-in my meditation garden-
Although I live in a somewhat remote desert, every day I make a concerted effort to keep myself informed about what is going on in the rest of the world by "taking the pulse" of the culture. I spend intentional time with the social media, read newspapers, listen to call-in talk shows on the radio, watch TV news. I read social commentaries, talk to people online and pay attention to overheard coffee shop conversations.
As I see it, my daily articles about "spirituality" would be little more than pious platitudes without some idea of current events and prevailing attitudes.
Yesterday an op-ed piece in the New York Times really made me stand up and take notice. In his article titled, The Spiritual Recession, Columnist David Brooks makes this observation about life in contemporary American culture:
The nation is tired, distrustful, divided and withdrawing. Democratic vistas give way to laissez-faire fatalism: History has no shape. The dream of universal democracy seems naive. National interests matter most. Such is life in a spiritual recession. Americans have lost faith in their own gospel.
I paid such close attention to this article because it rings so true to me. When I "take the pulse"of what I see going on in the world every day, I feel somehow that life in general has become somewhat "stingy and small" - Nasty petty politics, leaders have grown small, many people have circled the wagons only admitting like-minded people into the circle - no foreigners allowed, immigrants keep your distance.
But as I reflect on it, I wonder if this "spiritual recession" may even run deeper than the loss of faith in an American dream.
Nowadays more and more people have cut themselves off from affiliating with any sort of religion - this is especially true among younger people. Churches that were brimming with people 50 years ago are now filled with empty pews. And while I can fully understand why someone might turn away from organized religion to seek some deeper alternative path to the truth, many if not most of the people who have abandoned religion are no longer on any path to greater wisdom or greater truth.
I listen to and talk to lots of people every day who tell me that they don't have a clue about why or how their life has meaning, and that's ok for them - Their goal in life is just to "get by" every day.
Others I talk to (mostly online) have embraced some form of a "new atheism," often using tired, limp and essentially uninformed arguments about science and the scientific method. They look only for hard, cold facts for the living of their lives. But of course, people who only look for hard, cold facts often turn out to be hard, cold people.
As I think about it, the prevailing spiritual dullness may be able to be explained by one word: "inspiration." So many people nowadays are just simply not inspired by anything or anyone anymore. And if inspiration is the cause of the problem of the spiritual malaise, inspiration may also be the cure.
We have to find ways of inspiring one another once again.
We need to read poetry and sing songs and look at beautiful art. We need to spend time looking at flowers and walking in wide open wilderness spaces. We need churches and preachers who will open doors to explore the great unfathomable mystery of "God" instead of wasting energy and time inventing gimmicks to pump up membership rolls. We need to look at science not as a depository of hard cold facts but as a doorway to the infinite - a threshold into a mysterious world of quarks and swirling, untamable atoms, infinite unnamable galaxies all in a vast, complex, "luminous" web of inexplicable interconnectivity.
The very survival of this nation and this culture may depend upon awakening a new age of inspiration.
It's time for the spiritual recession to end.