Flying Lessons: Naming the Infinite

Flying Lessons: Naming the Infinite

Lately I have felt like I blinked and suddenly the world shifted from January to July. With the chaos of life overall, I think sometimes we are either grounded in one moment or ambivalent to the passing of time. I have difficulty in casting conscious awareness to myself and my environment on a more consistent basis, and over the last few years that lack of practice has seeped into my relationship with the Infinite, or what I have more typically called God. It hasn’t always been that way.

As kids, my friends and I would leap from a retaining wall with umbrellas, floating for a few yards before softly landing. I had dreams of flying through our house; I became obsessed with this impossible feeling, those red velvet wings, an image still vivid in my memory. I felt it diving into the deep end of pools and absorbing silence, weightlessness, pretending I was soaring. On airplanes my dad and I would rev up our arms during takeoff, repeating “go airplane, go airplane, go airplane, go!” I embraced the unknown, the Infinite, but a few years later I had panic attacks from the overwhelming realization I could never know all of the world’s answers, that there are some things I’d never experience. Later, I’d have panic attacks on airplanes too. I forgot how to fly.

As a teen, I tried to find the source of that evanescent, weightless reality. I was heavily submerged within the confines of Christianity, so I named it God, but I also found it in butterflies, rain pouring down on a metal roof, and the wind and waves of a Southern beach at night. I spent the next decade fully absorbing or fully rejecting Christianity as well as a multitude of other religions as I tried to find the “one true source.” Through this process, I eventually learned to stop trying to find one truth or one reality. My religion became a combination of spiritual sources and religious traditions, but I was still boxed into a framework I struggled to fit into. There was an intensity to this practice that, though it kept me engaged with the Infinite, would lead me to flapping my wings to great joyous heights or plunging to the deepest depths of grief. I had to learn how to trust the wind and glide, let the current take me where it may, a story familiar to those who have read Richard Bach’s “Illusions” or understand Taoism.

Part of letting go of this framework also means confronting my sexuality, and more recently, my gender. As I struggled with trying to name the Infinite, I also struggled with trying to name myself and others. I think trying to assign a strict set of rules about God, or who we should be, can be limiting and deceptive. I started relating to Buddhism in many ways because Eastern religions are typically bottom-up theologies (truth from within), and Western theologies tend to be top-down (truth from above). If I listened to that quiet, ever present energy I could feel myself floating like a kid again, and I could trust the unknown to hold me through it all (see the song “Unknown” by Lifehouse). I could accept and celebrate my own queerness, and the multitude of identities in others. I could embrace the indefinite and cease trying to limit it or myself with a name.

As a UU, I feel freedom in this expansive love and community, where I am not shamed for contemplating the deconstruction of societal rules and feeling that the Infinite is outside of that. I am you, and you are me, and in that understanding, I am now committing myself to recognizing the Infinite in the small, everyday moments. It is the observer, our consciousness. It is music, the repetition of cross-court tennis volleys, that wall you pass while running and you no longer feel your legs. It is the slight smile you share with a passing stranger, the gentle touch of someone you love, and laying on the ground staring at the night sky. I believe God is the Infinite, and we are the Infinite too.


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