Sign up for my Newsletter & Podcast!

Journal: The Gods

Note: This Journal entry was written on September 17th, 2001, as I walked on the Old Tokaido. Take a look at that day's Logbook for more.


Not so long ago my buddy Paul wrote and asked a pertinent question (though I'm sure he meant it to be impertinent) regarding the prayers that I'm saying on this trip:

"To whom are the thoughts being directed?"

Here's an edited version of my response, with a clincher at the end:

As for "To whom are the thoughts being directed?": Exactly. You may recall that my philosophy is that there's something there, but anything we say about it is merely metaphor. So it doesn't matter if I'm directing them to the Buddhas, or the Shinto gods, or the universe. Last night (September 14th) I more or less directed them to Lake Ashinoko.

As I mentioned in my journal of 9/12, "I don't know if my prayers help the people I pray for, but they definitely help me." Cultivating a prayerful attitude improves me, whether anybody out there is listening or not.

Jung spoke about living "as if." Does God exist? Who knows? But living "as if" God exists can be ennobling. (I know what you're going to say--it can also cause war, terrorism, etc. Personally I think people who do such things are living "as if" God DOESN'T exist.) Is there such a thing as "true love"? Who knows? Even though the evidence seems to be against it, most of us live "as if" it exists. To put it in your terms [Paul's a huge baseball fan]: every baseball fan goes into the season "as if" their favorite team is going to win the pennant. As the season progresses, if this becomes unlikely, they still keep faith to the extent that they live "as if" the team will win today's game.

Call it faith. Call it hope. Call it self-delusion. But whatever you call it, I think we live richer, deeper lives because of it.

One more, merely human, result of this prayer thing: people have been revealing to me their deepest hopes and fears. People I've known for years, who never said much, have come to me and told me the most amazing, heart-wrenching stories about family problems, illness, etc. It has opened up new dimensions in relationships that were hitherto pretty much moribund. It has been very fulfilling.

And as I mentioned in the Sept. 10 Logbook, even monks asked me to pray for them! Totally screwy.

Finally, a joke about who's listening:
A guy falls off a cliff and catches a bush on his way down. He starts yelling for help, "Is anyone up there?" After a few moments a deep voice like thunder says, "I'm here." And the guy says, "God?" and God answers "Yes." So the guy says "What should I do?" and God says "Trust me. Let go of the branch." And after a minute of thought the guy yells "Is there anybody else up there?"

That's the end of the letter to Pauly. Now here's the clincher:

A few days later, at Mishima Taisha (Grand Shrine) I picked up a pamphlet that said something intriguing about the gods. Listen:
"In ancient times people looked at the beauty of nature with admiration and held it in awe and respect. As a result of belief in it and thanks for it, the gods of Japan were formed in the hearts of the ancient Japanese people...."
Oh, my gods! This major religious institution says that the gods were created by people. Blasphemy! Everyone knows that God created people! I'm a Western man! This goes against everything I've been taught.

But wait. Didn't some ancient Greek say, "If triangles had a god, he would have three sides?" And hasn't the question long been asked: "Did God make us in his image, or did we make God in ours?"

So the question has been on the table for quite some time. I guess it's just the matter-of-fact way the pamphlet states it: "So the people made up the gods." Wow.

But look again. It doesn't say "made them up." That's a mental thing. It says they were formed in the people's hearts. There's something that rings true about this.

Your thoughts?

Posted September 25, 2019

No comments:

Post a Comment