“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Hmm… I think, scratching my head and wrinkling up the space between my eyebrows. I don’t know about that Monsiuer Chardin. No disrespect, but when I read that my right eye starts to twitch and my dander gets up. Now, mind you, it is really difficult for me to get my dander up. In fact, these days, I have realized that a highly charged cup of coffee is necessary to get my languid and lazy dander to even think about getting up. So, a little dander-raising just might be in order. And you, Pierre Chardin, have given me the fodder and a perfectly delicious conundrum with which to do just that. Thank you.
Now, some of you might be scratching your own heads and wondering why I am making such ado over something that, at first glance, seems so yummy and lovey-dovey other worldly. Some of you may think that where fodder and conundrums –– especially delicious ones –– are concerned, I should find something else to muse about.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The idea of a spiritual being having a human experience is brilliant. And, if lived and put into practice, I dare say it could potentially make this world a better place.
But, let me be a thorn in the side, a ‘buster-upper’ of this notion that somehow spirit is superior to body because my dander clearly thinks that is what is implied. Subtle, maybe, but very much there. Or, why else would my barely breathing dander be up? Well, yes it could be the highly caffeine charged coffee, but…
This spirit trumps body idea seems lacking. At best, both spiritual and human beings and experiences seem of equal import.
This idea that we are shackled by our human form and somehow need to cast it aside as quickly as possible –– spiritual beings experiencing not human beings experiencing–– reminds me of trying to hastily move through the appetizers –– human beings –– because the main course –– spiritual beings –– is coming. Well I, for one, love appetizers and, oftentimes, they fill me up and satisfy me so completely that the main course is rendered unnecessary. Perhaps that is a gross distortion. But stick with me, okay?
Thich Nhat Hanh said that “Walking on water is not the miracle… walking on the earth is.” This seems to validate our earthly experience and makes the above quote moot or at least invalidates spirit as superior to body. It gently urges one to find awe and wonder in the act of embodiment… of being human and the fact that there is an earth to walk on. It requests that we tweak our position.
Subtly denigrating relative reality and the objects ––human beings –– in it doesn’t make sense if we are to fully understand the absolute desire or need for and beauty of manifestation. Mindfulness of our humanity alone, though, won’t do either. We must also be acutely mindful of our spirituality. And there, Chardin has excelled. His ‘dander-raising-failure’ was in making the distinction between what it is that is experiencing what? Had he left it at, “we are spiritual beings having a human experience”, danders, at least mine, would remain on the couch. But, to negate that we are also human beings having a spiritual experience… ouch.
It is an easy trap to fall into, however, as many of us are generally more comfortable with the notion that a thing is this as opposed to that.
Being both at the same time –– goodness knows what trepidation would occur if we added into the mix two more equations, i.e., being human having a human experience and or being spiritual having a spiritual experience –– isn’t part of the mainstream and therefore can be distasteful.
Two or more seemingly contradictory ideas being held as equally viable can be a profound cognitive dissonance –– when more than one competing ideas enter into consciousness it creates so much chaos and stress that one is invariably chosen to the exclusion of the others –– inducer.
But, consider this. The spirit seems to be in just as much need of a body as the body is in need of a spirit. And, that we have such high regard for spirit, would seem to lend itself to the notion that we allow ourselves to trust it’s need, it’s desire and intelligence in placing itself in a body. Spirit cloaking itself in myriad form in order to be seen. Body soft… accepting, embracing and protectively housing spirit.. neither usurping from the other. Body, mind and spirit co-creating, co-experiencing, playfully co-delighting in what it is to be human and what it is to be spirit simultaneously. Now that is worthy of thought.
With this perspective, I am free to revere my ‘human-being-ness’. I am free to allow my whole self to more fully experience all that is material as well as all that is spiritual right here, right now. I can spill into the appetizers; ooze onto the main course, and by golly I can saturate myself with the dessert. Might end up full to the gills, but having my cup runneth over… that, I am committed to.
As my body is a valuable and necessary extension of my spirit –– just as my hand is an extension of my arm–– I can come into a most deep and delightful awe of my humanity knowing that both body and spirit are mutually in cahoots. They dress each other up… makeup and all. One does not trump the other, and different though they may be –– but, only by degree –– one simply cannot be realized without the other.
My human experience would assuredly be left wanting without my spiritual experience. And, being human without being spiritual, no thank you.
I am clearly a human being having a spiritual experience, just as I am clearly a spiritual being having a human experience.
So, pardon me Pierre Chardin, as we –– my dander and me –– get up and shout, “no stinking thank you” to being told that we are the one, but not the other. We are just okay with being both. We will take it all… appetizer, main course and dessert.
Jeri Senor is grateful that she possesses only one dander and has decided that strong coffee should be a regular part of her dander’s daily regimen. Starbucks… here we come. Jeri can be reached at [email protected].
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