Blackbird sits atop the virgin white snow, cold and weary.
A thousand lonely birds sit broken by the harsh winter.
Blackbird spreads its slick, coal wings, and ascends into the heavens.
A thousand blackbirds see and take flight.
Blackbird soars into greater heights.
A thousand specks of dust speckle the sky.
The silence of winter is disturbed by the angry flaps of wings.
A thousand feathers shower the bleached earth.
Daylight turns to midnight at the sight of a thousand blackbirds.
Blackbird falls, striking the earth with a violent thud.
A thousand blackbirds plummet and the earth is assaulted with feathered bullets.
A single soul sees Blackbird and buries its meager body beneath an icy grave.
A single soul mourns a thousand frozen memories.
They say that love is perfection; Divinity at best. No purer words can define love because we taint it with our vicious words and corrupt thoughts. Love is indescribable. It is an infinite well that draws humanity into its depths. The human mind cannot grasp infinity and therefore cannot comprehend love as it ought to be. Love is not always patient nor is it always kind. Love is in fact, messy, painful and confusing. But among the muck and mire, love proves itself over and over. Through those imperfections, love forgives, heals and delivers.
And when there are no words to be said,
Love is the air that we breathe; a sweet song on our lips.
Love is the bitter early morning cold that nips frost-bitten salutations into our ears.
Love is the glowing warmth of honey-dipped sunsets, coating the sky with amber farewells.
Love is the moon, standing firm amid the angry black sky.
Love is the ocean, engulfing creation into its deep expanse.
Love is not the bold trembling of thunder, but the quiet murmur of the heart.
Love is the withered petals of a rose, long after its beauty has diminished.
Love says, “I’m sorry,” and surrenders its pride.
Love improves, grows and expands.
Love doesn’t give up, though it struggles to persevere.
Love is abounding, constant and true.
Love remains pure after it has been defiled.
Love is made complete in brokenness.
And when we are too blind to see or too deaf to hear,
Love holds us together when we are bursting at the seams with grief.
Love is the warm embrace after our bodies have wearied from the burdens of life.
Love is the captor of our soul and the champion of our spirit.
Love is ever-present, all-consuming and all encompassing.
I am not the first nor am I the last to experience a crisis of faith. In fact, everyone, at some point or another in their lives has experienced this inexplicable battle between conscious, static truth and transient revelation. I find it especially common among college students and twenty-somethings who wander off into the great mysteries of this world, conceivably prepared to take on indiscriminate challenges, only to find themselves stuck in a deep abyss of doubt.
But what I have found most often is that doubt becomes a catalyst for personal triumph and a deeper understanding of this complicated life. Many faiths, especially within the Christian tradition, condemn and even demonize doubt in a believer equating its quaint necessity as a form of sin. The greatest misfortune is that it leaves no room for the believer to pose plausible questions that cannot be answered with a simple prayer. Unrestricted faith requires room for a certain level of doubt. Sound faith is not blindly accepted but rather earnestly tested. Doubt may waiver the believer’s demonstration of faith, but it strengthens the process of understanding. When one questions the very integrity of a particular belief system, it forces one to look for answers outside of what one has been taught.
Existentialists like myself continually question the purpose and validity of life, the existence (or nonexistence) of God and the overall depravity of this world. The process is both challenging and rewarding because one partakes of the fruit of wisdom and acclimates openness throughout the process. You see, when one has the audacity to literally “think outside of the box,” tremendous things can happen. In my personal journey, I have learned that God cannot be restricted to a certain ideological box. The propensity for humans to categorize things is both natural and tragic, for it is the human psyche which holds the power to create and destroy. As Maimonides so aptly stated, God’s essence can only be described in terms of negation;—God is not not benevolent, God is not not omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, etc. The danger with anthropomorphizing God is that we relate to God in human terms, instead of the ethereal, indefinable and ineffable being that is. What we must understand is that our carnal minds simply cannot comprehend the great metaphysical mystery that has so haunted us for time and eternity. The beauty of life is rhetorical by nature and a magnanimous paradox at best.
