Now that I have recounted a comprehensive view of my history with religion, I shall endeavor to capture and convey the religion/spiritual beliefs that have evolved into what I believe today. I’m going to warn you right now… this blog post is going to be very deep, heavy, complex, and intertwined and it’s pretty much most definitely too long and confusing. Please let me know if you need further explanation or clarification of anything. Since I do not claim to be the sole founder of my own particular specific brand of religion, from here on out I shall refer to my “religion,” simply, as my “spirituality.” I’ve managed to identify seven core components that comprise my spirituality and I will briefly outline each one and then elaborate on them in preceding paragraphs.
1) As I stated in part 1, having to fully believe in my spirituality with all my heart is my first core component. 2) I also stated that my spirituality must incorporate logic (even though many people might at first think that logic and faith can’t coexist very well.) 3) My spirituality must serve me a positive purpose e.g., the function of my spirituality is to improve my life. 4) “Illustrated thinking” is another core component of my spirituality. By “illustrated thinking” I mean that I implore the use of metaphor and imagery with my spiritual beliefs as a way to simplify otherwise complex concepts. (I will elaborate on this concept further below). 5) The final component of my spirituality requires the freedom to always be subject to speculation and open to constant revision. It is worth noting that this fifth component holds an interesting dialectic relationship with the first (this will be further explained later in this post). 6) Lastly, a subset of component five includes a respect of the idea that, however much we may think we know and understand about our existence, in truth, we essentially know nothing relative to the infinite possibilities and complexities that exist in all of the “universe” (many of which lay outside the realm of human comprehension). 7) Okay, I lied. There is another component. (can you tell that I’m filling these in as I go along?) Post humorously and paradoxically, the final subset component piggybacks off of component six: Since there is an infinite amount that we do not know, my spirituality must therefore contain no extremes.
Component 1, Follow your heart:
My humiliating Christian testimony experience (as outlined in part 1 of “Religion and me”) re-enforced in me a lesson that is the first core component of my spirituality: I refuse to claim that I believe anything unless I truly believe it fully in my heart. This places a great deal of faith into the idea that, at my deepest level, I am a good and honest person with a perfect heart. I may have a flawed means of expressing that perfection (because, hey, let’s be real: I’m only human!) but, fundamentally, core component number one assumes that the goodness of my heart will ultimately prevail, thus illuminating my perfect (or, best, at least) personal “truth.”
Component 2, Logic is the founding method:
In search of spiritual truth, I employ the tool of logic to remain grounded. Sorry… No beliefs in the flying spaghetti monster here. Logic allows me a process to evaluate and refine my understandings of spiritual truth. I mentioned that people may have a hard time accepting the coexistence of faith and logic (science). I believe that God exists… How can that be logical or scientific? Atheists would argue that God is some hocus pocus big-man-in-the-sky type joke –no more worth of worship than the (dare I say) fictional flying spaghetti monster. Many religions have varying views on who or what “God” is (which, in my opinion serves a purpose in conjunction with core components three and four to be explained later). My definition of “God” is the infinite series of powers, truths, and information that we can never know. Is it not logical to assume that there are things outside of our understanding and even out ability to understand? We can always advance our and evolve our understandings (via core component number five), yes –but no matter how much that happens –in relation to infinity, our sum knowledge effectively becomes 0 (as recognized in core component number six). By it’s very definition, science is the search for truth –or, to illustrate the concept of “truth” (core component four), we can say that it is the search for “God.” (Benjamin Franklin would be proud of that statement. See this Wikipedia article on the religion called “Deism”)
And yet, here we arrive at another dialectic in honor of component seven (the component that says that my spirituality is to contain no extremes). To assume that logic is the only true framework with which to examine, improve, and experience spirituality would be an extreme statement. Indeed there can be benefit to giving value to that which lays outside of the realm of logic. There are occasions (although they seem to occur less often) wherein my spirituality permits me to traverse the boundary of logic provided that such an action would head benefit with negligible harm to myself or others.
Component 3, Spirituality is for bettering yourself:
You might be asking yourself, “well, if our relative summation of knowledge and understanding will always comparatively be 0, why even bother to figure out anything at all?!” The answer to that is core component number three: I bother to incorporate spirituality into my life because it helps me live a life that is even more worth living. Spirituality is fun! It facilitates growth and learning, it comforts me when I am down, it fuels my fascination and curiosity, and it probably does a thousand other positive things that I am not totally aware of. I bother with spirituality because it helps me live and enjoy my life.
Component 4, “Illustrated thinking” is useful:
“Illustrated thinking” is probably the most fun core component of my spirituality. I am a very visual person –I derive great pleasure for aesthetic beauty and divine organization. As also a theatre person, I have a great and deep respect for symbolism, metaphor, and story telling. “Illustrated thinking” allows me streamlined and entertaining ways to examine and manage complex or difficult concepts. Perhaps I can, ironically, illustrate for you an example of illustrated thinking: Prayer is a commonly known form of illustrated thinking that I frequently utilize. Let’s say that I just applied and interviewed for a new job that I really really hope I get. For the most part, after having already interviewed –the outcome of if I get the job is pretty much out of my hands. By praying, I am collecting and honoring my deep desires and passing them off to God. But who or what am I referring to when I mention “God” in this instance. If I wanted to be cerebral, intellectual, logical (or maybe “silly” is a more apt word) I could say that “God,” in this example of prayer is the infinite separation of knowing the future in the single moment within which I am praying. More likely than that, however, -I’ll admit it- I part slightly from logic (component 3) to utilize a classic, arguably irrational belief: that there is some supernatural being that cares that I’m praying to “Him.” It is okay for me to break from logic because my prayer is essentially not hurting anyone and it serves the purpose of helping to comfort me. Logic may still be implored, however, to understand what underlying forces may be occurring that would enable me to have my irrational faith in prayer (see “my greatest strength” blog post where I discuss attachment theory as it relates to achieving comfort.)
