God doesn’t need Google translate.
One of those bible stories that always had me confused as a kid was that of the tower of Babel. In layman’s terms, man decided to build a giant stairway to heaven and prove he was god, or was it "god like?"
Of course, this was long before man discovered he wasn’t the center of the universe. Forgive me, some of mankind discovered they weren’t the center of the universe but Reality TV has proven there are stills plenty of folks in the world happy to have the universe revolve around them.
So along came Copernicus, Galileo, Aristotle and others - the world fought their radical ideas. Even today, as our solar system flies through the universe at about 70-80,000 km an hour (did you know that?) And the “known” space we can see is so vast and huge; it simply means that the tower of Babel, while an interesting idea on the drawing board, really could not have been supported using earth as a foundation stone.
So the term “tower of Babel” was created as everyone started to speak different languages, no one could understand each other and voila…project collapsed.
What I do find so interesting, is that God doesn’t need Google translate or babel.com to learn to understand his fellow man. Prayer, no matter how simple or complex you want to make it, is simply having a conversation with god. In the modern world where external image and materialism seem to mean more than what is inside you – the idea of asking and praying to an unseen god might seem odd from a logical standpoint.
It is perfectly illogical, until you find yourself in a spot in the world where you can’t get out of it, no matter what you do or try. Some people might have to deal with life threatening diseases, others have accidents happen that change lives forever, one could go through business or financial destruction, and there can be political or military change. The world and the carefully crafted illusion we make of our lives can come to a screeching halt.
The reality is, there usually isn’t’ a rulebook for what to do when disaster strikes. At first you are shocked, distraught, maybe angry, and then…. you see the mountain of dirt in front of you that has to be moved out of the way and see a tiny shovel next to you.
“God, help” is probably the best prayer on can say at those times.
When the unseen entity shows up. faith turns to experience. you start to change.
The reason I am writing today, is that in the search to find god on this planet after living the life of the prodigal son who was the doubting Thomas that had a Damascus road experience one day is that god does understand far beyond what man does. He already had Google translate.
Getting dumped in Paris – one of the more interesting times with god was when I got dumped in transit to another country. I was in Paris and got the call, “don’t come.” “
“Thanks. But why didn’t you bother to tell me to not come when I was still in America?”
So that time in Paris really turned out to be one of the most special in my life. It was almost like god knew i was blindsided and he felt bad....so we would go off for long walks and explore the amazing city - one day I took one 24-exposure roll of film and got 20 amazing image out of it. I rebuilt a shattered mosaic floor and only had one tiny piece leftover (hey, I am not perfect) and then I would go to the Russian cathedral near the arc di triomph. So my Sunday was a walk through the city of Paris where everyone and everything was sleeping. It really was amazing, the walk to church was pass the Eiffel tower, go over the bridge, walk through the exclusive designer fashion shops, then take a right at the arc di triomph, walk past some beggars that somehow seemed to have a schedule of when church services started, all the go into a church where Russian was spoken, yet, the icons were of fantastic paintings of scenes from the bible done in a contemporary style.
Yes, I only spoke English.
So going to confession was interesting. I walk in, the french priest looks at me, i at him, “Do you speak English, Spanish, Japanese, etc”
The priest would nod, “no.” and fire off perfect Parisian French sentences i did not understand, or understood enough, or was ignorant enough not to understand what he was saying and just kneel down and let it all fly - have a good confession.
The priest knew, and I knew, that god doesn’t care about the language issue, he cares about emptying our hearts from the scars and issues of sin we all live in. “I am sorry” isn’t’ really spoken, it comes from within the recesses of your heart. Either you really are? Or you aren’t – man can tell you what you think – but god knows the truth of it all. There is no BS with god (well, you can try…but you are only fooling yourself)
That day stands out in my memory as really unique. As I really do try to understand how the world has all these religions, and inside each religion, you have factions and various elements all saying “this is the doctrine of our church! We are the right one! The only way!”
Forgive me, but I have found more about what god is, by being able to go cross over into the various denominations, ask, seek and understand.
It was coming back to the denomination I was born into and having a man that gave up the world to be an ascetic monk look me in the eyes and see all the crap I did to myself and others in my life and look at me like god probably does. With love.
It really messes with your mind to know someone sees all the bad in you, yet, can still love you. It is not logical.
So in Switzerland, I think there are two orthodox churches, and if I wan to go to one, it is about an hour each way. There are a zillion catholic churches here, so I really enjoy that almost anytime you can walk into a building that is about 1000 years old and sit down and just talk and pray. There are services all the time; you just have to look in the book as to what time and in which church.
The most interesting of all these places is a Cappuchin cloister where I once wrote how a service there reminds me of an old time hockey game breaking out with the organ and then the old monks come charging in out of the locker room to start the service. It is not the fanciest of the churches, nor the most beautiful, but the monks that live there – really are a special breed of humans.
Life here is Switzerland has been harder than anticipated. You have a new family; don’t speak the language, all your stuff is in another country, and even your own familiar religion is not here. So I read that you could go talk to monks on Saturdays. I went. Thinking that you just go chat, much like when I go into the dessert to talk to the monks there – it isn’t about the normal “get on your knees and prostrate” it is “what is going on in your life? What areas bother and trouble you? etc”
But here, I find myself in one of those tiny confessional booths I see on television shows facing and elderly monk with a childlike heart.
“I am sorry, but I don’t speak German.”
He says something in Italian
“No, I am sorry I don’t speak Italian, either.”
So he says something in a bit of Spanish.
“Ich sprecht poquito espniol…but nicht gut.”
He nods; we both have to laugh, as I am guessing it not in the norm for him to get a non-German speaking person in this little medieval village.
The point is at the same time, we both appeared to look at the cross on the wall and he in German and I in English said,
“I am sure he understands.”
When you have moments like this, they really do seem to show you just how imperfect and flaws you are. How man will try to build a tower of Babel, yet, unless each person looks inside, sees how imperfect we really are in a world that wants us to believe we are perfect – or is it sells us an image of what perfection is – well, in those moments, the grace of god shines through.
It is what helps one get through the “normal” day where your spouse might scold you for not tightening a lid perfectly, or the abnormal where you see 21 people of your faith executed on a beach by some abnormal folks of another religion.
It is like a classmate from Eretria. He has a name I never heard before, “Tesfit”
In Arabic, it translates to “hope.”
I remember being so busy n the world making money and working my way up. Had I known the cost to my soul today, I probably would not have done the “worlds” way. But now, I try the other way, and wonder if I will ever really understand “God's” way.
Thank goodness for hope and faith. Some days, that is all you have to keep you going.
Then i think about where many of the people i have met in Switzerland come from. Most are refugees trying to learn German like myself. I have nothing to complain about after hearing some of the tales. And there has been a revelation of sorts since the Cappuchin monk. While i complain and whine about injustice and how life isn’t fair, i have been brought to remember how another man didn’t do anything wrong, yet, they beat him and killed him because he was different. He was good.
I hear my friend telling me an analogous story of a farmer in the usa that shot the only known living albino wolverine. the reporters asked him, "why did you kill it?"
He said, "cause i never say anything like it. it was different."
Yes, it all sort of brings you back to a place where you simply say, “thanks god. Please help. Whatever you want is fine with me.”
No Google translate, legalisms, or rulebooks needed. May you all have a great day.