I had a dream!
In my dream, I was in a place with a crowd, but it was not crowded. I thought I was there to meet and pay homage to my favorite maker of crossword puzzles, Merl Reagle. That evening before retiring, I had just completed a puzzle that I had started the night before, but could not stay awake to finish going through the ‘down’ clues. Maybe that influenced the opening topic of this dream, but the thread did not stay on crossword puzzles throughout.
Reagle was there, but he was not embodied as the actual person that he is, a dark-haired man with a goatee and wearing glasses. Instead, he was Lindsay Wagner, an actress whose heyday was a few decades ago who most recently has been hawking high-end mattresses in TV commercials. There was another puzzle maker there, too (unnamed in the dream, perhaps an amalgam of a plurality of puzzle makers), of whose puzzles I was not particularly fond. He was embodied by Kelsey Grammer, a square-jawed, rich voiced actor whose fame peaked as a sitcom star, but was lately taking more dramatic roles. I did not interact with him much except to note his glowering stare in my direction.
While basking in the presence of puzzle makers and fellow cruciverbal enthusiasts, someone shouted, “Allahu Akbar!”
Someone – maybe it was me – responded, “Don’t say that!”
“Why not?” queried Lindsay. “Do you know what it means?”
“Yes. God is great.”
“Are you saying God is not great?”
“Not at all,” I muttered. Then I was struck by an urge to thank God for the gift of crossword puzzles.
“You want to thank God?”
“You want to sing praises to God?”
“Yes. Praise and thanksgiving.”
“Then you know where you are.”
I was taken aback by Lindsay’s remark. Suddenly the place seemed much, much larger than I had perceived it to be. The crossword puzzle group was surrounded by many other groups, much the same way a crossword puzzle is but a small portion of a Sunday newspaper, only more immense than a Sunday newspaper, if you can imagine that.
Suddenly, I became aware that my daughter was here in Heaven in the music section, and I could be with her. I never did see her face during the dream, but I had access to wherever she was.
“People don’t create,” Lindsay told me, steering my perceptions in a new direction. “They tap into Creation.”
That was the impetus for the momentum of my train of thought. “People don’t create: They tap into creation.” That means that Merl Reagle didn’t create amusing crossword puzzles I considered to be creative, but rather he tapped into the vast reservoir of Creation. Beethoven didn’t create music – he tapped into creation.
“And your daughter,” Lindsey interjected, unprompted.
My daughter sang beautifully in her life, and now she is singing at the source of her gift.
“You’re thinking in terms of the past. Past tense is irrelevant,” Lindsay advised. “Language is an earthly construct, and it’s finite.”
My mind took another trip down the train tracks. Language is finite. Science is finite. Religion….
“Religion is finite. You cannot understand all there is about the nature of Creation. Language limits your ability to comprehend. It’s useful on Earth, but here it is irrelevant. Your gender-specific pronouns, some languages assigning gender to inanimate objects – all limiting.”
“Are you God?” I tepidly but still-too-boldly asked Lindsay.
Her cold stare as a response did not answer my question. I took that to mean that I had to decide that for myself. Maybe she was God. Maybe she was the Son of God. Maybe she was me, or some form of me. Maybe she was none-of-the-above. There’s that past tense again.
So Mozart and Zappa tap into creation. Newton and Einstein and Hawking tap into creation. But their understandings are in terms of earthly human constructs, and therefore finite. And Hawking is a noted non-believer….
“Belief is finite,” Lindsay finally spoke. “You have said yourself that you believe in God only because you want to. You say ‘God,’ I say ‘Creation.’ Either way, your understanding is finite. You have said that whether there is one True God, or multiple gods, or no god, what’s true is true, and what one believes is irrelevant to what is true. Within the construct of time, you can change your mind about what you believe, but it is nonetheless irrelevant what you believe.”
