People ask me how to find God. I say turn left at Pat Robertson. Seriously, there are scores of people out there looking for something. There are the followers of Scientology. Others look for God in drugs, or in organized religions, which are not so different sometimes. Karl Marx said that religion was the opiate of the people. A hundred and fifty years later, opium (or other substances) is the religion of the people. The certain thing is that people feel empty. And everyone is trying to fill that emptiness with something. Some people use alcohol. Others use children. Others use their jobs. But I don’t think you have to look that far.
Jesus said the kingdom of God is within. If there is one message that Christianity brings, it is that we are all connected to the creative power of love that is God. And the message is that ALL people are connected, not just the “good” ones. Because, in direct contrast to all that the organized faiths harp about, there is little in the message about our behavior other than loving one another and being good to one another. We are all a part of God. I have no doubts that Jesus was divine. But I also have no doubts that you are divine as well. And I am connected to you as you are connected to me and we are all connected together. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” In this way we are connected through the vine.
And this idea permeates Eastern thought as well. Zen Buddhists believe that we are all just manifestations of God playing hide and go seek with himself. They try to help us understand that we are a part of everything. We have mistakenly come to think of ourselves as coming into this world. But we don’t come into the world; we grow out of it. The earth is made of us, and we are made of the earth, growing out of it as surely as a tree might grow out of the soil. The reason that Samurai warriors and Shaolin Monks are so undefeatable in battle is that they have no fear of death. And why have they no fear of death? Because they recognize that it just doesn’t matter if they live or die, win or lose, because either way it’s the same. They are the opponent and the battle is just some sort of karmic dance. Either way, they win. Hey! That’s why Obiwan Kenobi allowed Darth Vader to kill him.
How does this make sense? Well, imagine that your little finger had its own consciousness. And all day long, your little finger goes around thinking it’s all cool and everything being the little finger and everything. And what is more, your little finger somehow has the idea that it totally separate from the middle finger. In fact, it’s much better than that rude old middle finger. The little finger never insults anybody. S/he’s so polite s/he even sticks out when you’re drinking tea. Moreover, the little finger isn’t even sure that YOU exist. S/he thinks you’re a nice, quaint idea, but a little old fashioned in these modern times. Of course the index finger is always saying that you’re around and taking care of everybody, but the little finger just isn’t sure. And the little finger just doesn’t recognize that s/he’s a part of the hand that’s a part of the wrist that’s a part of the arm, etc.
In fact, when you consider it, this whole idea of separate anything is sort of a stupid idea. I mean, where exactly does your hand end and your wrist begin? Where does the body begin and the arm end? The idea that anything is separate from anything is an illusion. We are all vibrations in the cosmic energy. If we could see things the way they really are, we would see that the boundaries between ourselves and the chairs upon which we park our asses are neither clear nor defined. Lao Tzu said that the five tones deafen the ears, and that the five colors blind the eyes. He said that the great illusion was the 10,000 things, and that they keep us from seeing the Tao, reality. The 10,000 things stand for all the stuff we see and hear and feel.
And this brings me back to the words of Jesus. I am the vine and you are the branches. We are all part of the same oneness. And I think this is my greatest challenge: to understand that everyone, everyone, is divine. And of course that includes the homeless dude who begs for money outside the seven-eleven. And Jesus even said that whatever you do for the least of these, you do for him. But those are the easy ones, in some ways. The hard one for me is remembering that Mark Sanford is also part of the vine, along with John Boener. And this thought brings karma home to us all, because in absolute reality, whatever you do to anyone, you do to yourself.
So, when we look for that something to fill that empty feeling, we don’t have to look any farther than the person next to us. In fact, we don’t have to look any farther than ourselves. That was the whole point in Jesus’ coming. He came to let us know that we are all connected. We are connected to God. We are connected to each other. And that connection never stops, because energy is energy and energy cannot be destroyed. And that energy permeates not just the earth, but the universe which means I am connected to you no matter where you are.
But most of the time we don’t feel that connection because we get too distracted by everything else around us. We get bogged down by worries and rent and work and kids and politics and fail to feel the connection. And some of us, just like the little finger, are laboring under the delusion that there is no connection at all. We are distracted by the 10,000 things (probably 15,000, thanks to inflation). But once in a while, if you’re really, really quiet, and you relax yourself, you’ll feel it and you’ll know. Sometimes you feel it when you’re playing a musical instrument. Sometimes you feel it when you’re dancing. And you feel the rhythm and the melody move through your body and you become a part of the song. It’s sort of like those optical illusion pictures of the old hag/young woman, where once you see the old hag it’s hard to see the young woman again unless you work at it.
We are all connected by that web of love that connects everything in the world, that love that binds us all together. Jesus said to his father, the not so human one”:
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them.” (John, Chapter 17)
In the Roman Catholic Church, this is Ascension Sunday. Traditionally, many Christians believe that the disciples went out with Jesus to a place near Bethany and watched as he physically rose up into the sky. And according to the story, a couple of guys in white asked them, “Hey! What you guys doin’ lookin’ up in the sky?” And they were right. They were right because we’re not going to find Jesus up in the sky. We find Jesus all around us all the time. We just have to keep our eyes open.
Jesus said, I am the vine and you are the branches. I remain in you and you remain in me. And so we are a part of God, the Tao, YHWH, Allah, Shiva, whatever, and God is a part of us. And you cannot be separated from God, unless you want to be, and even then, any separation is your own illusion; you are still part of the vine. No one can be disconnected from God, regardless of what you have done or what you believe, or with whom you share your bed. And so the next time you feel that empty feeling and go looking for God, turn left at Pat Robertson and look in the mirror. And smile. God’s watching.