Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Word About Crude Representations

My maternal grandmother had been a nurse when she was a younger woman. She gave birth to my mother when she was thirty-three years old and quit nursing in order to raise her new daughter and her second husband's three boys.

A story I always got a kick out of hearing Mom relate was when, as a child, she heard her mother talk about the male and female hormones which everyone have in their bodies, which give us our distinguishing features. Being a child, my mom came up with a rather novel if crude way of picturing hormones.

That is, she pictured miniature penises and testicles as male hormones and the female genitalia, of course, were the female hormones and these both coursed through the bloodstream and human system.

Now it never occurred to my mom to doubt all these little genitalia all humans have. After all, her mom was a nurse and knew about such things and certainly wouldn't deceive her.

I'm sure some of her little friends might have doubted such a picture. Others, no doubt, might have accepted it as perhaps not that far-fetched. (Remember, I'm talking about kids back in the old pre-internet, pre-information glut days.)

So what I see there is a crude depiction of reality. My mother hadn't nailed the exact truth, but she did have a vivid way of picturing it. I'm not sure how a preteen in that day might have grasped it better in a simple manner.

Sometimes those of us who are interested in the deeper reality we call God fall into the habit of picturing or talking about God in simplistic, even crude ways. Those who oppose the God concept do so also, I'm sure not in part because it makes the subject easier to dismiss out of hand.

So the old white haired and bearded guy in the sky is a crude representation. It is easy for God-believers to anthropomorphize God. We sometimes use metaphors like God as mother, father or friend which can be stretched to the point of absurdity.

Now in truth my mom at 8 or 10 didn't realize she was making a crude representation. It was the best her child's mind could conjure. Some God believers are also unwittingly crude in their representations of the divine. Right idea, wrong details.

At best I think the finite mind cannot begin to grasp the infinite.

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