A 16 Year Abyss

In my 36th year I feel as though I am only now living fully.

Religion, in my experience, placed a noose around my neck and made me a slave.

Intellectually and emotionally I was bound and restricted.  Limited to a narrow framework with which to receive and perceive the world.

Life revolved around the afterlife.  Heaven mattered more than earth.  All my thoughts and actions were judged by how much they were pleasing to the great deity.

And yet what is life?  Fuck, procreate, die, leaving a genetic legacy.  Looking from the perspective of bacteria up through the animal kingdom, you see waste, violence, damage, death, destruction, disaster.  Kill or be killed.  Predators and victims.  And you call this the creation of a benevolent god?

Sorry guys, we evolved from apes.  We will die and we will be dust.  We will join the legion of the dead and life will cease to exist.  I know, it’s a hard thought.  Took me long enough to finally let go of the illusion of life going on.

Without this whole bullshit guilt around sin, I can now finally live freely.  The religious freaks will probably pray for my soul and lament at just how hedonistic I will become.  All the while I feel free to practice a new kind of morality, one that is respectful for all of life.

The religion that I knew was immoral.  Anything that places such a vice on life should be discarded, mocked, ridiculed, and destroyed.  Life is now so much more pleasurable, though I still carry the scars that are slowly healing with time and hedonistic delight.


New Inspiration

This morning I went back to church.  And it was not your average service, for I was privileged to experience some special guests, who in the past I had cherished as deeply enriching my faith.  Sons of Korah happened to be performing, a band whose music is based completely on the Psalms.  The most amazing thing was that I did not know they were going to be there.  I was returning to church as a means of experiencing fellowship, to get beyond the loneliness that I have expressed elsewhere on this blog.  To see them was a sheer thrill, and my heart and imagination was captured in a delight that I have not experienced in a long time.

The songs were all familiar, yet there was a new resonance – that of an evolutionary perspective, which allowed me to appreciate the music far more than in the past.  I took the lyrics as the embodiment of the author’s unique time and place experience.  In doing so, I could see the richness of the metaphorical language, which places God in a far more immanent position than I previously realized.  God wasn’t ‘out there’ somewhere – in the language of the Psalms, the land and experience of war brought forth images of the nature of God.

Additionally, I could also see God at work in the beautiful instrumentation and the passion of the band.  And God was present in so many ways throughout the service.  This God – the one who always is, always was, and always will be – the ever-present oneness, giver of every breath, impulse of evolution – is worthy of worship and praise.

Thinking about an Open Source Spirituality

Even since I heard Doug Pagitt talk about the application of open source within the realms of Christian tradition, I was immediately inspired by the thought of how this might play out in the plethora of spiritual traditions that are currently available to us today.  What I envision is the dissemination of modern spiritual practices licensed under Creative Commons, which allows for attribution to the original author and the right to create derivative works.   Wikipedia is the best example I can think of for this process – pages can be added by anyone, and modified by anyone – and like the scientific community, the work undergoes the jurisdiction of the majority (although this can be a slow process given the vast amount of information added to regularly).

I’d like to see us get beyond the written word to embrace a multimedia approach to engaging the spiritual life.  Think of YouTube with more substance and less noise.  A well-formed community, not tied to any one website but comprised of a network of sites, could bring to life several different perspectives that allow for the application of spiritual practice relevant to this day and age.  I believe that it is in our consistent practices that we will mature, grow, and evolve from our present stage of development, and if these are disseminated in a form accessible to all, the potential is there to strengthen the evolution of the world’s traditions.

Obviously, this is not the creation of another form of spirituality; rather, it is an effort to make current and immediate forms of practice that would be both engaging and inspiring. My heart yearns for this since I don’t currently have a regular spiritual practice.  I did at one stage of my life, when as a fervent believer in Christ I would read the Bible daily and pray regularly. My devotional times were sacred, and I cherished them within the context of my faith and life in the Christian community.  Now outside of a community of faith I have so many options and so little inspiration. How I long for such inspiration yet again!  This open source spirituality approach may just allow for that inspiration both online and offline. Without commercial interest, and within a model of evolutionary spirituality such as that described by Michael Dowd, the world could truly be blessed through such an effort.

