Ken McLeod asks us to speculate on who our gods are, in Reflections on Silver River. I have written about this enormously useful book before. Gods, he writes,
are projections of your hopes and desires, but your hopes and desires are themselves projections of emotional patterns, projections of the past, projections of what you feel is missing in you, or what you feel will make you complete or accord you a place in the world. Can a pattern free you?
A pattern is a ghost from the past. It cannot help you. The world that generated it no longer exists. Whenever it runs, it draws you into the illusion of that world. If you try to satisfy it, you have accepted that world, you are in its power, with all its demands, dysfunctions and contradictions. This is the opposite of the freedom that you seek.We're all trying to fill that hole. I know I am. That hunger for what I feel to be missing, that one thing (well, more than one...) that will provide the answer and free me from all the anxiety that roils inside in response to the slightest trigger. Call them "gods", those illusory answers to all life's problems, the ones that, once we seem able to grab onto them at last, elude our grasp and evanesce into disappointment, even despair.
For some, I know, faith comes along to validate their chosen god. I think of the God my father worshipped, the Christian God. But thinking of my father, I also know that faith was a constant struggle for him; it did not bring him peace of mind or serenity of spirit. At times, indeed, it was a torment. In Ken's sense of the word, his "god" was faith itself, the projection of his hope, the emotional pattern of a man who lost his mother while he was barely a teenager and was perhaps never able to replace the love he lost back then. This was what was "missing" for him, the hole he tried so hard to fill with faith.
One of my gods is "Somebody," the Somebody I have always wanted to be and have never quite attained. Even though I know this Somebody is no more than illusion, I keep coming back to worship at his altar; and every time I think I have him in my grasp, he disappears like the phantom that he always proves to be. If he's a "ghost from the past," he's surely that little boy who learned that children should be seen, not heard. Another is the "Contributor," that worthy one who is nobly at the service of his fellow human beings... And I know I have many others.
Something, then, on which to meditate. Who are my gods? What projections of emotional patterns do they represent? What ghosts from the past? And how can they best be exorcised? Ken's answer: through awareness, in "being present"--i.e. not lost in reactive patterns from the past, but present--"in every moment of experience." "When awareness and experience are not different," he writes, "you stop struggling with what arises and you are taking refuge in clarity."