C is for Circles
C is for Circles
I’ve been resisting writing on this topic since it first drew my attention. I’ve been “circling” around it ever since. The Gladwellian “Tipping Point” that led to my actually putting these words down was when I was reminded of a classic definition of God:
The nature of God is a circle
of which the center is everywhere
and the circumference is nowhere.
Almost at once I was flooded with circle images and phrases: Inner circle; outer circle; going around in circles; expanding circles; contracting circles; hamster cage circles; circling for a landing; social circles; spirals; cycles of nature; going full circle; circles of us and them; etc. Then I thought, “What if Empedocles was on to something?” That meant that God was everywhere and anywhere that I could be aware of. That all awareness was of the infinite nature of God.
Now, let me get the word “God” dealt with so I can go on. As a former active minister in the Presbyterian Church I was quite comfortable with this word. Then I got psychologyized and liberated and evolved into using synonyms as a way to not have to deal with miscellaneous baggage associated with this word. I tried a full range: higher power; Spirit; Nature; the Goddess; the Self; etc. Finally two things became clear to me: one, the euphemism route just felt like cheating; and, two, I missed “God” in the sense that experiences I’d had associated with that word had been very rich and meaningful to me and I wanted to re-claim that heritage. I’m not talking about the Patriarchal Cosmic Accountant. I’m talking about what I experienced beyond the theological constructs and creeds. I’m talking about what connected me to life in the fullest senses rather than what reduced things down to dualistic categories of right and wrong, black and white, good and bad. The closest word for those experiences is Grace. If you push me I would admit I am very drawn to the Tao insofar as it speaks to this issue in the opening words of the Tao te Ching: “The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.” I think this is a big part of why I like Empedocles so much. So, “God” it is.
The next step was to consider what I mean by circles and how circles come into being. For now, since this is a topic in progress, I’m using the word “circle” to speak to any and all experiences of awareness. I suspect that there is really only one big circle, but whenever I am able to be present and aware a “franchise” circle is created. I’m going to assume that each of us has our own franchise and all kinds of circles are being drawn all the time without anybody having to get permission from me. That’s a relief.
It would seem that what I am saying is that God is at the center of all human experience. That quickly leads to another old issue: what about evil? Since so much of our experience as humans includes suffering, pain, and death do I want to put God in the center of those circles as well? Yep. Otherwise Empedocles would be pissed off at me; and, it would suggest that there are limits on God. I’m not interested in such a cleaned up version of God.
Now we’re getting to it. If God is at the center of all the circles of our existence and we don’t draw the circles we only become aware of whatever circle we’re capable of, then that changes the whole game for our dear old egos. We suddenly find our place at the center of the/our universe very relativized to say the least. I think of a t-shirt I’ve always fantasized about creating. On the front it says: “Don’t they know who I am?” And, on the back, it says, “Who do they think they are?”
The stumbling block is that we like the “Wow!” parts of hanging out in the circle with God, but we aren’t so thrilled about the “Ow!” experiences. Once again the Buddha nailed it with the whole grasping and aversion reality. In spite of all the experience to the contrary we think we can beat the system and avoid suffering. We can’t. The Circle has to be inclusive. We are not the center of the circle, but now we can be aware of the circle and expand our awareness of how vast it is and begin to see and experience our relationship to the nature of God.
My job description has now changed. Can I open my awareness to the Circle of life in all its fullness? Or, as I am fond of saying, “How much life can you stand?”
I intend to write more on this topic and hope you find it of value. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized