It’s a dark and dreary day here in Tacoma, Washington and I’m so in love with it. The rain drops are heavy and musical. Everything green is greener. Everything toxic is vanished. I welcome the rain any day it decides to take over this industrial city. I realize some people get really sad when it rains, but for some reason I feel more like myself. I think a part of it is that I struggle on a daily basis with low self-esteem and especially when I’m outside the house and around other people. I do believe a lot of it is merely imaginary, but I often feel like the whole world is staring at me and that this world is better looking and closer to perfect than I’ll ever be. Of course this is false because I really do believe that each one of us is beautiful in our own way. But when it rains and people retreat inside I suddenly don’t feel so vulnerable and alone anymore. In fact, I start to feel a bit invisible and it’s profoundly liberating.
Sometimes I’ll crack the window by my desk and play my guitar to the sound of the rainfall. I’ve written lots of music on rainy days just like this. Other times I will unearth my journal and write about my life and everything I’ve been thinking and feeling. Writing is very cathartic for me—almost as good as talking to a counselor who is paid to listen to me and provide insightful advice. And although this is a rarity, every now and again I’ll go out in the rain and have what some might call a mystical experience.
On rainy days there have been occasions where I’ve felt keenly connected to a higher being who is the embodiment of love and accepts me just the way I am. And trust me, I hear the skeptic saying that it’s just a naturally induced neurological state from being outside and having a sense of natural grandeur. And maybe it is, but maybe it isn’t, and after all, does it really matter? In that moment I understand grace as a life I’ve been given without any conscious effort on my part—an opportunity to the make the most of what I’ve been freely given. Christians would call this an encounter with Jesus the Christ. Muslims would treasure this precious experience with what they identify as Muhammad. Buddhists might relish in their enlightenment and their momentary freedom from human suffering. The Agnostic might shake her head at the sky in awe and wonder and ask, “Who are you?” while the Atheist might treasure the same moment as if it were her last.
Sometimes I think I use the word God too much. To me it’s a verb. It’s a knowing intelligence, which is moving through the universe in a certain pattern. We can see this pattern in Buddhism with the four noble truths. The first noble truth is impermanence, the second is suffering, the third is non-attachment, and the fourth is the eight-fold path of right relationship. The pattern is that the truth isn’t just in the words; it’s coming out of this one seed that’s moving everywhere that we call God. Joseph Campbell said, “God is a metaphor for a mystery that absolutely transcends all human categories of thought, even the categories of being and non-being.”
I suppose what I experience during these mystical experiences is a oneness with all life, and every time I talk with someone and connect with his or her heart (often while talking to homeless people), and every time I experience true joy or suffering of my own I hear an echo of those mystical experiences that tie everything real and transcendent back into an experience of God. See I learn about who I am, who we are, and who God is when I encounter love. To me, myth is the ultimate truth. If there is one spirit of the universe, then there’s just one story although its got a couple hundred billion scripts. I love the diversity, but they’re all telling the same story. It’s one consciousness (our consciousness) expressing itself over and over and over again.
So I don’t know how or if God truly interacts with the universe, and I can’t prove to anyone that God interacts with me, but I can say that believing that God does these things changes me on a daily basis. It makes me a better person. Christianity gets off track when it loses the tradition of the here and now. And that was its glory. It did not appeal to history. Yes, I believe Jesus was born, died, and rose from the dead, but unless you can experience that same vitality and that same nobility of life here and now, that’s just a story to you. So what if this Jesus stuff turns out to be false in the end? It made my life better in the present and it was my way of making sense of this life just as much as it is an Agnostic’s, or a Buddhist’s, or a Muslim’s way of making sense of their existence by claiming their own beliefs about the divine. There is something in us that knows that this is true that requires no litmus test; something we innately understand about myth, about story.
What my faith does cause is the desire to help people find God for themselves. But it does nothing to make me want to change people’s mind, to convince them that everything I believe is right because I don’t believe I know everything. Believing in God makes me want to quiet down enough to hear other people’s stories and to learn from them, to make space for more possibilities of God, to provide the space for people to question God on their own, to make their own mistakes, to have fun and to even forget about the questions all together because in the end did we even realize that is was raining?