road of being alive. That is why we say “She’s gone home” when people die. You can miss the family back home, when you have gone away, but you can’t give that watery collection of memories a hug. God isn’t tactile . . . unless, of course, elation is as much the right word as “the workmen outside, drilling.” Rather than earthquake.