Remember the old novelty poster that read:
“God is dead.” – Nietzsche
“Nietzsche is dead.” – God
As one of modern history’s most oft-cited aphorisms, it was definitely a conversation starter. Of course Nietzsche’s quote misses the broader context in a way that bespeaks the lazy approach many tend to take toward questions of spirituality today.
Interestingly, Nietzsche himself felt the need to clarify the full dimension of his statement when he further explained that “God” simply signified the super-sensory realm, or “true world.” He went on to say that “We have abolished the true world and with it the apparent world as well.”
While the struggle to integrate the physical and metaphysical continues, what emerges is a sense that it takes a “belief in spirit” to make the world change. Simply a need within us all to shine a light on the world.
It’s Not As Easy to Get an Amen Anymore
A new Gallup Poll just released shows that Americans’ membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in the 80 years Gallup has been around. Church Membership was 70% in 1999 and today it is 47%. While there are more folks than ever expressing no religious preference, the number who still believe in some form of “spirit” is essentially unchanged. It is the way in which people are expressing their spirit within that is changing. Most are merely seeking new ways beyond brick-and-mortar structures to give back and pay forward.
Between Science and Religion
Of all the threads to pull at, perhaps the most interesting is the philosophical unraveling of what most people consider to be the center of their inner lives. And it is there one can find the spirit at the heart of all concern for others.
You can approach it with a scientist’s vital blend of skepticism and openness as well as a philosopher’s aspiration to be scrupulously truthful. But in the end, our inner spirit is all we have. It’s all we have ever had. And that spirit is all we can offer others.
In Good Spirits
In many ways, nearly every experience you have ever had has been shaped by your inner spirit. And every relationship is as good or as bad as it is because of the spirits involved. In fact, the entirety of our experiences – as well as our satisfaction with those experiences – is filtered through our spirit. If someone is always angry and unloving, it won’t matter how successful they become – they won’t enjoy any of it. Conversely, a sunny altruistic person with very little material success can still find life exhilarating.
Achieving your goals is wonderful, but guess what happens when coupled with an even deeper longing or acknowledgment that being present is far more rewarding than being productive?
How We Spend Our Days is How We Spend Our Lives
For those who get a bit squeamish about the word “spirit” or “spirituality,” consider this alternative: “mindfulness.” It’s the ability to go through life with crystalline awareness, fully inhabiting our experience in the present. After all, the future isn’t here yet, why chase it? To be in good spirits is to simply remain present in the fullest possible sense and embrace all of the possibilities the present offers. Maybe that’s why gifts are called “presents.”
A Change in Perspective
Mystics and others down through the ages share a common belief that our inner light springs from a state of being. It is true that some separate spirituality from religion. It’s a personal choice. Either way, there is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit.
The art of presence is a gateway to love, compassion, moral goodness, and self-transcendence. That’s what quite a few people on the planet would describe as true happiness. And it all begins with a little spark within.
Give More to Get More… Out of Life
A true spiritual (or mindful) practitioner is someone who has figured out that it is possible to be at peace in this crazy world. Perhaps in spite of it. Can you be at ease for no reason – even for just a few moments at a time? Yes! It begins with a willingness to give ourselves over, at times, to things we don’t fully understand.
Now, if you need a clearer understanding of the way things are, you need to get out of the dark. But you don’t have to wait for someone else to flip the switch. Because YOU can be the light that needs to shine in the world. For yourself . . . and others. Now more than ever.
By Mark Smith, contributing author
We invite you to discover inspiring and effective ways to care for yourself and to serve others. Now more than ever, caring is what we all need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life now demands caring, resilience and compassion like never before. So, become a Custodian of the Caring Movement and help create the world we need right now, the world we want for our future generations.