Recently, I’ve seen an interesting pairing of movies that address God’s relationship to Humankind, and Humankind’s relationship to people who explain the relationship to God. First, I saw “A Serious Man,” the Coen brother’s Hebrew school revenge film. Next, I saw “The Answer Man,” starring Jeff Bridges and Lauren Graham.
The Answer Man wrote a book of divine revelations that resonated with people so strongly it became a runaway bestseller, and spawned a writing and marketing revolution similar to what you’ll see on either side of The Secret in bookstores. Of course, the fame drove him to hermitville and assholedom. A Simple Man seeks divine insight and guidance through the foreboding maze of old school religious congregations. Helpless as an abandoned puppet. Questions, answers, and results.
Both these films are about people with questions seeking guidance from people who are supposed to have the answers. “My rabbi/priest/pastor/guru/priestess/minister has the answers.” “This writer/celebrity/leader/book/movie/health fad/religious movement/rock song has the answers.” And this is true; there are as many fountains of wisdom and knowledge as there are people seeking a drink, it seems.
But what of our own wisdom? What of our own knowledge—things we knew innately, before we forgot? Ideas and beliefs that are hard-wired into our individual souls and minds, buried, waiting for us to discover them again?
I enjoy being a lifelong learner and amateur scholar of the self—digging in to learn more about theories, trends, teachers. Finding ways to conceptualize my experience of life through a positive, productive lens, and how to manage my feelings, issues, or relationships. The self-help, religion, spirituality, psychology, philosophy, and even business sections of bookstores have much to offer us—fantastic insight to help us learn, grow, and evolve. But I have found myself, from time to time, suffocating from Too Much Information. Too many books telling me what to think and do, too much data about everyone else’s beliefs that I am supposed to remember, understand, and practice.
Sometimes, we have to put the book down. Stop reading and learning, and start processing and listening. We have a voice, we have an answer key, right inside of us.
I love what the Kabbalah says about the spark of God—how there is a spark of God in everything, including us, wanting to reconnect with all the other sparks, all across the universe. That divine spark is like a spiritual GPS to the Greater Whatever, and if we nurture it, tend to it, explore it, and trust it, it will lead us right to where we need to be, if we aren’t already there.
Problem is, that little scrap of transcendence is like our scary friend who always wants to take us out skydiving or bungee jumping. “Quit your job!” “Dump the jerk!” “Stand up for yourself!” “Let it go already!” “Change your life!” No wonder we seek guidance outside of ourselves; our own answers and instincts scare us to death, and not without cause.
Asking questions of people I respect is something I’ll enjoy doing my whole life. There is so much to learn, and the more I learn, the less I know. But I also trust, most of the time, that within me is a little wisdom as well. Our instincts, our fleeting memories, our individual observations, our connections, our moments of synchronicity and epiphany create a vast library that we alone can access. It is information given to us from…somewhere, and sometimes, that is all the scholarship and wisdom we need.