I want to thank organized religion for three gifts. First I would like to thank the Catholic Church and specifically Pope Urban VIII for the persecution of Galileo Galilei. Scientific matters aside, it was the motivation for Rene' Descartes writing of Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences. Millions have created their intellectual structures on the foundations made possible by this treatise, exclusive of the Holy Roman Church's designs. Thanks to Urban VII I have only one possession - my own consciousness as the creation of dialog between the world and my own existence. My life is: what I see, what I hear, what I think, what I choose.
I would like to thank the Deacons of the Baptist Church my family attended when I was a child. When they discovered that wine was consumed at dinners with our family and the Pastor they fired him. I loved the Reverend. I enjoyed the conversations between him and my Father. I knew it was a great injustice and it severed my attachment to religious institutions permanently. He was then free to become President of a local university and I was free to look for God on my own.
The most profound gift I received from a church, however, came during Sunday School just before our exile from the Baptist Church. The lesson was about the Creation and I was moved by the idea that God had desires. There was something that seemed strange about God needing something more than what he is so I asked the teacher" Why did He make us?" Her name is lost to me but her answer is not: "Perhaps he was lonely. He wanted someone to share with all the beautiful things he had made. God needs us. He sees the world through us. We are his eyes and his ears on Earth." The meaning of the moment was amplified perhaps because it is where my conversation left off with religious institutions. But it was the way she said it. She spoke directly to me. Her voice soft. Her words were complete the way a subtle gesture is complete.
Adults become conditioned to loneliness, but survival has instilled a special discomfort for this feeling in children. Lonely. A child understands another child's grief in solitude. A child would create the universe to not be lonely anymore. In my child's mind God was a child like me. One that loves to make things and to tell stories. He was inviting me to play with him. My life, the act of living, was part of Him. My seeing. My hearing. The tasting of fresh milk and my Grandmother's Pie, the feeling of my fifth grade girlfriend's hand in mine. All of these things an essential part of God's knowing and dreaming. And in the moments that I was conscious of the connection I wanted God to see the best of me.
"Yes, I'll sit by you. I love you too, I love you with all my heart. I am so proud of you. Be careful climbing that. AAAAAaaare you OK? Your knee? Yes, I'll blow that part a kiss. Great daddy take down. Sure, let's watch Ratatouille again. No I didn't know that Painted Lady Butterflies had ten thousand eyes. They migrate a thousand miles! Read that for me again. I'll read one for you too. Again?!? Great ballet jump. I love to see you dance!"
She wants a witness, and until she finds the one inside her I will witness everything she has to offer. In my adult’s mind God, a child like her, is the vessel that contains all of her experiences. Within God is the culmination- the full measure of everything she has seen, heard, tasted, felt, thought, feared and loved. My wife's years before we knew each other are there. The perfect life of the child, unborn, we mourned but I never met. We are there together - along with the singular, complete experience of every living thing there has ever been in the expanse of space and time. The flight of every bird, the stretching of their muscle and the flowing of wind across feather. The breathing of trees and the sense of what it means to flower. The sight from ten thousand Painted Lady Butterfly eyes on a thousand mile journey.
Now that I am constantly aware of the connection I want God to see the best of me; for us to see the best of each other. "Yes God, I will sit with you. I like to paint flowers too. What a beautiful story. My friends tell stories - I need to take Ella to hear them. Great sunset! Remember the one I did for Little Shop? OK I'll keep trying. Yes, very proud of her. I love you too. With all my heart. I love to see you dance!"