Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Spirit

For a lack of more obvious communication with the spirit, I decided that whenever I felt moved to tears, or got tingles all over, I was feeling the spirit. As a child, I remember this happening once--while I was watching my sister get baptized. I was so proud and even though I was only two years older than her, I felt like that gave me the right to say things like "I can't believe how much she's growing up" etc. As an adolescent, I felt it all the time. At church, out in the woods where we lived, watching church videos, reading scriptures, at youth conference (which means basically a huge emotionally manipulative boot camp for the young and spiritual). The only places I didn't feel it were when I was praying for a witness that the Book of Mormon/Gospel was true and when I was praying for comfort during rough times. When I left for school, I continued to feel it mainly in the above referenced contexts. Until I started dating my husband, then things began to change a little. We broke off our relationship for about a month (he said he needed more time to think about this whole thing). I was heart broken, but I talked to my bishop and he said to pray that the enabling power of the atonement would be with me. I did, it seemed like it was, and after a lot of chocolate and self pity, I was finally bouncing back and being okay with life by the time he re-proposed. However, when I prayed for a confirmation of whether or not I was supposed to marry him, I never got one (should have been my first clue, eh? lol).

It turned out my hubby just wasn't spiritual (I was blind to this at the time, but oh well). I would be on the verge of one of these moments, and he would say some goof ball thing that would ruin it. For instance, when we were looking out over Adam Ondi Ahman on our honeymoon, he said, "It's just a field of dirt." Good feelings gone. I was rather upset. He did this during the romantic scenes of movies too, in Sacrament Meeting, where ever I was about to have a little moment of excitement. It took me forever to finally figure out that he's just like that, he didn't mean anything by it, and to just let it slide and enjoy my moment anyway.

However, early on in our relationship, I had a miscarriage. I was certain that God was punishing me for my wicked thoughts of not wanting to have children. I prayed and prayed for comfort. It never came and it started the series of events that followed and eventually led to my leaving the church. Anyway, around the same time, I began taking philosophy classes and learned that it was okay to ask questions. I asked tons of questions. I also continued to try and find some comfort in what was a very painful situation for me. I began feeling the spirit less and less in church and more and more in nature, listening to different music (classical, opera, etc.) reading more in depth literature (Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov was life changing), and looking at artistic works. I would be moved to tears at museums, modern dance concerts, and have tingles and tears at concerts where I was introduced to the spiritual music of other faiths. But still, when I would beg for comfort, for reassurance that I was doing the right thing, in the right place, I would feel empty inside. I began to realize that I was feeling more inspired by what humanity could do than by what God had supposedly done. The spirit wasn't manifesting comfort so much as it was manifesting beauty. I would feel optimistic after watching a well executed performance that if we were capable of such beauty, then perhaps we were capable of learning to coexist peacefully. Gradually, I began to wonder how important it really was for everyone to join the same religion. I decided I thought it was more important for us to simply make beauty together. And I felt that some of the rich cultural/artistic efforts of different faiths was a good place to start.

Which finally brings me to the event that inspired this post. Last Sunday, my husband and I went to a choral performance. It was at a Baptist church here in town. My son's vision teacher sings in the choral and had invited us to come. We walked into the chapel and I was briefly overcome by the urge to cry (what I would formerly have identified as the spirit). The chapel had a vaulted ceiling and was paneled with juniper or cedar. There were several stained glass windows on one side. It was beautiful. I'd never been inside a different church before--only LDS ones. I wondered what it was about us that sometimes made us deny ourselves beauty simply for fear of rocking social norms. Why are we so narrow minded sometimes about the beauty that each of us can bring to this life? Why do we legitimize beauty only when it fits into our own narrow context of understanding? Perhaps, after humanity lost the need to explain the cosmos in terms of the divine, they started seeing divinity in the beauty that they were able to create. In the movie, The Davinci Code, Tom Hanks' character asks the female lead, "Why can't human be divine?" I think it is. I think divinity became a way for us to connect with what was most beautiful in human experience. Now if only we can recognize that in each other.


shukr said...

I think we can see/ understand/ come to know some of God's attributes. Like you are describing the seeing of Beauty in this post, as manifest in creation.
It is beautiful!

We might also see the manifestation of other attributes, such as generosity, patience etc etc...

My husband just bought this book:
When You Hear Hoofbeats Think of a Zebra: Talks on Sufism.

It is rocking my world! I think you would enjoy it for the short stories and reflections it opens up.


Lessie said...

Shukr, you're probably right about my enjoying the book on Sufism. I remember studying it in my one whole class I took on Islam and being fascinated. I envy mystics. So much is basically answered for them. Unfortunately, I've never been the mystic type. I've waited and waited all my life for that mystic event, and as yet, it hasn't happened. That doesn't mean that I don't still enjoy learning about mysticism. I wonder if my little library hear in south eastern Idaho would have that book . . . ?

shukr said...

lol. just read this response now! i'm always missing comment follow ups unless it gives me that tick box solution.

who said practical mysticism can always be 'felt' anyway ,)

in my experience one first has to find a path to tread, then go through the rubbish of our soul being raked out before any 'real' mystic experience can be had - in the sense that the word is generally understood.

my spiritual teacher always emphasises that the greatest miracle is stopping a bad habit: might not sound too profound, but it's the basis whence all Sufis start. he suggests that if you want to fly, go get on an aeroplane .)

having said that, there are conventionally miraculous happenings ascribed to him, and his is an incredible presence that I love to bathe in.