My dad and I once had a contest to see who could come up with an absolutely, inarguably true statement. After discarding fun but somewhat meaningless platitudes, such as “it is what it is” and “that’s the way the cookie crumbles,” we came up with a single assertion that I feel is both useful and true: It’s all one.
That is, no matter whether you lean toward the physical or metaphysical, the nihilistic or the spiritual, ultimately we’re all part of one… something. It’s fun to argue the nature of that One—whether our one universe is part of a greater one multiverse, or is an illusion, or a simulation—but ultimately it still comes down to One. And we—you and I, and everything else—are part of it.
Years later I was tickled to find that the intellectual-pop group “They Might Be Giants” had recorded a fun children’s song that captured this idea beautifully, with lyrics such as:
What if you drew a giant circle
What if it went around all there is
Then would there still be such a thing as an outside
And does that question even make any sense?
There is, of course, a question about what we should call that One Thing that we are part of. It’s tricky for a couple of reasons. First, words tend to define boundaries (they indicate “this, but not that”) and we’re talking about something that has no boundaries. Second, words always trigger connotations (ideas or feelings we associate with the word), and those reactions can make communication difficult.
So if I use the word “God,” there’s a good chance that you’ll have some kind of emotional reaction. Similarly, you’ll have a different kind of reaction if I say multiverse, Brahman, Allah, quantum reality… Some words you’ll find yourself pushing away from and some of them you may find yourself attracted to.
But the important thing is not the word, but rather the underlying meaning. Personally, I’m comfortable calling it “God,” but that’s only because of years of practice re-interpreting it to mean “everything” or “the singular that appears to us as many.” That is why I have no problem using “god” in the same sentence as “physics,” though I understand some people find that distasteful. I keep emphasizing: It’s just a word.
Part of It
This idea of being part of that one thing is, in my opinion, at the heart of innerfaith. In J.D. Salinger’s classic short story Teddy, a young boy makes a fascinating realization: “I was six when I saw that everything was God… It was on a Sunday, I remember. My sister was only a very tiny child then, and she was drinking her milk, and all of a sudden I saw that she was God and the milk was God. I mean, all she was doing was pouring God into God, if you know what I mean.”
I think many of us have had similar realizations—a ha! moments when we notice that what’s going on behind my eyes is part of the same system as what’s going on behind yours. At a subatomic level, you simply cannot tell the difference between where my finger ends and the keyboard begins, much less the energy that created this thought in my brain and the energy used by you reading it.
I’m not trying to be woo-woo here; I’m just saying that we humans have an extremely limited perspective on the universe, but that sometimes we get glimpses, or sense clues, that we are integrally, inseparably part of something bigger.
Our goal at Innerfaith is to point to that “something bigger,” to remind us all that it’s there… well, here… well, you know what I mean. There is only one everything, and it’s (you’re/we’re) amazing.