Wednesday, September 3, 2008

the face of god

I like to think about what kind of a god I would believe in if I believed in god. I don't much care for the Christian god who is wrathful and jealous in the Old Testament and redeeming and peaceful in the New. He seems a bit too schizophrenic to be the god for me. Jahweh would require me to thank god for creating me as I am (because I am a woman) rather than for being a man. I can't say that jives with my ideal. Krishna and his incarnations are complex enough to please me, but after reading the Baghavad Gita I'm not sure I can go along with the violence that always seems to accompany religion. Allah would be problematic for the same reason. Though there's plenty in the Qur'an about peace and love, there still happens to be the few verses which seemingly condone horrific behavior.

I think Nietzsche said something about only believing in a god who knew how to dance. I think I might have to adopt that requirement as well. Dancing seems to me something altogether transcendental. I believe Krishna danced with the milkmaids (ha--very applicable to my life), and so Krishna has the 1up in this case.

Last year I went on a long hike by myself. I was taking a risk. I admit that. Hiking alone as a teenage girl on a remote trail is probably not the wisest thing I've done. But I did this because I enjoy hiking alone much more than with someone else. I have no obligation to talk, and if I decide to talk I am at liberty to do that as well, and the forest will swallow up my words. I can go at my own speed rather than worrying about going too fast for my companion(s). I am something of a speed-hiker. I reach a hiker's high and feel as if I could hike for days without slowing. This feeling is addictive, and I relish it more when I am alone. The hike was a long one--longer than I anticipated, and it was all downhill, so I had the uphill climb on the way back to look forward to. But I was determined to see the waterfall at the bottom.

When I finally did get to the bottom, and the waterfall stood before me, my first thought was, "the face of god." This came out of nowhere, but I was so awestruck by the majesty of it that I could barely stand up. I felt as if I had suddenly been enlightened. And in truth, I don't suppose this waterfall could compare to a great many waterfalls out there. The cliff was probably no more than 30 feet high, and rather than a rushing cascade of water gushing over the edge, the flow was little more than a stream. But something about the cool, damp rocks and the spray and ferns growing in the tiny crevices and the ancient look that carved stone has made me think of god--of a god that I do not believe in.

There have been few moments in my life that made me think of god, much less the face of god. I once saw the face of god in my great-grandmother's hands. I have an incredible weakness for aged hands. The wrinkles form a topographic map. I like to think an entire life can be seen in the hands, and I pity the person who goes to his or her grave after a long life and still has smooth hands. Our hands are like the most intimate diary, and blank hands inspire little awe. I chose the Sharecropper by Elizabeth Catlett for this blog because this is the face of my god. Perfection means little to me, and I do not want qualities that I do not appreciate to be present in my god. The lines in the face, the years of toil, the gentle expression--these are things I appreciate. My god is a sharecropper--oppressed perhaps, but infinitely strong and invincible. A face we will remember and hands we can relate to. And of course, feet that dance.

No comments: