Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say to God if it turned out there was one and he met him at judgment. Mr. Russell’s reply: “You gave us insufficient evidence.”
I don’t agree. There is enough for me.
For a few years I had more than enough. Things just kept happening that made me look up and sometimes say right out loud, “Are you kidding me? That was a good one. Are you doing this so I’ll tell everyone you exist?”
They were small things like on a walk once, I thought we needed to buy a new whisk broom and a milisecond later, I looked down on the road and there was a whisk broom. A perfect whisk broom. On South Road. On the ground. Right in front of me.
Like the winter I chastised myself for not planting tulip bulbs that prior fall. I love tulips. I had made a promise to myself that I was going to start gardening. I was told when to plant, how to plant and where to plant. I never bought the bulbs. Spring came and five tall white tulips magically appeared where I would have planted them.
Like the time I decided to give up bread. And for some odd reason that same week started eating pomegranates. I had never had a pomegranate. I even Googled a YouTube video with Martha Stewart showing how to hammer the seeds out. I began to eat a half a pomegranate in a new salad I made up.
One day while I was eating my delicious concoction, a friend came over and out of all the conversations we could have had, he began telling me about his favorite Greek myth. I never studied the Greek myths. Out of all of them the one he chose to share was the story of Persephone who was stolen by Hades, king of the underworld. Her mother, Demeter, goddess of grain (bread, the bread I gave up) was distraught and while looking everywhere for her, she neglected the fields so everything died. When she finally learned where her daughter was, she insisted that her daughter be returned to her. Hades sadly hitched his horses to his chariot and prepared to take Persephone back. But before they left, he offered her a ripe, blood red pomegranate. Persephone took six seeds and ate them.
They went back above ground, and Persephone threw herself into her mother's arms. The earth again grew rich with flowers and the sun shone once more.
But, because Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds, it was decided that for six months of each year, she must return to the underworld with Hades, and winter would come to the world. In spring she would once again return to her mother, allowing the earth to bloom. Here I was chomping on pomegranate seeds across the room from my friend. So I asked him if he told me that myth because of my salad. He said he had no idea what I was eating. I have a hundred of these and so do you. Like when you think of someone and then they call. My husband, the scientist, calls them coincidences. And I know intellectually they have nothing to do with God. But then Einstein says, “Coincidence is Gods way of remaining anonymous”.
And Anatole France says, “Coincidence is perhaps the pseudonym of God when he does not want to sign his work.”
And a course in Miracles says that no one is where he is by accident. And chance plays no part in God’s plan.
Some years ago I sang tenor in the congregational church choir. This wouldn’t be eyebrow raising except that I am a Jewish person. It’s still not eyebrow raising because it turns out the congregational church is very open minded and doesn’t care what your religion of origin is as long as you can hold a note. And I can hold a note. At first I felt a little weird about saying Jesus’ name, but I rationalized that Jesus was Jewish. Plus, I loved the music so much, and I was way too happy to worry about repercussions from a higher realm. One early Sunday morning as I was about to tiptoe out of the bedroom, I looked at my sleeping husband and thought, “Wait, Sundays were our favorite love making time. What am I doing dressing up in my finery and leaving to go sing songs praising Jesus?” I ultimately quit after three years of loving the whole experience but desperately missing my Sundays with my husband.
Things around this time seemed to become dry and dark. Our son was sick and money was tight and I felt bereft of all things spiritual. One late afternoon I decided to take a walk down Flanders Lane. I have taken that walk a million times. I know every stump, every root, every leaf, every rut, every curve. There had been a big storm the night before.
As I was walking I was thinking and talking in my head. I said, “Okay God, where are you? I’m feeling very alone and disconnected. I know you were giving me tons of messages and tiny miracles, and I am grateful for how it has kept me afloat. But I’m in need right now.” I even said something stupid like, “I know you have to go elsewhere and other people deserve your grace, but if you could just give me a sign.”
Then I had this thought: “You’re not pissed because I sang in a gentile choir, are you?”
Then suddenly, right there in front of me blocking the path was a small tree that had fallen into the crook of another tree. And it was clearly, obviously, spectacularly in the shape of a cross. I gasped, looked up and said, “Oy, good one.”
So I’m back. And so is God.
Maybe everything is, as Joel says, just a coincidence. But for me, I’ve got more than sufficient evidence.
NANCY SLONIM ARONIE
is the author of Writing from the Heart: Tapping the Power of Your Inner Voice. She has taught at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and received the Derek Bok Teacher of the Year Award at Harvard for two consecutive years as a teaching fellow for Robert Coles. She has been a television performer in the miniseries “Catch a Rainbow,” a magazine columnist at McCall’s, and a commentator for NPR’s “All Things Considered.” She created the Chilmark Writing Workshop in her home on Martha’s Vineyard.