Bless his rapier intellect and witty perception, it was Voltaire who once observed, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him."
And when it comes to spiritual (or any other) life, I am inclined to agree, though perhaps it would be more appropriate to substitute the word "Hollywood" for "God."
Is there a person alive who does not harbor a dazzling realm of one kind or another ... something better, something brighter, something more in tune with the dream of dreams? Something that inspires a much-praised-but-dubiously-useful hope or longing and occasionally a more-useful tool, intent? How nice it is to imagine a choir of angels or 77 virgins or a peace that is not the peace of this current way of life. Or perhaps lots of money or fine cars or ... something that lights up the heart and mind.
The Hollywood factor can be applied in almost any setting ... and often is, by my reckoning. Wowsers. But sticking to the spiritual Hollywood for a moment ....
There are Zen Buddhist teachers, by mythology, dying with poetic brush in hand or upright in a meditation practice that has guided their lives. Or an unbroken lineage stretching from Gautama Buddha (he's the one credited with getting "Buddhism" off the ground) to present day teachers. It's Hollywood and it's delicious and, upon examination, it holds little or no water. But just because Hollywood is a myth does not mean that Hollywood is unnecessary or that men and women will not swoon in its shadow.
The 520,000-square-foot (plus or minus) Palace at Versailles was the meeting place of thousands of well-turned-out courtiers and nobles. In its time, it probably put Hollywood to shame ... and perhaps God and his heavens as well. Imagine that ... 520,000 square feet of glamor and luxury and ... not a single bathroom on the premises.
In spiritual life, it can be the same, I think. Much attention to soaring, mythically-adorned and delicious particulars ... and no place to take a shit.
The Hollywood effect.
I'm not interested in tearing down the Hollywoods of the mind, whether in spiritual life or any other. They are as human as they are demonstrably unfounded.
But when it comes to spiritual life, to "God," to the honest yearnings of a sometimes confused and dishonest heart, I do think that after noticing that not everyone is cut out to be a monk or nun or ascetic or Henry David Thoreau or Gandhi or some other superstar ... well, is it all Hollywood or is there honestly some benefit to that part of ourselves that clearly needs to take a shit?
It's a question for individuals, not for some philosophical or theological circle-jerk. OK ... you create God or lie down for Hollywood's blandishments, or construct an intricate chain of spiritually-oriented links ... but having done all that and having recognized that life doesn't really get much sweeter just by calling it sweeter ... where is the (wo)men's room? Is there any honest usefulness in this persuasion that is overlaid with mythology or Hollywood?
Criticism is not the point. Honesty is the point. Is there any room in this world for my honesty and confusion? Seriously. Never mind the icing on the cake ... is there any cake there at all? Maybe yes, maybe no ... the discoveries are all utterly intimate and utterly honest ... just about as honest as things get when you honestly need a bathroom... this is real-life, no Hollywood-need-apply situation. Your life, your heaven, your hell, your glamor, your shit.
Soen Nakagawa, the Zen teacher of some eccentric renown, once asked a student, "Which is more important -- to sit [in meditation] or to shit?" And his answer was, "To shit. There wouldn't be any sitting without shitting." This is not Hollywood Zen or Hollywood life or Godly life or swoon-for life. This is just life... you know, the life that, with any luck, will never make it to Hollywood.