Skipping around the TV channels last night, I stumbled into a man standing on a large stage and saying to his audience, "You are God." The camera cut away from the man on stage and rested for several seconds on a blond woman who looked to be in her 40's. Her face was rapt, attentive, open, longing. The man said, "you are God." The woman, without guile, seemed to want precisely that.
The man appeared to be saying something his audience wanted to hear, wanted to learn, wanted to attain ... something that was a surprise in some little or large way: Why else would they have traveled to an auditorium and sat patiently while the man said, "you are God?"
For a split second, I remembered the age-old frictions between orthodox religious views and the views of the mystics. Meister Eckhart would have been hanged if he hadn't been smarter than his inquisitors. George Fox raised hell in various churches and got thrown into the midden for his views. Jesus got nailed to a cross. Those are just Christian examples and Christians are generally wet behind the ears, spiritually speaking, but I live in a Christian country, so I wondered about the man saying "you are God."
I wondered if this man who said, "you are God" might not receive some rebuttal similar to Eckhart's or Fox's. But then I realized that any orthodoxy worth its salt was probably relaxed and unconcerned by a man saying "you are God:" although that man might be exposing the dirty little secret of institutionalized spiritual endeavor, still, the audience was highly unlikely to put the teaching to the test ... and the revenue stream and philosophical fortress of religious life remained secure. Orthodox religion had bigger fish to fry than some TV show, some guy telling the truth that was a lie. From an upholstered throne and with unworried faces, the orthodoxy seemed to say, "Go ahead. Do your best. Tell the truth. It'll do you no good. We've got a bigger audience share."
Taking things out of the delightful fisticuffs that religions can indulge in, still, there was that woman's face in the audience ... a face enfolded and wishful. The man's protestations, whether ill- or well-intended, whether founded in experience or simply in a proselytizing belief, didn't interest me much. Institutions' brass-knuckle, belief-strewn certainties didn't interest me much. The woman's face did. What if it were true? What if, in fact, you were God? How wonderful would that be!?
There was once a time in this country when local newspapers advertised classes in levitation. Maybe they still do. Imagine that ... being able to defy gravity, being able to fly. How kool is that?! But my mother put a pin to the balloon one day when she asked, tartly, "What the hell would you do with it if you could?"
And likewise, what the hell would you do with it if you were God? If you were God -- even assuming you knew who God was in the first place -- what the hell difference would it make? Surprise and wonder require separation and distance, so being God would mean it was no longer be a surprise or wonderment, unless, of course, God were narcissistic... dig my glory, that kind of thing.
When the surprise is gone and the wonder is gone, what's left but the ordinary? The eyes cannot see the eyes, but the eyes can see and those who can see just use what's in hand. Really, nobody thinks about seeing. They just see.
You are God ... and so what? This is not a flip or cynical question. Just, literally, so what? Any come-to-Jesus salesmanship collapses of its own weight. It simply has no relevance when what is true is simply true.
Ikkyu Sojun once upbraided fellow Buddhists as "Buddhas who insist on running around pestering others." Pestering others with stuff like the man on TV: "You are God."
And still there is the blond woman in the crowd, someone not so different from the rest of us, a plea and a hope written on her pleasant face, saying, "Lie to me please. Tell me the truth." And where there is someone asking to be lied to, there will always be someone to comply. Kind and compassionate and well-intentioned, perhaps ... creating a perfect compact, a perfect lie.
And it's not really all that bad, lying and getting lied to. Who doesn't have to swim through the wondrous lies of this life in order to winkle out the truth, the obvious, and the dishes in the sink? It's not all that bad and sometimes it's exciting, surprising -- a little pepper in the midst of the prosaic meal.
It's OK, I imagine. Pick your lies and then...
Just don't lie to yourself.