Tuesday, July 1, 2014
I think there may be a similar shortcut available in religion or spiritual life. It boils down to this: The only reason religion is serious is because I take myself seriously.
I make this assertion not as some contrarian scallywag, but rather as someone who thinks there is something seriously worth knowing about religion/spiritual life and that something does not respond well to anything less than a person's best honesty.
At first blush, anyone who has conceived an interest in religion or its practices may be offended to hear that "the only reason religion is serious is that I take myself seriously." The assertion runs afoul of a subrosa text that may sound something like, "great big God and little ol' me," "unalloyed enlightenment and stumbling, deluded me," "heavenly realms and I'm stuck in hell," "bright blessings while I feel cursed," "compassion unending as my selfishness abounds," "unspeakable brightness while I mutter in the shadows," etc. And all of this is frequently couched in spiritual texts whose wisdom flows off the page and into my heart like .... yum: I feel safe -- or anyway safe-ish -- and invited and warmed. Whatever my choice, it is big and I am little, it is smart and I am dumb, it is attainable ... or anyway worth a shot.
The adroit and often well-dressed may rise to the bait, purring like Cheshire Cats: "Yes, the only reason religion is serious is because I take myself seriously, but the question is, "Who am I?"" Those who take their spiritual life seriously would be wise to leave this additional deflection out of the equation.
For the purposes of discussion, "I" am simply the person who goes to the supermarket, types on the keyboard, makes money, gets pissed, prefers one car over another, feels anxious and uncertain as circumstances demand, shower, laugh with friends, buy a new pair of shoes and on and on ... all of it without ever asking anything: I know who I am even if I don't know who I am. I take this "I" seriously ... and, I would argue, you damned well should, assuming spiritual life is on your to-do list.
True, the tinsel of religion is appealing. True, there are well-dressed scions who make a good living from its sagacities. True, it is nice to have someone holding your hand, even if their other hand is in your back pocket. "I" need help and am not above asking for it.
And there is no reason not to ingest whatever help is offered. But ... the premise needs to be understood, at least from where I sit: Religion is serious because I am serious ... there is no other seriousness. It may sound self-centered and off-base and miles from the glittering halls of heaven or profound understanding, but it is simply the truth and religion responds well to the truth that any individual might bring to it. After all the trumpets and finery and wily paradoxes and holy humming ... well, what is it that is seriously serious about all this?
An ego trip? That doesn't work.
Not an ego trip? That doesn't work either.
Oh well ... I have a doctor's appointment this morning and haven't got the wit to see this argument out. It just strikes me as a sensible shortcut: The only reason religion is serious is because I take myself seriously.
Shortcuts get you to where you want to go. It's not always pleasant, but it has the advantage of being true.