what is god for you?

daniel jackson
date of birth.
place of birth.
miami, florida, usa
photographer, teacher, rabbi

mig. in the video you were asked what god is for you. is there something you wish to add?
dj. god is the ineffable one, the divine presence that emanates throughout all creation yet is orthogonal to all manifestation—god was, is, and shall ever be in the ever-present now. i never 'see' god; but, i know of god’s presence; i see god’s effect and affect in the creation. god is beyond my comprehension yet i feel god’s divine presence in my life.
now, having stated the above—the part about the mystical-yet-personal god—i have to say that i have a thing about idols. it's not just that there is a real basic thing in my tradition about 'graven images'; rather, i think of this as representing a fundamental way in which i cannot relate to the divine. there is something about idols—the representation of the unmanifest creator of creation in any sort of physical form that deeply troubles me. often, ritual practices associated with such representations require the participant to bow down if not grovel before this image—the image or the idea of a divine being that would manifest in such an image and that would demand that sort of behaviour.
like bowing down and touching the foot of some statue. i will admit that there are individuals that gravitate to that sort of thing. but, i just cannot see it. god has worked it out over a very long period of time that i and my fellow human beings master the art of standing at a relatively early age. that innovation—standing--is pretty neat. i think that that is the appropriate manner in which to honour and orient ourselves to the divine; not grovelling.
also, i think of god as having 'big shoulders' - if you're angry at god, then tell god you are pissed off. what? god can't handle our anger? besides, it's good to vent anger—and if not at god—then who?
now, i've been searching for god—an odd expression if you think about it—since i was seventeen. i'm still searching; and i have searched in a variety of odd places. but after a while i sort of narrowed my focus a bit. i am definitely not comfortable with all of what my faith based tradition has to say; but i like this thing about standing up when talking to god and not grovelling before images.
to me that's not what god is or is about. sometimes we can learn about something by stating what it is not. every bit helps with questions such as these.

mig. is the word god controversial for you? if yes why?
dj. i think the word 'god', let alone human perceptions of the word 'god', has always been problematic. knowledge of god is first and foremost a mystical one, which by definition transcends words. god is larger than human experience—we only can perceive the effects and affects of god; so, naturally our language is problematic and the term becomes controversial for the simple reason that linguistic differences characterise us.
there is an added issue—the existential experience of god and god's presence. some have it, some don't. this creates natural differences; it also generates envy and/or resentment. moreover, many derive a sense of loyalty or allegiance with their sense of god and their god-experience that creates a challenge to institutions or personages with a vested interest in how god is conceived or expressed in language—and language is subject to terrible forms of brutality and oppression, as the entire experience of the rights of man movements during the last two thousand years have amply demonstrated. do you automatically think of religion when you hear the word god?
the sad fact is that the history of organised religion has been associated with grovelling and power— those in power like to have their followers grovel—they like to endorse traditions that favour grovelling. some even go so far as to explain to those who do not like to grovel that they were born into this life to grovel so they better do it as best they can for a better, less grovelling life in the future.
i don't buy this. since i buy into the idea that we stand when we talk to god or read some of the literature god has inspired over the ages—each according to his or her bent—i also think god intended us to use our brains and rational capacity—it would seem that the long process of evolution to produce this fine thinking instrument we schlepp around on our shoulders. it's not easy to do and we get lazy— some of us prefer to grovel; but i don't think that's god's intention with this universe.

mig. do you think of religion when you hear the word god? if yes, why?

mig. do you believe everything happens for a reason, or are we the reason why things happen?
dj. oh come on. the second clause is a variation of the first but displaced by time and process. there are three ways to examine this question. first, events happen completely by chance—a random walk through a random universe. second, we live in a world of meaning where events happen on purpose. third, we alone—thinking animals—generate and impose meaning on a vacuous world.
i think that even the smallest effort of mental energy can see through the solipsistic problem of other minds in the last question—at its basic level, the individual, the question reduces to problem of how do i know that there are other 'minds' at work in the universe. of course there are other minds and we are not the reason why things happen. here we have the anglo saxon king standing before the unending surf of the sea demonstrating to his grovelling throng that he is not the all powerful source of all nature. look, there are sources of events and experience that are beyond our control. yeah, this is the field of the glib sophomore rhetorician. all this is that, man. please.
i once was on the most wonderful empty beach in south india. the day was perfect, the sea soft, maidens brought fresh fish and fruit and lots of fresh lime water. then i stepped on a sea urchin and spent the rest of the day in absolute anguish while my mates frolicked in the surf and blessed their luck. all the while, through the pain, i was (and still remember) how transitory my pain was—despite my pain, the day was the most beautiful i have seen; the sky was the second most beautiful blue i have ever seen; and that the breeze was cool and that this wonderful day was progressing quite well without me at that moment—before i arrived on the beach and long after i hobble back to the hotel.
at the hotel, we sat around the dinner table talking about karma—what was it that caused me to step on that sea urchin. obviously there was a reason-- 'what are the chances that daniel happened on that sea urchin, on this shore, on this day—man, the odds are staggering—it has to be karma.' we were also plenty stoned. i went bounding into the surf without sandals and without looking—something everyone else in our group did but failed to note my lunacy.
but in the intervening years, i've come to look on the purposeful universe in a different light. i can reflect and impose meaning and see connections in my actions. they don't happen randomly because much of my social life is within networks of my prior selection or of my choice. i have come to see my stepping on the sea urchin as a good thing—thank god i survived since they can be quite poisonous— because of the experience i had during my pain. i had the insight along with the pain. i learned a lot from that event—gaining a lot of meaning.
so, i am uncomfortable with the way this question puts forward a view of the world that does not leave much place for meaning as meaning. is there or is there not a larger meaning to life? who knows? make something up—or stand up and ask god! dude!

mig. define love. what does love mean for you?
dj. come on and play fair. i have not the foggiest notion. there are emotions, passions, urges, compassions, arousals. whatever “it” is, it is subtle, sublime, sexual, sensate, steamy, sibilant, staggering, sensual, stabilizing, super, stimulating, somatic, subversive, smooth, suggestive, satisfying, seductive, stupefying, and more.
there is a strong physiological component; a strong psychological component; and a definite social component. there are public and private aspects to love; cultural dimensions that govern who, when, and how some 'things' are done or not done.
so, i won't even try; sorry; i've begun my seventh decade and i'm clueless.

mig. do you think love is something all life forms share?
dj. no. i mean consider the praying mantis. during sexual intercourse, the female (the larger) turns around and snaps the neck of the male, since this appears to be the only way the male can ejaculate. i mean, where's the love in that.
now, i may be ignorant about the definition of love; but somehow i associate 'duration' with the social behaviour side of the process. exactly where is the duration component in the relationship between mr. and mrs. (or m. and mme.) mantis.
i have a hard time imagining love among fruit flies or flat worms.
now if you asked about sexual intercourse—that would be different.

mig. what in your opinion can make a relationship last a whole lifetime?
dj. companionship and teamwork. human relations are generally built around some sort of organisation of the persons involved. there has to be a 'collective' sense of purpose. in this sense, sharing and teamwork is critical.

mig. what have you learned about life so far?
dj. there is no end to it on this plane. there are other ways of dealing with such questions but they are orthogonal to what one would expect.

mig. how would you describe us/humanity today?
dj. same as yesterday, same as tomorrow.

thank you daniel jackson for participating in the 'mig' project.

videography by mig. all rights reserved 2014.
photography by mig. all rights reserved 2014.

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