Boundary God?

I have to preface this with a “this is absolutely NOT my opinion and is here solely for the fact that I think it is one of the most ridiculous things I have read lately regarding spirituality” tag. No disrespect intended to Mrs. Patchett. I started to type that I am sure she is a lovely person..but in fact I do not know that. She could be quite lovely, or she could be quite grotesque in character. Or even worse, she could be -gasp- bland and void of any character. Though I seriously doubt the latter. If I only judge her on this one article, character she does not lack. She says at one point: “Having a talisman, even if it is your toaster, that reminds you to be honest with yourself, can save you untold suffering in the future.” One could question her sanity, as she admits to talking to an inanimate object..imagining it hears her and speaks back to her regarding various issues. One could argue that this is an atheist’s biggest argument against God being real. That when they pray to inanimate objects, say..a flying spaghetti monster (yes..there is actually a group of people who do this..mockery of course..but they do it) that they get the same results as if I were to pray to my God. That when healing or miracles DO happen, that it’s because of something we have done ourselves..mind over matter..I think therefore I am…I am my own God, etc. And honestly, I’m not sure what could be said to convince them otherwise. As much as I believe my God is real..such is their passion that He isn’t. Mrs. Patchett approaches spirituality with a sort of “choose your own adventure” outlook. When she is talking to her Boundary God, she is talking to herself. Her subconcious, her inner child, her inner adult even. She is doing nothing more than taking a few minutes to think about an issue before making a decision. Definitely a smart thing to do. (though, I’m wondering what the Boundary God REALLY said about publishing this article). So, Mrs. Patchett..why must you converse with a toy? Why can’t you call it what it is? Because the consequences wouldn’t be as personal? If the B.G. says I should do it..and it turns out unpleasant..then there is no personal accountability. If the B.G. says I should not do it..and it turns out that I should have…again, no personal accountability. Should you NEED a reminder to “be honest with yourself”? Shouldn’t we ALWAYS be honest with ourselves…and each other? And while we’re being honest, I pray to God…not a toy or a toaster or a flying spaghetti monster. God. And sometimes He speaks to my heart, and sometimes He doesn’t. He gives me wisdom and courage and the words to speak when I have none of my own. He is my God but also my friend. And when I speak with Him on a situation and it doesn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. I believe it is for a bigger purpose than I can see. I’m okay with not having all of the answers, or understanding all of His ways. I am not Him. And He is not a toy.

What I Know for Sure About My Boundary God
By Ann Patchett
June 01, 2011

I do not envy my friend Liz “Eat, Pray, Love” Gilbert for her blockbuster success or even her swell dog. What I do envy, though, is her ability to give presents. No matter what the occasion, Liz sends something that is both thoughtful and utterly original. She has sent me a floor-length wrap skirt printed with leaping emu, a good-luck chicken, and a carved wooden beetle box. But the best thing she ever gave me, which is really the best thing that anyone has ever given me, was an Indonesian boundary god.

My boundary god is carved from a pocked gray stone and is the size of a medium grapefruit with a neck. His facial features—two dots for eyes, a slight shelf of a nose, a straight line for a mouth—bring to mind a tropical snowman. He has no batteries. He does not sing or glow. He sits on my desk, quiet and wise, and protects my personal boundaries. He does a very good job.

For example, when asked if I would go to San Diego to give a talk in September, two weeks after returning from book tour in Australia, I sat for a minute and stared at my boundary god and, together, we had a nonverbal conversation. “Will you want to get back on a plane so soon after your 20 hour flight?” he asked (without asking).

“What if they really need me?” I (didn’t) reply. “How can I let down these people I don’t know?”

“You think there are no other writers?” the boundary god asked (without asking).

I nodded, quietly awed by his wisdom, then I called and declined the invitation.

The boundary god arrived, via the postman, when I was having a particular problem with houseguests. I was averaging about two sets a week. I didn’t invite any of them, nor did I ever say no. They just kept coming. But my little stone friend made me stop and focus. He encouraged me to think about what was actually best for my long-term mental health, and that’s when I got the situation under control.

The more I consult my boundary god, the more I realize a person could empower almost any household object with his insightful qualities. You could, for example, start consulting your toaster or your toothbrush or your parakeet. When someone asks you to take on another responsibility, excuse yourself for a moment. Go to your personal boundary god and ask the question, “Is this really something I’m going to want to do three days from now? (Three months? Three years?)” If the answer is no, then let it be no. Having a talisman, even if it is your toaster, that reminds you to be honest with yourself, can save you untold suffering in the future.

Just remember, sometimes the boundary god says yes. “Take a chance,” he tells me. “This crazy thing that’s being asked of you is going to be worth your time.”

I always listen.

Ann Patchett is the bestselling author of Run, Bel Canto, and, her newest novel, State of Wonder.


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