by Tom Laird, Project Interfaith Communications Intern
“Search for God. Search for God like a man whose head is on fire searches for water.” This quote comes from the book, Eat Pray Love. When I first read this quote my irreverent side automatically stood to attention. I could not help but think about a magnet which rests on the side of my friend’s fridge. The magnet states, “I found Jesus. He was behind my couch.” There. Done. Searched for and discovered. Once I was able to quell my cheeky side, I more seriously considered the quote. “Search for God.” Alright, how does one search for God? “…like a man whose head is on fire searches for water.” Ooookaaay, how does one decide if it is even important (head on fire important) enough for them to search for God in the first place?
I felt it would probably be most important to answer the latter question. After all if I didn’t care that my head was on fire, why would I go looking for water in the first place? Or back to the magnet, if I didn’t care enough to get up off the couch to look behind it what does it matter how I got up off the couch to look behind it? So, did I think looking for God was important or even necessary? I attempted to convince myself it was not. I began collecting evidence to support my assertion of indifference. Don’t go to church: check. Have doubt in the existence of Jesus: check. Not too pleased with the church I was raised in: check. Well, that was easy! No need for me to pack up and go on a manhunt for God. However, as I sat there pleased with my energy conservation, the counterargument to my claim gently cleared its throat and lightly tapped me on the shoulder. Have more than one book in my library which is faith related: check. Have chosen many faith-driven mentors in my life, nuns and priests included: check. Interning for an interfaith organization: check. Alright, alright, alright, FINE! I obviously have an interest in faith and God. My head was on fire and I need water.
So how do I find the water? I tried looking deeper into the church I was raised in but kept hitting the same roadblocks that turned me away in the first place. For me, that well was pretty dry. So much intolerance, such a superiority complex; our way is the only way to God, etcetera. How could that be so? The other 4 billion people on planet earth couldn’t be that misguided can they? No. It was not until I decided to look outside of familiarity that I started getting somewhere. Perhaps one of the most enlightening experiences for me was my visit to a Hindu temple. It was there that a great misconception of mine was clarified. I had always (mis)understood the Hindu faith to be polytheistic. Being welcomed into the Hindu temple for a tour and taught quite the opposite was a revelation. The Hindu faith is in fact monotheistic, having a God who reveals himself to humanity in different ways for different reasons. Hmmm, this sounded vaguely familiar. A burning bush, a tongue of fire, a man named Jesus; three separate manifestations of the same one God. Two seemingly polar opposite faiths did in fact have something in common; one God who materialized himself in a multitude of ways to help mankind. I liked the similarity I had found. Suddenly the Hindu faith didn’t seem so foreign and remote. Suddenly I felt a little more grounded in my faith. There it was; baby’s first interfaith moment. Somebody grab the camera.
This one experience alone, however, was not going to douse the flames on my head. I needed to continue to find the similarities between other faiths and my own. And so I have. I’ve attended religious ceremonies and holidays of other faiths. I’ve read books which have made comparisons between faiths. I’ve continued to meet with my nun and priest mentors telling them where I am on my interfaith journey. They have been very supportive and even excited for me. All of these interfaith experiences are helping me to organize and understand my own beliefs. I am now reminded of a magnet that I have on my fridge. It’s simply a hand with a middle finger wrapped around the index finger stating, “Me and God are like THIS!” True, it is just as cheeky and irreverent as the magnet mentioned prior, but it holds some truth for me now. Are God and I, “…like THIS!”? Not yet, but we are on much better ground than we ever were before I decided to get up off the couch and look behind it.
Tom Laird is Project Interfaith's Communications Intern for the fall of 2010. Tom holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Benedictine College where he received the Madonna Gamper Award for academic excellence. Tom began working as a volunteer with Project Interfaith in early January of 2009. A desired change of career path into the non-profit world has changed Tom's status from volunteer to intern. During his time with Project Interfaith, Tom hopes to gain more experience with and understanding of the non-profit world. Tom enjoys reading, music, biking (bicycle, not motorcycle), and skiing (snow, not water).