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God Is My Head MAG
When a person is born they know nothing, and I was no different. All I knew was what they told me to believe. I didn't know that what they had told me made me different.
At my preschool in December, Santa Claus was all the talk. Most kids had sat on the big red hero's lap. Siaosi wanted a Nintendo 64. Brian wanted a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle bed. And I wanted a Batman movie. I knew who Santa Claus was. Like everything else my world had told me to believe, I believed in him. I believed in his jolly smile. I believed in his godly powers. I was a nice kid, so he'd surely be stopping by.
When my father came to pick me up I asked, “When can I tell Santa what I want for Christmas?”
“Santa doesn't come to our house, Marky,” he confessed with a chuckle. Something was funny, but I didn't get it. “We don't celebrate Christmas. Jews don't believe in Santa Claus.”
So now I knew. I was a Jew. My god was not Allah. My god was Adonai. His son is not Jesus, but we were all created in the image of God. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus. They're all wrong, and we're right. My rabbi may not have taught me this, but that's the feeling I got.
My pride began to gleam blue, silver, and white. Judaism was my identity. It made me feel like I belonged. I was one of the “chosen people.” My ideas surpassed those who had not been chosen.
My parents entered me into classes at my temple. The stories of the Bible were taught to me like facts – what goes up must come down, and a glass half empty is the same as a glass half full. There was no question: On the first day, God created light. There was no disputing that God took the next day to separate the skies from the seas. He created everything in existence. No doubt about it. God had the power to do anything. No one would suspect anything else – except maybe the kid sitting next to me in third grade.
Chris and I had no reason to hate each other. We both liked sports. We were both nice people. We both had Jansport backpacks. We could have been great friends. We should have been great friends. Chris and I got along until one day when he asked if I believed in God. I didn't know this was something to be debated. Of course I believed. Who didn't?
“You're an idiot,” Chris muttered. No, Chris, you're an idiot. After all, I was chosen and you weren't.
Chris wasn't the only idiot, though. My class was full of them. Kids knew I was Jewish because I refused to participate in Christmas activities. While they caroled, I mouthed the words. While they made Easter eggs, I stood on the tables and made noise. They wore Santa hats, and for a time in sixth grade, I wore a kippah under my 49ers hat, reminding me that God had control.
I loved the 49ers. In sixth grade, during a crucial playoff game, I prayed to God that the 49ers would win. The 49ers had fumbled the ball with only a four-point lead. I know people usually turn to God when a ship is sinking or when their child is drafted to join the armed forces, but the 49ers making it to the Super Bowl was just as important to me.
“God, please let the Niners stop them here,” I pleaded. “Please. I'll do anything.”
The opposing quarterback took the snap, dropped a few steps back, and threw a long pass downfield to the end zone.
“Let there be an interception. Let the receiver blink,” I begged, kneeling and gazing up at the TV screen. Everything was moving in slow motion. “Something. Anything. Please.”
The ball continued in a perfect spiral. I expected God to make it wobble like an injured bird in flight. The receiver continued downfield, galloping ahead of the defender. I expected God to make him trip.
The clock wound down to the last five seconds. I was still waiting for a miracle. The ball continued to fall. The only force acting upon it was gravity now, propelling it into the hands of the receiver. I made one last prayer. Perhaps locusts would eat the ball. But instead it fell into the fingertips of the receiver. Touchdown. Game over. Niners lost.
I didn't understand. How did I know God was out there if he never responded to my wishes? I thought back to what I had been taught in temple. On the first day, God created light. But who created God? For the first time, it didn't make sense to me.
The next week, my doubts increased; we started learning about evolution in school. It seemed that each day in the Bible was millions of years in evolution. On the first day, we were apes. On the second day, we were Homo habilis. On the third day, we began to walk on two feet. On the fourth day, we became cavemen – Homo sapiens. On the fifth day, we became human. It was awfully different from what I had been told. I felt I had been lied to.
