Spirituality and Activism

Tahoe Fire picThere is something that often happens when we begin to consciously realize our spiritual nature: people can become obsessed with it!  Like a child obsessed with a new bicycle, all we may want to do is read about, talk about and contemplate our spirituality.  I suppose it is as natural for a person to do this as it is for a child with a new bicycle to want to ride it all the time.  However, unlike a child with a new bicycle we never detach from the spiritual side of our being.  Back in the 1960’s there used to be a popular phrase “Do your own thing!”.  A lady I knew used to respond; “Try stopping.”  The fact is we are always doing our own thing.  Likewise, we are always connected with and somehow expressing our spiritual nature.  If we think we aren’t for some reason, we need to get some perspective and work to understand how our spiritual nature pervades our lives and led or allowed us to be where we are.

We are inherently spiritual beings, being as conscientious of and as true to our spiritual nature as we know how to be.  For a number of reasons many peoples’ spirits are busily preoccupied with chasing after “more” within our material existence.  There is so much to do in our material world, so much sensory input to experience.  I read once that what captures our senses, captures our mind (spirit).  From that statement I think we can understand how easy it is to become “captured” by the multitude of sensory input life on Earth has to offer.

Sometimes poverty (a dual sensory input of both what is in the world and the want within us) keeps us preoccupied with our basic physical needs.  It is so easy to lose connection with happiness or contentment within our spiritual nature when we are hungry, cold, sick, or have overdue bills.  We just get distracted.  And then sometimes, on a quiet evening while reading a book, or when we happen to see a particularly beautiful sunrise or sunset, or when any of a number of things happen that cause our busy mind to quiet itself for a moment; then we may find ourselves feeling, being aware, of a dimension to things that can be both comforting and exciting.  We find ourselves, however briefly, consciously aware, again, of the capacity of our spiritual nature to experience, to hold so much beauty.  A capacity that we have been ignoring.  We may feel like we have somehow touched, or been touched by, the infinite.

At that moment we may wish we could make the universe stand still, that we could just stay in that place, feeling the feelings of that moment.  As most of us have learned, we can’t.  We can’t freeze time nor freeze the universe.  But we can learn how to consciously nourish our spiritual nature.  To keep that connection with beauty, with the infinite alive and accessible to us.  It takes some effort on our part though, and discipline.  We need to remember to appreciate the beauty in the world, in our lives.  We need to nourish connection with awe and wonder and to express these feelings when we experience them.  We need to appreciate the comfort of the quiet moments we have.  And we need to remember to spend some time each day meditating, giving our spiritual condition attention.  We need to remember that we are a small, but not insignificant, part of a large universe.

When I was graduating from high school and trying to decide whether to go to a small, local private college or a large state university, my high school Principal counseled me:  “Do you want to be a big rock in a small pond or a small rock in a big pond?”  The reality is we are all small rocks in a very big pond.  And yet we all matter.

Returning to the matter of our mind being captured by our senses.  To achieve balance, harmony, both excitement and comfort in our lives:  it’s not a matter of rejecting our senses, it’s a matter of retaining some conscious volition around what we direct our senses toward.  It’s not a question of hedonism or abstinence, it’s a question of balance, of maturity, of wisdom in our choices.  Within all of us there is a tendency to give ourselves over to pursuing things, or people, in the world that stimulate our senses in a pleasurable manner.  Like children in a candy store.  And it isn’t categorically a bad thing for us to be engaged in.  It’s just that we can get carried away with it.  We can forget other aspects of our reality.  Being overly preoccupied with sensory input coming from without can cause us to lose sight of other things that matter:  sensory input coming from within, other issues which affect our ongoing health and well-being.   A couple of these issues which are very important are the health and well-being of others around us and the Earth, our environment.

As we gain more experience living in this material world, we can, we need to, develop a more mature perspective on what we’re doing here.  We can stop sabotaging our lives with short-sighted thinking and behavior.  Like children who learn that it really isn’t the best thing to stuff ourselves with sweets at every opportunity, we can learn to manage our “diet” better.  We can learn more about what we truly need for both physical and spiritual health here in this wonderful, or at the very least potentially wonderful, material existence we share.

There is something of a tendency for many people to associate spirituality with “Thou shalt nots.”  Or with some self-defeating guidelines around what “thou shalt”.  It is important that we are able to distinguish between spirituality and religiosity.  Religions are efforts on the part of humanity to institutionalize what we believe we know (or often what we believe someone else knows) about our spiritual existence.  My experience is that religions tend to be a mix of positive, beneficial spiritual realization/guidance and somebody’s fabrication of what they think ought to fill in the voids in their theory of everything.  Religion can be both a blessing and a curse.  If the precepts of a religion assist in keeping us on a path of genuine health and well-being, they are a blessing.  However, if the precepts of a religion fill us with intolerance toward what is simply different or prevent us from being open to or accepting genuine knowledge/enlightenment when it is available, then, in this regard, religion is indeed a curse.  It is my experience that religion, every religion, is a mixed bag.

