For Wednesday, March 30, 2016:
“The atheist staring from his attic window is often nearer to God than the believer caught up in his own false image of God.”
Though not an atheist, I spend more time staring out windows now than I do with my prayer book and Bible. That’s not to say I don’t use them on occasion, because I do. I just see more of God around me than in the words I’ve known, loved, and still love from the time I was a little girl. Because I’m looking out of the windows, I also see – and this is important, I think – where God appears to be absent.
I believe God is everywhere, whether we see or feel her or not. At the same time, though, there are times and instances where some who claim to be believers don’t live or act or speak as if they are. This is not the place to get overly theological or political, or go too far with social commentary – readers are welcome to comment below, however! – but I am thinking of the state of the world today when I say that. I don’t speak in judgment, I hope, but, rather, as evaluation. There is so much that needs fixing in our world, and I believe that sometimes the better ‘fixers’ are those who do so with clearer eyes than those who see and act only through their false images, whatever form they may take. We can thank those false images for the Crusades, the Inquisition, for genocides past and present, the slow destruction of the environment, and so much more.
So what does all this have to do with writing? It’s a matter of perspective, I think. We can so clutter up our minds and our minds’ eyes that we lose sight of what’s in front of us. There are so many things, so many images, that threaten to crowd out or hide the little things, the quiet ones. That’s going to affect our writing.
We can look out our window and see what appears to be nothing. But if we stay there long enough, we’ll see crows dancing on the ends of tree branches as they pull off strips of bark for their nests. We’ll notice that some people speak to others as they pass by while others won’t, and maybe we’ll wonder why. We’ll discover that a tiny flower is growing up through the crack of a dusty urban sidewalk. We’ll see a bright spot of scarlet across the road that seems to be trash caught in the branches of a bush, but when we focus on it, it’s actually a male cardinal waiting for its mate. If we’re lucky, if we’re still enough, we might be in the right place to watch a honeybee or a butterfly find and sip from a drop of dew or rain.
In the words of a Zen koan, ‘Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows.’ If we’re at our window, if we’re on our knees, empty, ready to receive, we might see it grow.
And we can watch a brilliant orange-spotted salamander in its hide-and-seek passage over and under old, wet leaves. We’ll be there to give shelter and food to a struggling man or woman, or a shoulder to cry on. We’ll find ourselves drawn to paper or canvas to transmit the crushing pain of the world, and its glories, its gifts, to the rest of the world, to speak for those who can’t.
Whether the person at the window believes or not doesn’t matter in the long run. If s/he’s there long enough, s/he will see a reflection of God looking back from that window glass. But the perspective, the depth of field, and the light all have to be just right for it to be visible.