The next week in sixth grade social studies, we learned about the Holocaust. That week, I found out that six million Jews were killed because they believed something that others did not. Six million chosen people, including much of my family and almost my grandma. And where was God?
I began to question every moment something had gone wrong for the Jewish people. Had he just ignored us when we were kicked out of Spain in 1492? Had God been sleeping for the past 60 years as Israel has existed in constant turmoil? God was supposed to protect us. Why would he let us face such oppression? Why would he let us be constantly attacked?
Like he created conflict between me and Chris in third grade, God had been creating conflicts for as long as he'd existed. The Spanish missionaries and the Native Americans had fought over God. People had killed in the name of God. A suicide bomber had smuggled a bomb in his underwear for God.
First Chris told me God didn't exist. Then God gave up on the 49ers. Then evolution made me doubt that God created everything around me. And then I learned a troubling history that God had failed to prevent. All this pointed to the same inconceivable idea: God isn't out there. We're alone.
And that was what I believed until a few months ago.
Her eyes were shut. Her lips were painted with vomit. Her legs were limp as she dropped to her knees. Her head slid down my legs to rest on my feet.
The smell of alcohol attacked my nostrils as Nick pulled out his phone. This wasn't our fault. Everyone was saying we needed to get her help and get out of there. If my parents found out that once again I had gotten myself into trouble, I'd be shipped to Utah by tomorrow.
Nick dialed, gave our location, her name, and her condition. A voice echoed in my head, my voice, reminding me that I had brought her here and there was no God to save her.
I looked down at Sarah. She was still passed out with her head on my feet, fastening them to the ground. I looked around me again. I was all alone. Why had everyone else left? Should I leave too?
I begged for an answer. I needed some guidance, and so I waited. I thought maybe, just maybe, God was real and would help me. Maybe he'd make me invisible or make Sarah recover in time for me to get her out of here before the police arrived. So I waited. Frustration pulsed through my veins.
“Goddamnit!” I screamed. Everyone's a liar. God's a liar. God isn't real.
But then, I heard it. It had been there the whole time. I just hadn't realized what it meant.
You brought her here, the voice in my head reminded me. You're responsible for her. God's words resonated inside me, and my feet stayed glued beneath Sarah's head. There was a God. There is a God.
It was then I realized that for me God is not a supreme being. He can't make seas part and he can't control the weather. I have my own god. I created him. He didn't create me. My god is my head.
He can't save lives. He doesn't create miracles. But my god does create nonetheless. He creates morals and beliefs, talents and interests. He tells me what's good and what's evil. I don't always follow his orders, but I do believe in him. I believe in my god. My god is my head.
God helps me when I need to make a decision, and to me, he's always right. He'll rationalize my choices and make suggestions like a mentor, like a conscience.
My god has been my head ever since I could think. When I sin, my god punishes me with guilt, and that's enough to make me want to do good. So I don't need heaven or hell to guide me. I just need my god. And while everyone fights over where or whether or how or when God existed, I won't fight. I know my god is my head and no one can convince me otherwise.
So, with Sarah at my feet, I had a choice. I could stay and make sure she was all right, because that was my responsibility, or I could flee to avoid punishment. Then, red and blue lights flashed, and a paramedic hopped out of the ambulance.
“She had too much to drink,” I told him.
As the paramedics loaded Sarah into the ambulance, a cop questioned me. He asked who gave her the alcohol and where everyone went. I answered politely, knowing there was no way my parents weren't going to find out. He nodded with each answer, then pushed me against the hood of the squad car and proceeded to pat me down.
“That was an honorable thing to do,” he said as he clicked the handcuffs around my wrists and guided me into the back seat of the cruiser. “Why'd you stay?”
I looked at him through the barred window of the back seat and smiled.
“Something in my head told me to. Maybe it was God. Maybe it was my conscience. But I like to think it was both.”