Humankind’s awareness/knowledge in science, medicine, engineering, music, art, food, and much more has developed/evolved over the past few thousand years and continues to do so.  Why should we think our awareness/knowledge of our spiritual existence should be any different?  Why do some continue to maintain that everything we need to know about our spiritual reality was written in one book or another a millennium or two ago?  On the other hand, we also want to keep in mind that in regard to spirituality, as with every other aspect of our lives, we don’t want to throw away something old, possibly even ancient, which is true and beneficial just to be “modern” or in keeping with a passing fad.  How do we know what is of true value and what isn’t?

We need, both individually and collectively, to establish a realistic awareness of what is genuinely healthful, beneficial for us, what promotes genuine well-being, and assess how any idea, concept, value, behavior, new, or old, fits with those values.  We need to be searching for what genuinely serves humankind, not what humankind should serve.  After all, if we aren’t working to create and maintain a genuinely healthful, enjoyable, life for ourselves, all of us, both spiritually and materially (yes, with wisdom we can bring these aspects of our existence into harmony) what are we doing?

One thing I am certain of:  in ascertaining the value of ideas, concepts, new or old, we need to use the best of our knowledge involving many disciplines.  Physiology, psychology, sociology, environmental sciences, chemistry, to name a few.  We are at a pivotal point in our development as a species.  We actually possess enough knowledge to have much greater certainty about the value, the consequences of our actions than we ever have in recorded history.  We know that both our intellect and our emotions are important in determining the value, the consequences of acting in certain ways.  And, as stated previously, we know that we are a part of larger universe.  Small but not insignificant.

In our history we, as a species, have very often relied greatly upon what some designated authority figure has told us about what they believe, or believe they have been told, that a supreme being wants us to think and do.  I do believe, all evidence supports, that there is a greater spiritual, energetic reality that we are a part of.  As stated in Hermetic philosophy: “As above so below, as below so above.”  In both our material and spiritual existence we are all a small part of a larger, much larger, reality.  And I believe that wisdom can flow along the energetic lines of connection between us and the larger spiritual reality we are a part of.  But I also see the manipulations, the deceptions that can creep in when we turn over blind faith to other human beings.  It seems it is far too tempting for a human being to impose their own personal preferences into such a scenario.  Just as all religions are a mixed bag, throughout human history blind faith in one religion or another has resulted in mixed bags of results.  Religions seem to have a way of bringing out both the best and the worst in humanity.

Activism; working within our worldly culture(s) to disseminate and implement the knowledge that we have gained regarding our genuine well-being is important.   As in music, harmony in life is going to require that we are all, to at least a viable, basic extent, following the same “score”.  Not that we should all be the same.  But that there are certain basic values and behaviors which we need to be following as a culture to maintain harmony among ourselves.  Like traffic laws.  We don’t all have to have the same kind of car or be going the same direction, but without viable traffic laws trying to drive on our roads would be anything but harmonious.

And, as we know, activism around ideas can also be an activity which potentially can do great harm.  Right now in the world we see persecution and wars taking place because someone’s idea of what is right and good, regarding either worldly or spiritual matters, isn’t the same as someone else’s.  Intolerance, greed, inflated self-importance, ignorance, fear, deluded religiosity can potentially all be the driving motivation behind activism.  How do we know whether we’re pursuing genuinely positive values or somebody’s misbegotten, self-serving delusion/deception?

One simple, basic question we can ask is: would doing this thing hurt somebody?   Just as with medicine we need to approach our spiritual and worldly activism keeping in mind the admonition to; “First do no harm”.   If someone is telling us that we need to attack, constrain, harm or kill another person in order to do what they believe is right, we need to examine that person’s motivations and plans from every conceivable perspective.  It may well be the activist that needs constraining, not the target(s) they want to direct us at.  The well-being of the population in general should always be a concern.  It has to do with maintaining a healthy “pond” (culture) that we all can flourish in.

Spiritual and worldly activism is inherent within the human species.  We do a lot of it and have ever since one human being had an idea about how some task could be done better and communicated it to the rest of the tribe.  It is essential to our continued development and well-being.  We need to be getting better at it!  Is what we are advocating going to genuinely improve life, now and in the future, for ourselves and our loved ones?  Will our neighbors also benefit?  Is it something that will build and strengthen feelings of trust and well-being in the world?  Or are we pursuing a narrowly self-serving, short sighted agenda?  Or someone else’s narrowly self-serving, short sighted agenda?

I like the saying I have seen on bumper stickers here and there:  “Think Globally, Act Locally”.

5 thoughts on “Spirituality and Activism

  1. I often wonder, on an individual level are were basically any happier living in the space age than we were as troglodytes? Have our core human emotions been altered and enhanced through the journey from there to here?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Spirituality and Activism | ugiridharaprasad

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