The same on-line article revealed that American’s faith in organized religion is at an all time low. That’s an interesting statistic, but it hardly tells the complete story.
Young people especially are deserting churches in favor of their meditation cushions. It’s a trend that’s easily understood and duplicated in countless 21st century ways: cell phones that follow their owners rather than land lines stuck in empty houses; working from home rather than commuting to sterile offices; enjoying your entertainment with family and friends at home rather than paying a premium for seats in theaters full of strangers. In these and countless other ways, life is increasingly about individual choices rather than prescribed behaviors. Another example, and a foundational one: how many jobs did your grandparents have? How many will you have?
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“Father Knows Best” was the title of a beloved TV series in the 50’s and 60’s. It’s also been the mantra of our patriarchal society and at the core of our faith. God, a masculine figure, knows best. We frail humans are unable to understand the mysteries of God and our only hope is to huddle together inside intimidating temples that belittle us and expand God, or so the old story goes. Well, there’s a new story.
Why go to church when you can worship at home? Of course, individual spirituality is nothing like the rituals of religion. It’’s now all about your own spiritual practice. “For a new generation of ‘spiritual seekers,’ a daily meditation practice has become the emotional equivalent of green juice: a well-being essential. Russell Brand has described it as ‘like a shower for your brain,’ while the Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr has said it helps her stay in goddess-like shape, inside and out. And when ‘transcendental’ and ‘trendy’ appear in the same sentence, one question inevitably comes to mind (no matter how hard you are trying to empty the contents of your cranium): What to wear?” 2
That’s funny. It’s also the expected cynical, uber-clever take on something serious. OK, there’s no harm in laughing together. But the trend is serious and the deep divers who now claim a spiritual practice as the center point of their lives don’t waste much time wondering what to wear. Life has become an odyssey of soul fulfillment and contribution rather than a superficial slide through meaningless years of accumulation and momentary gratification, gilded in the 21st century with $200 yoga sweats.
The heavyweights of our time who ponder solutions for our modern crises probably don’t take spirituality into account as a legitimate contender for rescuing humanity, but those involved do. Where else can you get so much bang for the buck? Anyone who becomes authentically spiritual, that is, embracing of principles like inclusion and unconditional love, becomes that incredible social commodity that we have never been able to do without: a good neighbor. Good neighbors don’t shoot you for believing something different. They are not going to harass you for the way you dress or speak or look. They will be your friend, they will respect your differences and honor what is the same between you—namely, life.
Herein lies the promise of the new spirituality: to exert a profound influence in human affairs, so that increasing numbers of us come to enjoy each other the way we are and give up trying to make each other over. The notion of “converting”—standard operating procedure for missionaries—is becoming a dinosaur strategy, an old way of thinking based on superiority and judgment. Why is the new paradigm so promising? Because we really do need each other… and we need each other just the way we are. Think of an orchestra. The flutes soar while the drums boom. They need each other, along with all the other instruments plus the unique way the performers play them, to create the full tapestry of sound that can move our souls.
Life is just like that. Birds twitter, wind howls, streams sing. The complexity of life in the natural world is truly staggering, yet trillions of unique life forms dance together in synergistic balance. Meanwhile, beyond our human awareness, stars hurtle through the cosmos, planets revolve around their suns, and the deeply incomprehensible order of the cosmos continues… without our human management.
We are inspired to rely on the uniqueness of ourselves to provide collaborative solutions and to demonstrate that, ultimately, there is a spiritual answer for all that challenges life on earth for humans in the 21st century.
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2. From The Indie Spiritualist by Chris Grotto, found at http://lissarankin.com/has-spirituality-become-trendy