Living the Ordinary
All this series we have discussed Pentecost, the “ordinary time” as it is known in liturgical circles. A great many people have asked if I was trying to sneak in some theology into what they felt was a spiritually-based blog. This blog does discuss spirituality and no, I am not trying to put forth some hidden agenda which targets one specific religion. I would describe this blog as more a philosophical discussion but let’s talk about all three of these and how they relate to our everyday, ordinary existence.
A recent trend has been to pit religion against spirituality. There is good reason for this but one might ask: “Is it all a matter of semantics?” The millennials of today and Generation “Y” live and breathe in part according to meme theory. Many theologians blame it for the decline in their effectiveness. What is “meme theory” and from where did it originate? According to Wikipedia, a go-to reference for all millennials, a meme is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” The word is an abbreviation of the word memetic, a theory of mental evolution based upon the work of Charles Darwin, coined by British evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins. Opposing the religious culture, which most assuredly could be said to be based upon a meme, the term has become the battle cry of atheists who ironically, in their attempt to be different, have formed their own communion.
The battle between philosophy and religion is not new. After all, they both seek to answer questions about the world and mankind. Religion attempts to do this through beliefs, faith, and revelation that is said to come from deities or one supreme deity/spirit. Philosophy seeks to discover answers by way of reason and argument. In the medieval time, some religious leaders often saw philosophers as threats and branded them heretics. Eastern philosophy, however, developed alongside the philosophers of the time and Islam integrated philosophy with its theology.
Spiritual Healer Nancy Kern explains it this way: “Spirituality is a direct experience of God, by whatever name: Source, Spirit, the Light, All That Is, Allah, Shiva, Jesus. Religion is learned, passed on through families and cultural institutions, including churches. Religion is built around form, characterized by dogma, ritual and social interaction. Religious organizations are built around spiritual values, and also encompass politics, fund-raising and identity built on beliefs and practices.
“Spirituality involves a direct experience of grace through a bodily knowing; no intermediary is required, no particular beliefs are necessary. The ego cannot manage spiritual experiences or make them happen. Spiritual experiences range from beautiful to frightening, and may contradict religious and scientific beliefs. Both religion and spirituality can involve prayer, contemplation and/or meditation. Both can be positive forces of healing from emotional and physical distress. Spirituality can be encouraged through sensitivity to nature and the cultivation of awareness, gratitude and loving kindness. Religion can encourage and foster spirituality, but does not necessarily do so.”
The Native American culture believed that everything had a spirit, a soul that was to be respected. AS such, everything had a life force. Based upon the Asian continent from which these people originated more than thirty thousand years ago, their manner of living was based upon metaphysical questions answered by their spiritual and religious beliefs. Eastern traditions were much more focused on concepts of virtue and how life was to be lived rather than stories of one or more deities.
Philosophy seeks to rationalize reason for our actions. Spirituality would ask if fulfillment could be achieved by the harming and enslavement of another and religion would quote love for one’s neighbor rather than plotting murder and mayhem. In many of the instances of young people leaving a country of freedoms and opportunity, their reason is the same: They felt disenfranchised.
If we continue to make enemies of spirituality and religion, then we are looking at the future with very poor vision. Today’s young adults live passionately and want a passionate faith. Religion should be a living entity that embraces and uses their spirituality. We must let each other breathe, embracing that which emboldens our spirit to live.
Confucius and Buddha faced life with philosophical leanings that have become spiritual bases for living for many. Most major religions could also do the same. We need to stop looking at things from an “either-or” perspective and start thinking how we can make a healthy salad of life – combining various and often different things together to work for the betterment of all living things.
Judith Kelman once said: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Many people think they know how the world is supposed to revolve. As we enter the political seasons in countries all over the world, we are promised answers and new life. Location is now the magic key nor is a change in leadership. The answer lies with each of us. It cannot be bought on a store shelf, found in a bigger house, snazzier vehicle, or even by hiding behind the walls of a religious entity.
“Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it. . . . What frustrates us and robs our lives of joy is this absence of meaning. . . . Does our being alive matter?” Harold Kushner asked this in his book “When All You Ever Wanted Isn’t enough”.
What makes our living and our thinking matter is us. What gives life meaning is what we do with it. The problem is not with our thinking, it is with our actions… or lack of actions. The person who says he/she believes must be able to show evidence of it in his/her actions. Life is not lived in a state of constant meditation or even reflection, though both have great value. Life is lived in the daily grind. Life is successfully lived when we embrace it and all that is living. Life is ours for the living. We just need to live it in a way that respects all and in such a way that encourages new life for everything and everyone. When we do that, our existence will no longer simply be ordinary. We will be living with intention in an extraordinary way that provides a better future for us all.