creation story
creation story

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names for the nameless


by martin boroson ©2000

becoming me is a creation story that's told, unusually, in the first person, beginning with the enigmatic line, "once upon a time, i was".  this raises a big question from the outset:  who's telling this story?  who is "i"? who or what is responsible for creation?  is there some "one" witnessing it all?  and what name shall we give the experience that many traditions say is beyond names altogether?

some people say (with good reason) that the narrator of becoming me is god. some people prefer the terms "spirit" or "creator". in the chinese tradition of taoism, the source of all things is understood simply as the "way"--not an individual at all, but a process. aldous huxley, trying to speak in the most neutral way possible, simply called it, delightfully (if dryly), the "highest common factor." and some people, who don't wish to give it any name at all, just speak about their sense of wonder.


according to many scholars, there are three basic versions of the experience of one source. this source can be experienced as personal, composed of certain qualities, or beyond any qualities at all.  let's look at each of these versions.

1. personal.

in this conception, the source is pictured, and referred to, as being like a super-human person, with desires, plans, power, etc. it is usually considered to be "up there" (while we struggle along "down here"). it usually has a name and a voice (and sometimes a gender), and could certainly tell a story of creation.


2. qualities.

in this view, the source does not have a particular personality, form, or voice, but is made up of some extraordinary qualities, such as a very special light or sound. this is what is meant when someone says "god is love," which does not mean, "god loves you", or "god is like love", but actually, literally, "god is love."

3. beyond qualities or form.

this experience is sometimes called emptiness (buddhism), the godhead (mystical christianity), or ein sof (mystical judaism). it is like a limitless field--with no boundaries or qualities at all--from which even "god" and "form" and "qualities" spring. it is limitless because it is not separate from anything. that’s why it’s so difficult to speak about it. in order to refer to it, you have to separate yourself from it, but this separation is, technically, impossible, because it is you too. everywhere you go--it is. it isn't above or below, or anywhere but here. it just is and is and is. in fact, it isn't anything but "is". you can't have a relationship with it or sing songs to it, but you can know it, or be it, or rather, to be technically correct, you can't ever not be it. it just is.


each of these three understandings has an important role to play in human life, and none can be considered wrong. we need different versions for different situations, and some people seem temperamentally suited to one over another. for example, the hindu saint, sri caitanya, is described having each of these kinds of experience (in reverse order):


"sri caitanya used to experience three moods. in the inmost mood he would be absorbed in samadhi [the godhead], unconscious of the outer world. in the semiconscious mood he would dance in ecstasy but could not talk. in the conscious mood he would sing the glories of god."


now to return to our question: who is telling the story of becoming me? well, on the surface, "once upon a time, i was", definitely seems like a personal god--version one. but if you look at the book, the illustrations certainly don't look like a personal god. they show an endless dance of color and light, implying version two. and as the story moves on, it's clear that this is a narrator who is not above creation, but pervades all things and in fact is all things. the source of this story is not separate from anything. it just is and is and is--version three.

but if the story were completely true to version three, then the first sentence should read something like, “beyond time and space, i am.” or to be even more precise, there shouldn’t be an “i” at all. this is why hinduism says, simply, om, and why a zen master just smiles (both just different ways of saying “is”).

but then it wouldn't be much of a story, because nothing comes before or after "is". there's nothing to say about is. it just is. and to tell a story, there has to be a plot, and drama, and things, and time--all of which are part of "is," but are also a digression, a digression from just being.

and so i compromised. or rather, i wrote a story that's not just about just being but is also about becoming. in other words, i wrote a story about creation, that wonderful and challenging digression from being. becoming me is a story of a source that we cannot name and is never not-us, somehow throwing itself into the limited realities of time and space. it is a game of being lost and being found. but it also has a purpose. being gets to create, explore, express and play, and all of us creations, caught in the world of becoming, are challenged to pause, for a moment, and be.



1 sri ramakrishna, kathamrta, vol iv, p. 223

"names for the nameless" © martin boroson, 2000

martin boroson is the author of the interfaith creation story, becoming me, and the one-moment master. he can be reached at www.martinboroson.info.

 


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text © 2003-2004 martin boroson (unless otherwise noted);
illustrations © 2003-2004 christopher gilvan-cartwright
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