Sunday, August 31, 2014

This God


I love the way Annie Dillard whimsically confronts the paradox of what we often refer to as "acts of God."


RING OF TRUTH.  Because of her marvelous imagery and meandering, non-linear manner, it is hard to find sound bytes that do Annie Dillard justice.  She is always noticing, studying, reflecting, connecting, and moving on without having tied things down for the reader.  She opens your mind and heart and touches resistant places but does not bring easy closure to such exposure.  Her writing has the ring of truth without impaling or domesticating it.  The following snippet is a three-second lap from a gushing 200-page fire hydrant titled For the Time Being (1999, Knopf).  Pay close attention to her very last sentence.  Very interesting.

WHAT GOD DOESN’T DO.  “God is no more blinding people with glaucoma, or testing them with diabetes, or purifying them with spinal pain, or choreographing the seeding of tumor cells through lymph, or fiddling with chromosomes, than he is jimmying floodwaters or pitching tornadoes at towns.  God is no more cogitating which among us he plans to place here as bird-headed dwarfs or elephant men—or to kill by AIDS or kidney failure, heart disease, childhood leukemia, or sudden infant death syndrome—than he is pitching lightning bolts at pedestrians, triggering rock slides, or setting fires.  The very least likely things for which God might be responsible are what insurers call ‘acts of God.’”

OUT OF THE LOOP?  “Then what, if anything, does he do?  If God does not cause everything that happens, does God cause anything that happens?  Is God completely out of the loop?”

NOT AS THE WORLD GIVES.  “Sometimes God moves loudly, as if spinning to another place like ball lightning.  God is, oddly, personal; this God knows.  Sometimes en route, dazzlingly or dimly, he shows an edge of himself to souls who seek him, and the people who bear those souls, marveling, know it, and see the skies carousing around them, and watch cells stream and multiply in green leaves.  He does not give as the world gives; he leads invisibly over many years, or he wallops for thirty seconds at a time.”

GIFT AND RESPONSE.  “He may touch a mind, too, making a loud sound, or a mind may feel the rim of his mind as he nears.  Such experiences are gifts to beginners.  ‘Later on,’ a Hasid master said, ‘you don’t see these things anymore.’  (Having seen, people of varying cultures turn—for reasons unknown, and by a mechanism unimaginable—to aiding and serving the afflicted and poor.)”

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