Friday, April 6, 2012

the insidiousness of spiritual effort

Like a consuming piece of bitter-sweet chocolate, the word "insidious" landed deliciously on my mind's palate this morning. Its hissing sibilance seemed to carry the word aptly beyond its simple meaning. What a good word.

An Internet version of the Merriam Webster dictionary defines "insidious" this way:

1.    a: awaiting a chance to entrap: treacherous b: harmful but enticing: seductive
2.    a: having a gradual and cumulative effect: subtle b: (of a disease): developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent
The apparent fire that lit the fuse of insidiousness was wondering idly today whether religion and spiritual endeavor were significantly more insidious than any other human pastime. The religiously-zealous, knee-jerk responses of either so-called atheists or true-blue believers didn't interest me much. I was just curious ... not spoiling for some ego-tripping fight.

Drip, drip, drip ... bit by droplet bit, the water buckets of the mind fill up -- a collected nourishment that can also drown a careless baby. It is a subtle business as open to criticism as it is to praise... an intention that wins the attention and inspires action that reaches drip by drop into some unforeseen future, whether for better or worse ... or should that be "better and worse?"

Because the word "insidious" carries with it a negative connotation, I think I like it when it comes to religion and spiritual endeavor. Descriptives that praise and elevate spiritual endeavor are an open invitation to a lazy and smug and horrific potential. Descriptives that yank on the reins of a lolling laziness have a better chance of uncovering what is honestly useful and beneficial about the endeavor. Reaching conclusions is a risky and insidious business at best and a debilitating and bloody business at worst.

Let push come to shove and I guess I would stick with the insidious moniker when it comes to spiritual habits. A wary eye is warranted, as with any habit, if a nourishing outcome is going to be possible.

But I wouldn't want to be lazy about such an observation.

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