Spring 2008

"The important thing is not to stop questioning." 
-Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; 
because,if there be one, he must more approve of the 
homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."

-Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

At a public engagement recently In Columbus Georgia, my hometown, I stood before a group of family, friends, students and teachers: We had just finished viewing 'Heartland' together and I was taking some questions, one of the students asked me a question that surprised and startled me. She asked, "What are your thoughts about GOD?" I asked her to repeat her question, in part to make sure that I 'd heard her correctly, and in part to stall and give myself a bit more time to conjure an answer. I paused, giving the Divine every opportunity to fill me with wisdom, none came, so I began talking. About five minutes into my answer, I began to realize that my response was sounding hollow. I continued to talk further and further out into thin air knowing the whole time that I was way out there and had no solid ground beneath me. I can't recount what I said. It is a complete blur. The only saving grace was that after I was finished speaking, I was told that the microphone and acoustics were so bad that no one had heard my 'answer' to the question. One attendee came up to me after the event and said "some day I hope you'll repeat what you said up there". I won't, because I can't. As much as I appreciate the students’ curiosity, I can't recall ever being so dumbstruck while speaking before a crowd. I went blank. I felt like the politician who is asked by the reporter, "Are you still beating your wife". There is no 'right' answer which won't condemn the responder.
But, the question deserves an answer, even if it is no more cogent in a written blog than it was in my garbled and rambling spoken response.
Here is what I wish that I had said; "My motto is 'Think hard about what you believe, and think twice as hard about what you “say” you believe'. I used to believe that it was black or white, either one of two possibilities, either GOD existed or GOD didn't exist. But with age and a tad of wisdom, I've come to believe in the power of 'Belief' itself. Perhaps there is a third alternative; perhaps GOD exists, if we 'believe' that GOD exists. (I know I will receive emails accusing me of blasphemy. I will receive emails questioning me about whether I believe in 'empirical truth'. ) The premise of Pratchett's joyous novel "Small Gods" is based on the concept of the power of belief. The novel opens with a one eyed turtle falling from the sky into a muddy barnyard of a small monastery. It turns out that a lowly young monk has summoned him with his devout prayers and the monk can commune with the one eyed turtle, but can't bring himself to believe what the turtle is telling him, that the turtle is indeed God himself reduced to such a humble state because of humanity’s lack of belief.
The night before my brother died of cancer, in 1988, he told me that he had been visited by "The Master". My brother was not a religious person. He was a scientific person. A word like "Master" was not a word that he would use. But, he said that "The Master" had come and that he would come back for him the next day. My brother told me that during the visitation "The Master" had shown him what reality is, he had shown him the nature of reality, and as my brother explained it to me, this is an extremely complex coloured game, and that it was too complicated to understand and that I would never "figure it out".
Buddhists don't speak of God. It's not that they don't believe in God, it's that the idea, the concept of God is so big, so magnificent, and so incomprehensible that they just don't address it, out of respect for the Divine mystery. Any attempt to comprehend it by a human mind diminishes it. 
Science is searching for the "truth" about the nature of reality by trying to reveal the facts. My narrow understanding of Science's approach is that it is trying to discover everything and name it and make sense out of the world by breaking everything down into it's smallest unit, it’s smallest building block and then it will have all of the pieces and from the micro to the macro the world will then make sense. But, I believe that we are more than just a sum of our parts. 
From the smallest particle to the largest galaxy the mystery is great and I am awed by it. I have no need to name it, to quantify it, to sum it up. If I attempt to address it in my work sometimes, it is not from a dogmatic point of reference, I am not searching for a theology or a science to explain the great mystery. An Artist romps around in the mystery like a child plays alone in his own backyard, imagining and making up his own rules and reality. An Artist romps around in the mystery like an animal roams the woods, curious and wide-eyed and alert. An Artist romps around in the mystery like an explorer traversing an unknown land, excited, careful and fully alive.
We are as dumb as plants. No one has a single answer which reveals even the slightest tidbit of new insight about the nature of this existence. What matters? Certainly not answers. Perhaps, Questions. Perhaps the answer is in a well formed question."
I want to thank all of the thoughtful, curious and indefatigable students at The New York Academy and Columbus State University. I thank them for their attentiveness and most of all, for their Questions. Thank You.
Bo Bartlett