Monday, July 6, 2009

The God Connection, Chapter 3

I put down Autism and the God Connection for a few days and came back to it last night. Chapter 3 details various paranormal experiences that autistic kids have had: a boy to whom cows are inexplicably drawn; a girl who predicted the Concorde would explode over Paris two days before it did; a horse whisperer; nonverbal children who communicate with telepathy. The author's implication is that these are special spiritual gifts bestowed upon some people on the spectrum.

Maybe they are. I've noticed that Ryan is drawn to other atypical kids, and they are often drawn to him. Ryan feels the need to follow a severely-retarded teenager around our local playground, and an obviously-autistic boy is constantly pursuing Ryan at a park near my parents' house. Is this due to paranormal activity? Is it like gaydar? I don't know.

I'm not a traditionally religious person. I was raised in an atheistic Jewish home, celebrating commercial Christmas in addition to secularized versions of the various Jewish holidays. In college, I wound up majoring in Religious Studies, because I found the subject academically fascinating, even if not personally meaningful to me.

That said, I believe that I have personally experienced God three times. And I'm still not sure what I believe.

The first time, while rushing through Grand Central Station, I looked up and saw God on one of the high arched windows. It looked like a bright, misty light, and felt like utter stillness.

Another time, I was sort of praying, which is strange because I don't think I believe in prayer, because I don't think there's a Conscious Force to be persuaded by human wishes. It was a clear evening, and I was sitting on a bench outside my apartment, trying to come to terms with The Diagnosis. I wished for a sign that everything would turn out alright. At that moment, I heard a low rumble and saw heat lightning, directly over my building. I said, "Is that the sign I was looking for?" and it happened a second and final time.

My most significant experience of God came the day before Ryan was born. Throughout the last couple of months of my pregnancy I had been plagued by a horrible itchiness. My skin crawled 24 hours a day, and nothing helped - I tried oatmeal baths, every anti-itch cream at the drug store, deep breathing... Blood tests had revealed nothing. Anyway, 38 weeks pregnant, I went for my weekly ob/gyn checkup. I parked at a 30-minute meter, thinking I would be in and out quickly, but she kept me in the waiting room for half an hour. As I headed over to my car to feed the meter, I saw a cop writing me a ticket. I started to run across the street to try to stop him, but I tripped and fell on my belly. My doctor sent me to the hospital for observation, and hey, as long as I was going to be there, why not do another blood test for the itchiness thing? The fall had not caused Ryan any injury, but the blood test revealed a liver imbalance that can cause stillbirth if delivery is not induced, preferably before the 38th week.

So thanks to Divine Intervention, my baby survived - he wasn't breathing and had to spend his first few days in NICU, but he survived. I carry a scar on my left elbow (check out that bandage!) as a constant reminder that everything happens for a reason, even if I can't figure out what that reason might be.


  1. Hey Meredith,

    very nice post - great writing.

    i was not raised with any religion either, but i was not raised explicitly atheistically. my mom's catholic and my dad's jewish, and they got a hard time about their marriage from their respective religious communities and so decided not to raise me or my brother as either one. i learned a little about each of them, practiced watered-down versions of the rituals of both, etc.

    it was only quite recently (say, 2 years ago) that the label of atheist ever occured to me. as i grew up i went from not quite knowing what to make of god to trying to come up with my own definition, to rejecting all definitions while accepting that SOMEthing must be up beyond what we can tell, to thinking that actually, there probably wasn't anything, which brings me to where i am today: for lack of a better word, an atheist, which to me means that i live without god, that the existence of god is irrelevant to my life (I make no positive assertions about god's existence or lack thereof).

    still, though, there are moments, as there have always been throughout my life, that i struggle to find explanations for--coincidences that seem too big or too perfect to be random. for example, i recently connected with a first cousin of mine i'd never met before. she was adopted as a baby and her mother, my mom's sister, died a year later in a fire (in 1970). she found our family in the course of research into her biological parents. totally unrelated, one of my very best friends, one of those friends that's essentially family, grew up on a commune in vermont, and is now building a house there (her mom still owns the land). My wife and I have talked about, when/if we have the money, building a summer place there ourselves. Here's the kicker: in the course of a conversation, we realized that the commune is where the fire was that killed my aunt. it turns out i know people, people my friend grew up with, who were there that night and escaped.

    it's a pretty crazy coincidence. one of the craziest i've experienced. makes me wonder if there's some logic to the whole thing, like i'm some crucial node in my cousin's quest to find out about her history or something, or like the closeness i've developed with this friend was somehow meant to be, or that my cousin and my friend were meant to meet, and on and on.

    but lately, i just have a hard time going there. i've been finding the randomness explanation to be actually more satisfying than the intervention explanation. i was wondering if you wouldn't mind saying a bit more about why those three experiences say "God" to you so clearly. It's something i think about a lot, particularly the "everything happens for a reason" bit, so your post interested me a lot.

  2. I love that your comment is longer than my post :-)

    I don't think I can verbalize why those experiences said "God" to me - in the moment, that seemed like The Answer. Like that time in Grand Central, I just "knew" that was what I had witnessed - the realization of what I had seen was as much a part of the moment as the visual and the sense of peace.

  3. sorry for the verbosity. it's an affliction.

    i know what you mean. these things are difficult to put into words - i have a hard time with it myself.

    i enjoy your blog a lot, by the way. been reading for a few posts now. very nice stuff. do you know catherine newman's work?


Keep it civil, people.