creation story
creation story

reading group guide

ideal for interfaith gatherings

© martin boroson, 2004


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this reading group guide is not a 'literary' one. it encourages you to to reflect on your own experiences and values, using the words and pictures of becoming me as a focus for contemplation. my hope is that the inclusive language and interfaith message of becoming me will help you and your friends reflect on our common hopes and fascinating differences in a heartfelt way. i wish you a profound and playful adventure. -- marty


how to use this guide

1. try beginning your discussion with a meditation, prayer, or a period of silence to quiet the mind.

2. first talk about how to have a discussion in an open-hearted, open-minded way. consider going around the circle in turn, so that everyone is encouraged to speak. you might want to have one person be the moderator or timekeeper.

3. give each person a chance to read becoming me aloud. after each reading, pause to notice what you're feeling. try playing with the tone of voice and see how this affects the meaning and impact of the story.

4. now move on to the questions below. these are organized into topics that loosely follow the structure of becoming me.  you can choose one question from each section.

 

discussion topics

who is telling this story?

does god just want to have fun? 

is creativity next to godliness?

what's life all about? 

what is enlightenment?

who are you really?

where does aggression come from?

is anywhere better than here?

how can art express the spiritual?
what's love got to do with it?

 

 

 

who is telling this story?

a. becoming me begins with the curious first line "once upon a time, i was".   most people consider this to be the voice of god, but does it match your understanding of god?  what is the tone of voice?  is it masculine or feminine?   how old would you say god is?  what does god feel?  what does god want?  do you like this way of characterizing divine will?

b. the nature of god can be understood in different ways, even within the same religion.   what is your understanding of god?   is god formed, like a divine being, or formless, like a field of energy?   do you believe that god is completely above human affairs (transcendent) or part and parcel of life on earth (immanent)?   what does becoming me suggest?

c. many of our beliefs about god are shaped not by religious texts or sermons but by our own life experiences.   how has your understanding of divinity changed during your life?   how have particular experiences, such as bereavement, illness, or even a miraculous moment, changed your values and your understanding of god?  

 

 

does god just want to have fun?  

 

a.  many people consider "religion" to be serious and solemn, but "play" to be frivolous or childish.   becoming me suggests that by adopting the attitude of a child at play we become like god ("...then we play together, you and i.")  what role does play have in your life?   how do you enter a "state of play"?  do you consider play to be something irresponsible or sinful?   could your daily life be enhanced by adopting a playful spirit?   compare this to christ's statement "you must become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven."  

b.  in hinduism, all of creation is seen as the play of god, a process called lila. henricus suso, a 14th century dominican monk, said "all creatures are god in god."   becoming me puts these two ideas together, suggesting that universe is is really just god playing with different forms of god. ("i liked to make myself into different shapes.")   how do you feel about this idea?   does this demean or enhance the purpose of life?  is god just having fun?

 

is creativity next to godliness?

a.  the original title for becoming me was "the big birth".  look through becoming me to see how birth is used as a metaphor for the process of creation.  although we rarely discuss it, giving birth and becoming a parent can be one of life's most powerful spiritual experiences.  here is a good chance to reflect on your birthing experiences and share them with your friends. what was your experience of giving birth? was it a spiritual experience for you?  how did it feel for you to make "someone else"?  what was it like to become a father? how did your relationship to life change?  many artists speak of the creative process as being like childbirth.  what do you think?  where else in life can we find the metaphor of giving birth?

b. becoming me suggests that one reason for the creation of the world is god's need for "someone else".   compare this with the jewish mystical idea that the reason for creation is that "god wished to behold god".  when do you feel an aching need for an other?   when do you feel the need to be "seen"? have you ever felt a loneliness of cosmic proportions?  have you ever felt lost?  have you ever felt found?

 

what's life all about?  

a. one purpose of a creation story is to give us a sense of why we are here and what life is for.  do you believe we are here for a reason?  do you have a "philosophy of life"?  how does this affect what you do each day?  where does this belief come from?  what experiences have shaped your beliefs?   does becoming me give an answer to this question?

b. living in a multicultural community can challenge us to question our own beliefs.   for example, the bible gives one understanding of creation, but there are also hindu creation stories, buddhist creation stories, native american creation stories, etc.   becoming me has been called a"multicultural creation story".   what does that mean?   what is the creation story that informs your cultural background?   how can we reconcile different stories of creation?   does this challenge their authenticity?

c. the materialist worldview suggests that the universe is made only of matter.   is this your experience?   do you believe in the soul?   if so, where is it?   why can't science find it in a microscope?   have you ever had an experience that doesn't quite fit in with "reality"?  

 

what is enlightenment?  

a.  according to becoming me, god's deepest wish for us is that we find god ("i like it best when you discover me.")  many people feel that they have experienced divinity in a peak experience, a moment when we feel bigger than ourselves, aware of infinity and eternity or filled with compassion. sometimes these happen spontaneously, and sometimes they are triggered by prayer, meditation, being in nature, experiencing art, physical exertion, taking psychedelics, making love, giving birth, grieving.   have you ever had a "peak" experience?   how did you feel during this experience?   how did you feel afterward?   how did your perspective on life change?  

