I sat at the feet of the ancient,
and he proposed to instruct me in all things.
"After an infinite number of eternities," he began,
"the God decided that it no longer wanted to be God."
"But that which is God can never be not God," he continued.
"And so the God decided that it
would simply forget that it was God.
Thus God created the material universe,
wherein the God hides
in myriad and ever-changing manifestations,
forgetting that it is,
itself, composed of the God."
I squinted up at the ancient.
His bald head partially blocked the
bright light of the sun shining behind him.
"Ah, I see," said I.
"Then there is exquisite irony in
the unchaste Madonna singing that
she is a material girl?"
The sun glinted off of his bald head,
as he cocked it, trying to understand my reference.
He didn't get it. Sometimes the ancient does not
keep up with pop culture.
Or perhaps it was just a bad joke.
Said the ancient,
"In all of us there is still an element,
a derivative of the divine,
that makes us to intuit
our own divinity.
Our task is simply to remember
that we are, indeed, children created
from that which is most sublime."
It was my turn to cock my head and squint.
"So, like recovered memories? Only,
I am supposed to remember that I am God?
I can only imagine how that will make
the religiously faithful feel,
those who have devoted their entire lives to worshiping
a being they believe to be outside themselves.
Not to mention, it will be a boon to that whole
recovered memory therapy scam currently
The ancient chuckled and held
his hands up to frame his face.
"Again with the Madonna jokes?" he asked.
"Yes, past lives and former wives
are hard to deal with for a
person who believes the God is radically transcendent,
or someone who believes the entire truth of the God can be
held in a few sacred scriptures and books."
I guess he did get my earlier reference.
"What you are saying is not news to me," I stated.
"I did not need to climb this mountain to hear you
say all of this; for this wisdom you share is well
known in world religious traditions; it is, indeed,
the origin of the word namaste."
The ancient shrugged, which pulled his bald
head down into his shoulders, giving him
the look of a saffron colored tortoise.
"Ah yes," he said. "This is all well-known
territory. This is why papa don't preach."
"We have a real Madonna theme going here," I said.
"How is it you know so much about pop culture,
sitting here high atop your mountain home?"
His weathered face grew solemn.
"The truth is heard in many voices,"
he said. "The god speaks to itself
in wondrous and sundry ways.
I listen whenever I hear the god
reminding itself of its true nature,
whether that voice be in a sacred text,
or through a pop culture icon who challenges
religious pomposity using
the very same religious imagery
that has veered into religious idolatry.
Too often humans begin worshiping
the thing, and not the meaning behind the thing."
I nodded, thinking back to all the times
I had tried to use prayer and religious covenants
as a way to force the god into giving me
my unlimited supply of wishes granted.
How I had worshiped scriptures, and religious rites,
idolized empty crosses and religious bosses
to show that I was worthy of having
my prayers answered. All for naught.
The ancient must have read my mind.
"We all do that to some extent," he said.
"In the face of vast silence and
self-imposed ignorance, we all
grasp at those things that remind us
that there is something more than this."
He motioned at everything around us.
"It is because all of this is a mirror,
reflecting back to us our own divinity."
I knew what he said was true.
I had known this for years,
but refused to believe it
because early religious training
drilled into me that it was dangerous,
even soul killing,
to imagine oneself to be as god.
"Remember what Bill Murray said,"
the ancient insisted.
"If I recall correctly, he said
I am a god, not the god."
My mouth dropped open.
"You are quoting from Groundhog Day?"
The ancient chuckled, and a gleeful
light shone in his eyes.
"Sometimes the mountain top gets
lonely, which is why I had satellite
TV installed a few years ago."
He pointed over his shoulder,
where I noticed a satellite dish
perched at an angle on the mountain.
"Why should that surprise you?"
the ancient queried.
"I referenced a movie that was all about
a man living the same reality over and over
until he finally gets it right,
until he finally remembers all he is
supposed to remember.
Like I said, the god simply chose
to forget that it is the god.
But that which is god can
never be not god.
The god cannot help but,
to remember its true nature."
I pondered his words in silence.
Somehow, I always believed that
truth and wisdom could only come
from the ancient scriptures,
the ancient beliefs,
the religions that had existed for
thousands of years.
"If you seek the truth," said the ancient,
"look no further than yourself.
In your heart of hearts, you know,
you recognize, you understand
that within you live the Buddha,
the Prophet, the Messiah,
and all the holy men and women
who spoke the wisdom of the ages."
I nodded, as I felt his words
ringing a truth bell deep within.
"But what about Madonna?" I asked.
"Surely she cannot bring holy truth,
she who some accuse of defiling
the holy symbols of the son?"
He laughed, and his skinny frame
shivered with delight at
the bright sound of his own laughter.
"She is precisely that which brings the truth.
The unchaste Madonna challenges
dry-boned religion that resides only
in the shadow of the valley of death.
She understands that life, in all of
its glorious sensuality and carnal pleasure
is all part and parcel of god discovering god."
I stood, and my knees popped from
sitting cross-legged for too long.
"I never would have guessed that
a wise old monk like you would
turn out to be a Madonna fan,
and a fan of American movies," I said.
The ancient grinned slyly
as he looked up at me.
"Come back to me if
you ever want to talk
about the real meaning
of that song The Crossroads."
I walked down the steep slope
thinking of all that had transpired
over the past few moments.
When I turned back for one last glance,
the hermit monk was no longer there,
but I thought I saw a reflection of myself
shining in the snow as the
sun sank behind the mountain.