Back in the mid 90's Joan Osborne had a huge hit with the song 'One Of Us'. In it she pondered the concept of what we would do if we realised God was living amongst us.
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin' to make his way home?
At the time I would have been in my early twenties, still in the midst of working my way out of a lingering depression and anxiety, resulting in a rather desperate need to find some purpose and meaning in my life. This song struck a particular chord in me.
Introduced to spirituality at 16 by my adoration of The Beatles and George Harrison's eastern mysticism, I had been on a journey to try and find higher understanding for myself. Joan Osborne had dared to bring the 'God' word into popular culture in a non-preachy, simple and philosophical way, I was intrigued.
The concept of God being so ordinary as to be a stranger on a bus was still a little confusing to me, as at this point I still had residual issues from my upbringing of god being a 'thing', an all powerful being where we were subject to his whims and powers.
Looking back, 25 years later, I can see that an underlying motive on my journey has been a need to understand God and The Universe for myself, and not the version offered to me by religion and enforced by society and community. I feel that my earnest and consistent searching has peeled back layer after layer of the conditioning I received from my formative years, revealing a clearer sense of who I am, what I am, and indeed where I am (a soul in a body spinning on a piece of rock in the vastness of space).
Of course the beauty of life seems to be in the present moment and indeed in the journey of discovery, and not in the actual arrival of a definitive answer or a puzzle finally solved. The truth is something we all must discover for our individual and unique selves and not a prescription for all. Everyone must find their own path. Of course we can help to point and light the way for each other, but the ultimate realisations must come from within.
Most recently I have been toying with the 'One Of Us' concept. Living my life with the premise that God IS indeed one of us, actually ALL OF US. The stranger on the bus, the bad driver in front of us, the tired spouse, the anxious child, the homeless guy in the shop doorway, the angry boss, the lonely friend. The thoughts we choose to believe create our reality and so it's up to us to choose to believe the thoughts that empower us and provide us with peace and happiness. When I live my life treating everyone I meet with the same awe and respect that I would IF 'God' was them, then my experience of life is enriched. Everyone I meet is my teacher, and I am forever the student - the best place to live and learn from.
So thank you Joan Osborne for your beautiful song. It will forever have special meaning in my life.
Especially since a few years later my god of music Prince covered the song on his Emancipation album. Surely there can be no greater compliment for a songwriter than when Prince decides to cover your song.