God in the Eyes

Posted on 2018 December 23


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Out of nothing I have created a strange new universe. — Janos Bolyai

Is there a God? I have no idea.

But if there is one, He (or She or It) ought to be really, really impressive. The standard God who watches the Game Board of the Universe and occasionally moves some of the pieces, is so … so … human. And that’s a pretty low standard. I prefer a God who, as some people like to say, is immanent — everywhere in reality, imbuing everything. (Not that I have a vote in the matter.)

Many years ago, driving home from work on a city street in heavy traffic — brake lights winding into the distance, the surrounding hillsides dotted with the stylish-funky houses of artists and TV producers — I suddenly was overcome with the feeling that the whole world loved me. The sky embraced me, the hills hugged me, the houses smiled. It was very sweet. Now, don’t worry! The feeling quickly passed and I suffered no ill effects. Still, from that day forward I had the odd sensation that the outside world was somehow connected to me rather than separate.

My thinking about reality has continued to evolve, and lately my beliefs resemble Subjective Idealism. (Go ahead, look it up. I’ll wait.) The notion that there is a “real world” outside one’s awareness is, I’ve come to believe, utterly unprovable and moot. After all, how can you get outside your own awareness to find out?

Of course, over time we map our experiences until we can predict that, when we step outside and walk to the garage, we’ll find our car parked there. (Unless it’s been stolen.) I like to say, for example, “I can’t prove that the moon is always out there, but I can predict that when I look up tonight I’ll see a lovely white orb hanging in the sky.” It’s a small change in beliefs that, as a practical matter, has almost no effect on day-to-day life. (True, it might solve a problem in quantum mechanics, but that’s a different essay.) In any case, assuming there’s a reality separate from your awareness is like assuming there’s a God. Any evidence for it is beyond our reach. We can’t get there from here.

Ah, yes, God. Where does He (Or She Or It) fit into all this?

There’s no edge to my consciousness, so it’s not embedded in something else. But that also means there’s nothing outside awareness. Thus my awareness is all there is of reality. Period.

Seems a bit narcissistic. But bear with me and I’ll explain.

What about other people? Am I simply all alone in a kind of dream, someday to wake up and discover I’m really a tentacled alien in an alternate universe, strapped to a gurney in a mental hospital where they’ve injected me with really good drugs? Or, worse, do I dream my life and, when I die, wake up into another dream? And so on, forever?

Oh my goodness.

I prefer to think that other people have awareness just like I do, including actual feelings and sensations, and that we share a camaraderie of consciousness. If so, their awareness, like mine, must constitute all of reality. But how can each one of us be all there is? This gets totally weird until I remember that we deal with this sort of conundrum all the time in mathematics. An equation has two sides, each written quite differently, but each side is the same thing. And the sides can be rewritten endlessly and yet remain equal to each other. So maybe every human consciousness is in some sense equal to every other, even though your awareness differs quite a bit from mine or that weird lady down the street who has forty cats.

So how does God fit into all this? Imagine for a moment that your life is simply a dream and, as in all dreams, there’s nothing behind the dream, no “reality”. In effect, you’re God in your life dream — you’re immanent in every bit of it, because there’s no difference between “you” and the dream itself. It’s all one thing. Now imagine further that, in your life dream, you meet other people at home and at work, and every one of them is also God, having his or her dream that, like yours, contains all and everything. Each dream is like a side of an equation: yours equals mine equals hers equals his, etc etc. Thus God is everywhere, all the time, witnessing His own dream from zillions of viewpoints.

Now, this is a God truly worthy of respect.

I know what you’re thinking: “Jim is bonkers! I’m going to unfollow him.” Please bear with me a bit further.

We take you now to a holiday party at a relative’s house. Your creepy uncle and an uptight second cousin are there, along with a bunch of other relations, some of whom are okay and some you don’t much like but must kiss on the cheek when you meet them. Eww. Just this once, though, you pause for a moment, look into their eyes, and remember: “They’re God, too, dreaming of being a human.”

Suddenly each unpleasant person is simply God having a dream different from yours, feeling the ups and downs, hopes and sadness, just like you. They look out through their peepers and see you and have their own human reactions. The homeless person begging on the street corner, that annoying department head who treats you like you’re a brainless child — every one of them is God, dreaming.

Is any of this actually true? I have no idea. But somehow it’s refreshing and charming, not to judge others, but to seek out the timeless, the eternal, in them — to look, as it were, for God in the eyes of the people you meet.

And if you can see God in them, maybe they can see Him (or Her or It) in you.