GRAHAM: Faith a bit like my lost toy rocket
A toy rocket got lost in the woods here last week.
It shot high in the sky until it almost disappeared. Then streamers popped out and the rocket sailed downward to some obscure spot behind a stand of poplar and larch.
Searching the damp undergrowth aroused plenty of mosquitoes, but the bright yellow and blue-finned cardboard tube remained invisible, despite its long orange streamers.
It’s there, though, because science in the smaller grades taught me that everything has to be somewhere and, so far, nothing has persuaded me otherwise. My toy rocket does exist. I heard it, saw it, felt it and even smelled the scorched launch pad. It remains lost simply because I’ve looked in all the wrong places.
The little rocket is like so many things we seek in life: things we can reach out and touch, like a car that doesn’t need maintenance every two weeks, a house that holds all our junk, or sneakers that really fit. They’re out there, they exist, but we just don’t have them.
Then there are the goals we can’t measure, things like love, happiness, success, acceptance, security and satisfaction.
Add to that list the need to feel part of something bigger than ourselves, something more powerful, something greater than the sum of humanity-plus-universe. Today’s plethora of New Age spirituality and rejigged ancient theologies demonstrates a yearning for something above and beyond our puny human understanding.
We humans seek somewhere or someone to visit in our hearts and minds, something holy and life-giving that can bless us as we wish to be blessed. We want a place to pour out our damaged selves and be refilled by something better and more encouraging than we can individually imagine.
Traditionalists, brought up in one religion or another, name this entity God, Manitou, Kesoo’lkw, Allah, Author, Lord, Almighty, Christ, Creator and as many other words as there are languages. We are confident in our particular visions of god-ship, and don’t care what anyone else thinks of our faith. We are often offensively smug in that certainty.
We know where the rocket sits, and we’ll walk you right to it once we persuade you to wade through swamps and thickets of thorns filled with fire-breathing alligators.
One the other end of the spectrum, scoffers say no deity exists, that everything we have and are comes from us and what we accomplish within, of course, the bounds of the sensible god, Science. The rocket is gone, it’s never coming back, and what were we thinking, playing with rockets in the first place?
In between sit the seekers. Traditional organized religions with their rules, petty politics and contradictory doctrines cause dismay and confusion that cloud their true meanings. But seekers know there is something out there, if only we can find it.
We’ll sing, dance, beat drums, consult oracles, turn over cards, light candles, watch the sky, ingest unusual substances, invent myths and almost anything else imaginable to satisfy our need for communion with the great soul that holds the universe.
We’re the ones running frantically in all directions trying to find that rocket, trying this way and that path until we sit, exhausted, lost and empty.
Then, boing! The rocket falls from a tree and hits us on the head. When that happens, it’s good to carry it with us, out of our wilderness.
Monica Graham is a freelance writer who lives in rural Pictou County.