God is Not a Person
Having been stimulated by Pirsig's works, I decided to write some of the results of that stimulation in the form of some small essays. They are very rough drafts with many holes I'm sure, but they are my fledgling attempts at putting some of elements of the metaphysics of quality in to "every day" use. Please give feedback as to whether this essay is interesting, banal, having some sort of potential or whatever. It would be much appreciated and very helpful. My e-mail address is: email@example.com.
I've got a revelation that may be of some interest to you. It seems simple and maybe a little ludicrous but it could turn your world inside out and clear up all the emptiness and pessimism and confusion that you may feel about the world and your place in it. And here it is: God is not a person.
Think about it for a second. What is it you're told from the moment you were old enough to go to Sunday school? Obey the Ten Commandments or God will punish you. If you're bad, you won't go to Heaven. You have to pray every night. You have to turn your life over to Him. God will provide. God is the creator of all things.
Or maybe you've heard it around. "God smiled on us today." "God bless you." "The Good Lord willing..." Or maybe you bought the song by Garth Brooks which says, "I thank God for unanswered prayers/Be careful when you're talking to the man upstairs/Just because He doesn't answer doesn't mean He doesn't care/Some of God's greatest gifts/Are unanswered prayers." Seemingly harmless references all but what exactly is being ingrained into our minds? God is an all-powerful, all-knowing super-person sitting up in the clouds, screening simultaneous prayers from all over the globe instantly determining their merit and desert, making sure pious sports teams triumph, filling devout players with extra sports power, regulating churches of all denominations to see who's attending and who isn't while seeing if the proper homage is paid to Him (he's probably a vain super-person), and all the while providing personal inspiration to individuals everywhere, from masons to song-writers to athletes to ditch-diggers. It sounds crazy but isn't this essentially what we're taught to think? Isn't this what we hear every day?
So it is at this point that the really smart people say, "Ha, HA! I have exposed the myth of God and all of his followers! There is no God because that scenario is ridiculous! I don't believe in God! How smart I am!" And so this chasm between believers and non-believers is created. Non-believers feel something tugging at the back of their skull but can't explain it even to themselves and non-believers say, "Prove it, I dare you." The non-believers can't prove it and so no progress is made. The believers are stuck clinging to their super-person because they want to be good while the non-believers are stuck clinging to their doubt because they want to be smart.
But look what happens when you turn everything inside out. What if everyone stays right where they are and simply does this. Decide (just for a second) that God isn't a person. Decide that God is an entity that can't be measured or tabulated or decoded or defined. In fact, God can't even fit into the word "God" because words are tangible and God isn't. Now if that much is granted, God begins to look startlingly similar to Robert Pirsig's Quality as revealed in his books Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila. To cheaply condense about nine-hundred pages, Pirsig says this. In our world, there exists an obvious, indefinable thing that we call quality. We all know what it is (anyone can tell if something is of high-quality or not) yet we can't put it into any category. It pervades everything and in fact, Pirsig shows how it's logical to conclude that Quality precedes everything. Quality exists even before we recognize it and when we do, Quality shapes completely the way we recognize it. In that regard, Pirsig says, Quality creates the world.
Isn't that interesting? My, my that's a nice story but with all due respect, so what? Well, real quietly without anyone seeing you, juxtapose the word "God" with "Quality". Do you see what happens? Quality exists before we recognize it; God exists before we recognize it. Quality precedes and thus creates the world; God precedes and thus creates the world. We all know what Quality is; we all know what God is. Think about what that says. We all know what God is. All of a sudden God has done everything the Bible says He's done but is not something found exclusively in the Bible or in churches or up in the mountains of Tibet. God is something we all feel every day. God is accessible. If we see something that is high in quality, that something is high in "God-stuff". If someone is of high quality, that someone has a high content of God in him. To get closer to God, make yourself have high quality. Now everything is starting to make sense.
If I am to lead the best life possible, I should strive to make sure my life has high quality. I will of course follow the Ten Commandments, anyone who does obviously would have high quality. I won't injure other people, I won't steal, I won't lie, I won't deceive. I will also follow the tenets of all other major religions because they all try to help me lead a quality life. But what I won't do is condemn others for not believing exactly the way I do. I won't look down on others because of semantics. I won't feel strange caring about a "Jew" if I happen to be a "Christian." If any of my alter-denominational friends are of high quality then we both seek the same God. The uneasiness created by trying to appease God-the-person is gone.
Furthermore, I wouldn't be confused by the nauseating hypocrisy of part-time believers who spew Bible verses while their kids are in re-hab or the Fellowship of Christian Athletes spokespeople whose mouths utter the foulest obscenities in the heat of the battle. I won't boorishly numb people with religious platitudes while being seen me as the overweight, out-of-touch, under-achieving person I really am. I won't use religion as a cover for my own weaknesses or as an excuse not to achieve in the every-day world. I will walk the walk and people will respect me. After all, if you went to a gym to work out, who would you ask for help? The bulging Adonis benching the stack or the skinny, bald guy in the corner saying he's got it all figured out and this is the way you should do it. Why do you think people like Tony Robbins are so popular? Because people think they've done what they want to do. In other words, they are of high quality and the listeners want to be that way too.
If you really think about it, a person of God should be an amazing person. A person of God should be good at everything, a hero of Homeric proportions. After all, a person of God would have the highest quality imaginable, right? Do you think perhaps that this sort of person should be sermonizing in the churches rather than what we've got? Do you think if all the movie stars and super-star athletes and rock-stars were ministers that people would be interested? But as it stands now, the church doesn't represent the highest quality. The highest God maybe but not the highest quality. And it is in that statement that lies the failure of the church and the reason that the late Lenny Bruce once said, "Everywhere people are leaving the church and going back to God." It just doesn't feel right to think that you can be a perfect person of the highest quality, loving and striving and acting as a role-model to hundreds and still not go to Heaven because God is mad at you for not believing in the exact fashion that your church has outlined for you.
By not locking yourself into a premise that leads to the absurd and then inter-mixing "God" and "Quality", life becomes a lot clearer. It also becomes a lot easier to believe in God. In fact, it becomes downright impossible not to believe. You know the way you feel when you do something absolutely perfect? That's God. You the way you feel when you do something nice for someone for no reason at all? That's God. You remember what you felt the first time you looked at your wife? That's God. The only way you can't believe is to not feel any quality ever. And that's ridiculous.
So a final question is: how does one lead a pious life? Simply search out quality feelings with all your heart, all the time and never stop. If you want to pray to Him, do something of quality. If you want to honor Him, do something of quality. Open your mind and open your heart. God and Quality have been there all along. All you've got to do is pay attention.