A Public Sphere for Poetry, Nature, and Politics
When I was a young teacher, I used to baffle my students by asking them to prove that their hands exist.
And while my youth was in many ways both sophomoric and churlish, I take from those days the conclusion that the obvious is difficult to prove. Take God, for example. When I was young, I could touch God. The God of my youth was bland granite with eyes chiseled open and blind.
But first thing this morning, I found God in the indolence of darkness.
I can recite “the Nicene Creed” in Latin. I believe every word. But my “Credo” fails to explain why I make no distinction between saying the “Hail Mary” and making love to my wife.
I use the terms “God” and “love” interchangeably. But these concepts I merely ponder. As for belief, I believe in acts of love. I believe that God asks me to fill the empty hand of the beggar. I believe that God poses the question every time I see the hand my student raises. I believe that I find God as I type the poem, the one I begin without knowing where I will end.
I can tell you what I believe. But I’ve reached an age where I don’t care what I believe. Because I believe that love is not found in the mind or the heart. Love is found in the hands. Love is in the nightly back scratch I give my wife. My wife kneading the dough, that’s love. Love is in the hand that crafts, sculpts, sews, caresses, soothes.
That’s where God is. That’s where God is the most obvious. In the hands. In my religion, Roman Catholicism, the hands of the priest are especially dedicated during his ordination. If I could, I would sanctify the hands of everyone. I would bless the hands of the nun who teaches the child to write. I would bless the hands of my wife as she e-mails to me a joke. I would sanctify the hands of the clarinetist as she plays the Mozart concerto. I would consecrate the hands of the carpenter who shaped our simple dinner table. I would bless the hands of our dinner guests.
I do believe in a love that sails the Caribbean in a honeymoon yacht. But just now, just this day at age fifty-five, this morning, I have come to believe in a love that begins when my wife gently awakens me. Because God is in her hand. In the hand that caresses my shoulder in the morning. The hand that encourages me, simply, to open my eyes.
Copyright 2014 John Samuel Tieman. This essay first appeared in This I Believe and is reprinted here by permission of the author.