“So let me get this straight Bert. You say that God is above us, in the clouds, looking down on us?”
“That’s right Ernie.”
“Funny Bert, I always thought God was below us with his hand up our butts.”
Two things I love about the wisdom of the Muppets, First, their philosophy is eternal. It was here long before Jim Henson, and will be here long after the Muppets retire. The second reason I think the Muppets are necessary for life’s learning, is because it reminds me there is hope. Hope for the spiritual realities we yearn for in life, regardless of one’s faith philosophy or tradition.
How interesting that a frog, pig, a couple of old geezers, a foul-smelling talking green monster in a garbage can, an 8 foot yellow bird, and a myriad of other strange creatures can lead me to ponder and write about some of the most important things in life, including ideas about Ultimate Reality.
Ultimate Reality is another name or phrase for God, the Divine, Holy Spirit, Yahweh, Source, etc. We often spend our lives searching for God – for oneness, for the holy of holies – in order to connect, give meaning to life, and make meaning for our lives. So that we may know a measure of comfort, safety and certainty in a world that is often cold, uncaring and filled with so much uncertainty. And probably most importantly, it helps us know who we are.
Recently I was at a conference, sitting in a workshop entitled “Embracing the Other.” A room filled with people of many beliefs… multiple faiths, including Atheists, Nones, Theists, as well as those of us who identify with Interspiriuality.
Regardless of how or where I choose to affiliate, if anywhere, I am basically noncreedal, but absolutely covenantal – that is, I hold deeply the knowing that we walk together in love, we belong to and with each other.
So back to my workshop… in this group of about 70 people, we started with a centering practice that lead to an exercise in writing down all the words we use to describe God. Then we were invited to simply call out the words and phrases. As Spiritual Directors, it is imperative to know another’s language if we are to embrace the other and walk with them on their journey. So what better place to start then with this exercise? These are a “few” of those words:
Holy One, Ground of our Being, Source of all, Spirit of Life, Spirit of Love, Gaia, Eternal Presence, That Which Holds All, Yahweh, Divine Love, Infinite Allness, Beloved, Ceaseless Restless Creative Energy, Allah, Almighty Creator, Great Spirit, Eternal Love, and so many others. It was wonderful to listen to it all and soak it in. I also found myself desiring to know all the words on people’s lists that DIDN’T get spoken.
I noticed though that everything said was abstract, not relational. It was, for the most part genderless, and ironically, no one said God. While it’s important to discover and unfold who we are, I also know it is every bit as important to be aware of the interconnectedness of all life. When we ask the question, “Who Am I?” we are asking it into that web of connection, so we cannot be asking “who we are” without also asking “whose we are.” It is not enough to seek and find who we are, but also WHOSE we are. These are inextricably linked, and we can’t find one without the other. I have no identity without you, without my relationships, including my relationship with the divine.
To ask “Whose am I?” is to extend beyond my little self and wonder who needs me? Whom do I love and who loves me? With every word and action, whose life is altered? Who calls on me and whom do I call upon? To whom am I accountable? Whose trust is placed in me? Whose lives am I entwined with? Basically – I am me, because of you. No way around it. You understand my life as no one else can, and I yours. I have that covenant with all. I belong to and with all those who came before me, and those who are yet to be.
I belong to my neighbors, whether I know them or not, whether physically living next door or on the other side of the world. I belong to those whose suffering I cannot comprehend, and to those whose exultation and joy in life cannot be contained! I belong to the carpet of the cosmos I see above me in the night sky, and I belong to the body of earth I feel beneath my feet. And yes, I belong to god – and by god, I mean that which that holds us all, which moves us all. As Teilhard called it, that power that moves the stars in the heavens – the same power that moves the human heart. So whose am I? I am your heart, and you, mine.
In my life I bear witness to the idea of God, by whatever name I choose and whatever name YOU choose, because I know that Ultimate Reality cannot be limited by any particular name. Yet it certainly can be limited by my refusal to ask WHOSE am I. When I don’t stop and ask that question, I am missing half of this journey, and thereby limiting the activity and expression of my brilliance and immeasurable capacity for love. I must BE that covenant. And while we can get stuck in creeds and dogma, it is not always what we believe that matters, but rather, how our beliefs get lived out in our lives. For me that is the true test and purpose for “naming” Ultimate Reality. So thank you Bert and Ernie for the gentle reminder of my covenant to embrace the other, to ask “whose am I?”