I’ve been wondering about this mysterious, apparently innate “spiritual” drive in people, that entirely shapes some lives and, at certain points in other lives, seems to seize them and impel them in directions they would not have otherwise taken — directions that often don’t make much logical sense on the surface.
Spirituality seems to be tied to (maybe even a function of) self-consciousness, in that we don’t seem to see animals engaged in this pursuit. And self-consciousness seems to be the trigger for psychic separation, for seeing oneself as a distinct “thing,” forever separate from everything else and (in the West, at least) pitted against it in eternal conflict (Man versus Nature and all that). Thus, perhaps, the yearning in some of us (maybe all of us) to reconnect to something beyond us, bigger than us — something to make the universe and our time in it not quite so cold and hostile.
These days I’m thinking of it as the “bag of skin” phenomenon: the drive to to make an intangible connection with something bigger that “just me” as this bag of skin, blown and battered by the world around it.
I’m far from versed in the field, but i see three main outs:
- A belief in God: a father/protector super-person with grand designs, of which you are a part.
- A belief in some human quality that transcends the individual: art, for example, or creativity in general. Science is another, being the highest expression of the church of rationality.
- A belief in … this one’s hard to state … nothingness. A non-belief, really, that in the inscrutable Eastern way flips around to provide a solid platform on which to stand in this world.
Whatever works for you, i say. Number 3 is what i’m chasing these days, despite the admonitions of the sage that chasing guarantees not finding. But what else can i do to play this game?
Two quotes i happened upon today:
Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. (Immanuel Kant, 1784)
The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and sense in which he has attained liberation from the self. (Albert Einstein)