Is our life an experiment, a spiritual journey, or an exercise in love?
It starts with love. With the exception of rape, we were all conceived through the act of love. We know this to be true. This is our foundation. We were embraced by our mothers as a miracle of life and nurtured by her as infants.
I was born into Catholicism and brought up in the church as a devoted attendee through high school. This included baptism, first communion, altar boy, and Jesuit High School. Religion taught me values and helped me find some great, lifelong friends.
Yet, for me, something was missing. At first, in high school, it started with skipping Catechism because it was boring to me. Then I began to see the hypocrisy in the patriarchal nature of the Catholic church. Even though it brought me a community, I began to explore different ways of having a relationship with God that did not necessitate going to a church or needing a priest as a conduit to God.
While I still attended church after high school on an infrequent basis, I believed in God and embraced the traditions celebrated in the Christian faith. I still attend church on mostly religious holidays (except during the year of the pandemic in 2020) and take comfort in some of the traditional Christian practices, like saying grace before a meal.
However, over time, as I have moved, I have not always connected with a church or religious community. When we were first married, my wife and I enjoyed attending meditation practice at Spirit Rock, a Buddhist-oriented retreat in Woodcare, CA. We enjoyed lectures by Jack Kornfield and Ram Dass.
The Buddhist principles have a certain appeal to my sensibilities because I am innately a searcher. I find myself trying to escape from a constant desire for something more.
My interpretation of Buddhism is this: we all have desires and live in a constant state of desire, which means that we are craving something. If we are constantly craving, we are necessarily unsatisfied. The solution is for the individual to cease desire and find equanimity. They call it Nirvana.
However, my disagreement comes from an existentialist perspective, which says that passion is what drives us to become the person we are through our actions. And, since passion and desire are practically synonymous, I choose to embrace passion while managing desire instead of eliminating it.
While there is a certain appeal in Buddhism, I would not call myself a Buddhist because I believe in God. However, my God does not require me to attend church to have a relationship with him.
My God is love.
I believe that whenever love is present, then God is present.
Therefore, I do not need a church or a priest, but that does not negate the value of priests and churches, but they are susceptible to human frailties, like sin and corruption.
So, while life is a journey, I would not say that I am on a spiritual journey. I am more on a life journey that is involved with pursuing knowledge. My spiritual pursuit is an element of my intellectual pursuit on my life journey—it is not the center.
Part of learning is discovering and processing different ideologies and ways of thinking and living. I am open to all ideas without being restrained by previous knowledge or beliefs.
Daniel Quinn was adamant about the fact that there is no “one way to live.”
There is a certain safety one can find in being a part of a religion or religious community. Your thoughts, actions, and behaviors are reinforced by other members of the community. That reinforcement settles the mind and keeps it from straying away from the dogma. As a result, the subconscious mind is less restless since it placates itself with the reinforcement of principles taught in the church.
This journey in life is a mystery and unique to each individual. Nobody knows with certainty what comes after, so we just do the best to navigate it by relying on faith and intuition.
I believe that it starts with love. Being a good person and embracing love is our touchstone.