On One Hand

April 11, 2007

A thousand glowing spheres

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 8:49 pm
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My earliest image of God was a bald, thin woman with her head wrapped in a bandanna. Her form was ethereal and blue, like a film negative, and her legs faded into clouds. She never spoke, but if she did, I felt that her voice would be deep and masculine, either androgynous or like a man’s, if not because of her character, then only because she was so big. She was cooking something, or grinding something in a bowl with a pestle – she wore an apron, also blue and ethereal like her face. She didn’t have an ethnicity – I wasn’t even aware of race then, but in retrospect she probably would have been black. She was always smiling.

I don’t know where that image came from. It was what awoke in my head when I heard the word “God,” and with my pre-kindergarten, Roman Catholic religious education, I could conceive of no reason God shouldn’t look that way.

Later, that depiction was replaced by an extremely bright, white light that shined above and ahead of me. I never tried to “picture” the light, and never consciously thought about it, but it was there in my mind and the thing that I prayed to.

At other times in my childhood God was scarier, especially after I watched The Ten Commandments with Charleston Heston and at nine years old tried to read the whole Old Testament but gave up halfway through Leviticus. I prayed to Jesus instead, then, who was friendlier and familiar, but at other times my consciousness drifted back toward that unchanging light in the sky.

When I reached High School, God got scary again – almost irredeemably so, and a new concept of God, unidentifiable and invisible, gathered like a dark cloud over my head and blocked out the light. The more I read the works of various Christian authorities with anti-Catholic or anti-Protestant agendas, the darker the cloud got, and I rarely prayed. Disillusioned with the divisions within Christianity, I eventually discovered the Baha’i Faith and its God was less bright, broader in circumference and more to the front of me, eggshell-white in hue. Then I read about Islam for a while – I picked up a copy of the Qur’an in my High School library, and the God it evoked was yellowish and more sphere-like, above and behind me, not as bright, but more ominous with an immense diameter, very masculine and extremely volatile, crackling with lightning. Frightened, I re-immersed myself in Catholicism, for a period in which I was so religious I brought a rosary to school each day, and God was translucent white sphere directly overhead. All the other Gods were still there. I didn’t believe or disbelieve in any depiction of God – I intellectually believed there was only one, though each image fought against all the others. Finally, when I read about Hinduism all the competing spheres merged, with a snap, into a forcefield that was not above me, but in every direction, silent and powerful. Ironically, it was the religion that explained God in countless forms and manifestations, with the most liberal polytheism possible – the conventional saying is that there are 330 million unique deities – that finally fused the cluster of competing images into one.

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