I sometimes use, when doing leadership training, the often quoted text about ‘Somebody, nobody and everybody.’
“This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done!”
Sadly the text is all too true as regards the big issues of our time; dignity of all, climate change, poverty and more. Yes, it is so true that change begins with myself. Damien, forget about putting all your time and energy into changing the other. Simply and consistently work on changing yourself – then mysteriously so often the other seems to change as well. I wonder why?
One of the biggest struggles in my life concerns the word, ‘God’! I am a monk. In one way some could say, “Your job is God!” But my life is full of beautiful authentic people who really struggle with the ‘G’ word. This at times confuses me, at other times saddens me and at other times frees me. For what it is worth I believe in love. I believe in the power of ‘awe’ to cut through my ego and my thinking monkey mind to that which leaves me speechless. I believe in mystery; that energy beyond rational thought – why someone with every excuse to hate still loves and forgives – why someone sees beauty in the midst of pain and poverty – why someone sees dignity when others see nothing of worth – why love continually conquers all in the face of judgement, hate, violence and power over!
In his book Les Misérables, Victor Hugo says, “To love another person is to see the face of God!”
I believe in light over darkness, in hope conquering fear, in life – precious life – as a vulnerable butterfly of colour, movement or wonder that leaves one bowing in honour. Whether it is awe or mystery, life or love – the energy within and around those words and experiences is sacred. Times when these are experienced are holy ground; sacred ground. The birth of a child, the child in your arms, their first steps or first word, the final journey of a loved one, sunrise, sunset, the acts of forgiveness or extraordinary generosity or humility, service or acceptance. The list could (and does) go on. All of these take us beyond. They take us beyond ego or power or hatred or hardness and our gut tells us that they take us to a place that is true, is whole, is healing and is of life. There is something pure and beautiful about the places where these experiences lead us so.
Our response is awe. Our response is wonder. Our response is peace and joy and hope and generous giving beyond self. Our response is often beyond words. Our response has an authenticity and completeness about it. Truth, goodness, wholeness – yes – life to the full. Our response with this energy does not puppet our joy, peace, hope and meaning to “good” feelings: these responses are equally at home in the midst of great poverty or great pain. The 1985 novel (and later film starring Patrick Swayze) ‘City of Joy’ by Dominique Lapierre comes to mind.
Each of our eyes and hearts sees and experiences these things differently. Our eyes and hearts are partly formed by family – partly formed by life’s experiences. But they are also mysteriously partly formed by some little choice that comes from deep within that opens, accepts, trusts and says ‘yes’ to them. Some would call this choice – faith. Some say that this choice is a ‘gift’ and a gift that invites an acceptance of same.
But it is not a faith in dogma and heartless ritual devoid from human experience and journey. It is not mindless and thoughtless obedience to an earthly power. It is not jumping through hoops and the giving away of our dignity and worth to some other worldly higher power. Rather – it is the humble quiet response to the inner whisper to embrace our deepest and truest self.
I choose to call this energy and journey God.
Why bother? By my calling it God, this journey gives Damien someone and something personal to dance with. It brings this energy into my core and this energy whispers, “Damien I love you!” Totally, unconditionally – forever. The energy becomes personal. The energy wraps my energy – becomes my energy and calls forth love and forgiveness, hope and trust that I did not believe I was capable of.
Some choose to believe in a Somewhere God. This God is there during the 56 minutes of a ritual. This God suddenly appears when a candle is lit or incense released or blest water sprinkled. This God responds to litanies of words and vestments and bounded and legal texts and rituals and symbols. This Somewhere God is there but not here – now but not then. Somewhere God appears at selective times and in selective places – and often at the whim of some man. Somewhere God is turned on when it suits. Somewhere God takes sides. Somewhere God is ‘out there’ and gives us something to blame. Somewhere God means that we don’t have to think – just obey. Somewhere God has built kingdoms that have excluded and raped and pillaged those who did not name the same version of Somewhere God. Somewhere God can be oh so convenient – and a bit like Santa Clause – can be benevolent or vindictive and the worship of Somewhere God has cost the planet billions of candles. Strangely – Somewhere God seems to love candles and often repeated words and endless mindless ritual devoid from the reality of life’s journey. Somewhere God has an identical twin; Sometime God!
Nowhere God is simple. Nowhere God just does not exist. There is no God. The awe, the mystery, the courage, the love, the giving – are all beautiful but just are. They are just the human response to a stimulus. We are born. We live. We struggle. We dance and love, grow and forgive – age and one day die. It is over. Simple – not complicated – food for worms. I am often wrong but my hunch is that many who claim, “Nowhere God” are in fact repulsed at the somewhere and sometime God mindset and hence, perhaps, the ‘G’ word is put into the too hard basket put off by any invitation to dance with an image of God wrapped in rules and repetition and divorced from real human life.
Everywhere God dances. Everywhere God whispers forgive to the hardened heart. Where did that whisper come from? Everywhere God whispers dance when the tired or hardened heart wants to just settle for second best. But that whisper is real – it tickles too. It wants ‘more’ – it wants YOU to be ‘more’ – in fact it wants you to be your everything, your best self – a cloud, a shower, a galaxy of love that touches all and leaves this world better for having been and breathed and beaten the nagging tendency to self and selfishness.
Everywhere God is that love energy urging us to do good. Everywhere God is that spontaneous laughter that bursts forth and cannot be contained. Everywhere God is alive and sparkling in those eyes that see beauty, see goodness, see wonder, see possibility. Everywhere God does not allow the rational, bland, hopeless mindset and heart-set of the Nowhere God thinker to get to the heart’s eardrums. Everywhere God reaches out with your hands and mind to do good – to lift up – to hug and wrap arms around. Everywhere God speaks words that encourage, that heal, that lift up, that tickle hope when all says give up.
Everywhere God walks to pain – walks to hurt – walks to anger and hurt – and stands humbly and like a sponge soaks up all that leads to tears and gently – one step at a time – liberates. Everywhere God hears deeply the cry of the poor – the cry of our suffering Earth. Everywhere God listens beyond words and in such a way that ‘they’ the ‘other’ the ‘hurting’ feel heard and feel loved.
Everywhere God does not need a name – is the mystery beyond all names. Everywhere God dances and sings, sits in silence and awe, hugs and holds, walks beside and celebrates every simple, human heart – that seeks to love and be love. Everywhere God just is – is essence, is life, is love – is the deepest expression of these at our core. Everywhere God is beyond the feeble words that you are reading – forget them – and embrace the energy of love that is and is within and around all.
How do you encounter this Everywhere God? Where do you find this Everywhere God? Close your eyes and ‘go within’ to your deepest and purest self: sit silently and humbly in that place and the tickle energy of love will work magic. Open your eyes – and deeply look at the faces of your day, at the simple and the ordinary – but look, deeply look, beyond the labels to the gift. Do all of this – with the humble heart – and that energy that pulsates through the Universe and is at home in the most simple of flowers, the birth of a child or the final breath of a loved one – will do the rest!
There is no elsewhere God: only love wrapped round as air is to the bird or water to the fish.