Thoughts on God, Perfection, and the Human Condition

I’m standing by a river in the Hiroshima peace park watching boys play guitars under a bridge; I’m staring down at the person I love- gold light all around us: in his eyes in his hair; I’m driving down the road in the pouring rain with all the windows down and Mozart’s Requiem blasting from the speakers. Each image different, each place something new, but one thing is the same in every picture: tears are pouring down my face. They stream down my cheeks but my eyes are not clouded, they are clear, they are staring at those boy’s under the bridge, the person I love, the rain on the road- with eyes wider then they have ever been, clearer then they have ever seen. I’m not crying because I’m sad, or angry, or hurt: I’m crying because God smashes right into you.
When I say God I don’t really mean it. I don’t believe in God; I don’t believe in the thing that acts like an R-rated version of Santa Clause, sending doom and punishment from his fingers and defining right and wrong as he goes. No, when I say God what I mean is infinity. The word God is just an excuse to describe everything we don’t know, everything we can’t understand, and everything that is beyond man: its infinity. However, when I say it smashes into you I mean exactly that. It’s not like being happy; it’s not like bliss. Say your walking down the street and you’re having a pretty average morning. You look around and you see the sun is out and the shop owners smiling at you and the air has that nice thick summer ooziness too it. You smile and feel happy and go on through your day with a light carefree mood that feels like the way lilacs smell and the way pound cake tastes. Now when you see God, when you see the infinite is doesn’t just ooze and creep and sift and splash like dew or honey it smashes you full out, like someone punching every single part of your body at once, only suddenly your body can’t feel pain, suddenly your body isn’t your body: its atoms, its spinning masses created and spun by nothing else but life and everything around you is the same, everything is life and it is all so full of the ever blinding beauty that the only thing you can do is stand with this ultimate reality- this overbearing presence of the infinite- of creation, the unlimited presence life smashing straight into every single piece of you, and then suddenly you realize: it’s beautiful it’s so beautiful and I am man. Then you cry.
Now, you’ve got to understand that this isn’t me preaching about being some divine prophet who can see the meaning of life in an ice creams cone abandoned on the ground- anyone can do that. This “experience” is something that every person will have at some point in his or her lives, in someway, some how, everyone will see clearly through their eyes. After all, its in all the movies; Brad Pitt smacks over the screen in fight club with a clear motive to create a perfect world, the father from American Beauty sees through the cloud of suburban lifestyle and takes every step to make the most of his life, even Frodo overcomes the power of the one ring and lets himself be carried to the afterlife with a smile on his face. Everyone will see this overall truth, this sudden realization of their place in time. Some will dwell on it and hold it tightly forever, like the monks up in the Himalayas striving for nirvana; others will (much as myself) try to slap a definition on this feeling, but no matter how people reach it, no matter what form it comes in or how they react the this new perspective there is one this that it definitely is not: it is not innocence.
So many insist that the true nature of humans, the way we should be and the only way we can see God and truly exist is through returning to the condition of humanity before she snapped her jaws around that apple. People insist that innocence is bliss, that we all would be better off running around as innocent child-minded creatures in a garden full of beauty, divinity, and nothing else but perfection. However, if this is what we really should be we need to ask ourselves: what does perfect mean? If everything was perfect, if we are supposed to exist in this innocent bliss surrounded by beauty, then all we would ever know is perfect, and if there is no imperfect- if there is no ugly, no pain, no hate or rage or passion or trials there is no longer beautiful, there is nothing to contrast, everything is the same. Everything would be beautiful but there would be nothing else and therefore everything, every flower, every blade of grass, every innocent emotion would be the exact same and the word beauty, the idea beauty would not exist. No, when we bit the apple we did not destroy the ideal human condition we opened our eyes. We can see ugly and we can hear pain and from that, from the trials and trials that the world throws in our faces we will lean to overcome. Anyone can see, anyone can look: it is the apple that has given use the opportunity to overcome these bonds of sight- to not just see or hear or taste or smell or feel exactly what is placed before us but what is beyond matter. We can look before us and say: this is. When infinity smacks you in the face, when you suddenly see your purpose, your position and your humanity swirling through this massive galaxy of beauty and life, the reason you see is because you bit the apple, the reason you see is because without knowledge, without being smashed into with ideas of “this is that” and “square is square” and “bad is bad”, there is no way you have the opportunity to overcome it and see that everything simply is. Innocence is bliss but knowledge is the gate to infinity.
The last time I saw infinity I was going to see Michelangelo’s David. I’m an artist and I have spent years studying and re-creating the human form and have gotten pretty good at it so I figured I am obligated to pay the supposed “greatest piece of art” a visit. I almost decided against it but finally I tossed myself in the massive line and waited. I waited and waited and sifted past the stands with David’s image all over posters and calendars, pencils and baseball caps, even certain unsightly pieces plastered over Italian flag colored boxers. Finally, I entered the gallery, paid for the ticket and headed towards the sculpture. I got there, glanced at it, recognized that it was what I thought it would be, then grabbed my sketchbook (as I had been planning to draw it) and sat on a bench far enough away to draw and slightly to the statues left. I pulled open my little notebook, took out my pencil, put my eyes on my subject and then I stopped. I stared and I stared and then the tears started to fall down my face. I knew the feeling all too well, that feeling of sudden clarity and perfection. I stared at this sculpture- inside of every speck of stone was all the beauty of the infinite. I couldn’t look at the whole thing, all I could do was take it inch by inch: an eye, a finger, a bone, to look at the whole thing and truly see it, to stare at this creation and totally take in the entirely of its genius in one moment is impossible for one bound by earth to accomplish. It was divine, it was perfection, it was the most incredible thing I had ever seen- but then almost instantly another realization converged: this is man. This work of art- this piece of God was not made by the divine it was carved by a man. David is not a Greek god or a figure from the bible as any other sculpture I had seen on the Florentine streets that day: he was simple a man. Suddenly his form was that of everything: it held the laughter of those boys under the bridge, it shone as clears as the gold light surrounding me and that boy lying on my bed, the shape of his limbs held the perfect structure of the notes of Mozart’s Requiem, every single piece of the beauty was smashed into this stone and yet, it was made by man. Without the knowledge that apple gave us, without the ability to see the contrasts of our world, there would be no opportunity to overcome those ideas, to overcome the contrasts and recognize the overall state of being: this statue, this piece of the universe overcame that contrast with a perfection that only knowledge and then learning to forget it can bring. I sat there, with this smashing right into me and I cried.
So, I suppose the final question is why leave it behind? Why see this infinity, touch this meaning of life, this ultimate truth and then simply let it fade and fall back into average day-to-day activities with homework and road rage and all of that “average American life” nonsense. I fall back to reality because I want to consume my humanity. No matter where I have seen God, it all fell back on one thing: life. I will breathe love and scream hate. I will stare joy and spit anger. I will live my life full of every emotion that comes upon me; I will bathe in my passions and let them drench me with life until there is nothing left to soak up. But, no matter what I do, no matter where I go or what I see, I will know my place in the infinite, and the last thing I will ever do is forget.

Thoughts on God, Perfection, and the Human Condition


Joined March 2008

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