Feeling the Spirit
It is a common debate, especially in these times. Similar to the age-old question of “which came first – the chicken or the egg?”, it seems that science and religion are at odds when we discuss the spirit of living. Albert Einstein is not thought of as a great spiritualist. He is considered by many to be the consummate scientist. “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”
This series is about the detours life gives us and we all have them. How we respond to those detours is often determined by the spirit within ourselves which is based upon the spirits we believe to exist. IN an introduction to a chapter about C. S. Lewis, James Taliaferro wrote the following prayer: ‘Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts. Kindle in us the fire of your love.”
Taliaferro’s prayer is quite simple, just two sentences that are actually quite simple sentences. Yet, he manages to summarize not only the season of Pentecost but the way we should navigate life’s detours. We all believe in some great spirit, whether it be the Holy Spirit of the Christian trinity, the spirit of a great healer, the spirit of Mother Nature, or a prophet named Buddha, Mohammed, or any of the other hundreds of spiritual teachers the world has known.
C. S. Lewis, at a point in his early adulthood, identified with those who claimed to be agnostic or atheist. “I believe in no religion. There is absolutely no proof for any of them and from a philosophical standpoint Christianity is not even the best. All religions, that is, all mythologies to give them their proper name, are merely man’s own invention.” Within the next decade, however, he had become quite impressed with the universal longing in all cultures for a connection with a reality of a greater spirit than mere mortal humans possessed.
Taliaferro explains: “Through his own study of religious experience and the arguments for and against a belief in God, Lewis came to think of the longing for joy as something that echoes and reflects the reality of God. He sought to uncover the source and richer meaning of the goods of creation.”
Isn’t this what detours offer us – a chance to discover new meanings of our own living? Let’s think about what a detour really is. Simply put, it is a redirection of our normal path. For months I went to a particular store following a specific route. It was not perhaps the quickest route but it was, in my opinion, the safest and the most expedient, given all the factors such as traffic patterns, number of cars on the road, my preferences for driving with street junctions having stoplights or stop signs rather than yield signs, etc. Then one day, about seven years into my prescribed route, a bridge was replaced. I needed to find a detour. There were a number of possible routes I could choose but I took one that was a bit unusual. In doing so, I discovered a great new restaurant.
Would my life have been drastically altered or the quality of my living drastically affected if I had never found that restaurant? Of course it would not have been and yet, I did find it and enjoy it. I discovered in my inconvenience a great new place to eat and some new foods to enjoy. I would not have starved without this experience but it did make the detour more enjoyable.
When I was a child we would take Sunday afternoon drives. We were a busy family and the other days of the week we were all going in different directions. The Sunday drives, however, were free-driving – we simply headed out in one direction until the road stopped or turned into something else. We found new picnic areas, saw the runways being built as part of a new airport, enjoyed the sounds of nature and laughed when we had to back up half a mile because there was no room to turn around. We sought out the detours and reveled in the joy of living.
One of the advantages of our Sunday drives was leaning how to tell which direction we were going. By using the signposts of life available to us such as the position of the sun or the effect of prevailing winds on high tree tops. We discovered an internal sense of self and direction. Yes we often got lost but somehow, by remaining calm and confident, we always found our way home, even if it meant asking for help.
Detours remind us that we are not here to simply follow the end of our nose but to expand our being and share our experiences. C. Joybell C. explains it this way: ““I consider myself a stained-glass window. And this is how I live my life. Closing no doors and covering no windows; I am the multi-colored glass with light filtering through me, in many different shades. Allowing light to shed and fall into many, many hues. My job is not to direct anything, but only to filter into many colors. My answer is destiny and my guide is joy. And there you have me.” The true spirit of life is found in living it. Once you realize this, you have found your own internal great spirit.