Tuesday, April 27, 2010

moths and myths

I have two stories in mind as I launch my blog boat today - one is true and one is made up. The true story took place when my son C was a small boy. I had settled him into bed, and as I stood up, I told him that I was leaving, but God would be with him. His eyes grew wide. "Do you mean that God is here in this room?" I smiled and nodded, happy enough to give this glib comfort so I could return to my book. His face took on a look of panic. He pulled his hands out from under the bed cover and slapped them together. "Here", he said, with solemn intensity - "I've got him. Take him away." I cupped my hands around his, separated them off with care, and carried God out to the hall where I flicked 'him' into the dark like a small moth. Done!

The other story was one that I heard recently. It went like this: God was in heaven with the angels. God was badgered day and night by prayers from humans, always asking for this or that. The angels noticed how tired God looked, and said they would find a hiding place so God could have some peace. They took God into the heart of a forest, to find a place to rest in the soft dark undergrowth. But soon the clamour returned. The prayers had found God, and they were as noisy and demanding as ever. Then the angels said: "We'll try another hiding place. We'll take you to a cave. It's high in the mountains; its opening is hard to find. The humans will never find you there." But the same thing happened. No sooner had God arrived, than the prayers and petitions came pouring through the gap in the rockface and into the cave. The angels thought and thought, then one of them spoke up. "I have an idea: we'll hide you in the human heart. Hardly anyone will find you there."

Banished in one, scuttling for cover in the other, god is present in both stories in fascinating roles. Where does god reside? Can we find him/her - catch god even? Do we want to? Over the years my theology, once reasonably sturdy, has fallen away. Now, with a sweet pile of twigs remaining, I am standing in the open, feeling curious and responsive. I hear about, am drawn to the idea of divine encounter, espoused by those who have embraced spiritual exercise such as silence and meditation, and by those who are impelled into creative expression (surely branches of the same tree.) Yesterday I posted a ted talk on youtube where author Elizabeth Gilbert invites us to loosen up and cock our ear/heart to the divine muse - the genie that lives outside of ego. She relates the story of a poet, now in her 90s, whose divine daimon would come at full throttle - an earth shuddering, thundering horse-like creature. My son likens his poetry writing to vomiting; the creative impulse a spasming affair, where the body pitches and the formed poem is expelled - sometimes at astonishing speed. I loved reading vespersparrow's experience as described on her blog - an intensely delicate, heightened sense of encounter, that indicates she is about to write.

As for me - who knows, but I will keep faith. After all, I have carried god between my palms. In the meantime, as Elizabeth Gilbert so beautifully puts it: just keep showing up and get on with the job. Ole.


  1. Pam, your blog is a very beautiful place.

  2. What a beautifully crafted 'whole' post. I love both stories very much, Pam, thank you. Can I recommend to you Under the Huang Jiao Tree by NZ writer Jane Carswell about her trip to China and the spiritual journey she makes inside herself at the same time. It really opened my eyes/heart. I have reviewed it on my blog and have a link there to my radio review. It's not easy to get hold of, but ask for it at a bookshop - it's published by Transit Lounge in Australia.

  3. ooh, and Pam, if you want help putting the TP badge on your blog let me know -

  4. Hi P ad M. Thanx for your comments. Mary, that's a great recommendation and I'll seek out the book. I look forward to reading it.

  5. That is such a wonderful story about your son, clapping his hands and you being willing to take god out of the room so he could go to sleep without being spied upon.
    I was raised as an agnostic (because my father thought this was the best label to avoid discussing a concept he had thoroughly dismissed), unusual for my age, 71.
    I remember when my daughter called me for the 'difficult discussion' and told me that she believes in god. Poor thing. I guess she expected me to bite her head off.
    I've done quite a bit of photographing in Catholic churches (my father so disapproved), where they accepted me for my beliefs. The thought crossed my mind that it would be comforting to believe in the healthy, supportive concepts, but there was no way I could...
    but I have had one or two mystical experiences. Fancy that.
    thanks for this post.

  6. Melissa, lovely to have you come by, and thanks for your comments. Yes I was intrigued and delighted by my small son's faith in his own certain ability to catch the blighter. (I remember at that same age of around 4 he was wrestling with the concept of infinity. Less easy to catch that one in your hands.) I rather love the capricious nature of these mystical experiences. No knowing from whence they come or upon whom they will alight.

  7. Thank you for sharing this. Chancing upon your blog and reading this entry, to me, seems 'perfectly timed' as lately I've been feeling overwhelmed. Your words give food for thought. Very generous of you. And also of your son Cameron, for sharing his poem "Heaven is other people." The title alone lends clarity to me. The line "at the doorway of the world, pushing poem after poem through the crack" lingers. Many thanks.

  8. It's good to hear from you SL. I appreciate your taking the time to connect. This is such an interesting realm, where we can find each other, and sometimes with uncanny timing. I'm looking forward to spending time with your blog, and with your poetry.

  9. Ole ole ole! Thanks Pammum (and Elizabeth Gilbert) for sharing this idea and inspiration x