On my walk this morning, I got thinking about spirituality again. Of course, it’s very likely that not one of these thoughts is actually original. I’m a voracious and addictive reader, and very likely every idea I have and am about to express has been articulated before (probably much more eloquently!?) – so I’m not laying any claim to original thoughts on this subject…
One key thing we always need to bear in mind about religion and spirituality is that religion is man-made. God did not invent religion, people did. This is why organized religion has been and continues to be responsible for so much…I want to say…sin…on this planet…
Being man-made, religion (and its practitioners) are terribly prey to those human scourges we love to hate: arrogance, hypocrisy, hierarchy, patriarchy, control freak-ism, rigidity, phoneyness, corruption of power, individual pathology masquerading as uprightness/virtue…
And I think it’s wonderful and grand that there are a lot of very fine and upstanding people on the planet who are true followers and practicers of the very best and truest aspects of…spirituality…
Religion so often winds up being about externals, doesn’t it? Outward manifestations of what springs (or ought to…) from within – from the spirit … (& which are often attributed to the teachings of…Jesus,Mohammed, the Buddha, the Universe?)(1)
I’m one of those people who is very skeptical about an undue focus on outward appearances, and very aware of how often our human attempts to … look good(2)… can cover up a whole multitude of sins and hypocritical behaviour.
I guess the really important thing to remember about religion and spirituality is that neither is an end in itself.
We are “religious” – or “spiritual” – in order to serve better; is it not so? Whether we are “serving God” or serving humanity, surely to goodness we will do our best to do so with sincerity, humility, generosity, honesty, openness, selflessness, compassion, love of our fellow creatures (both human and non-human), willingness to grow and learn and change and evolve….
And this brings me back full circle to that walk I took this morning, and the remembering inside my head that indigenous people have always lived their spirituality from the in-side out, seven days of the week. God, as the rock group Jethro Tull said so brilliantly in their song 30 or more years ago, is “not the kind you have to wind up on Sunday.” (3)
Our spirituality – our service – are surely meant to be for every day and all day. We are not here for ourselves – we’re here as a unique and special element of a very large and mysterious picture, puzzle and story – and we are never alone.
There may be someone who is reading this now and thinking, “This is all the most utter BULLSH-T; religion and spirituality mean NOTHING WHATSOEVER to me!” to which all I can respond is, “I am soooooooo very sorry that you feel that way…”
I can’t document or even recall all the significant steps in my own odd and lifelong journey to, away from and back to religion, faith and spirituality – but I do know these things:
- After several years of involvement in environmental work (to which, and I apologize in advance because this may sound weird and fruity to some, I felt called), the conviction grew in me (unawares, I might add…) that I/we are not alone…not ever alone…
- A deep love and appreciation (and reverence for) Nature (Creation, if you prefer) may provide you with as much spirituality as you might ever really need, and
- If you want to turn your life around – or in a new direction, even – and whether or not you give a tinker’s dam about religion or spirituality, embark on a daily, sincere active practice of expressing gratitude for all the blessings you have in your life. Some big thinkers say gratitude is what spirituality and religion are really all about…and I strongly suspect they’re right!
p.s. That amazing and admirable man of the day, Eckhart Tolle, says (no doubt this too is not a new thought or insight – it’s just the right time for us to hear it and finally get it, way down inside our guts), “Suffering is the spiritual teacher.” I’m dang sure he’s got that right!
p.p.p.s. In June 2009, a year after writing this, I read Joanna Macy’s book World as Lover, World as Self – Courage for Global Justice & Ecological Renewal. On page 135, in the chapter called ‘Taking Heart,’ she says “But now comes the daunting revelation, that we are all called to be saints – not good necessarily, or pious, or devout – but saints in the sense of just caring for each other.” And this, I believe, applies to us whatever our religious/spiritual faith/belief – or utter lack thereof. Indeed I do…
(1) Externals – material things – can never really fill us up or do what we expect and hope for them to do, e.g. make us happy. How many unhappy rich people are there on the planet? Plenty! Yet so many of us persist in believing that having a bunch of money – or things – would make us suddenly miraculously well and happy. Sheesh. As Agnes Repplier said, “It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, but it is not possible to find it elsewhere.” Happiness comes from within…not from without. It's an inside job, as someone clever has put it. This is why religion – which is so often focused on externals – needs to be replaced by, or at least balanced by, spirituality – which comes from within….
(2) There’s an item on the blog about this: it’s called ‘Looking Good.’
(3) Jethro Tull song “Wind-Up” from the 1970’s.