God Shaped Void


Congratulations!  You found yourself to this page because you identified roughly where my limbic lobe is located and clicked on it.  It is also most likely that you have received a pocket piece made from a tree branch cross section.  The brief poem on the leather case reads, "Far beneath the outer skin, Man's common thing within, Too persistent to avoid, Lies hid, the God Shaped Void."  

You might well ask, why the limbic lobe, that portion of the brain that is located just below the cortex.  Well, this is the portion of the brain from which most elements of the emotion resides.  And it is the portion that adds emotional emphasis to the logical thinking that takes place in the cortex.  If you were marooned somewhere and were very very hungry you could reason (in your cortex) that worms must be eatable since, after all, you have seen birds eating them with some regularity.  But it will be your limbic lobe that will trip your gag reflex and make you think twice about actually digging worms up and eating them-but I digress.

When you look at your pocket piece or the picture to the right you may instinctively react (positively or negatively) to the reference to God and/or the image of the cross shaped cutout in the wood.  This would be natural enough because we live in a world that is heavily influenced by religion; its advocates and opponents are constantly at work pushing their positions in all aspects of our lives.  But actually, your reaction would be premature.  

Instead you might have picked up the wood piece and viewed it from another perspective.  While the perspective shown in the above photo  is one suggesting a religious point of view, actually a Christian perspective since a cross is readily apparent, you could also have viewed the symbol as an "X" as shown on the photo to the right.  In this scenario the "X" might be the symbol for an unknown quantity.  "X" after all is contained in almost all mathematical equations where "X"  is the unknown.  It might also be a symbol for what is thought of as the "X Factor."  The UK television show by that name plays on this "X Factor" the loose definition being the indefinable "something" that makes for star quality or greatness.

And lest we be put off by the use of the word God with a capital G in the poem, consider for the moment that while God to many people is the name of the one true and all-powerful God, the creator of all things. Some people consider God as any deity in ones life that is recognized as their principal object of faith.  Speaking metaphorically, which is just about the only way all of us humans do speak, this god might be money, fame, luxury or even simply ourselves and our own opinions.

Anyway, suffice to say that a great deal of importance is attached with how a person approaches something as emotionally charged as religion and how they view a thing colors a person's emotions and also their logical thinking.


But I want you to get past the matter of your own background beliefs and your perspective for a moment and I'd like you to consider just the idea that every human being has some inner thing, an itch if you will, that pesters us and to continue the metaphor seems to need some scratching.  We have a void that is persistent and very often compelling.  Animals don't have this; it is a human thing.  College students have this void and their professors have it too.  This void is what propels people to what they believe to be the higher ambitions.  If you as a student have a faith in God and your professor has a faith in atheism you both still have exactly the same void but you simply are calling it by a different word or by a different meaning.  This Void, what I call the God Shaped Void is  the common thing within each human being no matter who that human being is.  

But does this void occur in all humans?  Some say no.  But then I've known people who say they don't dream either, despite good evidence that points to the contrary.  Some people say they don't close their eyes when they sneeze but closing ones eye when sneezing is actually an involuntary automatic reaction that everyone does.  As the saying goes, "Denial is not just a river in Africa," people can deny anything, but is what they say really so? 

Some people will tell you that the universality of this sense of a void is nonsense and they don't believe it.  Is this possible?  It is, and let me treat this as a separate footnote of sorts so that when you do encounter it you will understand why this occurs.  Click here to explore the reasons for such a denial. 

For those that have experienced the sense of the God Shaped Void, its potency to produce action is real and beyond reasonable doubt.  Honest people of all persuasions whether agnostics, Christians or Jews concede that this is true and as a result propelled toward answering the myriad questions that will shed light on their beliefs and doubts. Often the search for truth in these people's lives goes on for years or even for their entire lifetime.

Presumably there is something that fits into this void that I have been discussing, a sort of key, something that is our abiding hope to fill perfectly, and give us peace and rest from the persistent mustering from within.  It's my guess that most of us during our lifetimes will try just about everything to find the perfect fit and get the satisfaction that we desire.  Since the audience that I am addressing is generally those in the college years, say 18 to 21 or 22 years old, there will likely remain many years to quantify and qualify the hidden void within and to attempt to discover the thing that will perfectly fill the void.  Initially it is enough that you know that generations that have preceded you have sensed this void and have busily attempted to fill it.  The success or failure of the preceding generations to grasp the significance of this void is to some extent observable in their lives, writings, music and artifacts.  History has recorded enough, I believe, that you will be able to decipher the riddle for yourself.  Still, you may want some grandfatherly advice, shall we say.  If you follow your nose and seek this advice you will find it but walk carefully and remember that a grandfather while necessarily a father is not a father to you.

Do you remember when you were very young when you enjoyed the company of your own Grampa?.  It is often said that grandparents spoil children and I have often wondered just what is meant by this.  On the surface you might think that grandparents give children more things than their parents, things like toys and and treats.  Of course it is true that they do this but I believe that they "spoil" children in a different way as well.  Children can "get away with things" at Grampa's house that would not be tolerated at home and this is for a very good reason that I would like you to consider.  Life in the greater scheme of things is much broader and bigger than the small world of the individual family unit of parents and children.  It is the parent's job to feed and protect children and eventually to turn them out to face the challenges of the world.  Naturally parental protection may seem like, and to a degree is, restriction.  Done well, however, the children survive and enjoy good lives.  Except in rare situations grandparents don't do this.  Grandparents, especially grandfathers, inclinations are to expand a child's experiences not restrict them.  They release a child from discipline rather than invoking it.  So when it is said that grandparents "spoil" grandchildren the highest and best meaning of this is that grandparents help the child break free of restraints that have been firmly in place from the earliest years but which are no longer needed.

Return to Don The Laserman