Almost three months ago, I wrote this draft for a blog I never finished. Now, I have no idea what reading material prompted me to write this and where I was going with it.
Ah yes, the day I wrote it, February 25, 2013, I was leaving Dunedin, New Zealand and heading for Invercargill, at the tip end of the mainland and then Stewart Island, NZ, one of the four Ends of The Earth points on our globe…the closest towns to Antarctica. I was thinking big thoughts, particularly because of a fellow-mystic, a French woman named Valerie, with whom I’d had some interesting talks about the direct spiritual conversations with God that we’ve both experienced and practiced for years. So, here’s the draft of that blog, now rounded-out for publication:
It’s interesting to read the comments that people send in to spiritually-oriented websites on the internet. Some folks quote beautiful writings from the many religions and have excellent insights to share about them. Others spew foolishness and you can just picture these wanna-be-wise-ones who are so impressed with their own convoluted thinking.
For instance, take a simple teaching about the need for “detachment from self.” One writer was trying for wisdom but wound up in a circular holding pattern, concentrating ever more upon his own self in the process and giving an excellent example of the very attachment which one must try to change. We humans often have a tendency towards obfuscation and I was again reminded of this as I read another windy comment; proving to me that simple truth has been contorted over the years until it all sounds so complicated and extremely difficult….so, somehow, “Religious.”
Complexity and formality, which leaves human beings groping in the dark for answers, appeals to a great many people. Therefore, quite naturally, a priesthood becomes necessary to instruct, interpret and carry out those rituals which always follow complexity. Informality and straight answers seem to demean the great station of Religion’s place in the world in the eyes of people who prefer their spirituality to adhere to very strict standards.
So a friend of mine, who sits in the privacy of her room carrying out long conversations with God and who hears answers to her communications coming through in plain English, might be doing things all wrong according to strict traditionalists. “It doesn’t work that way.” they would say.
I believe that God gives us free will to signal the way we would like to receive Him….or not. We shape the course of our life here on earth and by doing that, we forge our future after death. But while we are alive, there is a smorgasbord of religious variety to choose from, involving a wide range of methods; from formal and public to the most personal and private communication. People are different, so truth is presented to us in the form we are most comfortable with or the form in which we will recognize God best.
But so often, we try to write and rewrite and then get into corners trying to defend what we have said.
Three months later, I still find validity in this scrap of a thought and will use it here. I’m now in Cape Town, South Africa, for three months, housesitting and taking care of a darling little Teacup Yorkie. So far, I’ve been limited in my ability to explore the area due to a very long citywide bus strike. But from my initial impressions, Church & Religion is not an ever-present issue, whatsoever. There are churches and people are religious, surely, but this is not an obvious topic.
In Fiji, religion was all boisterous, happy, song-singing Protestantism, whereas, in New Zealand, the somber upper hand of English prelates held firm; expressed unilaterally by the dark-grey stones of historic churchly edifices….mostly Protestant. I felt always, as if I were in Scotland.
Here, on African soil, I have yet to gain any religious impression…..but, come to think of it, Australia felt just as void of any real spiritual conviction as this does. And isn’t that general freedom to be yourself, just what I’m talking about here? I must admit, there’s a cultural silence when this is true.
In two months, I will enter Spain for the first time and am already devouring guide books. One thing I know for sure! I’ll be heading deep into the ancient bastions of Catholicism with cathedrals and the majestic thrall of pomp, circumstance and encrusted ritual, particularly in the buildings of worship. Spain has been cut off from change for centuries and it was only the death of Franco in 1976 that allowed a breath of fresh air and twentieth-century identity with the outside world to sneak in. Life runs deep there and some things never change. So, I shall probably be thinking more thoughts, similar to the above, when buoyed along within the glories of a rich, monastic, vibrant Catholic Faith. I can’t wait to experience that!
UPDATE: September 8, 2013 – I have now completed my eight weeks traveling around in Spain and Portugal and am, at this moment, in Copenhagen, Denmark beginning my two weeks tasting of Scandinavia. A few days in Oslo, Norway and a few more in Stockholm, Sweden; a week in London and a week in Paris will wrap up this 14-month-long, solo journey around the world. I fly from Paris on October 5, 2013, to land in the bosom of my daughter’s family in Denver. Back in the old USA for the foreseeable future.
But, I about to say all this stuff in the blog I write today. I jump in here, to this former commentary about the “religious” atmosphere exuded by some societies and not others and my sort-of casual noting of that simply in passing. Usually completely kept to myself, but it’s the kind of evaluating that we all do when entering a room or a city, a country, for the first time. I was way off the mark in my expectations of Spanish Catholicism, though. I was thinking in stereotypes and not in reality, so I’ll set the record straight.
Let’s just say that I couldn’t find a heartbeat in the patient.
If Christianity was ever alive and well in that nation, especially among those instigators and sponsors of the famous SPANISH INQUISITION, it is as dead as a doornail now! Oh, there are churches in plenty. Cathedrals, rather. And I’m sure there are Sunday services, and then some, attended by the community of the faithful; but there is nothing in evidence to the casual visitor. Entry to the dark grey edifices is permitted…..sometimes…..if the door happens to be unlocked and that’s not as often as you would expect.
Sometimes, there are statues or plaques to remind the present day that Rome once held sway in the religious life of Spain and Portugal but museums also defend this historical truth. The citizens are truly good people; simply warm-hearted Southern Europeans, who are definitely Christian in a modern and understated way. My point is that, aside from the architecture, I never thought about,or was reminded of, any particular belief structure.
That’s turning out to be true in Denmark, as well. It’s a Christian country, with many people and streets bearing that very word embedded within them and with the resulting churchly architecture on many a street corner. But just my pop impression on the street is that they have outgrown the identity and that Scandinavians, in general, pride themselves on rational thinking. Friendly openmindedness is much more descriptive of this peaceloving and progressive people. Freedom is a watchword with them.