Getting Religion

As I said before, I’m not actively seeking to find The Truth.  In fact, it might not be accurate to characterize what I’m doing now as a search at all.  It’s more an exercise in introspection, into what motivates me and makes me tick.  Particularly, into what inspires me and makes me feel fulfilled. 

When I last addressed the topic of religion, my interest was primarily academic.  It was also practical, but more for external purposes than internal ones.  Since I wrote that I’ve become conscious of just how big a hole the lack of religion has left in my life.  As someone who, either by nature or background, tends towards the strictly rational, I can go a long time without thinking or caring about religious concerns.  But it catches up to me eventually.  Religion served as a touch-stone in my life, a place where I could retreat, regain perspective and balance, and go forth again into life with a renewed sense of purpose, peace, and orientation.  That was the theory, at least.  In practice I barely ever achieved that effect.  But I think I was always aware of the potential for it, and rather frustrated that it was always just out of reach.  In letting go of the beliefs of my youth, I lost touch, for a time, with the slender thread which lead me back to that place where there was at least a potential for renewal.

Is there only one religion?
The kind that whispers when nobody comes around?

 – Over the Rhine

When I walked away from my faith, I realized I was not losing that which had defined me for so much of my life – something I had at first feared.  I had a sense that my true religion had always, and would always, flow from a well deep within.  Even my messianic judaism/christianity, at it’s strongest, had been a face for that “personal religion”.  I had emphasized those things which struck a chord inside me, and had struggled unsuccessfully to assimilate those aspects which failed to do so.

It has taken me this long to even begin to tease out the essentials of this inborn religion from the general weltanschauung I grew up with (hehe, I’ve been looking for an excuse to use that word).   I think the period of downtime was necessary.  It allowed nonessential aspects of my former religious life to fade from my consciousness so that when my native spirituality, in it’s own good time, reasserted itself, it would be with a little less baggage. 

And what is this underground stream that has seemingly animated my spiritual life?  I am only beginning to discover, and what I am finding I am only beginning to be able to articulate.  Books are helping with the latter.

And this process of writing is helping as well.  I am continually reminded of why I like public journaling so much.  Feedback helps me to see what I write from new angles, helps me to sharpen my own ideas and to articulate them better.  A good example is tricstmr‘s comments on this post.  They gave me the spark I needed to concisely state why transcendence is so important to me.  I’m going to reprint part of my reply here:

What I do know – and I hope to write more on this – is that on a pragmatic level, things are better for me when I feel transcendant. It doesn’t matter to me whether it is real in any objective sense; when I see the world as dual superimposed planes I am nicer, I am happier and I like myself better. When I feel expansiveness in my heart, myself opening to something higher – whether it comes from within or without – I am given hope for tomorrow, and I find I often have the power to lend that hope to others as well. At those times it is, as they say, well with my soul.

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  1. I think you would have very wordy and potentially interesting discussions with my dad ().

  2. “tends towards the strictly rational”

    Yeah, me too, boss.
    OTOH, if there were any strictly rational answers (by which I mean provable in the mathematical sense) I feel they should have long since been discovered, and we’d all admit that _____ is running things.
    Oh, wait… 😉

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