Wednesday, January 09, 2008

My four-year-old niece called me just now from the barbershop where her big brother was getting a haircut. At first there’s just heavy breathing on the phone. Then her husky little voice, saying “Aunt Alison.” She’s going to be four tomorrow. I’m giving her a copy of Koko’s Kitten, a book about a chimp who adopted a kitten. My sister says she’s been asking a lot of questions about death lately, maybe it’s some developmental thing—my other niece, the same age, different family, seems to be going through it as well.

“I know you have a special birthday tomorrow,” I told Lucy.

“I’m going to be four!” she reported proudly. “How old are you?”

“Uh…forty-nine.” A pause while she tried to make sense of this astronomically high number. “That’s pretty old, huh?” I added helpfully.

“That means you’re probably going to die soon,” she responded. I laughed. But it gave me pause. In many African countries, life expectancy is less than forty. Approaching menopause, I’m also approaching borrowed time, bonus time, time my ancestors probably didn't have. My ex-husband died at age forty-five. My good friend just received a terrible diagnosis. Nothing is promised or guaranteed.

The other day a friend who is also a good friend of Carla's said that she was “angry at a God she didn’t even believe in.”

I’m not.

I believe in God, but I don’t believe God is a person-like entity who gives people ALS or cancer. I think God is a vast creative energy that our puny human consciousnesses cannot even begin to comprehend. I believe we are all molecules in the body of God.

There’s a guy in Brazil, I think people call him St. John. One of my writing students told me about him. People come from all over the world to get healings for incurable conditions from him. There are surgeons in the Philippines who operate without using knives, anesthesia or blood. They put their hands into the ailing human body and come up with the tumor and throw it away.

Maybe the God I believe in is Physics and Chemistry, but not just the Physics and Chemistry that have been "discovered" by humans so far. I mean, all the Physics in the Universe, the dimensions we haven't mapped yet, the subtleties scientists are just now uncovering or will uncover in a hundred years if we don't burn ourselves up first.

Like Chekhov I believe, I hope, people of the future may be smarter than we are now. they may figure out some of the things we do not as yet know.

I believe in people like St. John, and other healers, even though I don't know how they do what they do--I don't know how an X-ray works either, or aspirin, or electricity, or this computer I'm typing on. It's just another type of technology. If there can be lasers and ultrasounds, if we know that matter is not solid, but that we are indeed a roiling mass of moving molecules, if we know now that everything in the Universe is connected, then why not people who can work with energy flows, who can reverse even grim diseases like ALS, who can perform miracles? Why not?

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