I have found that God not only embraces questions, but welcomes them. It is not too preposterous to believe that the unchanging God of all ages, whose revelations are ever-changing, would graciously accept what we cannot understand. If you believe in God and ascribe to a particular faith tradition, that’s great. If you don’t believe in God and believe all forms of religion are rubbish, that’s great as well. The all-consuming quest for the intangible things requires the faith that one’s journey is not meaningless. The gift of doubt lead Galileo to challenge the Catholic church and discover the splendors of the universe. The gift of doubt opened Thomas’ eyes to see the Christ as he truly was. The gift of doubt revealed to Job the inexhaustible complexities of an almighty God.
Doubters are deep thinkers who cannot accept theoretical absolutes at face value until all facets of truth are exhausted. Doubters are exegetes of sacred texts, scientific formulas, and life experiences solely because the desire to understand remains and integral part of being human. For one to not object to these traditional understandings of God, designates implicit passivity. The infinite God, the ground of all finite beings, cannot be defined. “The infinite God is therefore in no sense a thing bearing any resemblance to the finite beings of the empirical world. The infinite God is nothing. At times, mystics also spoke of God in similar terms as the Urgund, the primary ground, the dark unnamable abyss out of which the empirical world has come.” The Nothingness of God is the entirety of all things, be it good or bad. “Perhaps the best available metaphor for the conception of God as the Holy Nothingness is that God is the ocean and we are the waves. In some sense each wave has its moment in which it is distinguishable as a somewhat separate entity. Nevertheless, no wave is entirely distinct from the ocean which is its substantial ground.” The sheer majesty of the universe acts much like his metaphor. Every being is a wave and God is the ocean. And although each creates a small disturbance in the water surrounding it, it is in no way of immense measure compared with the vastness of the entire ocean. To address the disruption of social and religious order requires questioning the very foundation of one’s faith; the God concept. Don’t curse the doubts that you have. Rather, count it a blessing and look forward to the journey that lies ahead.
This year, instead of “giving something up”, I thought I’d focus all of my energy on “giving back” since I’m clearly incapable of completing anything that I ever start. I have found that with each passing year, it’s not so much about self-denial as it is personal discipline. Although I am not a fan of communal fasting, I do believe in strength in numbers. This year has already been so difficult for me and I’ve had a rough time just trying to figure out where my life is going. I feel so utterly lost and alone but I know there must be some greater purpose for this. Growing up in the church, I feel like there have been too many scars for me to fully recover from religiosity; I must pursue a relationship.
I am in need of something authentic, and perhaps this is the time for me to do so. Not in any particular tradition or denomination, but rather in the people that I encounter on a day to day basis. I feel that authentic relationships begin with authentic connections and so, for the Lenten season, I would like to engage in 40 days of kindness. Whether it be sending a simple note to my friends or being nicer to people I generally distaste, I want to experience renewed hope in humanity.
I once heard a church advertise their Ash Wednesday services using the phrase, “extravagant love” to describe the love God has for us. I thought to myself, “what a stupid catchphrase”, But the more I thought about it, the more I want to experience this “extravagant love”; I want to be so deeply and intimately entwined with love so strong that it can only be described as “extravagant”. I’ve struggled for a few years now with the concept of God and who he is. With Valentine’s Day coincidentally falling just a day after the beginning of the Lenten season, I am forced to recognize its significance. Last year, I posted something about the soul, love and spiritual completeness.
I like to believe that our souls existed before us, coming from one common source that entrusts our souls into earthly vessels so that we may fully live in a state of “partial completeness”; we are joined together from this common source (i.e. God, Brahman, the Universe, etc.) in a state of completeness and are separated at birth in a state of partiality. Our journey, then, is to reunite with this Common Source and experience the joy of seeking and being found. Because our souls have all originated from this supreme originator, we share the same essence and therefore the same purpose.
We are given our earthly vessels as a means of actuating the journey of Soul and each time we connect with our counterpart—“soul-mate”, we connect with the Divine Creator and thus attain a higher level of awareness. Love is a very spiritual, emotional and psychological complexity that will never be completely understood. When we begin this journey to inevitably unite with our “soul-mate”, we experience both human and divine love; it is the power behind attaining a state of ultimate consciousness.
I have no doubt in my mind that our ultimate purpose in life is to love. How we choose to do so is entirely up to us. My heart has certainly grown bitter and weary from the day to day grind, but I am finding, in more ways than one, how to remain an open vessel. I may not be the best at expressing my feelings to my closest friends, but believe me, I’m working on it. Maybe this season will open my eyes to something incredible and life-changing. For now, I will simply believe that God is love and God lives within us when we show this love to others.
Happy Lenten Season,