By Jane Tawel
It is the second time I have been privileged to hear Ludovico Einaudi in concert. Both times, the tickets were an overly generous gift to my husband and me from our daughter. Both times, rather early in the concert, all in a moment, like suddenly being immersed in a quite spontaneous, warm, fragrant bath, I realized in a complete seamless, piece of understanding, that there is a God.
As I sit at home this morning, it is ironically, my inability to find words to describe that inkling of belief and my muteness, as compared to all the harsh certainty and the blather and bother people today seem so facilely able to spout about their gods; that translates my experience at the concert into some perhaps lasting modicum of faith. It is how I hang on to the truth of a God-ness relating to our human reality.
This morning as the newspapers fly onto the neighborhood yards, and the alarm clocks go off throughout my house, my inability to write coherently about how that one moment of God-ness felt, is how this morning I am able to convince myself, that it is Truth. My theoretical ponderings about That Being Who Is Other, Someone Who is different than myself and yet has created human beings in Her image, has stopped being tethered to a doctrinal assent of the mind; nor is it merely a feeling in my heart. It has come to have little to do with me and frankly I am weary of thinking that I need to believe in a God to believe that I am loved or worthy. No, it is the opposite of all the things I teach myself or think. It is the opposite of feeling that somehow I am something at all important or that matters. I happen to think our planet matters; but then it’s the only one I’ve ever known. Perhaps there are planets and beings on other planets that matter more. I happen to believe that human-kind matters; but I don’t believe that the powerful mighty humans, the queens and kings and politicians matter nearly as much as they have brainwashed us to think they do. While those who have ruled others throughout the world’s history, change their names and positions as often as they change their dirty underwear; they never really change the world. Changing the world is left to the artists and saints and all of us little Whos in Whoville who cheer them on. It is because certain, individual human beings have created the impossibly beautiful; or because there are those who have suffered individually in order to produce world-changing goodness in hearts and lives like mine; it is because of the artists and saints, that I believe there must be a Someone who created us and who loves us.
I continue to hope that humans matter to Someone who is more than mere matter. I am often only able to cling to the sinking ship of belief that so many religions have shot holes in, because of people who stick their artistic fingers into those holes and who shore up this earth’s crumbling dike. The miracle is that we can still be astounded by what can be done with matter, mass and energy by the artists and saints, who take the common things of physical substances and create miracles. Humans who embody the miraculous and superhuman, while still being hampered by the same constraints of time and space we all are, keep me alert for a Creator-God. The ability of uber-creation by otherwise normal human beings, is what people claim that the superhuman named Jesus was able to do — create matter and miracles from nothing for nobodies. I like finding God in the Jesus-ness of other human beings. It isn’t important to me who the artist or saint is. When I hear buskers play on the street corners for dollars thrown in a jar, I have the same hope-filled joy that I do when I pay a hundred dollars to hear Einaudi, or Josh Groban, or the LA Philharmonic. When I observe a stranger help another stranger in need, I imagine the heavenly hosts cheering with the identical fervor they did for Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr. or Gandhi. My friend’s lovely garden is as much a gift to the world as Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” or Monet’s “Garden at Giverny”.
I’m not so sure that I matter all that much to God; and that is, in a strange way, a relief and a freedom. Certain individuals throughout history will always take on the stature of giants, and once in awhile they do so through loving and giving. But many giants make a name for themselves by taking, and this is usually accomplished not by their talents or skills but through their access to money and power. Too many people I know think they matter to something they call “God”, only because they were born into the privilege of a certain class of religious identity or have had a great amount of luck in hanging on to their stuff. It is rather liberating to see myself as a little David before he slew Goliath and became a king. I prefer to be an Emily Dickinson-ian “Nobody”, writing poetry to the Unknown God but still clinging to a hope with feathers. Being unimportant, allows me to hold out hope that there might be Someone or Someone(s) out there who are big enough — much bigger than I — who can save not just me but our whole decaying, destructive, hell-bent planet. A tiny wren-sized hope may be enough so that the vultures won’t win in the end.
