I am one who seeks. I am no different than any other human in that regard except, perhaps, for the amount of time I devote to this never ending quest. The need to seek knowledge, beauty, love, understanding is our plight or our privilege, depending on your perspective. For the past several weeks my seeking nature has led me, once again, to the topic of religion, spirituality and the creation of meaning in one's life. I generally begin any search for answers by looking in books, seeing what's already been thought and written about a topic. Usually I do this at the Brattleboro Public Library. It's my church. Last Sunday, though, I opted for something more obscene. I went to Borders in West Lebanon, NH. I hadn't been to a box book store long enough to forget how different it is from the library. It felt like crass, in-your-face, book prostitution with Borders as the pimp. An entire table of the ubiquitous garish yellow Idiot's Guides sat next to a table dedicated to various books on Jesus. I felt like the victim of a hustle. But I can't resist the allure of books, so I persevered. I dove into the shelves reading titles and pulling out books that seemed to address my questions of the day. What is the nature of religion? What is the nature of spirituality? Can you be spiritual without being religious? What would that look like? What do the philosophers think of religion? What do scientists think of it? The longer I turned my head sideways to read the enticing titles the more confused I became. Every point and counterpoint is covered ad nauseum. Where was my definitive answer? As often is the case for me, seeking knowledge and understanding leads to deeper and more perplexing questions. After searching out information I must process it for myself and come up with what I believe to be true, at least for today. There is no book written just for me, no book that shows me my heart, my beliefs, my fears or my right path. That is truly what each of us seeks, I believe. Our Right Path. Some people find it in a particular philosophy, some in a specific religious system, some never find it. The insights I discover as I continually seek allow me to create and refine my own right path. It will always be a work in progress.
Why am I including these pictures? I took them this afternoon in Brattleboro, VT. These are both Christian churches flying Tibetan style prayer flags as Easter approaches. To me, these photos represent the mixing of multiple religious and humanitarian traditions and I like that. The pastel colored pieces of cloth moving in the wind are difficult to ignore and your eye is drawn to read them and ponder. So many hopes and compassionate thoughts flapping in the wind. You can see the cross draped with purple-representing the Christian belief in Christ's sacrifice for their sins-in the background. The sign in front of the Baptist church says they continue to offer overflow space for the local homeless shelter.
The sheer number of conflicting opinions on the who, what, why, how and when of our creation and existence leads me to believe that the answers are unknowable. I've decided it doesn't matter. Most traditions promote practices of compassion, love, kindness, and forgiveness-for ourselves and for each other. These practices offer tangible results: peace, happiness, a more open heart, fulfillment. You can test it out yourself and see if it's true. These are the qualities that allow humans to persevere and to feel full with life, to find meaning. I can believe in that.
Today is my Father-in-Law's birthday. It is 3.14...Pi Day and he is a high school math teacher. His students and other faculty like to celebrate by bringing him pies. Today represents a record in pie gifting...sixteen pies received by one person. Damn, that's a lot of pie.