“Color Is God”

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    [captionpix imgsrc=”” align=”left”]It was heavily overcast all day, and after working in fits and starts, I seize an urge to get out for a bike ride. Taking a half hour loop, I stop a short distance from the house and sit on a utility box looking across a main thoroughfare toward at what first appears to be a non-descript sunset.

    There’s just a slit of light with little color on the western horizon beyond the freeway, and the foothills of the Coastal Range are barely visible. Vehicles stream by in a procession of sameness, but something compels me to stay.

    The sky begins to catch fire, and the color slowly spreads and deepens until it fills the entire panorama. A phrase I recall hearing comes to mind—“color is God”—and I feel the truth of it.

    Cars whiz by; I wonder why they don’t stop. The beauty of the earth and the ugliness of man stand in stark contrast, but the world soon recedes into insignificance before the splendor of the universe.

    A young man pedals by on a bike, eyes affixed to the cell phone in his hand. Just as I feel the urge to point at the sky, he looks up and says, “I’m trying to get a picture of it, but I can’t.” Just stop, I think; and he does a short distance away. To each according to his capacity I guess.

    The striations of pinks and magentas, and colors I have no words for, grow even more intense. One feels a palpable hush come over the land, a pervasive feeling of reverence, even sacredness.

    The traffic thins out suddenly, and the few vehicles that pass are going more slowly. When one SUV races by at the peak of the spectacle, one feels pity rather than annoyance at her.

    I don’t know how long I was there, perhaps half an hour. In retrospect it seemed like a dream. But back home I recall that when the young man was viewing the blessed event through the blasted cell phone, I took a picture with mine too. Expecting it to be a flat representation, I’m surprised to find there’s a hint of the splendor, with the ten pines a mile away standing out in sharp relief.

    Reflecting on the experience over a beer, another phrase I read recently reverberates in the mind—“putting God in the bay of knowledge.”

    [captionpix imgsrc=”” align=”right”]Having lived in various places around the San Francisco Bay, I can see the entire bay in my mind’s eye. It’s huge, able to hold many of the rusting hulks of World War II warships at one end, and spanned by seven long and graceful (well, some of them graceful) bridges, from the unparalleled Golden Gate, all the way to the pedestrian Dumbarton of South Bay.

    But it is still a bay, not the Pacific Ocean, which is but one, albeit the largest one by far, of the oceans of the earth. And the earth’s oceans, as vast as they are together (70% of the surface of the planet) are but a drop in the infinite seas of space.

    So the phrase, “putting God in the bay of knowledge” is pregnant with meaning. It implies knowledge is limited in an essential but not extensional way.

    How is all knowledge, whether rational or irrational, scientific or sectarian, practical or psychological, like a big bay?

    Belief is a form of knowledge, as is theology of course. God, or whatever name we want to give to that quality of sacredness beyond thought, is not a matter of knowledge at all; indeed, the movement of knowledge prevents the experiencing of God.

    Of course, one can dismiss the entire consideration out of hand, as dogmatic atheists do. The universe, they believe, is two movements, and two alone: the random interaction of energy and matter; and man’s mind, making knowledge. That’s it.

    Except that it isn’t. We are too often surprised and stupefied by beauty and mystery in nature to doubt that there’s something beyond thought and knowledge. But does the intelligence of the universe care about the fate of humanity, and all potentially sapient species? It stands to reason, but not to experience and faith.

    What is God? Is it something beyond the universe as a whole, or, as pantheists believe, is the universe, taken as a whole, synonymous with a cosmic mind? There’s another philosophical orientation called panentheism, which holds that God is both the universe as an expression of the cosmic mind, and something beyond (but not separate) from it.

    But though that strikes a chord, it too is just knowledge, not the actual experiencing of the infinite essence we call God.

    In the end, is God awareness? And is the universe in some sense aware?

    Martin LeFevre for

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