Flash in the Pan

A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights

Images Of Truth

by Carol J. Howard

My daughter Hannah, age 10, sat at the kitchen table sorting her friends by denomination. "Abby is Jewish, Rachel is Jewish, Grace is Christian…" She paused, looked up at me and said, "You're a nothing."

"I most certainly am not," I protested. "I mean in terms of religion," she explained. "You're not Christian, you're not Jewish—you're nothing."

I tried to tell her I am anything but nothing. Spirituality matters very much to me; I just don't fit into the usual categories. But what manner of religious something am I?

I was raised Methodist, with a devout mother who insisted that we all go to church every Sunday, and a physician father who put his faith in science.

My first husband was Catholic. I took the requisite training course in Catholicism but chose not to convert. My husband Joel is Jewish, and we are raising Hannah in that faith. She underwent a conversion ceremony at 5 months and now, at age 12, is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah. I have not converted, but Judaism certainly is a major force in my life.

I have attended Quaker meetings, discussed Buddhist precepts at length with my sister, and joined with other women to celebrate equinoxes and solstices in the woods or on the beach. I'm not fond of sitting in services, whatever the denomination, and tend to feel the presence of God most keenly outside, in nature. I believe that everything, from the smallest stone to the universe itself, is imbued with some manner of spirit.

So, am I a lapsed Christian? A Jew by association? A pagan, a Wiccan, an animist? Yes. And then some. I'd like to think I'm more an "everything" than a "nothing."

I keep coming back to a line from the poet William Blake: "Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth." That's it-—images of truth. That's all we get, all we can manage. How can any mortal mind even begin to grasp the true nature, the full and utter vastness of God? At best, we catch only fleeting glimpses of the infinite Oneness.

And so, Hannah… No, I don't have a specifiable religion I call my own, no single label for my spiritual beliefs. I am seeking and shall continue to seek—-not one "true" religion, not The Truth, but as many images of truth as my oh-so-limited human brain can hold.

Carol Howard is the author of Dolphin Chronicles (Bantam Books, 1996). Her writing also has appeared in Psychology Today, National Geographic Books, and Tiny Lights, among other places. She works as a science writer for the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing.

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