Sunday, March 09, 2008

Q: Where is God?

A: Somewhere beyond language.

A long time ago when I was a composition student in college and pretending be the next Maurice Ravel, I got into a heated discussion with a professor about Beethoven’s real intentions during a certain passage in the Lenore Overture. I was like a dog on a bone; I wasn’t going to give up on my hare brained idea no matter what. Finally, the prof said, “Look, Beethoven’s dead, we can’t ask him what his intentions were, he left no writing behind to tell us, thus we can’t really talk about it. Let’s move on to what we can talk about, the music.”

Fast forward 35 years.

Over the last few years I have been spending more than cursory time thinking about God. I’ll admit that I am doing so out of fear, mostly because of what I see as the late 20th Century re-emergence of religion as a military-political force . And, where you have religion, you have a notion of the intention of God. There seems to be a lot of messaging going in the cultural landscape about the Word of God, the Will of God, what God wants, Judeo-Christian Nations, Islamic Nations, etc…. It seems as if a lot of people out there have a serious take on God.

Me? I think that that God just might be something that we cannot talk about.

Let’s face it, there are things that exist and are experienced in a place beyond language. Take hunger for example. I had hunger way before I could wrap language around it and ask my mother what was for dinner. Maybe God lives in that space—real, known, yet inapplicable to language. I mean, would you rather talk about hunger or eat?

So, if God is beyond language, what are we to do?

To quote Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen.” (What we cannot speak of we must pass over in silence.)


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