Anyone from “the rooms” who’s heard me talk about 2, 3, 11 and others, especially since my comeback following Craig’s death, knows that I’m having trouble – at best – articulating my beliefs regarding spiritual matters and – at worst – am profoundly confused.
The way from my heart to my head, or vice versa, sometimes seems impassable. If I’m going to believe something, or in something, my head wants to know what I’m signing up for – and I’m pretty quick to toss out anything familiar which I think maybe has not worked in the past. Sometimes the baby has gone out with the bath water. Not any particular baby, mind you, although the mystical (formerly literal) Christmas story was a foundational part of my upbringing and remains of sentimental and, as I noted, mystical importance.
Occasionally I feel like I need to shield people from potentially offensive, dogmatic-sounding language. That “need to shield” is my problem, or gift, and does not necessarily mean that anyone asks for such protection. The best example which comes to mind is changing references to “God” (whatever that means to me at the time) from “He”, “His” and “Him” (male) gender assignments.
In the bigger picture, this problem I have of my head needing to know so much about things which may be more intuitive or “unknowable” (forgive the old Donald Rumsfeldism) can, and does, sometimes get in the way of experiencing the moment. I’ve likened it to seeing something through my camera viewfinder alone, blocking myself (however unintentionally) from a fuller, broader experience of the moment or subject being photographed.
I feel a spiritual longing in the sense that I want to eliminate the sometimes cynical flotsam and jetsam of my thoughts. I have experienced this during meditations which begin with simple focusing on my breathing. There’s something powerful, to me, at what I would describe as the bottom of each breath. Note to self: revive my practice of mindfulness meditation. Then, rather than demanding to know “who” or what I’m communicating with (it may well be me), I need to try to be open to what I can name as my longings, my yearning, and sometimes – yes – my inquiring.
Sometimes I get so tired of my head always needing an explanation of everything so, while avoiding the outright dismissive arguments of Hitchens, Hawking et.al., I attribute what I do not know – or have not learned – to the Mystery. What I do not, or cannot, know has power greater than me.
Maybe, just as the three great monotheistic religions believe in one God (triune hoops of Christianity notwithstanding), and the followers of each such faith pray to the same Deity, just maybe that’s what I’m doing as I contemplate, inquire of, or long for the Mystery.
Many groups and individuals have shared with me their ideas and experiences of spirituality over the years. I think of the former healing circle which used to meet in the old AIDS Committee of Toronto offices on Yonge Street each Sunday night; of various First Nations groups and individuals who so generously showed me their practices; of meditation groups. There are many more examples.
In addition to the visual wonder I experience through photography, I am so appreciative of my love of music imparted to me by my mother and grandmother. I cannot listen to recordings of the world’s great pipe organs without thinking of the devotion of Mom, Sunday after Sunday, splendidly playing the two-console Casavant organ in Valleyfield and thank her for the forty or so years of piano lessons she gave to kids in Perth, in Valleyfield, and back in Perth again – myself included (though you’d hardly know it now).
There is a power greater than myself in photography and music – in anything creative.
“God” can be short-hand for many wonderful and meaningful ideas, although the baggage the word carries seems to go flying off in all directions sometimes.
Grant’s Creek (Tay River)