I pondered the bible, the holy scripture of Christianity. I have said that a God worthy of worship and praise cannot possibly be contained by a book, or a stack of books, or any volume of books. Scripture, like all earthly things, is finite. The universe is a vast place, and our galaxy is a small speck in it. And our solar system is a small speck in the galaxy, and our planet is a small speck in the solar system, and we are small specks on Earth, our only known home in the universe. What an arrogant conceit that God can be contained in something we can hold in one hand! And as finite as it is, still we get it wrong. Assuming God, of course. But that’s another essay.
I am no expert in interpreting dreams or divining meaning from them. For the most part, I don’t even remember dreams no matter how seemingly meaningful they are at the time I am having them. Usually when I do remember a dream, it’s because I spoke of it out loud the next morning. Dreams otherwise disappear from my memory very quickly. This dream of heaven was one that I kept having lying awake well before my usual waking hour, and I did not want to drift back to sleep for fear of losing it. But in this dream, I was not having original thoughts. I likely have never had an original thought in my life and probably never will. What I think I am doing, daily and in this dream, is tapping Creation.
My dream consisted of elements that were already familiar to me. It was a heaven in which belief – or lack thereof – was irrelevant. It was a heaven where maybe all my questions would be answered, but because I am a mere mortal having a dream, my current understanding is limited by the finite constructs of my terrestrial observations and experience. It was a place where I could be reunited with departed loved ones. (Or maybe not-yet-departed loved ones, seeing as how past- and present tenses are limited and irrelevant.) It was a physical realm that could be experienced with my earthly senses because I am presently unable to process it otherwise.
Here on the physical Earth, belief or lack thereof seems to be highly relevant to a great many people. Some even go as far as to kill over it. To my way of thinking, requiring others to believe as I do is a decidedly ungodly way to interact with other people. It violates the so-called Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Would you have others require you to believe as they do? Or how about the first five verses of Matthew 7, starting out “Judge not lest you be judged,” and going on to say we shouldn’t go about pointing out ‘specks in the eyes’ of others while disregarding ‘logs’ in our own. Judging others is what we do reflexively even though the Matthew 7 verses are attributed to Jesus himself. It bothers me that ‘Christians’ are so prolific at invoking the name of Jesus while practically dismissing what Jesus did and said and taught, per scripture, the very scripture they claim to cherish and regard as inerrant and infallible.
Another thing that bothers me about ‘Christians’ and makes me think they are ruining Christianity for me; certainty. They say they know there is a God, and that they know that Christianity is the one true path to a blissful life everlasting, and they know that all other religions are wrong. But they don’t know. They believe. They cannot know until they enter that next realm, and then they won’t be in a position to report back to us. The heaven of my dream is an awesome place, but I do not know that ‘place’ is an appropriate word to describe it. Maybe heaven is just as I want it to be. Maybe, as a non-believer might offer, when we die, our energy still exists in the universe. I am not going to claim to know anything that belongs in the arena of faith and belief. But I maintain that on Earth as it is in my dream Heaven, belief is irrelevant to what’s true.
Consider: I was born into a Christian family, raised with the Christian faith, and have attended Christian worship services my whole life. What further evidence is required to prove Christianity is the One True Faith? … Uh…. That’s one hell of a conceit! But who tries out all of the religions to see which is the best fit? Who has the time?
Something else that is irrelevant in my dream Heaven (and therefore also on Earth); blasphemy. Assuming there is One True God, that God is as big as the universe. That God is omnipresent, all-knowing, all-forgiving, gracious, merciful, loving. It does not stand to reason (pardon the paradox) that such a God would write off part of Creation for something as trivial as non-belief or hurling insults. How could I possibly hurt God’s feelings? I believe that an all-everything God can forgive any blasphemy or heresy or non-belief or hate I can direct. Such a God understands me, an imperfect vessel, better than I understand myself. And if I’m wrong about the omni-God, if God does condemn people for their transgressions and banish them to Hell for all eternity, well then that God is a punk. That God is a diminished deity, unworthy of worship or praise. It does not make sense to me to believe in, let alone worship or praise, a God for fear of punishment for not believing, or believing wrong, or not believing strongly enough, or not constantly enough. A God that demands laud and honor strikes me as needy and thin-skinned. Why believe in a God that’s so… human?