The people I know who believe in what they call God, have not so much served Him as they have used Him. God has been made so small, so common, so pathetically understandable, and so all about us; and I have found myself fleeing that simplistic God that is being used, not worshiped; abused, not sought and shared. I don’t see much point in a handy-man sort of God; a God I text when I need Him to fix something we are responsible for breaking. Seeing myself as less important than the guy in line ahead of or behind me, allows me to be a part of Something bigger, right now, on earth; just a small part of this thing we call humanity. And if I can be a part of the multitude of little nobodies, then I can be a part of the giant, godlike Somebodies, too. We’re all in this together, after all, me and Beethoven and Michelangelo and Marge Simpson. I’m just one of the audience members, but as long as I’m still in the audience, I can make a difference. In the audience, I can be a little sling-shot wielding child listening to, and watching the giants perform; and my little pebble-sized thrown applause can perhaps slay all of our fears and will encourage the artists and saints to keep fighting the good fight, and in that way they might be able to save one more soul.
God is mostly absent here now, until She isn’t. I think maybe She got tired of being misrepresented by all the men who kept talking about Her in the third person. Or maybe He thought we were okay left alone to handle the planet’s problems, after He sent all those prophets and messiahs. I feel lonely sometimes, without my little convenient pocket God, but I feel cleaner and more expectant. I feel a bit sad on a normal day. Ah, but then like an unexpected turn in the road and the sight of something so beyond me, showing up like a miracle, like the first sight of the ocean must have appeared to early woman; suddenly, God. God is mostly absent here now, until She isn’t; but when The More reaches out Her finger, in a song, in a garden, in a baby, in a home-cooked meal, then I, like Eve, banned from Eden, suddenly, cry: “Oh, My God!”
There is a Some-one Who Is; and when one hears a genius creator like Ludovico Einaudi and watches magic emerge from the musicians on stage who have nothing more than large and small boxes of wood with strings strung from end to end; when one sits in a cathedral, like UCLA Royce Hall or Walt Disney Concert Hall, and gazes at the realized imaginings of architects like James and David Allison or Frank Gehry, who have taken their dreams, mixed them with matter and created temples; then one’s own insignificant contribution as a human being feels both pathetically mundane and conversely, as if it could have significance to Someone. As a mother, as I sat in the audience, rubbing shoulders with my grown-up daughter who somehow against all odds loves me, the world became desirably salvageable. In those moments, when it all seems to come together and make sense, hearing the Imago Dei’s, sitting next to one’s own god-imaged child and a gift of creation, then, somehow in the depths of what we might call one’s soul, there is an understanding of “More”. There must be a More. If for no other reason than that we love our children, we must believe that there can be More.
As I grow older, I know less about God than ever. With a great amount of pain, I see how selfish and misguided religions become. There is far too much garbage and downright evil that so many people want to give Someone credit for and I mourn the loss of human kindness in my own country as people co-opt religion for their own greedy, humanistic needs and desires. And then I hear a human being create the music that Ludovico Einaudi and his awe-inspiring musicians produce, and I realize that though most of us are going to return to the dusty dust that we belong to, and rightly so; there are human beings who must surely be a part of Something, Someone who is “More”. There has to be an Eternity with rooms and canvases for the artists and the saints. There must be a Being who also attended the concert with me, that thinks to Herself, “Yes, this. This is worthy. This is holy. This is what I had in mind when I created these beings called humans. This is what will last for Eternity. This I will not discard. This is worth keeping.”
I pray as someone who thinks maybe a Horton-sized God will hear me if I join my weak voice and chant with all the other minuscule Whos living on this wee fragile flower we call Earth. “Lord, Father-Mother-Parent and Creator of this planet of beauty, mystery and sensual delights. Forgive our destruction and careless uncaring. Please save our planet. Please save the glaciers and mountains; the tigers and sea lions; the dandelions and lilacs and bees; the wheat fields and olive trees; the gurgling streams and humming doves and ticking crickets. Please save the makers of music, the designers of temples; the painters of starry nights and last suppers. Please save the unsung saints and those who hunger for justice. And please, dear One Who Must Be More, please save some of us nobodies so that we may continue to sit in the audience. Please let me and mine and all the little Whos in Whoville be forever a humble audience for the gods and for You, The God.”
Sitting in a dark theater, one of a thousand audience members, there to watch and listen to the creation of a world. Hearing angels. No, hearing humans. Offering to the gods, my prayers of awe and neediness, I clap as loudly as I can, “We are here! We are here! We are here!”