A number of years ago, the country was in the throes of a bit of a cultural fad. It was those posters, the ones that appeared like splotchy nonsense but which everybody swore if you stared at it long enough in just the right way would cause a three-dimensional image to leap off the surface of the paper.
I tried to see them. Over and over again. Followed the advice of those who claimed expertise at seeing these optical illusions. I wanted to see them. But I never once saw a single visual phantom hovering in space. Not one. So I did the only face-saving thing I could do in the face of a complete inability to experience what others….many others….claimed could be experienced.
I called bullshit.
It was done tongue in cheek, obviously, but the line I took was that it was a grand conspiracy to make me feel stupid. This “special effect” was bogus. Non-existent. A lie that left others feeling quite satisfied at their ability to do something I could not.
Of course, this response was not a true expression of my thoughts. After all, who was I to say that the lived experience of another human being was false just because I couldn’t participate in it myself? It was certainly disappointing to be left out but clearly the inability to shout out “Me too!” was nothing to do with others and everything to do with me.
For reasons still unknown, I could not or would not see what others clearly claimed to be seeing. My response was not to seriously claim conspiracy or accuse others of being dishonest or even worse, delusional.
On the other hand, when it comes to matters of faith, spirituality, and belief in God, I seem to have landed amid the numbers of people who claim quite openly to have had experience with the Divine. I have seen, heard, felt, and been moved by a presence that a good many other people have not seen, heard, or felt.
That not everybody has been able to share the experiences I’ve had is not a big surprise. And I am no more in a position to explain why that is the case with God than it was with images projected from a printed poster surface. I’ve seen God. Continue to see God. But others don’t. Fair enough.
Except that the people who are unable or unwilling to see God often take up the response to claims that God is really there to be seen with the rhetorical dodge that I once put foward as a joke. They can’t see God so they argue, quite often with a lot of snide condescention and a heavy salivation of bile that there is no God. If they don’t or can’t see it, then it’s not really there at all.
That people like me who do see are either lying or delusional.
That’s an accusation that ranges from arrogant to out and out rude. Who is anybody to tell me that I have not seen what I have seen? Not heard what I have heard? And not only do they firmly cling to the position that there is no God to be seen, but they invent all manner of rationalization intended to explain away my own lived experience.
Why? So they can’t fault their inability to see what I have seen by turning my experience into something trivial they can wave away and dismiss. They cook up all manner of scientific theory to feel good about themselves by negating and then riduculing what has been quite real in my own life.
As it turns out, I get along just fine in a world where I appear to be the only person who can’t defocus my eyes and make magic pictures rise up from the face of a poster. And it offends me not in the least to share the world with others who swear that what I never once saw they were able to see repeatedly. They say they saw the sailboat, circus clown, puppy, or whatever hidden treasure was waiting to be spotted within printed spots. Their experience is quite different from mine.
Trying to launch a crusade to paint those who saw those things as liars or idiots is both a waste of time and energy. I just accept that others got a peek at the world that I never got to see. I don’t beat myself up for that lack. And I certainly don’t try to run down those who had a different experience. It is what it is.
So you can’t see God. Or hear God. That’s a pity, if for no other reason than the quite plain perception among those of us who do see and hear God that you’re missing out on something extra that enriches my life. But do the rest of us who get that extra experience a favor? Don’t be running us down or bad mouthing us for what is plainly your limitation.
You may not get as complete an experience as someone else does. And you may be just fine with that. I have no need to trash people who saw floating images I never saw. The bigger pity is people who cannot or do not see God but feel compelled to purchase their peace of mind by trashing others like me. You’re certainly having no luck talking me out of my lived experience.
That kind of conceit does not make God any smaller to me. But it does make those who feel so compelled seem a good deal more flat.