Regardless of if I chose to view prayer as logical or not it serves a positive purpose for me. I shall attempt to elaborate by providing a concrete example: I may pray by closing my eyes and imagining a hovering benevolent cloud (a classic image of God) with which I hand off my hopes and desires. The illustrative device of praying (talking to an imagined god) is a simplified expression of an otherwise unwieldy complex quantitative experience… I credit my experience with Christianity to the discovery of this very useful way to let go of the anxiety and fear that tends to confound living a happy life. The fun part of my illustrated thinking component comes with the freedom to assign any creative visualization to any situation to suit any purpose in the pursuit of self-betterment. How many boring stifling limiting religions will let you do that? I kid you not: sometimes I imagine myself hanging out on a windy day in a grass field in New Zealand with Gandalph from Lord of the Rings. For some reason Gandalph is really good at comforting me and reminding me to have faith that everything will turn out as it should.
Component 5, Everything is subject to scrutiny and revision:
Much like the Constitution of the United States, the fifth component of my spirituality necessitates the condition that it must be always up for scrutinous review and revision. I believe evaluation and the freedom to expand and grow is necessary in conjunction with component 1 (that I must believe my spirituality with all my heart). Indeed, the heart is an always changing, always evolving entity itself –so it makes sense that that freedom also be incorporated with my spirituality. (In fact, when I think about it, there is little difference between my spirituality and my heart –or even, my spirituality is just a creative extension of what is in my heart. As I write all of this down I find it fascinating how it seems to have fallen onto the page with a stark resemblance to the Constitution.
Component 6, Relative to infinity we know nothing:
No matter how much I think I may know, in reality, I know nothing relative to the infinite possibilities that exist beyond my ability (and mankind’s ability) to comprehend. The “universe” extends into infinity. Granted, I realize that, technically, science has determined that our known universe is finite. When I use the term “universe” (with quotes) I am referring to everything that is –which could include an infinite number of parallel universes, whatever lies beyond our universe, etc (even stuff which, like I said, we can’t even comprehend.) I assume that there is some sort of “stuff” that exists in infinity –and, therefore, essentially, God is infinity. I find this notion comforting! If there are infinity universes with infinity possibilities, then that would mean that somewhere in some universe there must exist a “better” version of myself. (By better I mean happier and more satisfied.) Oddly, for reasons I’m having trouble understanding or explaining, that makes me feel motivated to try to be that better self. Perhaps it is just a reminder that possibilities for improvement are always out there. To look at it in another, arguably nihilistic way –I’m comforted because what does it matter if things aren’t as good as they could be in my life when somewhere in some universe they are (and therefore I don’t have to be.) Component six of my spirituality is very trippy and also humbling. No matter how big my problems may feel –they are nothing in comparison to the scope of the infinite realities that exist. Any finite number divided by infinity equals zero. I can never know even 0.0000000001% of all that there is to know. This idea brings me to a catch phrase that I like to use: “Everything matters, nothing matters, neither and both.” Did that just hurt your head? Good –it was supposed to, don’t worry about it. (That catch phrase is gonna need a blog post of it’s own in the future…)
Component 7, Never allow extremes:
Ugg! Are you still reading this?! Okay, the final final component to my spirituality is the notion that no extremes must exist in what I believe. This is a subset notion of Components five and six (everything must be open to scrutiny, and there must be a respect of the infinite). If I believe in an extreme then I am not respecting the possibilities of alternatives. My philosophy is that alternatives always exist (even if they lay outside of my ability to perceive). But, wait! Isn’t “there must be no extremes” an extreme rule, itself? Caught me! Yes it is. I guess sometimes I must believe in extremes (although I can’t think of any off the top of my head). Component seven exists, primarily to keep me on track with remembering that things can always improve or be looked at in a different way. From my experience and observation, it seems that much of human suffering stems from some sort of extreme belief. I imagine, therefore, that thinking in extremes is generally unhealthy and should not be desires most all of the time.
Geez! If you seriously have continued reading this far I am pretty impressed… Now that I have attempted to encapsulate my experience of spirituality, it is clear to me that it is extremely complex –and yet, the beauty of it is that it exists within me in a simplistic form as indicated with core component number one: I believe what my heart tells me to believe. That’s the real key –because that is what will serve me the greatest amount of happiness and benefit. I appreciate anyone who can honestly say that their religion or spirituality fully and complete meshes with what their heart. To the people who can claim that –I salute you! Keep doing your thing (as long as, hopefully, you aren’t hurting yourself or other people.) If you have been with a religion or spirituality for a while and things just don’t feel quite right (as became the case with me and Christianity) I would urge you to explore and allow yourself to think and evolve to a place where you are more at peace with your own beliefs. If our universe contains infinite information and possibilities, why not construct for yourself what brings you the most joy, love, happiness, and satisfaction? That’s what I’ve been striving for, pretty much.