Culturally, though not theologically, I’m a Christian. I was born a Protestant of the white Anglo-Saxon persuasion. And while I do love that great teacher of peace who was called Jesus and while I do reserve the right to ask myself in certain trying situations what indeed He would do, I can’t swallow that one fixed rule of Christianity insisting that Christ is the only path to God. Strictly speaking, then, I cannot call myself a Christian. Most of the Christians I know accept my feelings on this with grace and open-mindedness. Then again, most of the Christians I know don’t speak very strictly. To those who do speak (and think) strictly, all I can do here is offer my regrets for any hurt feelings and now excuse myself from their business.Traditionally, I have responded to the transcendent mystics of all religions. I have always responded with breathless excitement to anyone who has ever said that God does not live in a dogmatic scripture or in a distant throne in the sky, but instead abides very close to us indeed—much closer than we can imagine, breathing right through our own hearts. I respond with gratitude to anyone who has ever voyaged to the center of that heart and who has then returned to the world with a report for the rest of us that God is an experience of supreme love. In every religious tradition on earth, there have always been mystical saints and transcendents who report exactly this experience. Unfortunately many of them have ended up arrested and killed. Still, I think very highly of them.In the end, what I have come to believe about God is simple. It’s like this—I used to have this really great dog. She came from the pound. She was a mixture of about ten different breeds, but seemed to have inherited the finest features of them all. She was brown. When people asked me, What kind of dog is that? I would always give the same answer: She’s a brown dog. Similarly, when the question is raised, What kind of God do you believe in? my answer is easy: I believe in a magnificent God
Elizabeth Gilbert
Eddie saw great things and near misses. Albert Einstein as a child, not quite struck by a run-away milk-wagon as he crossed a street. A teenage boy named Albert Schweitzer getting out of a bathtub and not quite stepping on the cake of soap lying beside the pulled plug. A Nazi Oberleutnant burning a piece of paper with the date and place of the D-Day Invasion written on it. He saw a man who intended to poison the entire water supply of Denver die of a heart attack in a roadside rest-stop on I-80 in Iowa with a bag of McDonald’s French fries on his lap. He saw a terrorist wired up with explosives suddenly turn away from a crowded restaurant in a city that might have been Jerusalem. The terrorist had been transfixed by nothing more than the sky and the thought that it arced above the just and unjust alike. He saw four men rescue a little boy from a monster whose entire head seemed to consist of a single eye. But more important than any of these was the vast, accretive weight of small things, from planes which hadn’t crashed to men and women who had come to the correct place at the perfect time and thus founded generations. He saw kisses exchanged in doorways and wallets returned and men who had come to a splitting of the way and chosen the right fork. He saw a thousand random meetings that weren’t random, ten thousand right decisions, a hundred thousand right answers, a million acts of unacknowledged kindness. He saw the old people of River Crossing and Roland kneeling in the dust for Aunt Talitha’s blessing; again heard her giving it freely and gladly. Heard her telling him to lay the cross she had given him at the foot of the Dark Tower and speak the name of Talitha Unwin at the far end of the earth. He saw the Tower itself in the burning folds of the rose and for a moment understood its purpose: how it distributed its lines of force to all the worlds that were and held them steady in time’s great helix. For every brick that landed on the ground instead of some little kid’s head, for every tornado that missed the trailer park, for every missile that didn’t fly, for every hand stayed from violence, there was the Tower. And the quiet, singing voice of the rose. The song that promised all might be well, all might be well, that all manner of things might be well.
Stephen King
Moving on, while he wondered, the dark through which Mr. Lecky's light cut grew more beautiful with scents. Particles of solid matter so minute, gases so subtle, that they filtered through stopping and sealing, hung on the unstirred air. Drawn in with Mr. Lecky's breath came impalpable dews cooked out of disintegrating coal. Distilled, chemically split and reformed, they ended in flawless simulation of the aromas of gums, the scent of woods and the world's flowers. The chemists who made them could do more than that. Loose on the gloom were perfumes of flowers which might possibly have bloomed but never had and the strong-smelling saps of trees either lost or not yet evolved.Mixed in the mucus of the pituitary membrane, these volatile essences meant more than synthetic chemistry to Mr. Lecky. Their microscopic slime coated the bushed-out ends of the olfactory nerve; their presence was signaled to the anterior of the brain's temporal lobe. At once, thought waited on them, tossing down from the great storehouse of old images, neglected ideas - sandalwood and roses, musk and lavender. Mr. Lecky stood still, wrung by pangs as insistent and unanswerable as hunger. He was prodded by the unrest of things desired, not had; the surfeit of things had, not desired. More than anything he could see, or words, or sounds, these odors made him stupidly aware of the past. Unable to remember it, whence he was, or where he had previously been, all that was sweet, impermanent and gone came back not spoiled by too much truth or exact memory. Volatile as the perfumes, the past stirred him with longing for what was not - the only beloved beauty which you will have to see but which you may not keep.Mr. Lecky's beam of light went through glass top and side of a counter, displayed bottles of colored liquid - straw, amber, topaz - threw shadows behind their diverse shapes. He had no use for perfume. All the distraction, all the sense of loss and implausible sweetness which he felt was in memory of women.Behind the counter, Mr. Lecky, curious, took out bottles, sniffed them, examined their elaborately varied forms - transparent squares, triangles, cones, flattened ovals. Some were opaque, jet or blue, rough with embedded metals in intricate design. This great and needless decoration of the flasks which contained it was one strange way to express the inexpressible. Another way was tried in the names put on the bottles. Here words ran the suggestive or symbolic gamut of idealized passion, or festive night, of desired caresses, or of abstractions of the painful allure yet farther fetched.Not even in the hopeful, miracle-raving fancy of those who used the perfumes could a bottle of liquid have any actual magic. Since the buyers at the counters must be human beings, nine of every ten were beyond this or other help. Women, young, but unlovely and unloved, women, whatever they had been, now at the end of it and ruined by years or thickened to caricature by fat, ought to be the ones called to mind by perfume. But they were not. Mr. Lecky held the bottle in his hand a long while, aware of the tenth woman.
James Gould Cozzens