 

who are you really?

a. becoming me suggests that the question "who am i?" is the beginning of our spiritual quest ("every so often, you wonder who you are").   in a similar vein, mythologist joseph campbell says that the spiritual path begins with a "call to adventure", an awakening that might take the form of an accident, a dream, a crisis, or a coincidence.   have you ever experienced a call to adventure, a life experience that forced you to wonder who you really are?  how did you deal with it?

b. becoming me suggests that if we look deep enough within, we discover a divine presence or awareness as our original identity.   in other words, by looking for you, within you, you discover that you are really god.   buddhism talks about finding your "original face before you were born".   is this the same as christ's teaching "the kingdom of god is within you"?   what does this mean for you?   what are the implications for the way we live?

c. becoming me suggests that though we long to be reunited with god, god actually enjoys being us.   this is one of the most unusual and provocative ideas in becoming me, giving it a playful, paradoxical feeling.   it implies that "who you are" depends on your point-of-view:   are you an individual, searching for god, or are you god, having the unique and wonderful experience of being you?      

d. many religions embrace the idea that god has incarnated as a special being ("avatar"), such as christ or krishna, in order to help or save humanity.   but becoming me suggests that every single aspect of life, including you, is a divine incarnation, a process of divine becoming.   do you believe that all of existence is divine, or that god is only expressed as an avatar?   if everything in creation is divine, how should we treat it?   another version of this question is the famous zen buddhist koan:    "does a dog have buddha-nature?"   what do you think?

 

where does aggression come from?

a. compare the double-page picture of "life" in the middle of becoming me to the double-page picture of "war" near the end.   what has changed in the landscape?   how did you feel when you first saw the picture of war and desolation?  there are many people in our communities who have been directly affected by war-having been in combat, lost a loved one, or been made refugees—but there is rarely a time for them to tell their stories and discuss how they make sense of their experiences.   here is a good opportunity for you and your friends to share personal stories of war and how it has touched your lives.

b. becoming me seems to give a very clear reason why human beings become aggressive and destructive.   what is this reason?   does it make sense to you? what do you think is the root cause of war?   is aggression a part of the human condition?   

 

is anywhere better than here?

 

many spiritual paths suggest that being here, in the world, is just a preparation for being in a heaven or afterlife.   others suggest that here is a world of illusion and suffering, but there is a place, or an experience, that is beyond suffering.   becoming me suggests that though we may yearn to be "up there", god actually wants to be "down here".   how do you feel about this?  do you have a craving to be "released" from this world?   or do you have a desire to be more fully in this world, to be more fully alive?   what do you believe happens after death?   have you ever had a near-death experience?   have you ever felt the presence of someone who died?   what was this like?   why might we want to be "up there" if god wants to be "down here"?  

 

how can art express the spiritual?

a. how would you paint a picture to express the infinite and eternal?  now look through the illustrations in becoming me, and see how painter chris gilvan-cartwright tried to convey a sense of "everything".   does he succeed? how much of the meaning and impact of becoming me is conveyed by the pictures?

b. now look at the big picture at the end of becoming me, a huge painting that chris originally called "everything".   if you look closely, you'll see that many of the other pictures in becoming me are taken from this big one.   what does this suggest about the relationship of each part of creation to the whole?   what is it like to feel "connected to everything"?  have you ever glimpsed the "big picture"?  how did this experience affect your life?

c. consider pieces of art that give you a spiritual feeling.   how does the artist manage to suggest something spiritual?   what is it in the artwork that gives you a spiritual feeling?   try sharing with your group a poem, painting, or piece of music that gives you the "tingle factor".

what's love got to do with it?

a. becoming me suggests that we live in a universe of love and that we are always held in love, or loved by god, even when we forget god or do things that are "wrong".   this implies that divine love somehow embraces both the good and bad of human behavior.   do you agree?

b. becoming me implies that the ultimate expression of love is when we recognize others as our self, for all beings are ultimately one.    many of us get a taste of this love when we fall in love romantically, or when we have a child.   but is it possible to extend this sense of love even further?   can we think of our neighbors as people for whom we would do anything?   can we extend this feeling to strangers?   can we extend it to our enemies?   do you believe this would be appropriate?   how would you practice it?

c. the dalai lama, in his nobel prize acceptance speech, said, "i pray for all of us, oppressor and friend, that together we succeed in building a better world through human understanding and love, and that in doing so we may reduce the pain and suffering of all sentient beings."   similarly, pope john paul ii, in his easter 2004 message, said "may the temptation to seek revenge give way to the courage to forgive; may the culture of life and love render vain the logic of death; may trust once more give breath to the lives of peoples."   but the beatles said it most succinctly:   "all you need is love."   how do you feel about this?   is love a sufficient force to solve the problems of the world?   how would we do it?  

 

 

 


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text © 2003-2004 martin boroson (unless otherwise noted);
illustrations © 2003-2004 christopher gilvan-cartwright
all rights reserved.
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