People believe. It’s what people do. They believe. People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe; and it is that rock solid belief that makes things happen.
~Shadow Moon, in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods
In his classic book American Gods, Neil Gaiman postulates that gods exist only by our willingness to believe in them. The power of the gods is transitory; it expands or contracts based solely on how fervently mortals worship each particular deity.
Which begs the question, what do you worship? We all worship something. Maybe it’s God or Allah or Buddha or Ganesha. Maybe it’s sex or working or food or shopping or fame or technology or youth. I’m not talking about dogma, but instead am inquiring as to where you place your personal power. We all willingly praise some idea, thing or belief. And what we idolize creates our worldview; our interpretation of life is shaped by what we lay on our mental altar. We become what we consume and venerate.
What do you worship?
I want to worship being awake to the holy moment with compassion and gratitude. To find prayer in a perfect cup of coffee. In a sunny dandelion against green spring grass. In the smell of basil and the twang of a guitar string and the smile my husband gives me when he catches my eye across a crowded room. In a slice of homemade sourdough bread, still hot from the oven. In the sound of my daughter doing her best Taylor Swift in the shower. In a stranger’s smile, the branches of a tree, the sound of the ocean keeping time against the shore. I want to revere and glorify the holy moment.
The holy moment is an organic salad, greens and carrots lovingly grown in your garden and tossed by hand. Distraction is a bag of Cheetos, a processed food-like item created in a lab and marketed to keep us heavy and dull. Cheetos are a false god, a tasty amusement. It’s far easier to buy and devour a bag of Cheetos than it is to raise a garden and patiently wait to reap its bounty.
But worship, real worship, requires willing presence and commitment. It takes work. And work is hard. So distraction becomes our spiritual bypass because it’s just, well….easier.. We find it too difficult to stay awake in a world that begs our attention elsewhere.
For many of us, it goes something like this.
When the holy moment occurs, I’ll be awake for it.
But maybe Spirit can wait until I check my email.
Or when I’m done with this project.
I’ll be awake to my life as soon as I finish this episode of Stranger Things.
After I lose ten pounds, find the man of my dreams, beat this Candy Crush level, quit my soul-sucking job, get out of debt.
When I finish this bag of Cheetos.
We find things that give us superficial pleasure and confuse them with things that truly matter. We exist in another moment, a past moment, a future moment, a lost moment. Heaven seems distant, so we fill the void posting selfies and overeating and following the Kardashians. We replace the holy moment with social media and online shopping and incessant sports watching.
We exalt diversion and call it a life.
But heaven is more a perspective than a place. Gaiman holds that the gods require worship, but I think it’s the other way around. Humans cannot truly exist without worship because worship is about attention. We wouldn’t have been designed with a brain as complex as ours if attention wasn’t our natural state. When we lay our attention at a meaningful altar, we are pulled away from the other moments into the one that lies before us. Even the painful and uncomfortable become bearable when we’re awake. We can see the lesson and the blessing in each moment. To live a life of purpose, we must learn to worship well.
Mary Oliver said it best in her poem A Summer Day. “I don’t know exactly what a prayer is,” she muses. But, she adds, “I do know how to pay attention”.
I ask you again. What do you worship?