Folks take God quite seriously. Or rather, we take seriously our versions of God. We work diligently to shrink this vast Mystery into a box we can hold in our hand, and mistake the box for the Essence itself. But we don’t stop there. We obsessively begin to embellish this box with designs of our own nature, and before we know it, even the box~a poor substitute itself~ becomes obscured by our ornamentation. This time, we confuse our artwork for the real thing. And yet another layer stands between us and the Divine.
This predilection to reduce the irreducible is simply the way we humans are wired. Our brains, well-suited to the demands of human life, have a penchant to make everything simple and understandable. This tendency is often quite helpful and necessary. Where God is concerned, however, the results are often problematic. At the very least, this process can close us off from the experience of the Mystery. For those with a compulsion to convince others that their vision is the only true one, the results can be disastrous. As I see it, most of the damage done by religions over the eons has been promulgated by people who take their version of God too darn seriously~and insist others do, as well.
My own particular bent encourages me~and you!~to have a bit of fun. To play with God. I begin with acceptance that the Divine is much grander than any box I can construct to contain It. Spirit is larger than I am, larger than I can conceive. With this as my starting point, it becomes easier to relax and to allow into my God experience a sense of play, of fun, of joy.
When I accept that I will never grasp God, it’s easier to hold my beliefs more lightly. It’s natural to honor all faith traditions for the beauty they contain and the face of God they reflect, without needing to prove them true or false. When I'm in this state of mind, the contradictions inherent in life don’t frazzle me as much, because I don’t expect life to conform to my expectations, to reflect my human sensibilities. My own doubts are more easily tolerated. I can experiment with faiths, ideas, and practices, seeking to distill from them something that feels true without the need to explain it all with my rational mind. And I don’t need to take everything, especially my own thoughts, so seriously. Yes, I can play with God.
Years ago, I heard the Indian fable* concerning the reactions of a group of blind folks when a heretofore unknown animal~an elephant~wandered into their midst. The one whose hand ran the length of the animal’s trunk concluded that an elephant was long and tubular, like a snake. A young child who felt one of the massive legs believed an elephant to be upright and sturdy like a tree. A woman, touching the broad expanse of the animal’s side knew an elephant to be large and flat, like a massive wall. Another, stroking a tusk, assumed an elephant was like a spear. A tall man noticing a slight movement of air, reached out to touch an ear and determined an elephant was very much like a fan. And the last, grabbing hold the tail, presumed an elephant to be like a rope.
I’ve always loved this story. Not only does each individual in the fable accept their version of the elephant as true, they are~each one of them~blind even within their own experience! They can’t even totally know their own version!
This fable is used to explain the futility of any of us being able to accurately know God, and as a cautionary tale to not get too carried away with our own beliefs. It certainly helps rein me in when I become full of myself. However, theories and beliefs don’t tend to engage me. I find myself becoming bored and impatient with prolonged discussions of God. My search is not for knowledge about God, but experience of God. This is where play comes in. Whatever brings me an experience of the Divine is fair game, a meaningful play. This approach keeps my spirituality fresh and alive.
I realize that I am, ultimately, merely describing another piece of the elephant~~my own perception of God. If I were to embellish this fable with my own designs, I’d say that I care not what the elephant looks like. I want to know how it moves. I yearn to know the thrill of its flank beneath my hand, to I inhale the scent of its leathery skin. I want to be wrapped round by that mighty trunk. And I wish to topple headlong into the abyss hidden within one wise and fathomless elephant eye.
May your own elephant play bring you riches galore!
*For a poem based on this fable see Blindmen.