Yeah, I know. Jesus was God in human form. Pardon my use of scripture as my guide, but wasn’t Jesus more than human? Wasn’t he transcendent? Wasn’t he gracious, forgiving, merciful, loving? Was he not forgiving even of those who killed him? Did he not show grace and mercy to the adulteress and the tax collector and the skeptic? He did not seem to be in the damning business. The way I view many people who invoke the name of Jesus is that they don’t put down their stones. They embrace the name of Jesus but the operating philosophy of the Pharisees. I can’t do that. That’s no God to me. If you insist on calling that heresy, then I’m a heretic.
I consider it of utmost importance, therefore, that my dream Heaven had people of other faiths (“Allahu Akbar!”) and non-believers in it. If God is universal and ubiquitous, if God cares at all about us tiny specks on a dinky planet in an immeasurably vast universe, then there is room in eternity for all of us specks. And that’s based on the finite parameters of our physical being. Humans on Earth have tapped into Creation from time immemorial, before forming a concept of deity. Someone discovered applications for fire (and yet the great chefs of the world pay that person no royalties!) and someone discovered uses for simple tools. These people certainly predated written language and possibly spoken language as well. Great discoveries that have advanced humanity – even if it can be argued that God had a hand in them – came about regardless of acknowledgement of God’s hand. God did not then take away fire or levers or wheels until such a time that God could be credited.
Here is what a mere mortal such as myself understands about creation: Creation is more difficult and requires more effort than destruction. Destruction is easy! How much easier and quicker it is to knock over a tower of building blocks than it is to construct it! Small children know this. Amateur critics criticize because it is easier than making reasoned alternative solutions to problems. Reflexive haters spew hate because it is easier than trying to understand a differing point of view. Terrorists terrorize because that’s what is within the reach of their resources. If they could build a functioning society, they would do that. But tearing down what others have built is way, way easier. And issuing threats is easier still, especially in the absence of resources to carry them out.
Destroying is easier than creating, killing is easier than negotiating and cooperating, hating is easier than loving or respecting.
I am not dismissing the role destruction plays in creation. Death is a part of life. Some buildings have to be demolished to make way for parks or wilderness restoration or new buildings. Fires are naturally occurring events in healthy forests. Seismic activity plays a part in creating land. But hating and killing and bombing do not seem to me to be part of a cycle or have regenerative components to them. Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe my human limitations make me fail to comprehend a natural role for hate and killing and destruction. Maybe these things will become clearer in my heaven when Lindsay Wagner explains it to me. I mean Merl Reagle.
So Creation is my religion. If it is less true than yours, kindly make your case. Just don’t rely on scripture to make that case, because scripture is limited. And don’t tell me how certain you are. If you are as absolutely, irrefutably correct as you believe yourself to be, then make an argument that would convince a non-believer. Or someone of a completely different faith.
If God is as big as the universe, then there is room for your expression of faith or lack thereof. Omni-God is not going to quibble with, “No, no, no, you’re doing it wrong!” Omni-God is not going to thank you for the shout-outs in our pledges of allegiance or on our currency, or any other inclusions in our various forms of idolatry. Omni-God is not going to punish you for the idolatry, or for cursing Omni-God, or denying Omni-God’s existence. Omni-God is Creation, and Creation exists for us to tap into.
Thus, I am a Creationist.
** Sad note: I originally posted this on June 3, 2015. Less than two months later, August 21, the crossword puzzle maker Merl Reagle died from a sudden illness. My wife and I have been missing his entertaining 21×21 grids ever since. I think he is irreplaceable.