Monday, 2 September 2019
Shallilo's garden glimpse - an overture to secular spirituality
I started with one sunflower from one of the shelves outside Aldi. The working bit went brown so I cut it off, first consulting the net. I then got loads of babies, butterfly magnets.
Supervised by Statler and Waldorf.
My wildflower patch is doing okay as well.
Roderick Strange wrote again in the Times recently (Aug 24th 2019) - incidentally a great name for a vicar. He quotes Paul Gifford, an Emeritus Professor, 'one may rail against affluence, professional sport, mass travel, consumer society or a culture of instant gratification ... many no longer feel any pressing need' [to ask the deeper questions]. Rod mentions science as an additional force which has pushed religion to the margins of modern life. 'Are we missing something?' he asks. A definition of spirituality is 'the quality of being concerned with the human spirit ... as opposed to material or physical things'. Or as I have tried to say previously 'personal stuff we value which does not cast a shadow'.
I doubt many would argue with this. Even neurochemists - pleasure is a transient brain event which needs repeating regularly. Rod then says 'The witness of truly holy people helps'. Holy is defined as 'dedicated or consecrated to God' which might not go down well with non-believers like my pal Clive Hetherington, a bass in New Mill Male Voice Choir. In fairness to Rod, he thinks God might help - the notion of God is not compulsory.
I don't take a stance against this kind of personal belief. Making sense of the world can be a confusing occupation. Clive, and I have some sympathy, would attest that organising belief into a religious movement can lead to feelings of exclusion. 'They' have hijacked all the best moves, including spiritual experience. Clive is sure anyone can have mysterious and awsome personal moments and he suggests scientific discovery is one such.
Tom Ashworth is another New Mill bass, well-known local author and lapsed catholic. Aesthetics turn him on. A building or a painting are the things that take his breath away.
There is the idea of secular spirituality. A search to make sense of oneself and one's personal growth, something discussed here on a number of occasions (see Lent). Clive is a computer specialist and enjoys what that science can say about being human. I have always been muddled by religious language, right from Sunday School. I attended church dutifully, a choir and youth club member. Eventually biology at High School and the study of evolution gave me the information I needed to put my thoughts in some sort of order.
'Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind' by Tom Holland was reviewed recently in the Times (Aug 24th) by Gerard DeGroot. Whether we are paid up Christians or not we are all heavily influenced by history and the part played by religion. Sadly this includes some less than humane episodes, but these also occur in the name of other religions and totalitarian states. Another aspect of being human.
Holland argues that tolerance and fairness were not much in evidence before Christ. This, for me, is another hijack and DeGroot agrees. Planning, cooperation and looking out for each other were learned on the plains of Africa by the hunter-gatherers, unlocking our brains in the process.
Us non-believers can be charitable as well as challenging, part of our personal route. Clive and I tend to plough on alone. Neither of us has many opportunities or willing ears to explore these ideas with others (apart from Tom). It doesn't stop us from trying. We won't be doing much about 'professional sport, mass travel, consumer society or a culture of instant gratification'.
Tom and Clive - thoughtful basses