May the inspiration continue.

Taming the Wild Spirit

Following on from the previous post, I’ve become aware of the driving force leading to my experience of lacking many of the good things – a nomadic spirit.  Note that is spirit with a small ‘s’: I’m referring specifically to unconscious drives rather than any notion of spirituality.  From what I’ve recently heard, the nomadic instinct actually derives from our ancient ancestors who were forced to be on the move constantly for survival.  My genetic inheritance most likely includes strong influence towards movement – my parents have moved house 11 times.  Unfortunately, this has not translated into a life well lived.  While most of my peers have married and had children, I have remained a bachelor for most of my life.  I have a very limited social life, spending way too much time in my head, and have spent considerable money and time trying to change my instincts.

Given what I’m learning about evolution, such change efforts are largely futile.  That’s why I like the analogy of taming.  We all know that wild horses are tamed through a behavioural training process.  This process is grounded in strict disciplinary routine, such that over time the wildness is shaped into tameness.  Instinctually, given the right conditions, the wildness could still manifest; but within the bounds of the training and environment, the animal remains tame.

Our brains are plastic which means that they can be tamed.  This is a very hopeful idea, for it suggests that I’m not merely stuck with what I’ve inherited.  I’m not merely a machine with drives I can’t ultimately control.  The real challenge though is maintaining self-discipline.  A wild animal does not tame itself.  An intelligent and conscious human being can do so, yet has the limitations of unconscious instinctual drives that interfere with the process.  That’s where some form of structured discipline is essential, no matter what it might be, within the context of others.  For instance, getting yourself to consistently meditate is akin to hiking Mount Everest; yet within a community of meditators, or with the encouragement of a partner, the process is made approachable.

One of the primary ways I will find structure and discipline in the new year is through some form of charitable service.  In that I hope to find structure, routine, and community, such that I can tame my wild spirit and enter a more joyous life.  Altruism is one of the highest values of humanity, and one I believe can be developed and nurtured even where it is mostly absent.

Evolutionary Christianity Begins

What a long time it has been between my last post and now!  So much has changed, so many developments have taken place.  I entered what could be described as a ‘dark night of the soul’, a place where meaning was lost and I was trapped in existential despair.  This came about through chronic illness which led to an intense struggle and a series of life changes.  The process has led to something akin to the shedding of skin which occurs in reptiles, letting go of particular ideals and attachments in favor of greater depth and joy.  So while I have been going through significant pain, I have also woken up to new inspiration.

My first inspiration came about through a series of teleseminars entitled ‘The Great Integral Awakening’: http://www.greatintegralawakening.com/.  The central theme of this series was the evolution of spirituality through the eyes of several renowned figures who each are making significant contributions in the arena of integral thought.  If this doesn’t make much sense to you, check out the websites http://integralenlightenment.com/index.php and http://www.integralspiritualpractice.com/ for more information, and also look up Ken Wilber (who has PLENTY of both positive and negative press!)

The latest avenue of inspiration came when I entered the search term ‘evolutionary christianity’ into Google.  This brought me to http://evolutionarychristianity.com/, the website of author and pastor Michael Dowd, who has release a book entitled ‘Thank God for Evolution’.  He has just begun a teleseminar series which can be accessed through the above link, and which drew my interest due to the fact that a few of the guests are people I have mentioned in this blog as inspirations: Brian Mclaren, John Shelby Spong, and Matthew Fox.  Having heard the first talk, I am excited to say that I now feel tremendous inspiration and hope once again that I can have a living and vibrant faith without the baggage that is predominant in the Christianity that is popularly promoted.

As such, I am now using this space as a means to express my inspiration, whether that come from the Evolutionary Christianity series, other sources, or thoughts about the Christmas season.  I look forward to the ongoing dialog and hope that it can be an inspiration to others.