Today is National Autism Day, a day set aside to educate, respect, honor, and spread awareness of what the diagnosis of autism is and the support that is and/or should be present for those with such a diagnosis. Tomorrow begins the Jewish celebration of Passover. It is also the day commonly known as Good Friday in the Christian community and Sunday is Easter for many Christians. Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter a week later. Though different, all of these days represent an illustration of ideas and beliefs.
Defining one’s ideology has become more difficult in recent years and that difficulty has seen a lack of interest in finding the sacred in our everyday. Controversy has arisen between that which is religious and that which is spiritual. Many conservative religious people disdain spirituality, even though their religion emphasizes spirits. Many spiritual followers believe religion to be full of hatred even though it preaches and encourages one to “love thy neighbor”.
Some spiritualities practice the art of Om Shanti, the consciousness of an eternal state of peace and awareness of one’s spiritual identity. Om is considered the sound of the universe – past, present, and future. Shanti means peace and is often recited three times to signify peace of the body, mind, and soul. Some might call this the peace of God.
IALAC is an exercise in the parenting program from Colorado called Dare to Be You. Participants are given a piece of paper upon which is written in a descending pattern I – A – L – A – C. They are asked to decorate the paper and are given crayons, glitter, stickers, etc. Only after the decorating is done and shared are the words revealed for their meaning. I Am Lovable And Capable. This seemingly innocent exercise, when put up on a refrigerator door or alongside a bathroom mirror, serves to remind all that they are worthy of the peace of God, Om Shanti, the peace of all that has been, is, and will come.
In the fourth century theological manuscripts began to be decorated. Those adorned with gold or silver were said to be illuminated since the colors seem to shimmer and emphasize the ethereal spirit of the message. Then the page borders bore decoration, often painted. Entire pages became works of art, a humble offering that gave testament to the beauty and importance of the texts decorated. Many such illuminated works of ideologies were painted rather than illuminated but soon the term began to cover not only Western art but Far Eastern and Mesoamerican texts as well as Islamic works.
Today these pages often seem overdone or strange. A child with autism may also seem overly engaged with certain aspects of living or possessing certain talents above those of the average person. While their social skills may seem lacking, those with such a diagnosis are often illuminating their special skills rather than everyday lifestyles with which we are more familiar. Just as illuminated texts may seem strange to us in the twenty-first century who are accustomed to mass printing of books, these hand-painted works of art are really unique gifts that illustrate the beauty and diversity of beliefs. The world’s unusual people are also gifts, gifts that remind us that everything in life is sacred and nothing is mundane.
Life is not just about the living; it is about the cycle, the steps. Those steps tend to go round and around so that everything old is new again. We practice Lent and celebrate Passover and Easter because we have encountered new things each year. We need to constantly celebrate our being and seek to discover personal and universal peace so that we can fully live. As we engage in these cycles, we are illuminating our beliefs and being reminded of their sacred meanings.
To discover the sacred in our daily living is to learn about new beginnings, the challenges and the conquests. “Everything old is new again” and we are a part of that, being both lovable and capable. How we live, what we do illuminates our beliefs. Faith is not something just for special occasions. Just as autism is an ongoing daily experience, so is finding the sacred and illuminating it in our lives. The purpose of illuminated texts was the exchange of ideas. The purpose of living is to honor the exchange of love and to be good stewards not only of the earth but in illuminating the gift that is life among all mankind.