g o d
no more ‘god’
ok enough about god already. enough about why and whether s/he/they/it does or does not exist and/or why believing that s/he/they/it does is a sign of extreme naivety — or that not believing is blasphemy. it doesn’t matter. let’s have a conversation about what does matter.
i am watching a movie1in which someone says ‘god is everywhere’ and my eyes unexpectedly fill with tears.
two reasons. one : because i know what is meant — or what is being gestured at and it moves me because it is so huge and complex and beautiful but (and this is a big but) the other reason is that when you say it like that, when you reach for that corrupted contaminated word ‘god’, what it actually does is empty it of meaning, it is as if it is not able to reach its full meaning and it collapses. those three letters create an abyss which you can fall into and which it is very difficult to get out of. it is as if the word contaminates it, corrupts it and i propose, no wait i demand, that this word never be used again, except by scholars in the history of religion. our task as punk theologians, as post-theists, is to create/invent/imagine a new language with which to speak about such things.
the problem with something so big and complex and beautiful is that it is probably impossible to do justice to it in a thousand words, or a hundred thousand, let alone one word consisting of three letters. but the real problem with the word ‘god’ is not its limitedness, the problem is that the very word itself has been contaminated, corrupted, become evil — and this cannot be undone. so much injustice, so much violence, so many atrocities have been carried out under that moniker over hundreds and hundreds of years that we have a moral and ethical duty to cease using it from this day forward.
and not only that, i think/feel/believe that something else becomes possible when you stop using that word to refer to that which is so vast and so complex and so beautiful and true, that which is everywhere : a different way of being.
and what is it actually that is everywhere? this is a theological question, a philosophical question, a question of physics, a question for poets and artists and singers and film makers and theorists of all kind — but it is also a practice, something to be experienced, something to be open to, and when you are open to it, we might say : it in-forms you, and something magical happens. but what is it? this is a question you can ask over and over again and you must keep asking it. but when you use that three letter word for it, it kills it stone dead. because there is no one with that name. it is empty and pointless. and it is corrupt.
the new 2019 self (which actually dates from late 2018 but now that it’s the end of it i want to leave 2018 behind ASAP thank you so much … never have i been more ready for a new year to begin or at least for a year to end :p) has rediscovered a love of cinema … well i was busy, i’ve had a lot of thinking to do these last 10 or 20 years and now i am ready to think the things that i’ve been waiting … not waiting : readying myself … to think and now it is less like a flood and more like seeing and examining each individual drop in the flow and in those drops i can see the particles and sense the now-i-am-here-and-now-i-am-not nature of the sub-atomic particles. they are saying : now i am here and now i am not so quickly and there are so many of them and then they say now i am here and now i am there and now i am neither here nor there and now i am not — can you see what’s happening? this is you. and me. and you-and-me and all-of-this-and-all-of-that-and-all-of-us. when the singer sang he not busy being born is busy dying this is what he meant yo without knowing that this is what he meant.
that reminds me of something from another movie (‘21 grams’). someone says, god can see every hair on your head, and it had a similar effect on me. when i look it up it turns out to be a reference to a line from the fucking bible, and to my amazement and utter delight the very next line is one that i know from one of my favourite sparklehorse songs2 and what i thought was a random little psychedelic mark linkous quirk is a fucking biblical reference :
God even knows how many hairs are on your head. So don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many sparrows.
oh my fucking god : this where the other line in the song comes from ‘every hair on your head is counted’…!
this is all part of a venerable tradition : the practice of finding words to describe/express/articulate one’s experience and it is often as not a fool’s errand because the totality of one’s being and one’s experience of being is ineffable. how could it be otherwise? and so it is that in music, in art, in poetry, that we can sometimes find solace, that we can reach those spaces that are well … sacred — and if we hit this note and then that one, and connect with our vulnerability, we can make possible some kind of transcendence of this impossible situation, this impossible project that some of us are engaged in.
we must find the words, and create new words if necessary — but even more importantly, we must avoid using corrupt language, as the language of the church is. at some point in the time to come, it will have become as contemptible to say ‘god’ as it is to say ‘nigger’ now — it is even quite possible that it will become highly suspect to say ‘i’.
but what is crucial is that some words can only be found through conversation. this is how language was invented and has been able to evolve. if we are going to find a language to name and describe this everything, this entity which is not separate, that which was previously referred to as god, we need to engage in conversations about what matters.
you could say exactly the same thing about the word ‘i’, except it might be difficult to ban it’s use completely, but you could certainly cut down drastically on it’s use. “every ‘i’”, emile cioran wrote, “begins with a crack and a revelation.” this is in reference to the moment in childhood when you become conscious of being an individual, but in a sense that is what happens every time that you say (and think/feel/believe) ‘i’ : it opens up a gap between that which you refer to as ‘i’ and everything that is ‘not i’. it is a cut, as it were, a schnitt. and in this it is no different to the kind of cut that happens when you measure a subatomic wave/particle.
and this is part of what i mean by a spiritual practice, a spiritual attitude : to discover/create a new language partly via negativa — by saying what it is not. and not saying what it’s not — and it is not god.
thankfully people no longer get burned at the stake, or hung drawn and quartered, for saying so.
and i claim (and i think/feel/believe) that in the process a different awareness, a different way of being, becomes possible. because those old corrupted words with all their baggage, close you off from the meaning of what you are experiencing, what is being … yes … revealed to you in all kinds of intricate ways every minute, every second.
ida (2013) another lovely gentle sad-but-not-sad movie from the hand of paweł pawlikowski (i want to see all of his films now - especially his documentaries) with agata trzebuchowska in the lead and a cameo from joanna kulig, the charismatic star of cold war. in the end though, she goes back to the nunnery. i am disappointed. but what can you expect from a catholic? because that is what he is apparently, paweł pawlikowski 🙂↩
hundreds of sparrows - sparklehorse (from the LP good morning spider) and then mark linkous sings : The tree you planted has become fecund, with kamikaze hummingbirds. ha ha the guy was a genius.↩