So. Religion. In 500 words or fewer. Really? I can’t do it.
Instead, I’m resorting to one of my stories. I’m old enough to repeat myself if I feel like it, so here goes.
In my first year of grad school at Cal, I arrived late to campus one spring morning after a gutting fight with my husband. I don’t remember what it was about, but it was the kind of fight that made me wonder what the hell I had been thinking to marry this person, and what ever possessed me to think I had the slightest inkling of who he was inside because clearly, I didn’t, and my judgment was so wildly off the mark as to call into question everything I ever thought I knew about anything.
I know what was wrong now. He had bipolar disorder. At the time, however, as I parked in the Northside lot and scuttled down to the corner of Euclid and Hearst to cross onto campus, I despaired. Something was wrong, very, very wrong, and no amount of therapy or constructive action on my part seemed to make any difference.
As I reached the crosswalk, the light turned red, and I was stuck in front of a bakery with a homeless guy with a big beard and a little collection box for the Berkeley Free Clinic. My guard down, I made eye contact.
He smiled. He didn’t ask for my spare change. “What’s your favorite shape?”
Well, that was a different approach. “A triangle,” I said.
“What’s your favorite color?”
He pointed to the sky behind the redwoods to the west of the North Gate. “Look up.”
He traced a triangle with one finger against the clear blue sky. “There’s a blue triangle for you. Love and fear. That’s all there is. You decide.”
The light turned green and I went to my class, and on with my imperfect marriage and my own deep flaws and foibles. Those words have never left me.
Three short sentences spoken in a profane and painful moment, with the humble gift of an imagined blue triangle sketched in the air bore a lesson as resonant as the teachings of the world’s greatest religions.