By the Grace of “X”

Timeless child on hayrideOne of the great things about parenting is that in getting to explain things to our kids we are given opportunity to clarify and articulate our own thinking on matters ranging from why we can’t always just do whatever we want (i.e. have another cookie before dinner, not wear a seat-belt, or run out into the street) up through things like “why is the sky blue?” (do we answer as the science teacher, the poet or the priest?), and onto more thorny and loaded questions like “Where is Fido, now that the car hit him?”

Another interesting aspect of these questions is how our children’s minds evolve and are able not only to understand more abstract concepts over passing years, but they are also more able to challenge us on some of the “pap” we may have fed them in the past (just as we may challenge our own ancestors on what they have taught us).  “Fido is in heaven” may be a soothing answer to a five-year-old, but may be enraging to a fifteen-year-old, especially when it’s no longer “Fido” we’re talking about, but rather an innocent child, a parent or a close friend who has been hurt, gotten ill or died.  

Not only do our children evolve, but we parents also evolve in our own thinking and in our spiritual relationships to the world in all its good and bad aspects.  In fact, many a “mid-life crisis” might be better understood as a “spiritual transition.”  We truly need meaning and purpose, and we need to be free to ask our honest questions, even if we can expect no answers.

Religions are like living beings.  They hold spirit for awhile, but they are neither infallible nor immortal.  When Neitzsche says that “God is dead,” he may be understood as saying that the All-Good God of the Cathedral era has left the building, and that any living and relevant God who might capture the hearts and minds of the zeitgeist of the Western imagination will have to include the repressed and denied Dark aspect.  He is also saying that rational science has killed God—that we “enlightened” humans have killed him, and our churches have become God’s tomb.

Jung said, “That which we cannot be conscious of will materialize and meet us as our fate” while hard-drinking Dylan Thomas wrote, “Do not go gentle into that Good Night.  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  These punch-drunk champions of consciousness implore us to recognize the dark and the dreadful as part of our lived reality—for our collective well-being.

Our collective inability to recognize the essential, vivifying and awesome qualities of the Shadow, and a dogged insistence on an all-good God, birthed the mechanization of killing and mass destruction wrought by two World Wars and followed by ongoing mayhem through this day.

“God” could be thought of as a math equation.  But instead of the word “God,” which is problematic because it means so many different things to so many different people, we might substitute a symbol common to algebra:  “x.”  Then we might say that x=the ultimate source, as well as final destiny, of all being (be it a chaotic and meaningless jumble of atoms, a created and ordered cosmology or an illusion, or Maya, altogether).  

Now if we were to re-plug “x” into our common vernacular, we would all be on the same page of admitting that while none of us know the Truth about whatever just truly is, at least we’d all be using a common language.

Image people winning their Grammy and saying, “Thank you x.”  Or picture smiling men in white shirts knocking on our door to tell us that they have some good news about x—and then visualize them just going away again and letting us make dinner, trusting that x didn’t want us to hear about the “good news”—this might be better news.  How would “x” change the way we went to church or temple, and the way we authentically taught our kids about the great mysteries?  Maybe we would join our children in questions rather than preach to them about hollow answers that do not appear to have much traction in the overall scheme of our world.  Something like, “Well, kids, our way of appreciating and understanding x is in this building, and uses these symbols, but other people have other buildings and symbols and they also are wondering about x and how best to deal with it.  And many other people find it unnecessary to pray to, or think much about, x; and their way is also a fully legitimate part of x or else it wouldn’t exist.”  

As a signifier of “ultimate truth,” x would then make less offensive sense to everybody, because we would have a broader understanding that none of us really know what we are talking about or dealing with.  A collective huddle of honest love and fear might take us back to our paradisal roots when we weren’t so far from the animals.  No one would need to be tortured, Spanish Inquisition style, for asserting that “x is dead” or that “x doesn’t exist.”  

Is x both good and evil?  Does it go beyond good and evil and all our limited thinking?  Does x cause as much harm as good?  Mu!

Maybe we would respectfully realize that even the great and sacred Wisdom Texts are just ways of communing with, or relating to, x (and not the final word on the very x that gave birth to them).

If we were to agree that none of us have the last word on x, then we might turn to re-thinking our relationship with x.   Modern science has taught us that there is no thing separate of its observer; same with x.  Thus if x signifies all that truly is, known and unknown, an enlightened relationship with x might be to love and fear it, much as many religions, in their own ways, suggest should be our relationship with God. 

To love the world is to align with x.  And to fear x is to relinquish all other fear (i.e. of not being adequate, even of death and loss); this births the free and empowered human being—the “superman” (and woman) whom Neitzsche was trying to usher into existence (as opposed to the Nazis who summoned the dark forces, inflated with the repressed Shadow of the dying “all-good” world).

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, after having the “madman” declare that God is dead, Neitzsche writes, “Here the madman fell silent and again regarded his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern to the ground, and it broke and went out. ‘I have come too early,’ he said then; ‘my time has not come yet. The tremendous event is still on its way, still travelling – it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard.’”

Interesting stuff, written in the 1880s; so now, in the 2000s, we need to ask ourselves, “What time is it?”

I suggest it’s time to recognize the Lord of the Flies darkness in ourselves, our children and each other; and, via consciousness, to decrease our need to project the Shadow and then aggress against it in others.  If we do not defend, we are not attacked.  If we learn to relate by seeing the good/bad essence in the other, the transcendent x in every other, we are well on our way to better parenting our world and all its children.

Namaste, Bruce


5 Responses to “By the Grace of “X””

  1. Chris Sorgi Says:


  2. Leo Says:

    Very insightful.

    As a parent myself, I am more and more frequently running into these issues. I am an agnostic, but not so with the rest of my family. My six-year-old says she “believes in God”, and I have actually heard her say it is wrong not to.

    Obviously, there is an instant disconnect here for me. I have not taught her to believe – or not believe – in any God. These perceived beliefs have been instilled upon her by others in her life (Grandparents, etc.), and in her 6-year-old desire to see the magic in all things, she has decided that there must be a God.

    I will not dissuade her in this belief. But when the question is asked of me whether I believe or not, I find myself turning the question around. “What do you believe”, I ask.

    If the belief helps her to understand those things around her which are sometimes unfathomable, then she should believe. And as she grows older, if she starts to question what she has been taught, I will answer those questions as well with roughly the same reply – “What do you believe?”

  3. Mwa Says:

    I love this. Thank you for writing it. I may come to read it again later. I like your connection with Nietzsche, one of my favourites, and an often misunderstood genius.

    I am struggling myself with this issue (as you know), and especially in the education of my children. Through circumstances, my five year old son is attending a Catholic school and I have been talking about religion quite a bit with him lately. He is learning how to say the Lord’s prayer, has been taken to church, and gets told a lot of “truths”.

    As a result of our conversations, in which I try to show him that there are many possible faiths, he has now decided he doesn’t believe in God at all. I fear I may be depriving him of a sense of spirituality which I have kept, despite falling out of my religion.

    I’m thinking of having some philosophy/meditation/whatever sessions with him (obviously in a playful and fun way) to see if I can rectify the situation somewhat.

    Sorry for being a bit incoherent – I’m still trying to work it all out. I will definitely keep reading your blog. What I have read so far is keeping my mind busy already, so I will go through it slowly.

  4. TGIN « Privilegeofparenting’s Blog Says:

    […] in that spirit I say, “Thank God it’s Now.” (or even Thank X it’s now:  TXIN), hoping it somehow benefits us, and all our collective […]

  5. Ash Roney Says:

    I always have thought that God is the ultimate variable.

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