Still thinking about God (what else is new?) but it looks like I’m not alone. Many people sent thoughtful and moving comments about believing in God. My thanks to you all. Keep those cards and letters coming!
In case you didn’t read the poetic comment from Ronni Blumenthal, here’s a quote from it. I highlighted my favorite sentence:
To me, the concept of God has always been an annoying “need to know” aspect of our thinking that trips us up. We just don’t seem to be able to get comfortable with the idea of not knowing. Well, most of us. So – I believe in something I intuit, don’t understand, won’t understand, and do not relate to any kind of human emotion or behavior. It’s in a place called “other” but I like the feel of it. I believe in the miracle of existing between two great darknesses – before birth (the one we don’t think about much) and the one after life ( which we tend to obsess over). To me, they are equal and there is mystery and wonder just in the flicker that is our collective energy in the moments between. Or something like that.
And Chick Silberman e-mailed this to me:
You made me recall a wonderful moment when [my wife] Arlene, who was sitting with my mother in the women’s balcony at Kehilath Jeshurun on East 85 Street in New York, asked my mother how she could recite the last paragraph of the Aleinu in the face of the Holocaust. My mother, who was sitting in her mother’s seat in the congregation that her father had helped establish, responded with surprise, “Darling, who thinks while she prays?” I have thought of that very often, especially during the High Holidays, when I find myself crying while reciting a prayer to which my rational self objects.
So why did I call this post Heart & Soul? No, I have not been playing chopsticks on my woefully out-of-tune piano, and am not talking about the Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser song. (Although, if you feel like surfing the web a bit, try googling it – there’s a great article on Wikipedia that, among other things, lists every movie and TV show the song has appeared in, and over 60 singers who’ve recorded it. Knowing this makes me feel like I’d have a chance on Jeopardy. Maybe.)
No, I was thinking about the heart and soul at about 2:00 am last night, when it occurred to me that my beliefs about God are similar to the way we talk about the human heart. (Please do not ask me why I was having philosophical discussions with myself at two in the morning.)
Not knowing who/what/where God is but still being OK with prayer is akin to the way we talk about our heart being the seat of emotions, the home of the soul. We all know that’s not literally true. Open up a dead body and what you’ll find in the upper left quadrant of the chest (approximately) is merely a muscle designed to pump blood.
No house for the soul, no little chair for emotions to perch on… although I find the image of an internal chair for emotions amusing. Would that mean I could send unwanted emotions to the corner for a time-out? I ask you, how convenient is that?
Even though we know empirically that there is no specific site in the body where our “heart” and soul reside, we accept that they exist and we continue to use the metaphor of the heart. Why? Because language is limited. Because we don’t understand everything about the human condition. Because the moment between two great darknesses is fraught with miracles and fears, mystery and wonder, prayers and love, and lots of bad stuff too. Because we have the ability to shed tears over prayers that our rational selves reject.
I’m sitting here listening to pounding rain and hoping that the tornado in the forecast stays in the forecast and out of my life. And knowing that my heart can brim over with joy when I think about my daughters, and at the same time know that the little muscle in my chest will keep doing its thing and not brim over at all. Thank God.